They burst with a loud explosion! Manva got pusillanimous and kept her eyes closed. She felt something soft dropping on her head. Something from above touched her arms softly and dropped down. What was it? She could hear the laughter of her parents.

“Happy birthday my sweet little Pingu! ” she heard her mother saying.

“Open your eyes dear” her father said. “Look at the sprinkling glitter that’s fallin”

Manva showed reluctance. But, opened a tiny slit of an eye. She saw sparking stars and colourful rounded bodies descending down till her tiny feet. She cupped her palms and they gathered in her handful. She looked up in curiosity. There were balloons ….pink, white and purple matte and shiny golden, silver and pink ….the same colours as she had asked. She could see some of them torn and hanging. But some were intact. She could play with them she thought and jumped to grab one. In the attempt she made to gravitate the sparking glitter and thermocol balls that had collected on her dress. She saw them bounce and spurt in all directions possible.

This was her 4th birthday and her mother had made the birthday decorations just the way Manva had asked for. She felt delighted to see the large white, grey and crimson handmade paper flowers that twined between the balloons. She had always wondered how those blooms looked so real. She touched the decoration that commenced from the floor, and ascended up the wall to form a bower on the door. This was so beautiful! She had imagined just the same.

The vibrant balls had gathered at four corners of the living room and the ceiling fan’s rotational motion made them move in circles. It seemed as if they had held each other’s hands and were enacting The Mulberry Bush rhyme. Occasionally, few of the balls would move in the centre and few would move out of the whorl and run away a little. But within seconds, they’d return. Some of them would join the circles and some would continue running away in different directions and back and forth.

Manva looked surprisingly at the thermocol balls. She was stunned to see them playing like real children. She climbed the wooden divan…..and lay freefall. Her head peeping down, eyes looking interestingly at the chromatic thermocol balls on the floor.

She had heard stories of little fairies with delicate wings and seen her mother make cute little fairy gardens in old cups and broken terracotta pots. She would imagine living in one such fairy garden with a village tree house, primitive bird houses around, a small little pond with miniature plants and furniture around. She’d dwell over the lovely idea before sleep. But this was something real that was happening. It was as if she was transported into a fairy land. How nice it would be if she could be tiny and cavort with them. A sweet smile spread across her dusky face and cheeks turned maroon.

She stretched her hand and caught some of the balls with her fingers. Instaniously, few of them stopped their play. But some accelerated their annular motion and formed bigger rings. Many chose to gyrate in separate rings and formed beautiful spherical patterns. She withdrew her hand and let them alone. And they again curled and swirled and whirled.

“Let’s go for the party now” said her mother pulling her out of the house.

“When would we come back?” Manva asked stepping into the car.

“When we finish our food and drinks”.

“I loved watching the balls circle” Manva said. “I think they can talk.”

“Did you talk to them?”

“I asked them to walk in a straight line. But ….they didn’t bother.”

Manva’s mother laughed. Bashfully, Manva buried her head in her mother’s saree. It was suffocating. She turned on to one side and lay on her lap. Her mother caressed her brown hair and pinched her softly on her cheek.

As the vehicle accelerated through the narrow lanes and towards the outskirts of the city, Manva saw through the window, black trees and shrubs running opposite to that of their car. Above these dark structures was the navy blue sky with sparkling diamonds embedded. Her mother had once said the stars were round bodies moving round and round. It had always made her wonder how those enormous balls managed to look like little diamonds. It was because of this circular movement her mother said that earthly beings experience day and night, and months and years.

The thought of the thermocol balls caught her mind once again. To her, they resembled a tiny galaxy, very much similar to what her mother had once showed her on the mobile phone. “Every planet up there,” her mother had further added ….”Followed the same motion.”

She thought of the coiled rangoli patterns her mother made sometimes and the chocolate syrup in her mug that went round and round in whorls. Her eyes got heavy as she slowly drifted into tranquility. Her childish mind took her again into the land of fairies. She had shrunken to the size of the thermocol balls. They all had arms and legs like straight lines with tiny line like fingers just like the smilies she scribbled on her books. Their tiny expressive eyes welcomed her and they giggled. One pink ball with chubby cheeks smiled at her, held her by the hand and said, “Let’s play”

Manva ran excitedly. She caught the straw like fingers of a purple ball and twirled.

“Here we go round the Mulberry Bush. ….The Mulberry Bush. ….The Mulberry Bush”

-Mohini Mohiteyy

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