It’s a fact that we crave what we don’t have, but we care not for what we have in hand.
Like the young ones impatient to run out of the gates of her daughter’s High School, who wanted nothing more than to give up the confines of the school and their homes and burst out unbidden into the world; or like she, who longed to return to the age of those loving confines of home and school, when the most you had to worry about were your grades.
She felt a hard tap on her forehead, “Earth to Mars. Is daydreaming on our agenda again?”
How did I miss her walking towards me? Meenal’s impish grin at her mother seemed to tell her she knew just why. My god! Now she knows what I’m thinking about too. Kids grow fast!
“Hop in, I’m running late.” She put the key in the ignition and started the car, while Meenal made herself comfortable in the passenger seat.
“So, how was it?” Rijul was concerned about this one. It was Maths, not Meenal’s strong suit.
“Aaah, I was hoping you’d ask me that after I got home and you were back at your desk.” She rolled her eyes in defeat.
Rijul gave her a concerned look. “That bad?”
“Weeeeeeell, let’s just say, I won’t top the class, but I won’t be among the bottom feeders either… hopefully.” That last was muttered under the breath.
Rijul sighed heavily as she took the car out from the parking area at Meenal’s school. “Meenal, just don’t fail. I’m not expecting any miracles from you as far as Maths is concerned. Hang on till the Boards next year, and after that you can kick Maths out of your life.”
“I thought you wanted me to take up commerce.” The shock was evident in Meenal’s voice.
“Not if you don’t do well in Maths. There’s no point in you hating what you do for a living.”
“Aw, Mommy, you’re the best!” Meenal blew her a kiss. Rijul smirked. She knew what it was like to be bad at Maths.
“So, what do you want to do now?” Rijul changed the subject. No one liked to talk about an unpleasant topic at the start of summer vacations.
Meenal stretched herself languorously on the passenger seat. “First, I’m going to take a nice, warm bath with your expensive bathing oils...”
“Oh yes, you’ve had your eye on them for sometime”, Rijul grinned.
“And then, I’m going to get a fat bottle of chilled soda, take it upto my room and dig into that book I’ve been dying to read, while I play music at the loudest that my stereo can go…”
“The neighbours aren’t going to be happy…”
“The neighbours can eat cake! For once Sharma Auntyji’s bhajan-kirtan aren’t going to be the only music playing in the neighbourhood.”
That was a funny visual, Rijul conceded and she laughed as she pictured Mrs. Sharma’s scandalized face over sounds of hard rock floating in through her pristine white curtains.
“That sounds fun, but I meant what do you want to do in the summer?”
“You mean apart from those horrid extra classes that we have from next month? Uhh, I don’t know. Haven’t thought of it yet. Maybe I’ll just be, like a cat, in a nice corner of the house. That isn’t so bad is it?”
“No, no, not at all. But maybe you could do a few useful things, like go for hobby classes or that summer camp…”
“Moooom, I’m not 10 anymore!”
That sounded definitive, so Rijul just dropped the topic. Fine, let her just ‘be’ this summer, she thought. This may be the last, carefree summer of her life. Once the Boards fever starts, she won’t get time for herself.
The phone started to ring. It was Meenal’s father and she dove down to retrieve Rijul’s phone to answer the call.
“Hi Papa!” She said in sing-song.
“Hi my little baby…”
“Papa, I’m not little anymore!” Meenal pouted at the phone. Her teenage ego got hurt far too easily these days.
“Sorry, baba, sorry. How were your exams?”
“Oh, just fine. Except Maths. You know how I hate Maths.”
“Yes, we all do. But now that they’re over, just relax. How about you come with me on that cruise I’m going to next week?”
Meenal’s eyes were about to pop out of her skull. She squealed with excitement, “Really Papa? You mean that? Really, really mean that?”
Her father was obviously pleased with her reaction. “I wouldn’t be saying it darling, if I didn’t mean it. I had been keeping it from you because I didn’t want to distract you during your exams. I know you’ll have fun. There will be Rivka to keep you company.”
“Oh?” Meenal wasn’t too happy about that, but she decided she could suffer her for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“I guess we’ll have to talk to Mom about it first”, Papa sounded conspiratorial.
“Umm, yeah. Here talk to her.” And without preamble she handed the phone to Rijul. Rijul took the call but not without shooting Meenal a look that had ‘this could’ve waited; I’m driving’ written all over it. She brought the car to a halt at the side of the road. No talking over the phone while driving for her. She was a responsible woman.
“Hi Mridul.” She was careful not to show any inflection in her voice.
So was he. “Hi Rijul, how have you been?”
“Good, good. What’s this you father-daughter are conspiring about?” She eyed a saucer-eyed Meenal. Those puppy dog stares meant there was something she wanted that Mommy wouldn’t approve of.
“Ha ha! Well I’m going for a cruise next week and I thought maybe Meenal could join us, before she dives back into her extra classes at school… of course if you agree.”
Of course! That’s why she was the last to know about it. She didn’t like the plan. And ‘us’ meant there would be… “Rivka and Meenal don’t get along much, you know that.”
She could feel him sigh silently at the other end. “I know but I’ve had a word with Rivka since that day and I’ve warned her about her behaviour. Besides I’ll take responsibility for the girls. Don’t worry about it. Meenal was supposed to spend three weeks with me anyway, so why not on this cruise? I know she’ll have fun.”
She sighed. She knew she couldn’t argue about it, even if she didn’t like the idea. He was her father and he had visiting rights. He had been a good father too, inspite of their differences. Besides, Meenal was old enough to decide now how she wanted to spend her time and with who.
“Fine…” Meenal was already doing a victory dance on the passenger seat, “Send me the details and I’ll let you know by tonight. There will be visas to worry over too. And the court orders.”
“I’ll take care of all that. You just give me the green light.” He sounded excited himself. At least there was that.
“Alright. I’ll call you tonight. Bye.” She hung up just as she heard a click from his side, and then looked over at Meenal, who was grinning from ear to ear.
“Guess what I’m doing this summer, Mommy?!”
Rijul couldn’t help but laugh. She could do anything to make her daughter happy. Even if that meant letting her go overseas with her divorced husband and step-sister....
To Be Continued.