A NEW BEGINNING

Hola friends! Here is the seventh offering in ‘The Little Girl’ series written for children. This chapter is linked to the previous post ‘Nobody Loves Me Anymore’. You may read it here.

That evening father was home earlier than his usual time. He brought with him a packet of piping hot samosas and yummy spiral jalebis- favourites of the little girl.

The entire house gathered in the living room. Uncle and aunt were both dressed for some special occasion. They were going out for dinner! Grandmother looked ebullient and happy. For a change mother and the little girl’s baby sister also joined them. Everyone was in high spirits. Tea was poured into china cups from mother’s crockery collection. The little girl was excited. Could there have been a better day? No!

She feasted on the scrumptious samosas, devouring the crisp and flaky edges and leaving clumps of potato for mother, as she always did.

“Would you like to have these mother?” she asked.

“I would love to my girl, but I can’t. The doctor says it will give me and the baby a tummy ache,” sulked mother.

The little girl was confused.

‘How would the baby’s tummy hurt if mother ate the potatoes?’ She glanced at mother once again, who seemed out of sorts.    

‘Poor mother,’ she thought. Then she looked at her baby sister sleeping in the cradle.

“Poor little sister of mine!” she said, secretly thanking her own stars for not messing up with her stomach.

“What did you do all day long, my girl?” father asked, sipping from his cup.

“I spent the day colouring,” the little girl said meekly, looking at grandmother from the corner of her eye. Grandmother was busy brushing crumbs from her salwar.

“Didn’t you play with your little sister?”

“Uh…well…”

“The baby spent her day sleeping,” mother intervened. “Now that she is going to be up in a while, my little girl will keep her entertained. Won’t you little one?”

“Me? Well, I…”

“How wonderful!” chimed in father. “May I join the two of you?”

“Of course,” jumped the little girl. “But first could you please finish these potatoes off my plate?” she implored.

The aunt played melodious numbers on her recorder and uncle utilized his instant camera to click some pictures. The little girl’s baby sister woke up after a while, crying at first and then lying quietly in her cot, thinking. She looked happier every time she was picked up for a photograph. Uncle clicked so many of them- father, mother, the little girl and the baby in one frame; another one of the grandmother with the two girls; of uncle and aunt with the little girl first and then with her baby sister too. In all the pictures there was one common factor- the little girl featured in them all!

Soon, it was time for uncle and aunt to leave for their dinner party. Father moved to clear the kitchen and change into a pair of comfortable clothes. Grandmother also prepared to retire to her room but not before giving the little girl a warm hug.

“Grandmother, are you upset with me?”

“Why should I be?” she winked at the little girl before leaving finally.

“I will be right back, little one,” mother called out. “Meanwhile will you look after your baby sister?”

“Yes, I will!”

Suddenly, the little girl felt so big and responsible.

SO BIG and RESPONSIBLE!

She had been wrong about grandmother, father, mother and about her little sister. They all loved her a lot. Yes, they did! 

The little girl hovered around the cradle, calling out to the baby every now and then.

“My dearest sister, I am your elder sibling. When you grow bigger, I will be the one to hold your hand and take you around. I will also share my set of hot wheels and my colours with you. I can also teach you some art. My teacher always gives me an excellent in the art book.”

She picked up the yellow and red baby rattle and sat down on a green pouffe placed next to the cradle. Placing her head close to the edge, she began to rock the cradle taking breaks in between to shake the rattle.

It had been a while and neither mother nor father were back in the room. The little girl felt important. She was doing well. She had managed to keep her baby sister busy and the latter looked quite pleased with her good company.

‘What a brilliant job done!’ thought the little girl, patting herself virtually for it.

She glanced at the baby, feeling unsure about giving her a peck on the cheek. Mother always said that babies have sensitive skin, just like water. One touch and several ripples. Of course, the haunting fear of an infection was also there. The little girl decided to merely touch the baby with her tiny finger.

Indeed! She was like water. The little girl’s finger seemed to have drowned in a whirlpool. She immediately withdrew her hand and heaved a sigh of relief. She was glad the baby had not started crying.

“Phew! You scared me sister,” she said. “You are such a touch-me-not. Do you know what that is? I am going to teach you that and lots of other things when you grow up. I am your guide and your teacher,” she said wrapping her sister’s hand around her index finger.

She paused for a while and then said, “Actually, I am your sister, mother and father, all rolled into one… now and forever!”

Someone standing behind the door chuckled. Could it have been grandmother?

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I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s #MyFriendAlexa Campaign. This is the seventh post in the series. Read the other posts below.

The Butterfly Fluttered Its Wings

Welcome to the New School

The Plan

High Neck in Winters

No Longer Little

Nobody Loves Me Anymore

     

NOBODY LOVES ME ANYMORE

Welcome back friends! This is the sixth post in ‘The Little Girl’ series. Happy reading!

It had been over a week. Mother was back home with the baby sister. The little girl was amused at the way the house had completely changed. Mother was mostly in bed. And the little girl had been asked to share her room with grandmother. It wasn’t the best arrangement but she hadn’t been given a choice. The whole house was a hive of activity. Aunt had moved in with them for a few days and uncle would come visiting every now and then.

Mornings were cluttered and no longer their usual self. Mother’s morning kisses had hibernated, but only for a while. In fact, the little girl usually woke up before mother did. Only on some days she could hear her baby sister crying and that is when she knew mother was already up. On those days she would run to snuggle up with mother in her bed. She enjoyed watching mother trying to put the baby to sleep or feed her and then rub her back until she burped.

“Mother did you also rub my back this way when I was a baby?” the little girl asked in a hushed voice.

“Yes,” said mother gently putting the baby in the cot, lest she woke up.

“Why should you do it mother?”

“To release the trapped air.”

“How does it get trapped?”

“We must let mother rest now, little one,” said grandmother walking in. “Come with me. There’s a surprise for you at the breakfast table!”

The little girl turned to her mother who looked tired. She pecked mother on the cheek and received a tight hug in return. Then she happily tip-toed out of the room. This morning had been much better than all the others when mother was usually sleeping. She realized that if she wanted to spend a little time with mother in the mornings, she would have to get up early.

The surprise at the breakfast table was not bad at all! Pan cakes dipped in chocolate sauce. Aunt was a wonderful cook. And she took special care to prepare little girl’s favourite dishes. Not exactly the way mother did, but almost the same taste. The little girl was sure mother had taught her all those delicacies before she went to the hospital. How else would aunt know what was her food of choice.

The breakfast nook, however, appeared more like a conference hall. The little girl sat next to her father. Grandmother sat at the head of the table and uncle and aunt on the opposite side. The lone chair at the foot of the table was unoccupied. Nobody ate in silence.

“The baby didn’t let her sleep last night. Must have been baby colic,” said aunt.

“But I’m glad they are sleeping now. I hope she rests most of the morning,” said father.

‘Oh, no! That would mean not getting to see mother until lunch,’ thought the little girl. She couldn’t go out to play. It was snowing again today. Vacations were such a bore. She could read or maybe grandmother could tell her some stories about her childhood. She wondered if she too had kept mother awake all night. Couldn’t be. She had always been the good girl.

“What will you do today, little one? Will you play with your sister?” asked father.

“Yes! She likes to hold my finger and smiles at me,” said the little girl.

“She is very clever. I can already tell you that. The way she looks around. She is very active. I don’t remember her elder sibling that way,” said the grandmother.

“She was always quiet,” said father smiling at the little girl. “Don’t trouble your baby sister and your mother, right?” he said.

“She doesn’t,” said the aunt. “She is such a well-behaved girl.”

“And the BIG sister now,” the uncle joined in.

For a moment the little girl liked her aunt more than she liked her grandmother or her father, who only seemed to be bothered about the baby.

Mother woke up around afternoon. She said the baby had been up almost every hour but they had still managed good sleep. The little girl had finished her morning chores by then and was busy filling colours in a book.

“What have you been up to, my girl?” asked mother.

“I’ve been colouring. Would you like to see?” said the little girl.

“A little later. I must be with your baby sister now. Would you like to come and play with her?”

The little girl thought for a while.

“Not now,” she said.

She continued with her work as mother went back to her room. The little girl was disappointed with herself for refusing to go and play with her sister. Had mother felt bad? Would her baby sister be upset? She was too small to know. But she would miss holding the little girl’s finger, wouldn’t she? Mother would definitely miss the little girl when she would want someone to hand over the nappy to her or whistle to the baby. Even the little girl would miss watching the baby being given a bath and also her sweet baby scent. But she wouldn’t go. Not today.

She would wait for them to miss her and then come looking for her. Even if it meant waiting until father returned from work.

‘Would he come to her room first or would he go and meet the baby sister first?’ she wondered.  

The little girl felt tears trickle down her eyes. Before she could wipe them off, grandmother walked into the room.

“Hey, what makes my girl cry? Are you all right?”

The little girl only nodded. She tried to speak but couldn’t.

“Tell me little one, what’s the matter?” asked grandmother.

The little girl wasn’t sure what to tell her grandmother. Should she tell her that she was missing her mother? Or should she just tell her that she had lost her favourite colour? Should she pretend she had hurt herself? What should she say?

“Nobody loves me anymore,” she blurted out the truth. “You all only talk about the baby. Mother only likes to be with the baby.”

“That’s not true!”

“It is! Even you think the baby is cleverer than me. You said it this morning. Nobody loves me!”

The little girl looked down, tears rolling down her cheeks as her grandmother watched the smudged green leaves in the colour book.       

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I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s #MyFriendAlexa Campaign. Read the previous posts in the series by clicking on the links below,

The Butterfly Fluttered its Wings

Welcome to the New School

The Plan

High Neck in Winters

No Longer Little

NO LONGER LITTLE

Hello once again, friends. Here is the fifth post in ‘The Little Girl’ series being written for children. Hope you enjoy reading this one!

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It was the longest walk of her life in the snow. The roads were not their usual self. They were quiet and cold. Most shops were closed. Only few had their shutters half-open, the shops dark and mysterious from the inside. Some of the street lamps shone with a yellow light. The snow fell softly over her cap, mittens, the brown coat and on the road. At places, it lay like a formless heap of white cotton. 

The little girl looked at her aunt, who walked carrying a backpack full of snacks and hot tea. Her nose had turned red, reminding the little girl of Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The little girl touched her own nose with her hand. It felt numb.

“Aunt, is my nose also red just like yours?” she asked.

“Yes darling, it is.”

‘Mother was always right about not going out in the snow,’ thought the little girl. Even with a double pair of socks and mittens and a cap, her hands and feet and her ears were freezing.

“How far is the hospital?” she asked.

“Not very far, just a little,” said the aunt. “But tell me, have you decided on a name for your sister?”

The little girl had never thought of that! Why hadn’t it occurred to her? What would she call the baby?

“How about Gayatri?” asked the aunt.

The little girl had several friends in school. She liked most of them. They liked her too. One of the girls in her class didn’t speak much. Even when the little girl had tried talking to her, she hadn’t been very… ummm… let’s say, very kind. Her name was Gayatri.

“It’s nice aunt. But I think it’s a kind of tongue twister. I will find it hard to pronounce. Could we think of something else?”  

“Oh, yes! There are plenty. But first let us go inside and meet the baby.” The aunt said pointing to a signage on the top of a huge gate.

L-A-D-Y R-E-A-D-I-N-G H-O-S-P-I-T-A-L

The little girl had a weird feeling in her stomach. Just like a worm had wiggled down her belly. Was it time yet for deworming? She walked inside a white and red building, holding her aunt’s hand. The hospital smell was familiar- she had visited the place after a fall from the stairs once. Stingy and ever-present – that is how it smelt.

But it was warmer than outside. They walked through a corridor with shut doors- all white in colour.

321, 322, 323… which of these was her little sister’s room? Her aunt stopped right in front of a door which was half-open.

“Excuse me,” she knocked. “Room number 345.”

A nurse dressed in white with a navy-blue cardigan buttoned up to her neck, sat at her table, knitting. Her white stockings reflected the orange colour of the rods of the heater placed close to her feet. Her cardigan was a better version of a high neck. It could be buttoned up and would still keep the neck warm. The little girl decided to recommend it to her mother.

“End of the corridor,” the nurse answered without bothering to look up from her knitting.

By the time the aunt thanked the nurse, the little girl was already half-way down the corridor.

Room number 345 was no different from the outside. A white, expressionless door with a regular knob. But it didn’t bother the little girl. She knew it was going to be different from the inside- bright and noisy. She turned the knob to open the door.

“Aha! Look who’s here,” announced the little girl’s grandmother who sat on a white cot.

The little girl looked around in amazement. She felt nervous in that room. It was different from what she had imagined… so quiet like a library. She knew everyone in that hospital room but still they looked unfamiliar. Her father sat on a chair next to another cot on which lay her mother, seemingly unwell, her hand pricked with a needle secured by a white bandage. The little girl was restless. She had hoped to see her mother sitting with a tightly swaddled baby in her arms.

Where was the baby, her sister?

“Who are you looking for, little one?” her mother asked from her bed.

“She is looking for her sister, aren’t you?” asked her father.

The little girl nodded.

“She will be here in some time,” said her mother. “Meanwhile why don’t you come and sit here, next to me, and tell me all about the snow outside and how you spent last evening.”

Strangely, the little girl was not sure she wanted to sit next to her mother. Thankfully, the door opened and in walked an attendant with a small bundle in her arms. She handed over the baby to the little girl’s father and walked out.

The grandmother and aunt huddled close to the father, peering over the baby, talking to her. The little girl stood on her toes to have a glimpse of her sister, but in vain. She was high up there in her father’s arms.

“Would you like to hold your sister?”

She heard her mother’s voice. Almost immediately, everyone turned towards the little girl. The grandmother then made her sit cross-legged on the empty cot and father gently placed the sweet-smelling bundle on her lap, making sure to place  her one hand beneath the baby’s head and the other around her legs.

The little girl was scared. The baby looked at her with her tiny eyes. The elder sibling tried whistling to her, just the way she had seen in some movies. But all she could manage was to blow out cold air and screech.

“Do you like your sister, little one?” asked the grandmother.

“She doesn’t know how to answer your question dadi, and I am no longer little!” the ‘not-so’ little girl blurted.

Everyone in the room burst into laughter, as the little girl drew up a long list of questions in her mind to ask her aunt on their way back.     

I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s #MY FRIEND ALEXA campaign.    

Read the previous posts below,

THE BUTTERFLY FLUTTERED ITS WINGS

WELCOME TO THE NEW SCHOOL

THE PLAN

HIGH NECK IN WINTERS

HIGH NECK IN WINTERS

Hello friends. Here is the fourth offering in ‘The Little Girl’ series, for children. Illustration by my nine-year-old daughter, Sarah.

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The little girl was sorting through the clothes in her bag. She was taking longer than usual.

“Hurry up, little one,” her aunt called out. “We are going to get late for hospital.”

The little girl wanted to stay a while longer, fishing around in her suitcase. Not that she hadn’t found the right set of clothes to wear to the hospital, but she was just trying to buy some time.

Last evening her mother had been rushed to the hospital. You see, she was going to get a baby sister or brother for the little girl. It had been so quick that mother had forgotten to help the little girl remove her woollen high neck sweater before she left!

The little girl hated wearing high necks. But her mother always insisted on making her wear one, especially in winters because they kept her warm. Mother was always so worried about the little girl catching a cold. The latter agreed but only on the condition that mother would help her wear and remove the oppressing garment every single time. But yesterday…mother had forgotten her promise. She had been in a hurry to get the baby.

“Not right now, little one,” mother had said. “I’m worried. You will be fine with your aunt.”

And so, the little girl had been left at her aunt’s mercy.

“Aren’t you done as yet?” said aunt, walking in. “Looks like it’s going to snow. Let us quickly get a bath and get moving.”

Aunt held the little girl by the hand, pulling her towards the bathroom. Just then, the door of the house flung open and in walked her uncle.

“Congratulations my girl! You got a little sister!”

“Where is she? Where’s mother?” the little girl tried to look behind her uncle with hopeful eyes.

“Oh, they can’t be home so soon,” the uncle said, shattering her obvious hope of mother helping with the high neck.

“Look at her,” uncle said to the aunt. “She is in great hurry to meet her sister.”

The little girl only smiled, thinking of the baby. Would she know her big sister, who would no longer be a little girl now? She looked out of the window. Snow flakes were already dancing outside, some of them swirling around just like the cream mother often put in her tomato soup. She had first seen snow in a picture book. It had looked like candy floss that would melt in her mouth. She had so wanted to see it in real right then, but mother had asked her to wait until winters came visiting. She had waited patiently.

And it had snowed. White, cold and beautiful to look at. She wasn’t allowed to go out and play and the high necks had walked in along with the snow. Would her mother make high necks for her baby sister as well? She thought so. Maybe she had already made her wear one. But the baby was lucky. Mother was there to help her with the suffocating sweater. While she… she was missing her mother here.

She looked at her uncle who was sipping a cup of tea. She was glad he had come at the right time and had helped postpone the bathing.

“It’s snowing outside. Will we be able to go and see the baby?” she asked her aunt.

“Oh, yes! We will.”

“Mother doesn’t let me go out in the cold,” she said, surprised at herself for being so particular about what mother always said. On other days she would cry until mother relented and took her out for a while.

“But she is eagerly waiting for you today. And your sister looks just like the snow itself..a soft ball of cotton,” her uncle chipped in.

The little girl was happy. Snowfall, mother and her sister- she would be seeing them all. It was going to be her lucky day. But she would have to take a bath before that. She rushed to her aunt in the kitchen.

“Aunt, am I going for a bath now?” she asked from the door itself.

“In a while darling. I am first going to prepare some tea and snacks for everyone at the hospital.”

“Mother is very careful about taking off my high neck, aunt. Sometimes it gets stuck around my nose and I can’t breathe. It looks like someone is trying to smother me.”

“Don’t worry. She taught your aunt how to do it just the other day,” said uncle walking in. He looked at her as he poured tea into the thermos from a huge jug.

“She did?” the little girl looked at her aunt. She wanted to be sure.

“Of course,” smiled the aunt. “Now if you will go and play while your uncle and I wind up here. Or else, the meeting time will be up and we will have to return from the hospital gate itself.”

This, the little girl did not want. So, she quickly went back to her room to look out of the window. It was just a little white and only a few flakes fell from the sky now. She was happy it wouldn’t be so cold. Mother wouldn’t have to worry about her moving out.

But she didn’t know when mother had taught aunt how to take the sweater off. Yesterday? But yesterday was so chaotic and mother hadn’t been well. And on the other days, the little girl had always been by mother’s side. Could it have been after she had slept, or while she was playing? Watching TV? Even if mother had taught her, she couldn’t be certain aunt had practiced enough.

“Little one,” the little girl turned around to see her aunt standing right behind her. So, the dreaded time had arrived. She would hold her breath until it was done. That way it would be better.

“We are getting late. So, I’ve decided to give you a bath once we are back. Wash your face and let me make your hair.”

The little girl was delighted. She happily pulled out the brown coat from the cupboard and wore her mittens and cap.

“And listen,” said the aunt before walking out, “why don’t you carry a change. Maybe we can ask your mother to take the high neck off for you!”

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I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s #MyFriendAlexa campaign

Read the other stories in the series below,

The Butterfly Fluttered its Wings

Welcome to the New School

The Plan

THE PLAN (MY FRIEND ALEXA)

Dear Friends, This is the third post in the ‘Little Girl Series’ for children being written for My Friend Alexa Season 5. The illustrator is my nine-year-old daughter, Sarah.

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The little girl looked up at the sun, her red face beaded with sweat. Summers were always pleasant in her little hill town, but the sun was ruthless when it came to Friday PE classes. She had requested mother several times to let her take an off, but to no avail.

“Your cousins are not going away until Monday. You can have fun with them over the weekend,” she had said.

“But it’s only a matter of one extra day. Why can’t I miss school just today?”

No amount of cajoling or pleading had worked. Mother was always particular about her rules. Father agreed sometimes, but mostly he gave in to what mother had to say. There was no point asking him for help.  

The cousins had landed last evening from Delhi. They always had long summer vacations there, just like the little girl had long winter vacations here, in the hills.

‘They must be up by now, making plans for the day,’ she wiped off a little trail of salty liquid that trickled down her face. The PE teacher was relentless. Every time a girl missed the counts, she would blow her black whistle several times. ‘FWEET! FWEET! FWEET! FWEET! FWEET!’ Her puffed cheeks made her look angrier than she really was. Or, maybe, she was angry for real because the little girl never saw her smile.

‘FWEEEEEEETTTTTT’… This time the jarring sound was closer home. The little girl looked up to see the frame of a woman right over her. It took her a while to adjust her eyes to the light and recognize her teacher’s face. She was still blowing the whistle. Had she been doing it for long? Had the little girl missed the annoying sound and something else too?

She watched the teacher’s cheeks blow in and out, in and out at an enviable speed and her hair run helter-skelter in the wind. And the foreboding eyes…there was nothing the little girl shouldn’t have feared.

Without a second thought, she closed her eyes and fell to the ground. THUD.

Argh! That hurt.

The blowing of the whistle came to a sudden halt as the little girl heard indistinct voices gather around her.

“Keep away girls, keep away,” she heard the teacher shout.

“Someone pass me a bottle of water…remove her shoes, will you?”

As she lay motionless on the ground, the little girl heard the pitter-patter of tiny feet running around. She did have the urge to peep through her long eye lashes but decided against it.

Splash! Someone emptied a tumbler on her face. It felt like a huge wave lashing against the shore.

Splash! There came another and then another. This was getting too much to handle. The little girl had to act fast, lest she be given another bath. In the hills, one was enough for a day.

She opened her eyes slowly, making sure her movement wasn’t hurried. The teacher heaved a sigh of relief. The little girl looked up at concentric circles of  pine trees on the top followed by the faces of her classmates. Their curious, concerned eyes scanning her thoroughly.

“Are you all right?” she heard the sweet voice of her class teacher, who sat next to the PE teacher. The latter looked suspiciously at the little girl, who quickly averted her gaze.

“Yes,” she mumbled in her feeblest voice. The two teachers then assisted the little girl to the infirmary. She was treated to a large glass of Glucon- D and sandwiches from her tiffin box, while the other girls sat in class reading Hindi.

Had she done the right thing? The little girl was not sure. She remembered the angry glower on the face of the PE teacher and the piercing sound of the whistle. Her shirt was still wet from all the water that had been splashed on her face. What must her friends be thinking? She couldn’t wait to answer their questions. What would she tell her mother and her cousins when she would get back home? She was a little upset for she couldn’t share this secret with anyone!

“What happened to my little girl?” her reverie was broken by her mother who walked in through the infirmary door, followed by one of her cousins and her class teacher.

They had called her parents! Why?

“She looks all right now. I don’t think she needs to see a doctor,” said the class teacher “but she will be better at home. It’s a weekend so, she can get good rest.”

“Am I going home? So soon?” asked the little girl, trying not to sound too anxious.

“Oh, yes!” said her mother as she buckled her shoes.

The little girl looked at her cousin, who smiled mischievously.

As she walked through the playground with her mother and cousin, the little girl watched another section having a PE class. The teacher moving around with the whistle in her mouth.

As their eyes met, the little girl smiled to greet the teacher who looked even more suspiciously at her than before. She didn’t smile back.

The little girl was happy to be home. What a horrible morning it had been. Eventful, actually.

“So, when did you come up with the plan?” asked her cousin.

“What plan?” the little girl was confused.

“The plan to come home early so that you could enjoy with us!”

“I made no plan, really.”

The little girl tried hard. But everyone refused to believe her. Including her mother. She wondered if she should let them know it was because of the PE teacher. But that could mean more trouble. Even at school. So, she decided to play along finally. Afterall, she didn’t mind being home with her cousins.

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I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s My Friend Alexa Campaign.

Read the first story ( The Butterfly Fluttered its Wings)

Read the second story (Welcome to the New School)

What kind of a writer are you? (IWSG- October)

Hola friends!

Happy IWSG day!

The purpose of this group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day.

The awesome co-hosts for the October 7 posting of the IWSG are Jemima Pett, Beth Camp, Beverly Stowe McClure, and Gwen Gardner!

Do visit them and show some love. The IWSG is a wonderful group for all the compulsive writers. If you wish to join please do so here

Visit the website here for some wonderful writing experience and learning.

And now for this month’s question.

When you think of the term working writer, what does that look like to you? What do you think it is supposed to look like? Do you see yourself as a working writer or aspiring or hobbyist, and if latter two, what does that look like?

Well, a working writer sounds great and it’s every writer’s dream, isn’t it? How I wish I could call myself one. But I do have another job which I find hard to give up. Maybe a few years down the line but I don’t see that happening at least for a while.

I started off as a hobbyist which was great. I could balance work and writing because I was doing it for fun. So, I didn’t quite bother about a writing routine or workshops or submissions. I wrote as and when I wanted to. I don’t know how and when this hobbyist turned into an aspiring writer, and there has been no looking back.

I’m doing a writing course with the job and I’m also doing random submissions along with nurturing the blog. I want to slow down but the moment I do it, I begin to feel upset about not writing enough. I’ve been thinking of reducing the outings on the blog because I never set out to be a full-time blogger. Do you think that would help? Maybe some of you from the group may have practical suggestions to give. They are all welcome.

Right now I’m doing a series on the blog called ‘The Little Girl’ series for children. It is part of ‘My Friend Alexa’ campaign by Blogchatter. For any of you interested, the first two chapters are available here and here.

I am also excited for an artist’s and poet’s collaboration that we are working towards in the month of October. Information will soon be on the blog. Do visit again if it interests you.

That’s all for today. Wish you all a happy IWSG day! Keep safe and keep writing.

WELCOME TO THE NEW SCHOOL (MY FRIEND ALEXA)

Hi friends. This is the second post in the ‘Little Girl Series’ for children which is being written for My Friend Alexa.

The illustration is by my nine year old daughter, Sarah.

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It was a large playground. Rows of girls stood in pigtails and blue ribbons, knee length pleated skirts and blue blazers. The little girl watched them from a distance, marching to the beat of a huge drum. She stood there wearing an oversized brown coat. She liked the idea of a school uniform. They didn’t have one in kindergarten. So, in winters her mother made her wear the brown overcoat every day. It concealed her colourful pullovers. Moreover, she didn’t like being so repetitive. But she wasn’t given a choice.

She tried looking for her friend from kindergarten who had joined the big school almost a year ago. But all girls looked the same from a distance. However, she was able to recognize the woman at the podium- the one in a white dress and a blue veil. Oh, she too was wearing the same set of clothes!

‘I am not the only one,’ the little girl thought.

She looked at her father. He seemed worried. Over the past one year, her parents had visited the big school several times. But they had never taken her along. Yesterday, mother made her sit down and told her that she might have to appear for a test again. Did she remember her tables?

Mother didn’t know she had revised them every night in bed. Mother also didn’t know they were little interested in tables. They were only interested in greetings… probably.

The playground echoed with prayers and songs, as the little girl attempted to make sense of all that was happening. Once or twice she tried asking her father a few questions, but he seemed preoccupied with something else. As the drums began to beat again, the little girl saw the woman in white dress walking towards them. Her blue veil flowing behind her. There was an addition to her accessories, which were limited to a wrist watch last time. A pair of glasses now sat on her nose.

“Good morning!” the little girl shouted.

“Good morning!” came the prompt reply. The little girl smiled with her chin up.

“You can come along. We will put her in one of the classes,” the woman said to the father.

She then led them to the centre of the playground where some girls still stood in long rows, waiting for their turn to go back to class. The little girl took small, quick steps to keep pace with the grown ups. A box of pencils and erasers rattled in her bag. Her cheeks felt warm. So did the rest of her body. The overcoat was not such a good idea for today.

“Ma’am,” the woman in the blue veil addressed another lady in a white salwar kameez. “This little girl is going to join us. I think we can give her a place in your class.”

“My class!” The teacher raised her eyebrows. Immediately, several horizontal lines filled her white forehead.

“There’s no place, sister. I already have forty girls. We could check in section C.”

‘Sister! Did she say sister?’ wondered the little girl.

The two women then walked up to a lady wearing a beautiful floral sari and a crisp black waistcoat. Her curly, black hair fell on her shoulders. She looked at the little girl through the corner of her eye as the ‘sister’ spoke to her.

“I do have place in my class but I would like to conduct a little test. Will that be fine?” she asked looking down at the little girl.

Before she could give her consent, the little girl’s father said, “Yes! Of course!”

The little girl spent the next half-an-hour in a classroom full of other girls and while they listened to their beautiful teacher in a floral sari, she sat in a corner writing some papers. She also wrote tables of two, five and ten. Sometimes she could feel the other girls secretly looking at her. Who would she be asked to sit with? She looked around and thought.

At the end of half-an-hour, the little girl handed over her paper to the teacher.

“She has done very well,” said the teacher to her father.

Her father wanted to take the little girl home but the teacher insisted she start school that very day. So, the little girl stayed back.

It had all been quicker than she had imagined. She thought of the kindergarten. Would they miss her now?

The teacher held her little hand and introduced her to the class. She was given a seat in the front row, beside a lanky girl with brown eyes and long fingers whose hair reminded her of a poodle. The little girl looked around to see if there was anyone else with curly hair.

‘Only two,’ she counted ‘including the teacher.’

It was an exciting evening. The little girl’s family went out to shop for her new school. She needed new books, tiffin-box and colours. She was also required to get her uniform stitched.

‘Finally,’ she thought.

She wanted to go and meet her friends at the kindergarten once and tell them about her new school, but she didn’t know if she could. She would have to ask mother.

They entered a rather big tailoring shop. J-A-N-A-K-I-D-A-S, she read.

The man at the counter took the measurements. Did she want the skirt a little low so that it could be used the next year as well? Mother thought it was a good idea.

As they walked out of the shop, the little girl asked her father, “When will they give the uniform?”

“In a week’s time,” he replied.

“Oh! What will I wear to school until then?” she wanted to know.

“The brown coat. It will keep you warm,” her mother replied.

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I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s My Friend Alexa Campaign.

This is the second post in the series. Read the first post here.

Read the theme reveal here.

THE BUTTERFLY FLUTTERED ITS WINGS (MY FRIEND ALEXA)

Friends, credit is due for the first paragraph of this story to my nine-year-old daughter who is delighted by this series and is also the illustrator for the same.        

“It’s a clear blue sky,” said the little girl’s mother, looking up.

“Yes!” the little girl replied, but did not bother to look up herself. She was holding her mother’s hand tightly. It was all sweaty. The little girl was worried. She had learnt the tables well and could write the alphabets too. But would she remember all of it in a ‘stranger’ school? Mother always told her not to talk to strangers. She wondered why mother and father had twisted the rule for the ‘stranger’ school? Probably because it was so big and famous.

Mother had often spoken to her about it, and told her how as a young girl she too had desired to study there. But they were a big family and so she was sent off to another school along with her siblings. But she so wanted the little girl to go to this one.

“There we are!” said mother pointing to a giant black gate. Everything in the school was so big, unlike the little kindergarten where she went to have fun and study too.

As they entered through the gate, the little girl felt a butterfly fluttering its wings inside her tummy. Was she hungry? She was not sure.

They walked up a cobbled path that led to a beautiful garden with colourful flowers. It was indeed a big school! The butterfly fluttered its wings again. Before she could tell her mother that she was probably hungry or something was wrong with her tummy, the little girl was led to the other end of the garden where on a white cane back chair sat an old woman dressed in pure white, with a blue headgear. Was she a teacher? The principal? Maybe. But teachers in kindergarten didn’t wear white skirts and blue veils. The principal there always wore a sari.

“Wish your teacher little one!” the little girl’s mother looked at her, like she always did when the neighbours came over and the little girl forgot to greet them. She was about to do so but just then her eyes fell on her friend from kindergarten sitting right next to the teacher. Hurrah! She had a companion. The little girl smiled and waved at her friend. Her plump, red cheeks made her eyes almost disappear every time she smiled. The friend waved back at her.   

“She’ll be fine,” said the teacher and the little girl’s mother walked away. The little girl watched her leave with misty eyes.

“Sit down,” the teacher said, picking up a picture book from the table. The little girl tried to talk to her friend, but the latter put her finger on her lips and simply nodded from right to left. They were not only class fellows but neighbours too. The little girl admired the flowers on her friend’s dress. She hoped she too had worn something similar and not the blue dungarees her mother so loved.

 Her friend seemed to be jumping out of her seat. She was trying to peep into the book. Had the little girl missed something?

“Which of you can tell me the colour of the sky?”

‘It’s a clear blue sky,’ the little girl heard her mother’s voice in her head.

“Blue,” the two girls shouted in unison as they tittered together. The little girl waited to say the tables. But the teacher only wanted to know the colour of the grass and of her back chair. She then asked them to leave. The little girl was disappointed…no tables! She had spent a long time trying to memorize them. But she was happy it was over and got up quickly while her friend first chose to say ‘thank you’.

The little girl was confused. Should she also thank the teacher?

“You must,” mother had always told her. But wasn’t it too late now?

“Thank you!” she mumbled to herself.  

That evening all the neighbours gathered at the little girl’s house. They always did when something big happened. The men sat in the parlour with her father while the women sat with her mother, trying to comfort her. The little girl’s mother had been crying. Her father had brought home the sad news that the little girl had not been given admission in the ‘stranger’ school unlike her friend who would now be studying there.

Both the girls ran around the garden while the elders mulled over the situation. The little girl also wondered why the school had not liked her. Could it have been the ‘thank you’ or the ‘good morning’? Because she did know about the blue sky!

Tears veiled her eyes too as she saw her mother cry. She wished the teacher had liked her…but secretly she felt relieved.

She loved the kindergarten. It didn’t have a beautiful garden but she knew all the children there and she also liked the principal in a sari. She looked at her friend. She would miss her though, she thought.

That night the little girl heard her parents talk. Her mother was sure she wouldn’t give up until the school gave admission to her daughter.

The little girl wasn’t quite pleased to hear that. She felt a butterfly fluttering its wings in her little tummy again. She wondered what made schools choose some children and not the others. She thought of memorizing the tables once again but soon fell asleep.

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#MyFriendAlexa #Blogchatter #HQsoniawrites

I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s #MyFriendAlexa Campaign.

To read the previous post in this series visit here

My Friend Alexa Season 5- The Little Girl Series

The little girl ran down the slope and rushed into the park. It was five in the evening. Her playmates were already preparing to go back home. She had to make the most of whatever little time she had. She was late by thirty minutes. Their usual meeting time was four-thirty. The Hindi examination had played spoilsport that day. Yes, janaab, if anything was to be blamed for her delay, it was the Hindi paper scheduled for the next day. Why did they have to hold exams for six-year-olds? Did it even make sense? 

She was short for her age and barely visible to her friends playing on the other side of the rusting gate. An old, haggard blue coloured iron door, which they often used as the wings of Pegasus during pretend plays.

The little girl gave the gate a slight push with her hands. She wanted to peep inside first and make sure all was good but it swung wide open with a creaking sound, bringing her well within sight of a group of girls playing hopscotch. Among them, in blue denims and a loose white shirt stood her nemesis.

“What are you doing here?” the bossy group leader almost pounced on her.

The little girl stood closemouthed, unable to get a word out. With her hands on her waist, the group leader now walked up to her.

“Don’t you have an exam tomorrow? My sister’s studying really hard at home, and look at you!”

The boss girl then turned to look around at the others, who also seemed to have choked up. The little girl gathered all the courage she had and went ahead to join them, taking little unsure steps but hoping to manage a game or two without being badgered, before time-up.

As she patiently waited for her turn to throw the marker, she stole a glance at the boss girl going around the park, pushing her way on to a swing or a seesaw. She thought about the sister, sitting at her study table with a Hindi book in her hand. The sister was usually quiet. She wondered if she was as scared of the boss girl as the little girl herself? She wasn’t sure, but it was most likely so.

The little girl played only for a while that evening. A certain pair of eyes following her in the park made her uncomfortable.

That day changed a few things for the little girl. Actually, only one. She never moved out to play before an exam. And never, as in, NEVER! Do you think she should have done that? What else could she have done?

Childhood is a trove of memories. Sweet, bitter, savory and sour- memories nonetheless. Not all childhood experiences are plain sailing. Neither do all of them come loaded with lessons and yet each one is endearing.

This October, join me for My Friend Alexa, Season 5 as I explore ‘The Little Girl’ series– about all that goes on in the lives of children. No lessons learnt, no moral overtones. Just simple, conventional and predictable stories for children, served with love!

#MyFriendAlexa #Season5 #Blogchatter

I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s #MyFriendAlexa Season 5

Mountains & the Delhi Trees

I’ve been trying to get out early in the morning nowadays. The wee hours that I normally devoted to my writing are being spent roaming the streets of Delhi. Not that the city can boast of an early morning breeze but it’s enough that I can now afford to give the strident noise of the evening rush hours a clear miss.  

I’ve always enjoyed long walks, particularly in the hills. My love for the mountains has always been evident, and anyone who has been visiting the blog regularly would know how I always pine for them. My stay in Gangtok, in the lap of the Himalayas, was almost three-years long. The roads in the capital town were serpentine and steep. Walking on them was like riding on the back of a huge python. The low clouds would make the valley appear misty, especially because I chose to go out in the evenings.  

Another place where I spent a little less than a year was Wellington, Coonoor- a tiny, little town of sublime beauty tucked in the Nilgiris. Walks in Wellington were different from those in Gangtok. Covered by pines and the jacaranda trees, the roads would lovingly run into the arms of forests, as if besotted by them.

Pines always remind me of my own hill town, Shimla. Unlike Gangtok and Wellington, where I liked to venture out in the evenings, it was always an early morning walk in Shimla. I was lucky to stay closer to the lonely jungle roads that made me swoon over them. But that wasn’t always the case. There was also a time when Shimla hills made me feel sick and caged. I felt as if the mountains were always closing in on me. Maybe that’s how I got the claustrophobia.

My husband came visiting two months prior to our marriage and we decided to go for a stroll one evening. As we climbed a slope close to the house that overlooked a valley, the sky appeared drenched in an orange light as the sun went down behind the mountains on the other end. We turned to catch a glimpse of the setting sun, when he said to me, “Enjoy this. You are going to miss it.”

His words sounded almost sacrilegious. “Never!” I replied.

As I look back on that day, I think the mountains heard me and vowed to prove me wrong. For they ensured that I longed for their company after feasting on the plains of the subcontinent. The party was great but not great enough to hold me for long. Soon, I felt no more than being in a “rats’ alley/ Where the dead men lost their bones”. (T S Eliot)

I have been fortunate to visit my hometown once or twice a year to see my parents. The mountains don’t close in on me anymore. Instead my first impulse is to gulp down a fistful of air rushing down their slopes.

2020 hasn’t allowed me a visit home. The pain is piercing. And to my rescue come the morning walks along with the Delhi trees. No, I don’t see the mountains here but the relative quiet of an otherwise humdrum life is helpful. There are barely people on the roads just after sunrise and that is great by the standards of this city. I try moving through the lanes lined up with these trees─ a semblance of peace, quiet and maybe landscape in an otherwise disorderly world. I also take the liberty to remove the mask and take in my fistful of air.

It’s hard for me to tear myself apart from the sights of the mountains I behold in my heart. But for now, these Dilli trees are doing fine by me. They help me listen to the stillness I crave for. I think they will also help me sustain longer than I had hoped!

How about you? Are you lucky enough to be living in the lap of the natural world? Or, just like me, do you miss the company of nature? How do you make up for it?

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