|With my niece Goolli when she was a baby, 1992|
(I wrote this as a 'middle' in 1998)
It’s tough to be six, and to be treated as a child. Especially when she’s got a questing mind buried in a tiny frame, topped by enormous eyes and a silky mane ~ giving her the overall appearance of a lemur. And she is as endearing as an untamed creature of the wild.
That’s my cousin’s daughter, my niece Goolli (because of her round eyes) ~ and we’ve been friends for six years.”Doesn’t matter if Didi-Akka is older than me,” she insists, referring to her sibling, who’s ten. “I have to be your favourite ~ because you came to see me when I was just born.”
She’s always disliked being ‘small and cute.’ In an argument with Dimi, her grandmother, Goolli at three once shrugged off these despised labels.
“Dimi, when I was a big girl, I used to switch the lights on and off. I used to press the lift button. I could even climb up that tall ladder,” she announced.
“If you were a big girl then, what happened?” asked Dimi.
Goolli replies, “Then, Didi-Akka was born… and I became a baby.”
Refute that, if you can. I didn’t try. I continued to answer her questions, come when they might. The latest torrent arrived when I was babysitting her and her Didi-Akka overnight.
The dialogue lasted a half-hour. Here’s an excerpt:
“Are you coming to stay with us again tomorrow?”
“Why not? We can make up some more stories…”
“I’m going to watch the Football World Cup.”
“”Where? You don’t have a TV at home…”
“At a friend’s house.”
“If the World Cup wasn’t on, what would you do?”
“I’d read a book or listen to music.”
“And if there’s no electricity?”
“I’d go to sleep.”
“If you’re not feeling sleepy?”
“I’ll walk up and down till I feel sleepy.”
“For how long?”
“Maybe until my legs begin to ache.”
“If your legs ache, you won’t be able to sleep. Then, what will you do?”
“I’ll take some medicine.”
“Suppose you don’t have any medicine at home?”
“I’ll go to a pharmacy and buy some.”
“What if you don’t have any money?”
“I’ll borrow some from my friends.”
“And if all your friends are out of Bangalore?”
“Then, I’ll ask my cousin for some money.”
“Which cousin? Mamma?”
|With Goolli at the Chennai beach, 1998|
“And if she’s also out of town?”
“I’ll probably ask you if you can lend me some pocket money,” I tease.
“I might be away in Canada.” She is solemn.
That’s where her cousins live, but she hasn’t been there yet.
“If nobody you know is in Bangalore, what will you do?”
“I’ll go away to Chennai.”
Goolli has always wanted to travel to Chennai with me ~ without her parents or her sister.
“How will you go?”
“If all the trains from Bangalore are not allowed to go?”
“Then I’ll take a bus.”
“But if none of the buses can go, either. If they have a… strike!”
“In that case, I’ll fly to Chennai.”
“What if all the planes in the world… crashland!”
“I don’t know…”
“How silly, can’t you walk to Chennai? And take me with you?”
As usual Goolli had the last word. Even at six!
(Deccan Herald, 1998)