IT WAS THE SECOND WEEK of Mangsir. In that morning the weather was very soothing. The way the sun was beaming at us reminded me of a smiling face of a close friend. As our school exams had been over the previous day, both of us were in leisure. I was pulling water from our tube well as my mother instructed me. I was doing the task reluctantly and waiting to be instructed for the next work that was to spray the water over vegetable sprouts. Our vegetable garden looked very beautiful. The blooming bush of marigold that lied in the entrance of the garden looked like a shining gold pendant in the green tilhari of my mother. After a while, I ceased pulling water and kept on staring at the beautiful marigold flowers. Finding my attention diverted elsewhere, my mother asked me to start spraying water on plants. That instruction gladdened me.  Indeed, I loved spraying water on plants. Seeing water sprinkled over tender vegetable sprouts had always made me delighted. The job of pulling tubewell was too mundane in comparison to the task of watering plants. As soon as I got her instruction, I clutched the sprayer and headed towards the garden. At that time, my brother was hurriedly putting his toothbrush inside the brush holder. The reason behind his rush was revealed soon when he said, “Dijju, give me the sprayer. I want to sprinkle water.” His cleverness offended me for a while, but I calmed down soon realizing that he was not a clever person but merely an innocent child who loved to see plants smile while being bathed. Without arguing further, I handed over the sprayer to him. I accepted his childishness as he was two years younger than me.

That day was for relaxation for both of us as we neither had to go to school nor have to do any homework. We were sitting on a mat with tea and bread loaves, spared from the last dinner for our breakfast. He whispered, “Dijju, what is the plan for today? Let’s have a walk around wheat fields in Gobariya.” I found his proposal alluring. Imagining the sights of the green wheat field, bright-colored mustard farm and fragrance of yellow flowers in the air awaiting us in our neighboring village made me feel thrilled. In agreement, I nodded my head. We waited for our mother to leave for our farm to collect grass for the cow. It was in her regular routine to bring grass from the field for the cow in the morning. When she left home carrying a folded sack and a sickle with her, we tightened our shoes and headed towards the gate. In excitement, we forgot to close the iron gate without letting it make a noise. Its stirring sound attracted our grandma’s attention. At that time, she was spreading grain on the roof. She looked downwards and shouted, “Hey kids! Where are you going now?” We replied, “We just want to have a walk under the sun and will be back soon.” She had always been so much fond of us that she hardly persuaded us to do or not to do anything. That moment also, she let us go without making a fuss.

In that part of the village, everything looked mesmerizing. The yellow mustard farms and green wheat farms reminded me of my mother’s green-colored chiffon saree which had yellow flower prints scattered over it. The warmth of the sun and freshness that was pervasive in the air made us merry like moths. Leaving me behind, he started running forwards. I followed him. I knew where he wanted to reach. I also ran after him to be at the bank of the canal where pristine water was flowing.

We sat on the edge of the canal. While I was looking at the colorful butterflies which were flying over our heads, he asked me to close my eyes. I obeyed him. Then he asked me to put forward my palms. Again, I obeyed him. I sensed some light material being placed on both palms. As I did not have the patience to wait for his further instruction, I opened my eyes. There on my palms, I saw two tiny paper boats. With ecstasy, I jumped. Then I hugged him. As usual, he looked at me with his sparkling eyes and gleeful expressions. We floated the boats into the canal water. We sat on a wooden bridge and kept on watching our boats sailing far away from us. I also asked him to close his eyes and put forward his hands. He obeyed me. I placed an orange on his palms.

Usha Rashmi Pandey

We started walking around the village. We heard a young lady calling us, “Hey little brother and sister! Come and have some salted lemon with us.”  Mere imagination of the sour and sweet taste of the ripened lemon mixed with salt, sugar, green chili, coriander and garlic leaves watered my mouth. Holding his hand, I ran towards the lady. We were asked to sit on the same piled hay strands where the lady was sitting. The salted and sugared lemon tasted delicious. Four little puppies were playing near us. I spotted my brother staring at those puppies. One of the puppies which had black dots on its white body came near him and started to snatch his socks. I looked at my brother’s face and grasped close-lipped smile and blush on his face. His expressions were so lovely that I could not help giggling. His reaction to my giggling was also not less loveable. He started suckling his fingers, lowering his eyes in shyness. He leaned towards me and I embraced him with my both arms. He understood my affection and I understood his need of being loved. Slowly he unwrapped himself from my embraces, placed the little puppy on his lap, and started cuddling it with his tender fingers. Holding the puppy to his chest, he inclined towards me and murmured, “Dijju, can we take this one with us?” Overhearing his plead, the amiable young lady said, “Why not? You can take it with you. Accept it as a gift from me. I hope you will take good care of it and feed it properly.” As soon as the agreeable signal was received from the puppy owner, he stood up clutching the puppy near his chest and holding my hand with his fingers. I understood his gesture. He wanted to say, ‘Let us go now’. I wanted to thank the lady for offering us mouthwatering lemon and gifting my brother the pet, but I could not say ‘Thanks’ rather I gave her a broad smile only. The way she reciprocated my smile showed that she acknowledged my sense of thankfulness. Then without looking back we started to walk towards our home. On the way, he kept on cuddling the puppy and I continued collecting wildflowers from the alleyway. When we reached the bridge that lied on the way to our street, we saw a gang of dogs strolling there. The way they barked at us frightened him. He turned back to me and said, “Dijju, these dogs might seize our puppy. Please hide it inside your scarf.” I found his idea pragmatic and hid the puppy inside my scarf. When we reached home it was getting dark not because the night had befallen but because the moisture had wrapped trees and houses in the same manner as our granny used to wrap her shawl around us. Like her shawl which used to appear greenish, blackish, and bluish, the moist also had different hues. Around the trees it was appearing greenish, around our blue house it was appearing bluish, around our black iron gate it was appearing blackish and above the road, it was appearing grayish. While we left home in the morning, the sun was beaming at us. When we reached home, it seemed to have been invisible. I tried to locate the sun in the sky and found it hiding behind clouds. I also felt like hiding behind the wall as getting home late with a puppy had started to make me feel guilty. I started to shiver not only because of the cold but also because I had been very apprehensive. We reached our verandah. Everyone was looking at us with their frowning gazes. Seeing a puppy with us, their rage got accelerated. Our aunt shouted, “Where did you get this street dog?” My brother replied, “It has not been a dog yet. It is just a puppy.” I murmured, “A didi gave it to us.” When I was about to say, ‘We will rear it as our pet’, I got interrupted by our aunt’s voice, “Who will take care of it? Who will feed it? Who will clean the dirt that it will spread around this house?” With confidence and zeal in his voice, he replied, “We will do all these things. The didi who gifted us it has also asked us to take good care of it.” “Learn to take care of yourself first,” our mother chided. The ambiance was getting so hostile that I did not have the resilience to stand that anymore. I headed towards my room. He also followed me carrying our new friend. Later, our aunt entered the room with an empty carton. She ordered us to put the puppy inside that carton and place it in the corner of the corridor. My brother’s expression apparently showed his unwillingness to part with the puppy. He pleaded, “Auntie, please let it sleep in my room. Look, today it is so cold and this tiny being will die of cold there in the corridor.” Our mother who was standing behind our auntie growled, “Do you want it to sleep on your bed? How dare you think of that?” I could not remain silent and murmured, “At least, let it remain inside our room.” Our mother grabbed the puppy, put it inside the carton, and placed the carton in the corner of the corridor. The weak cry of the puppy was heart-wrenching. We planned to bring it inside when everyone would fall asleep, but we could not materialize our plan since as usual we fell asleep earlier than other members of the family.

The next morning, we fed the puppy with bread and milk. We went to the school unwillingly. When school time was over, we rushed back to play with our little friend.  To our dismay, we did not see it anywhere in the house. We shouted, “Mummy! Mummy!” but did not get any response. We heard a screeching sound coming from the gate. We glanced there. We saw our mummy and auntie entering the gate with some weird sense of triumph on their faces. My brother clung to our mother’s body and asked, “Mummy, where is our Punte?” The way our mother diverted her eyes from the pleading look of my brother made me feel that she did not have the courage to respond to his query. Following both ladies, we entered our house. We felt being shrouded by the sense of gloom and despair there.

We did not go outside to play even when our friends came to call us. We remained silent and sad inside our room.  We did not feel like talking to each other as well. Finding us sitting in the corner with our long faces and teary eyes, our mother broke the silence in an apologetic tone, “Sorry, my children! We took the puppy back to its owner.” Astonished, he interrogated, “But why? What made you do that, Mummy?” She explained, “Because it was a female puppy. You cannot understand how much nuisance it is to have a female dog at home. We requested the owner to exchange the puppy with another male puppy, but she told us that all male puppies had been taken.” To soothe our pain, she promised, “I will search for a male puppy for you soon. Don’t worry, my little ones.” Indeed, we did not want another puppy in the place of our Punte. Oh, I forgot to tell you that we had named the puppy ‘Punte’. We did not give any heed to her effort of consoling us. Once our mother left the room, he came closer to me and whispered, “Dijju, let’s study hard. Thereby, we will be able to earn good, own up our own house and afford to keep Punte’s daughter with us.” Being two years older than him, I had a better comprehension of this world. I found his statement childish. I knew that Punte’s daughter would not wait to be adopted until we became independent. Nevertheless, I did not want to disappoint him. I nodded and replied, “You are really wise, my darling brother. Let’s study hard.”