The Little Trickster
The Little Trickster
Like every evening, I was out on the streets for doing my evening walk. My stride slowed down as the house came into vision. Even after ten long years it hadn't changed much. The walls were of the same pink colour. There were the same green doors and windows and the same blue grille covering the ground floor balcony. The years in between had only dulled their colours. Why, even the china rose shrub was still there beside the house. I wondered if the residents of the house had remained unchanged as well. But I knew that would be impossible. Living organisms grow older with time. I was sure that the little girl whom I had known ten years back, must be at least sixteen now.
Ten years back I had clicked her photograph in my mobile camera. It must still be there in my Facebook photo album. The photo received huge response from my FB friends. But she never got to know about their love and appreciation. My husband got transferred to Gurgaon and we had to leave on the very next day. That was ten years back. We returned last week after my husband got a better job in Kolkata. But before going any any further, I must narrate the sweet incident that occurred ten years back.
Being an exercise freak, I love to walk. It's a long habit that still continues. In the mornings I am too busy with my other activities. Hence I've chosen the evenings for my walks, even during the winter months.
Walkers must be knowing that following the same path everyday can be really boring. Variety is the spice of life. Hence I change my walking routes at regular intervals. That day too I was trying out a new route. On my way I came across this pink house about which I mentioned in the beginning. Suddenly I heard a low moan, a sorrowful whimpering sound that came from the ground floor balcony of the house overlooking the road. It was made by a little girl of about six years, who was sitting alone in the balcony, looking sad and dejected. She made such a pathetic picture in that bleak winter evening that it was impossible not to feel sorry for her. I stopped in front of the balcony and smiled at her. The child looked at me with tear stained eyes and pouted. She looked so cute and innocent that I clicked her photograph in my mobile.
"Why are you crying, dear?" asked I.
She did not reply.
"Tell me your name?"
"Where's your Mom?"
In reply she threw her legs violently and cried louder. It appeared that her Mom had scolded her for something. Probably the child didn't complete her homework or didn't eat her food or broke some object. These were the common causes for which children got scolded. I smiled, shook my head and resumed my walk.
The next evening too I saw the same thing. Holding the grille of the balcony with both hands, the little girl swayed and cried miserably. This time I felt concerned about her. Why should a child cry like that everyday? Was she being tortured by someone? Where were her parents? Why did they neglect her so much? I became curious to know the truth.
I tenderly touched her soft fingers on the grille.
"What's the matter, child? Why are you crying? Did anyone hurt you? You can tell me. I promise I won't tell anyone."
This time the girl responded.
"Tell me then," said she amidst sobs.
"What shall I tell you dear?" I asked affectionately.
"Say, 'Don't cry baby. Be a good girl and I promise to give you a big chocolate.' Tell me that."
I smiled and repeated her words, "Don't cry baby. Be a good girl and I promise to give you a big chocolate."
Immediately she extended her small hand at me and said in a normal tone,
"Give me the chocolate then."
I felt a bit embarrassed as there was no chocolate with me.
"I don't have a chocolate with me right now, my dear. But I promise to bring one for you tomorrow," said I.
"No no no! You must give it today! That's what you promised just now."
"But I don't have any chocolate with me."
"Then go and buy a chocolate from that shop," said she, pointing her finger at a small grocery store on the opposite side of the lane.
"Okay dear, you wait here. And don't cry."
"I won't. But make sure to buy a big one. I love Cadbury's Fruit and Nut."
I sighed and walked towards the shop. She smiled sweetly at me as I gave her a big packet of Cadbury's Fruit and Nut.
"Thank you," said she, as she tore off the purple wrapper. "You are very nice. Will you give me another chocolate if I cry again tomorrow?"
Before I could reply a middle aged house maid appeared from the room behind her. Her eyes widened and her hand went to her forehead as she saw the chocolate in the girl's hand.
"My goodness! You have played your trick again? Wait till your Mom and Dad return home."
The child hid the chocolate behind her skirt and promptly disappeared into the room. I questioningly looked at the maid. She folded her hands and said, "Madam, please forgive our naughty little girl. Both her parents work in the office and often return late. I have to look after the child from the time her school bus drops her home. But I have other chores too, hence I can't always pay attention to her. Recently she has invented this trick of crying in front of strangers to get chocolates from them. I've repeatedly told her not to do this, but she won't listen. Her parents buy her dozens of chocolates but she still likes to fool people and get more. It's a type of game for her. She'll get a solid bashing from her parents if they come to know of this. So please don't complain to them."
I assured her that there was no question of any complain as I willingly gifted the chocolate to the child. The maid was relieved.
The next day we left for Gurgaon and the story ended there.
The sight of the house made me feel nostalgic. I wondered how the girl looked now. She must be studying in the tenth or eleventh standard. Did she still use her old trick on strange passers by? I smiled as the thought crossed my mind. Of course not. Now she's an adolescent standing on the threshold of womanhood.
I continued to walk on that road for the next several evenings in the hope of getting a glimpse of that (once)little girl. But in vain. One Sunday I saw a middle aged man smoking in the balcony who, I guess, was her father. After some weeks I changed my walking route again and forgot about the girl.
Later that year I visited a shopping mall to buy some kurtis for myself. It was late September and Puja marketing was going on in full swing. I bought a few kurtis and came out of that overcrowded place. Then I reached the basement where my car was parked. As I was getting into the car, I heard something that stopped me from driving away immediately.
A girl and a young man were having an argument quite nearby. I couldn't help but eavesdrop. Their conversation went something like this.
Man: "Please don't make a scene dear. Get up into the car."
Man: "What will people say? Can't we go to your or my place and talk like civilized people?"
Man: "Okay, it was my fault. Happy? Now get into the car."
Girl: "Tell me then."
Man: "What shall I tell you?"
Girl: "Say, 'Don't be angry darling. Calm down and I promise to give you an ice cream treat right now.' Tell me!"
Man: "Okay. Don't be angry darling. Calm down and I promise to give you an ice cream treat right now. Happy? Will you get into the car now?"
Girl: "Of course not! We'll go to the food court now."
Man: "You mean now?"
Girl: "Of course! You promised to give me a treat right now."
Girl: "I'll have a big chocolate ice cream cone topped with choco chips and chocolate syrup. Come on, let's go!"
I got a clear view of the girl's face as she and her male friend walked past my car towards the elevator.
I surfed through the photos in my mobile and found the photo I was looking for. It was the one I had recently downloaded from my Facebook photo gallery. Yes, it was undoubtedly the same girl! She still had the same pretty, innocent face that fooled me ten years back. Along the years she had grown up but, alike her house, remained unchanged. Even her cravings for chocolate hadn't changed.
There's certainly some truth in the old proverbs, especially the one that says, 'Old habits die hard.'