Summer holidays were near and she was excited.It was going to be one fun filled holiday with her favorite cousins.She had not met them in three years and she was really looking forward to spending the long summer afternoons playing board games and pleasant evenings exploring the dense thicket around their colony.She was around for twelve summers and her three cousins a few summers older.
They came with their parents,her paternal uncle and aunt and she noticed how tall and awkward her cousins looked.”Look at you !Oh my God I wouldn’t recognize you if I saw you on the road.You look beautiful young lady ,not like a kid anymore!”-Her aunt exclaimed and hugged her tight.The younger cousins ran down to play with her kid brother and the eldest ,all of twenty,got busy shifting the luggage.
There was not a dull moment for the next few days .Tina ,when she was not busy playing or reading, helped the ladies in the kitchen.She loved to cook as much as she loved reading .She was a happy kid ,very popular amongst family and friends in the colony.Other parents often compared their own kids with her .Very few people knew about her fears and inhibitions.She was like that, exuberant most of the time but very very private at other times.Not so long ago ,she had lost her zeal to excel and and it took her years to come out of her shell.She was healing and life was looking good.Her mom was her best friend and she felt secure and protected once again.The scars did bleed at times but the pain was almost nonexistent. She loved being a good hostess like her mom and her guests were impressed to say the least.
She was reading a book one afternoon when the eldest cousin ,all of twenty ,came in .”Why do you read such heavy stuff ?”-He said,looking at her Ayn Rand book.”At your age you should be reading all light ,breezy books.” Anything about books always had her full attention and she asked him to recommend a few.Soon they were exchanging notes about books.She liked the fact that he shared her interest and she took him to her local library to help him borrow more for the coming weekend.
Summer days in her city were fiercely hot and it was only during the night that they felt some respite from the scorching heat.There was this daily ritual of ‘chhidkaav’ on the terrace every evening after sunset that she simply loved .She roped in her eldest cousin to help her and together they sprinkled water on the parched terrace with their lotaas. She grew up doing that almost every summer evening but the sizzling of water as it touched the surface at an angle through the slits between her fingers partly covering the lotaa ,never failed to amaze her.It felt almost as if she was quenching her own thirst…It had to be done two to three times till water didn’t evaporate too quickly and then they arranged the beds .Ladies of the house at the farthest end,the last row,followed by rows of beds for the kids and lastly beds for the men near the door of the terrace.Crisp white sheets,neatly arranged pillows,thin cool summer sheets to cover ,a table with a jug of water ,a torch , pack of cards and of course books..perfect setting for a peaceful summer night under the star studded sky.
They giggled till dawn ,and as her mom and aunt were bitching about some distant relative, she slipped into a deep slumber.She snuggled closer as she felt her mom beside her .Mom always slipped inside her covers every morning when she came to wake her up.She looked forward to that cozy feeling and the satisfaction of sleeping a few minutes more while she stroked her hair and pressed her eyelids with her cool , soft palms gently.Sun was up but she resisted opening her eyes and then she felt it..the roughness of the palm, as it slid inside her blouse .The intense stab in her heart was the same she felt few years ago ..except that she was stronger now.She jabbed the person with her elbow as hard as she could,with all her might.She turned and kicked. The offender,her trusted friend,guide,cousin, her own bhai scampered away.The smirk was the only thing missing ,everything else was the same..The pain in her heart was unbearable, sharp ,stabbing kind .She clutched her bosom and let the tears flow .She narrated the incidence to her mom that day,she knew she had to,and by evening the house was empty.They never discussed it later.
Tina had learnt to protect herself , she was a big girl now.What she was not aware was her steadily increasing weight and the feeling of guilt when someone said she looked beautiful.
“It is not my fault,”-her mind said ,but her heart didn’t agree.