Thanks a million, for taking the trouble to vote for my short story (submitted for IndusLadies Mothers Day contest)! I have made it to the Top Five!
The second round of voting is underway, so I need your help again.
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and Vote for my entry: ‘Pal of Crocodile Tales’ as soon as you can!! Thanks a ton!
Reema watched the children play quietly in a corner of the room. They built castles from building blocks, and painted vibrant colours using their fingers. They giggled as they enjoyed their ‘Messy Play’. ‘I wish Monu were here’, she thought wistfully. Her three year old lived with her mother, while she worked as a nanny in London.
It had happened all too soon. The recession, Rakesh losing his bank job, the looming loan installments on their apartment. She didn’t have an option, but to resume work at the nursery she had been employed with earlier. She winced at the irony of not being able to afford the same nursery for Monu. ‘He will be looked after much better in India. Family, school, friends…’ Rakesh had assured her.
‘Reema, its potty time. Could you take the toddlers please?’, Meg called. Reema first took the girls into the toilets. Then came the boys. ‘It burns…’, cried Mick. ‘Don’t worry. We’ll ask Mummy to take you to the doctor’, she replied. It seemed to soothe the boy, and he hugged her. As she held him for just a second, she remembered the last time she had hugged Monu.
‘Mamma! Look! Granny sent me a present! And she’s got lots more. IN INDIA!!’, Monu cried excitedly. Reema looked at the train she had bought yesterday, and had signed: ‘Your loving Granny’. ‘I’m so happy, Mamma! Can we meet Granny ? Plllleeeeeeasssssseeeee… I want my presents’. She hugged him in a tight embrace. She felt choked. Her plan was working. Her heart was breaking.
A series of gifts of Thomas and Roary toys, colouring books and pencils followed that week. By Sunday, Monu was all set to meet his ‘loving grandmother’. In a home miles and miles away from home.
Rakesh didn’t lose much time. He booked tickets on the same Air-India flight on which his friends were travelling. ‘Look at them, Reema. They don’t even have an option! No jobs, three kids. They start from scratch…’ Reema didn’t let him complete. She had heard this often enough in the last month. She slipped into their bedroom and sat by Monu’s side, stroking the mop of black hair and kissing his soft, tender forehead. ‘In two days, my little angel…you won’t be with me. Oh God! What have I done to deserve this?’. Hot tears streamed down her sunken face and dropped onto her track pants.
‘Aw…I’m sorry’, cried Mick. ”That’s Okay, dear’, she replied, wiping the drops of paint that had fallen onto her trousers. Her favourite Dorothy Perkins, bought from her first salary. She had cried miserably that afternoon, hiding inside the toilet.
‘Lunch!’. The nannies cleaned the room, quickly transforming it into a dining area! Today was ‘Soup day’, which meant, a day of struggle! The toddlers pushed around the bland leek and carrots, while the infants unabashedly dribbled it out.
‘Let’s go for a nice walk after lunch, alright?’, the assistant manager came around, trying to cheer the children and staff alike. The former nodded excitedly, while the latter suppressed disapproval at the thought of having to dress and chaperon four children each!
The nannies strapped one end of the wrist-link onto three girls and a boy, and tied the other end to her own wrist.
They strolled leisurely around the sturdy bridge across the River Thames. Little Leah shrieked excitedly, ‘Boat! Boat’! The other children immediately looked in that direction. ‘Hey! Its Ducky!’ cried Mick. Before Reema realised, he started to run towards the steel barricade, so he could get a better look at his favourite black and green duck, that was bobbing away on the surface of the glistening river. ‘Slow down’, Reema cautioned. Mick quickened his steps towards the water. Reema tugged at his wrist-link. It was too late. The link snapped!
Thrilled at his new-found freedom, Mick ran as fast as he could on those little feet. ‘Noooo! Come back!’, cried Reema. She had to stop him. But she couldn’t just let go of the other three children. She quickly glanced around for help. The other nannies were chatting amiably, the children in tow. ‘Somebody help! Meg!! Meg!!’ she screamed.
Mick was now leaning precariously through the lower rung of the barricade. Another tilt, and he would fall into the river. There was no time to lose. Reema tied the wrist-links in hand to the rim of the dustbin on the path. ‘Stay here!’ she shouted to the baffled children. ‘God, please, please save him! Keep these children safe!’ she muttered, as she ran towards the barricade. The other nannies finally noticed, and quickened their pace. ‘That’s Mick…he’s falling through the barricade!’, cried one. ‘Oh Gawd! Hurry!’ screamed another at the children who trudged behind, blissfully unaware that this was their last outing from the nursery, for a long time to come.
That evening, when the shutters went down at the nursery, everyone was in a state of shock. They were still unable to digest what had happened. Mick’s parents had been informed immediately. Reema had been temporarily asked to take a few days off. There were to be no further outings until ‘the incident’ had been ‘thoroughly investigated and necessary measures put in place’. The children continued with their daily activities of rhymes, colouring and increased sessions of Messy Play. Occasionally, someone asked for Reema. But they soon forgot.
A month passed. And another. Six months now.
‘Rakesh, I’m sorry!’, Reema whispered into the phone.
‘I really am. I shouldn’t have left’
‘Don’t worry. How are you?’
‘How’s our apartment?’
‘Looking great, with the new Italian flooring’
‘Monu’s enjoying his new school. I think he hated the Government school, where Mummy sent him earlier. He loves this one though. Huge playgrounds, friends..everything, really!’
‘Fantastic! This is all because of you, Reema’.
‘If you hadn’t saved that boy, none of this would have happened. What was his name? Mike? Mick?’
‘You risked your life to save his! And his parents rewarded you. With enough to last us a lifetime!’, Rakesh said softly.
‘Don’t be silly, Rakesh. Mike.. Mick.. Monu.. all the same’.
Reema’s voice faltered slightly, as she reminisced that fateful day. She remembered running towards Mick, yelling ‘Monu…Monu…!’ all the time. Mick had turned and smiled. She hadn’t realised the strangeness of it all then. She had just grabbed him by his jacket, and yanked him back onto safe ground, and showered kisses (against the rules!), crying uncontrollably.
The teardrops fell on Monu’s cheeks, as he shifted in his sleep. Reema quickly patted his back and whispered ‘Go back to sleep, my Angel!’.
Tomorrow was Mother’s Day. She was going to buy presents. Two sets of Thomas Tank Engine. One would have to sent by courier to London.
* Featured blog in Sulekha.com Expressions
Guys n Girls,
I have submitted this story for the Indus Ladies Mother’s Day contest (click link). Please vote for me if you like the story. If not, do let me know (so I know what to do when you participate… hee hee…just joking!!!).