(Image courtesy: Google)
The chocolate ice cream dripped from Prema's waffle cone over her chin and onto her polka dotted blue dress, staining it in the process. Amma would scold her now. The dress was bought only last month by her Uncle as a gift when he came from America. A look of worry crossed her eyes, which was soon forgotten with the task of consuming the delicious ice cream which had started melting in the scorching heat and pooling over her right hand now.
Prema. She was aptly named, her parents were fond of reminding her over and over again. She was a gift of love. A tiny miracle that had arrived when her parents had lost all hope of ever having a child to call their own. They had been married for five years after which she had made her appearance in the form of a bundle wrapped in the palest of pink. With the tiniest of fingers and toes, as her Achan was fond of telling.
Was she smaller than Hannah, her favorite doll, she liked to ask him over and over again.
And he would always smile and reply, you were so tiny that I was afraid to hold you. What if I dropped you by mistake?
But seeing her tearful eyes, he would scoop her up and tickle her. The worry forgotten.
But today, sitting in this hallway alone, nibbling on her ice cream cone as the sun threatened to dribble it on the dirty floor, thoughts of all other things were far from her mind. She hated gobbling it up in one go, like how her friend Rishi was fond of. Prema wanted to relish the taste, committing it to memory as her parents wouldn't ever buy her another one in the near future lest she catch a cough or infection.
Ice creams were for special occasions, Achan was fond of reminding her. Today, must be special, she thought happily. Prema wanted to have lunch from outside this afternoon, probably in one of those fancy restaurants her parents took her to sometimes. Restaurants where sophisticated people with their beautiful clothes and shining jewelry frequented. She was fascinated with watching them. The way they looked like they never spilled food on their clothes and always had a smile plastered on their faces. Either that or the way they carried around their mobile phones and talked on it all the time. Like their phones were as delicate as their newborn babies who slept off in the prams. Like her parents.
The ice cream cone was finished, leaving her face and hands a sticky mess. She tried to rub off some off it with the hem of her dress, before her mother came and saw the brown stains on her. Such a crowded place, this hallway. People scurrying about busily. What if her parents forgot where they had left her! Her mind panicked, without having the distraction of the ice cream to keep it occupied.
She heaved a sigh of relief when she saw the familiar peacock blue saree that her mother had worn today. How pretty she looked, her Amma. With her bouncy hair and flawless skin. She was followed by her father. Her tall, handsome Achan, who loved throwing her up in the air and catching her in his big firm hands. Of how he loved to hear her giggle when she was halfway in the air. Cushioning her fall with his hands and kissing her hair when she was back in them. Achan's princess, that's what he called her. She beamed on seeing him.
Her mother clasped her hands tightly around Prema's and led her away. But wait, why is Achan not coming? And why is he looking at her sadly? Her Amma seemed impatient and in a bad temper. She could tell that by the way her nose flared and the way she gripped Prema's hand. The way the folds between her eyebrows creased whenever she fought with her father.
She turned her head back to look at her Achan one last time, before her mother led her back to the car. The last she remembered was his hand that was raised in a half wave, but the image remained incomplete as the car sped away.