Saraswati stacked the breakfast dishes from the table and plunked them into the sink. She was fuming, but she was also puzzled. She only wanted to learn how to ride a scooter. How could Rajesh refuse her a simple thing like that? Rajesh had never refused her anything, never ever. The Rajesh who said no at the breakfast table was just not the Rajesh she had known all her life. As she scrubbed the plates fiercely, her mind raced back to those good old days.
When Saraswati was twelve years old, her next door neighbor Rajesh used to take her to school in the mornings and bring her back home in the evenings. The short walk to and from school was great fun. Her friends in school thought he was her brother, and she did not bother to correct them. Saraswati liked Rajesh simply because he never refused her anything. One day, just to tease him, she asked him to fetch a chunk of the moon for her. He calmly replied that he would get it in the evening when he came to school to take her back home.
“What?” she said amazed. “But the moon comes out only at night and its daytime now.”
“I will get it all the same,” he said. “When I come in the evening to take you home, I will have a chunk of the moon in a bag for you.”
She did not believe him, but he kept his promise. That evening, she found him waiting at the school gates, holding something in his mother’s cloth bag.
“That’s your mother’s bag,” Saraswati cried.
“Oh yes,” Rajesh said carelessly. “It stinks a bit because she carried fish in it this morning. I took it away when she wasn’t looking. I bet she will blow a gasket as soon as she sees me. For some reason, my family thinks I am responsible for everything that goes wrong or gets lost in the house.”
“It doesn’t stink a bit,” Saraswati corrected him. “It stinks a lot.”
“I guess it does,” he agreed. “I had three cats following me and couldn’t understand why. But you see, it holds a chunk of the moon. You can have a look at it when you reach home.”
When they reached the old mango tree outside her house, she couldn’t bear it any longer. “Rajesh, show me what’s in that bag,” she commanded.
“It’s a chunk of the moon,” he said with an evil grin. “Hide it somewhere and look at it when it starts shining at night.”
“Show me what’s in the bag,” she screamed. “Otherwise, I will tell your mother and my mother too.”
He handed her the bag and she opened it eagerly. Seconds later, with an expression of disgust on her face, she emptied the contents on the ground—a rock, some garden soil, and a bewildered frog.
“You are absolutely crazy,” she screamed, stamping her foot on the ground.
“So are you,” he said, grinning.
She fell back against the trunk of the mango tree and squealed with laughter.
“You are mad,” she cried.
“So are you,” he said.
“Saraswati!” yelled her mother from inside the house. “Come in at once.”
“Hey,” said Rajesh urgently. “Do me a favor. Return this bag to my mother. Tell her your cat brought it home or any other story you think she will believe.”
Rajesh, who had not refused her a chunk of the moon, had now refused to let her ride a scooter. She just couldn’t believe it!
Saraswati’s phone buzzed. She stacked the plates on the rack, wiped her hands against her red nightie, and picked the phone.
It was a Whatsapp message from her college friend Natasha.
Natasha: Hey Sassy, what’s up?
Saraswati: Things are not good here.
Natasha: Gosh, what’s up?
Saraswati: I don’t know what to think.
Natasha: But what’s up? (Half a dozen emojis)
Saraswati: It’s Rajesh (two emojis)
Natasha: Has his mother come? (Shocked emoji)
Saraswati: She is still in silent mode. (emoji)
Natasha: You don’t know how lucky you are.
Saraswati: I am not.
Natasha: What’s up?
Saraswati: I told you its Rajesh.
Natasha: (question mark symbol).
Saraswati: He is acting like a husband.
Saraswati: It’s not wow.
Natasha: But what exactly is up?
Saraswati: He says I should not ride the scooter.
Natasha: But you can’t ride the scooter.
Saraswati: So what? Can’t I learn?
Natasha: Of course, you can.
Saraswati: And I am going to learn. I don’t care what the world says.
Natasha: (half a dozen clap symbols)
Saraswati: I am going to take Rajesh’s scooter.
Natasha: (eyebrow raised emoji) He has one?
Saraswati: Yes … he has brought that old one from his house … I mean, his father’s house.
Natasha: But he uses it, doesn’t he? So how will you steal it?
Saraswati: I won’t. He hardly uses it. It has been standing in front of the house ever since we came here.
Natasha: My hubby is also the same. He never uses his bike. It is gathering rust in a corner of the garden.
Saraswati: So, I will go now and try to start his scooter.
Natasha: Wow! You rock! I wish you all the best. (Lots of heart emojis and kiss emojis)
Feeling much better after this brief exchange of words, Saraswati went out of the house. She was determined to learn how to ride a scooter, irrespective of what Rajesh said or did.
Rajesh’s Activa stood right in front of the house, near the hibiscus plants. Rajesh had lovingly covered it to protect it from the heat and rain. Saraswati stared at it for some time and then took a few determined steps towards it.
To be continued …