Playtime Adventure - A Short Story

"We'll see ya'll in the park at four........ ok......bye," I hung up, after fixing a play date with my neighbours Judy and Lisa.  As always, I had snack size Goldfish bags ready. One of them would bring ice Popsicles and the other maybe some fruit, cheese or candy.  Everyone brings their own water bottles. That pretty much summed up the peripherals of my kids' playtime.  A fixed venue, once every week, at a certain appointed time, an arranged snack,....... The thought made me smile.  I remembered my own play dates that were a stark contrast to such organised drills.

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My sister and I were squatting on the floor of a small porch under the shade of a huge phalsa tree, completing home work.    The tree extended into our compound from the Morada's residence.  Our porch faced the side wall of their house that had two windows.  The larger window to the left, was always covered and we only got to see the plain back of plush curtains that hung in the master bedroom.  Only then, we knew it as 'Uncle and Aunty's' room.  We could only guess that the curtains were plush because of the tassels hanging from the top and stylish satin ropes to draw them.    The other window always had a simple curtain drawn back and one day, when I looked up, I saw Gudiya's mischievous face look at me through it and giggle.

 I walk up to the compound wall between our homes.  Her window was only about three or four feet from it.

'Hi!' I said.

'I could see your pantie,' Gudiya continued giggling, holding the metal bars covering their window.

That would best be left without comment, I told myself as I smiled, acknowledging her discovery.

'Ask your mummy if you can come and play with us'

'She is sleeping'

'My mother is also sleeping.' That sealed our pact.

'Wait, I'll come outside,' she spoke softly.

I turned around and looked at my sister, 'She's coming to play.'

A tempted, but restrained Didi (elder sis) mumbled, 'Mummy is sleeping right ? Make sure ya'll don't disturb her,' She refused to accept the bait.

'Tough Nut', I thought.  Guess I didn't know the expression then, but yes, something to similar effect. 

Magnolia Flowers

 Gudiya was standing on the stairs that lead to their terrace. I quickly climbed the short compound wall and walked along it till I reached the stairs.  I jumped off the wall and landed on the step where she was standing.   There was a magnolia tree in her front yard that grew higher than the terrace.  We walked up the stairs to it and began plucking flowers.  I showed Gudiya a flower trick my dad had taught me a couple of days ago.    She didn't quite get it. It convinced me that my sister and I were a smarter pack than them, Gudiya and her brother Minku.  My sister and he were classmates and she was always ahead of him by at least 7 ranks. It didn't matter to my 5 yr old self that Gudiya was a whole year younger to me.  She was as big as I was and wore really pretty dresses.  Well, so much so that her dresses were the gold standard that many mothers' living on our street, aimed to meet.  My mom was among them and very vocal about it too.  Thinking about it, made me frown.

'What happened? ' Gudiya asked and then she saw Minku climbing up the stairs and thought that's why I had frowned.  Instinctively I folded my knees together worried that Minku shouldn't end up looking at my panties too.  He seemed busy working on an orange lollipop as he walked up. 'I want one too, Minku, gimme......' Gudiya opened her palm towards him, which made an order seem like a request.

He turned it away from her 'No way!,'and to me, he said, 'She eats 3 rotis' you know, Moti! I mean, I eat two and Papa eats three, but she shouldn't be eating three rotis......Moti!' Clearly displeased, but without defense, Gudiya huffed and raced across the terrace overlooking the backyard.  Time to introspect - I was the same size as Gudiya, my only saving grace was the one year gap between us.  Does he mean to call me Moti (fatty) too.....like, indirectly? I kept walking in a confused state towards Gudiya, but stopped to look at my sister.  I saw her complete her work and look at my mother, who was now standing on the porch with her afternoon coffee.  "Mummy"!! I grinned loudly.  My mom looked up and smiled, that was always a good sign.  It wasn't the constrained smile she gave to be polite in front of people when she was mad at what we (mostly I) were doing.  It was a nice, contented one - like the one's that made her look pretty.   'I'm done mom, can I go too,' my dutiful sister believed in following rules.  It was, for this very image she carried, that we needed her to play with us. She didn't know it though :) 

Soon, the four of us were scampering across the terrace.  We stretched ourselves across the parapet wall, to reach the ripe, purple Phalsa fruit. The green raw ones were sour and ripe ones were sweet.  Both were equally delicious. 

Phalsa Plant

 Minku was showing off his skills with a new spinning top.  I tried telling him that my brother had a bigger one, but he didn't care to listen.  He was busy, rolling it on the other side of the parapet wall and then, "Oh! no......."  His top slipped over the wall, rolled across the asbestos roof below and fell into their backyard.  Three girls sprinted across to calculate the damage. Suddenly, Gudiya's competitive spirit took over her and she climbed across the wall and stepped onto the roof.  Slowly, she started walking in deliberate steps over the slanted asbestos sheet.  Minku followed suit in pursuit of his treasure. My sister had followed too... Huh?!! It was a difficult decision for me.  Does this mean, we are done eating phalsa's?  The earlier 'moti' comment from Minku coming to memory right then, didnt' help.  Giving in to peer pressure, I began my descent.  I was almost sure, I'd hear the asbestos break under my feet, was expecting to land on my heavy backside into some muddy part of their backyard.  It was a miracle that none of these happened and I landed on both feet on Terra firma.

Ripe Phalsa fruit

 It was such an achievement for my 1st grade self.  It didn't matter then, that my playmates were arguing about who caught the top first.  It was right now in Gudiya's hands and she wasn't giving it up any soon. Darting towards the end of the backyard, she climbed the wall.  It was only about three feet high, and there was an abandoned wooden box sturdy enough to help us scale the wall. Jumping over the wall, would make one land about eight feet below, to ground.  So, nimbly, each of us, climbed the compound wall, and stretched to land on another one below and then jumped into the connected backyard.  It was a pre-school in the next street that their Aunt owned.  The backyards were diagonally connected, so we would jump off the walls after school hours to use the playground.  It was fully fledged with swings, see-saws and other outdoor games.  Basically, it was the closest a bunch of less than seven year olds could get, to real adventure.

 There were many more days like these.  Every time, my mother spent afternoons at the Morada's residence to practice her baking skills with their mom and aunts, we would jump across to the school backyard and conduct imaginary Secret Seven meetings.  We'd even carry left over pieces from the baking exercise as the Secret Seven picnic hamper.  As die-hard Enid Blytons' fans, we sincerely fantasised about lemonade and gingerade and rued not having any around.  Much later, in fact, much much later, we discovered we hardly missed anything. We had an unused dog house to use for these meetings. It was Gudiya of course, who'd assign characters to all of us.  She was always Peter and so got to choose the passwords.  Soon, I learnt that the a girls' popularity among friends is directly proportional to the prettiness of her frock. One day, she let me be Peter and that dress remained my favorite for months to come.    

 Often, our play time would end with generous sampling of the days' baking specials.  A generation later, I still remember the warmth and aroma of that freshly baked cake.

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