I am sure all families are interesting. But I like to think that my family is especially interesting. I have such great nephews and nieces because of whom there is not a single dull moment in life.
Two-and-a-half year old Arshiya goes around asking everyone a very serious question, “Are you happy?” If you ask her to exercise, she says, “I am not Swami Ramdev”. Swami Ramdev is an expert on yoga and comes on a television channel every day. Arshiya has seen the programme with her grandparents.
My nephew Akshay had the tendency to wander off to neighbours’ houses with a little lost boy look that made people think his mother had not given him anything to eat! His younger brother Abhishek was always thinking of new weapons to fight the Martians when they landed on earth. My niece Sumita never got off the tree in her garden. As soon as she got back from school she would have her lunch “upstairs” and do her homework there. Kamla, her sister, had a box of calcium tablets with the picture of a giraffe on it. She would gulp as many tablets as she could daily so she would be as tall as a giraffe.
But Tisha was different from them all. She was the only child of my cousin sister, and lived in Nagpur. It is a city in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, and is famous for its oranges. Each orange is like a mini-sun gulped down in no time. Tisha was the silent one in the family. She spoke very little and kept to herself. In school she had no friends. Her parents worried about her. They wondered when she would make friends, laugh and be like other children. They did not know that Tisha had a secret desire. She was determined to grow up and be an explorer and lead a life which would take her to different parts of the world. Then she would no longer have to meet people she did not like.
When Tisha was seven, her cousins from the United States visited Nagpur. Tisha met her cousin Shalini for the first time. Shalini was a year older than her.
“Say hello to your cousin, Tisha,” her mother told her. Tisha mumbled a hello and went off. She was not to be seen anywhere for the next few hours.
Meanwhile, on her very first day, Shalini visited the neighbours’ houses, made friends with everyone. When Tisha returned home in the evening, she saw that Shalini had become the most popular girl in the family and in the neighbourhood. She felt a little lost when her mother told her that Shalini would be sharing her room.
To avoid talking to Shalini, Tisha got into bed early and pretended to be fast asleep. But the moment Shalini came into the room she jumped on to Tisha’s bed and asked her to get up. “See, what I have got for you, Tisha. I wanted it to be a big surprise,” Shalini said. Tisha’s curiosity got the better of her and she lifted the blanket from her face. Impatiently, Shalini pulled away the blanket and kept a large package on the bed.
Now Tisha was wide awake. It was a big package but surprisingly light. The packing paper was made of soft tissue, and had wavy patterns in pink, blue and mauve – like a huge ocean. Carefully, she removed the paper and gave a gasp when she saw what it was. It was a huge multicoloured globe that could be used like a cushion or bolster. The neon colours of the globe lit up the whole room and it seemed to Tisha that Shalini and she were traveling around the world on the globe. The blue of the oceans was so real Tisha half expected to see her favourite creatures, the dolphins, to bob up and down. There seemed to be a great cackle of toucans and macaws from the green of the forests. And she could almost see the polar bear amble across the icy sheets of Greenland, near the north pole. In between were the countries of the world in different colours, each one looking like a precious jewel with a unique shape.
“How did you know that I want to be an explorer when I grow up?” Tisha asked Shalini. Her cousin replied, “When I was four or five, my parents gifted me the first of the inflatable globes for kids. We would play a game every day. My parents would show me one place on the globe. Then they would rotate the globe and ask me to find that place. I would go to sleep dreaming that I was in that place. I never felt lonely after that. And as I grew up, my parents gave me this globe for kids and it has so much more information. This globe not only shows countries, oceans, forests and deserts but also shows places that have been affected by pollution, forests that are being cut down needlessly, seas that carry the waste of industries, and the people who are being harmed by all this. That helps me in school too. And I feel the whole planet is my world.”
Tisha gasped. She had finally met someone who thought like her. That night she went to sleep clutching the globe cushion and dreaming of a shop she would open some time. The shop would say: globes for kids, globes of every kind, and to match every dream.
The next morning the entire family was shocked out of its wits to see a cheerful Tisha come to the breakfast table clutching a huge cushion in her arms. Shalini and her parents shared a secret smile.