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Monday, December 31, 2012

Overheard at a Coffee Shop


The mellow sunshine peeked out from behind the grey clouds. It was perfect weather for a cup of hot, frothy coffee with a sprinkling of chocolate vermicelli. So that is exactly where the feet went – to the neighbourhood Barista and as the innermost cockles of the heart were being warmed by the much sought after coffee, the sun emerged, looking for all its worth like a large serving of sunny-side-up.
And then something happened to add to the enjoyment of the moment. A little girls voice piped up with certain questions.
Sitting at the next table, with a large sandwich in front of her, the little girl, her hair in braids, wearing a polka dotted frock and buckled shoes with socks couldn’t have been more than 5 years old. She was bent on quizzing her father, who sat in front of her, distractedly reading the paper and trying to make sure his daughter ate her sandwich at the same time. Here is their conversation, paraphrased, of course.
“Papa,” asked the little one. “Why does mummy shout so much?”
“That’s because you dropped your milk all over the floor, beti, don’t feel bad,” said Papa.
“No, I know, that’s why she shouted. But she shouts at me a lot.”
There’s a silence while Papa tried to think of a suitable response. She pipes up again, in the meantime.
“She never shouts at Bhai, though. She only shouts at me. He tore my dress last week and she blamed me. She sometimes shouts at you too, I’ve noticed.”
“Bhai is much smaller than you, darling, that is why Ma doesn’t shout at him. He won’t understand. Because he is so very naughty, that is why Ma is tired all the time and I think that is why she gets angry easily. You must not let it hurt you,” replied Papa.
“Maybe Ma does not love me as much as she loves Bhai,” sulked a petulant little girl.
“You are very special my darling, you are our first child! How can you say that?”
“How do you know?”
“She told me, she tells me that every day. That you are such a good girl, you do your homework, you look after Bhai and you listen to us.”
The voice was full of happiness.
“Yes really. Now finish your sandwich and we will go home.”
“Do you know, that day, I saw how Dadi gave Bhai two big rasgullas from the pot Mona Aunty brought that day. She had one and did not offer Ma. Bhai had two, Ma did not even eat one. Why didn’t Dadi give Ma? I have seen she is angry with Ma often. Does she love her too? Like Ma loves me but she is angry with me?
“Nani is never angry or mean to Ma like Dadi is. Why is that? Nani also loves Ma but she is never angry with her.”
“You talk too much, finish your sandwich and let’s go,” said a flustered father, unable to explain the dynamics between a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law and why a wife who is constantly burdened with work and a naughty toddler would be irritable all the time.
“Can we take some apple cake back for Ma? She likes sweet things, and this will make her less angry. I won’t give it to Dadi but, she didn’t let Ma eat the rasgulla that day.”
“Ok, ok. What a little chatterbox you are...come, let’s go pack cake for your Ma and then we have to run home.”
The little girl skipped out, holding her father’s hand – snug in the knowledge that she can do something, however small a gesture, to soothe her mother’s wrath. The lukewarm coffee tasted a bit sweeter in her wake.
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