Welcome, it’s Shivani’s world.
Amrita was sitting on the porch under the neem tree when Shivani came hopping to her.
“How did your class go today?” Asked Shivani’s grandpa, Chandran. “We had little, little network issues during the dance class, otherwise it was super duper awesome as usual.” Five year old Shivani planted a kiss on her grandpa’s cheek when Amrita fondly pulled Shivani towards her. “One for me too!”
Shivani hugged Amrita from behind. Amrita rocked her granddaughter gently.
“What did you learn today?”
“Ma’am said English is a funny language, so it is ok to make spelling mistakes while trying to write new words, she said plants are living life like people, and she said…”
Shivani ran towards the rose shrub to smell the bright pink blossoms.
“Is flower the face of the plant grandpa?”
“Plants are living, but their body parts are different. Not like us.”
“But this flower is smiling at me!”
Shivani then spotted a tiny moth and followed it all around the lawn. Amrita and Chandran enjoyed following Shivani with their eyes.
And as if she suddenly recalled something, running back towards her grandma and hugging her from behind yet again, Shivani exclaimed with all enthusiasm, “you know what grandma, we are having a storytelling session next month and my ma’am has asked all of us to narrate a story each, we have to send a video to her, I told my ma’am, I will narrate the story of Krishna and Radha. Can you tell me the story of Krishna and Radha today?”
Amrita stopped rocking, and her husband noticed the sudden change of expression in her countenance. Shivani continued, “I think Radha and Krishna are best friends.”
Chandran interrupted, “No, they are …”
One look from Amrita made good old Chandran swallow his words.
“They are friends grandpa, they both are always always together, under the tree, enjoying the swing, playing with the cows, I want to know more about them grandma.”
Shivani heard her mother’s call and sprinted inside the house, like a fawn.
“What’s the matter Amrita?” Asked Chandran.
“I have been wanting to discuss this with you, anyways this is not the time for it, let’s get inside for lunch.”
Shivani and her techie parents, Rajeev and Meenal have moved to their native place in the small town as their work and Shivani’s school could be managed online. That way her parents managed their work from home and Shivani was taken care of as well. Since her parents’ work schedule was crazy and unpredictable Shivani spent most of her time with her grandparents.
Amrita and Chandran enjoyed spending time with Shivani, learning more about Shivani’s school, helping her with homework and assignments, taking her out for a stroll, teaching her everything about their hometown and narrating stories to her during bedtime.
It had been almost a month since they arrived but the family hadn’t had a meal together. Rajeev mostly stayed inside his room taking ‘calls’ at odd times of the day. Hardly did he have time to talk to his parents and even if he did, it was to say how pathetic the wi-fi connection was, how slow was the bandwidth or if they received the delivery of the widget he had ordered online. And similar unearthly matters that were of utmost importance than the pandemic or any other issues around himi n the world.
During lunch, when Amrita went to wash her hands, she saw Meenal rushing to her room with the lunch plate as she heard a beeping sound from the laptop. Shivani settled herself on the couch watching a cartoon video on her mother’s phone.
Amrita cleared the table, took a basket full of garlic to peel and sat in her favourite spot under the neem tree on the porch. The 3.00.P.M sun shone bright and there was complete silence in the neighbourhood. Amrita could hear her son and daughter -in-law talking from their respective make-shift work spaces. She let out a big sigh. Chandran couldn’t enjoy his nap peacefully, he got up from the bed and joined Amrita on the porch.
Amrita started the topic as if she expected him to come.
“Do you remember the mountain honey we brought from Nepal?”
“Of course, I remember the pretty woman that we bought the honey from!”
Chandran winked. And pretended a false pain when Amrita punched him on the belly.
“I thought we gave the honey to Shivani too,” he added.
Amrita said, “Yes we did. I told her that it was a magical potion and whoever consumes it will grow into a person full of love and empathy.”
“Shivani had been having it regularly since then. Last week she told me something shocking about the honey and her parents.”
Chandran looked around to see if his son or daughter-in-law were out of the room but all three of them had settled with their own devices in different corners of the house.
Amrita recalled the discussion between her and Shivani.
“You know grandma, how mama, papa and I are here? It is just the magic of your honey. it’s a super -magical honey!”
Amrita looked puzzled.
“I helped mama to make fruit salad one day at home, I poured the honey in it but I prayed again and again for it to work before adding it!”
“What was your prayer about dear?”
“I was feeling so lonely grandma, mama and papa forever forever busy with their work. They had very less time for me and Saturdays and Sundays we will go in shopping and other other things, they hardly had any time to play with me. Papa will go out to this country that country often and mama would struggle to manage the home, her office and my school. In that times I buy snacks from school. Last year I not at all participate in any event, they were both busy. I did not complete the assignments that were so much fun to do. Sometimes mama also goes out of the country.”
Shivani’s non-stop speech made Amrita breathless.
“Don’t you have friends in your place to play with?”
“There are many, Kushal, Siddu, Tvisha, Aadhya, but our playtime will be interr…interpreted…”
“you mean interrupted?”
“Yes. interrupted either by mosquitos or the white smoke thingy they spread in our play area to keep the mosquitos away, mosquito also dangerous, smoke also.
Many many evenings we will spend on the road in the school bus waiting to reach home. There are thousand million billion cars in our city you know! The road was never ever empty!
And also, we have to go bed early because our school bus will come early in the morning, before the sun!”
Amrita pulled Shivani closer.
Shivani hugged Amrita tightly and whispered, “I prayed to Ganesha before pouring the honey to my parents’ salad bowl, you know what I ask for, that mama and papa should love me, always be at home with me, all the time, day and night, play with me, I should not miss any assignment at school!”
“And see what happened!”Shivani got up from bed, jumped high, hugged Amrita again to continue the narration.
Amrita was astonished, “When did that happen darling?”
“In March grandma, when papa did not go to Canada because flights were cancel. You remember the Ganesha story you said, Ganesha thinks mama papa is the world, when I prayed to make my mama papa stay home so they love me more, he made the whole world stay home.
“See they brought me here also, they do all that I love. Only they don’t have time to play. How sad, they never play.”
The grandma somehow diverted Shivani and made her go to sleep.
Amrita wiped her moist eyes with the pallu* of her saree. Chandran tried to console her. A masked street hawker stopped in front of the house staring at them. “Corona repelling ginger, do you want? Ten rupees per kg.”
Chandran yelled at him to go away. Couple of crows that were cawing from the neem tree got alarmed and took flight.
Rajeev peeped from the window and signalled his father to be quiet.
Chandran cleared his throat and told Amrita “What is bothering you now, the child’s belief that honey makes people love others or that she believed whatever you said!”
“I have more to worry!”
“Amrita, your intentions were good, maybe we can explain to the child that love doesn’t work that way.”
“Now, she is asking me to narrate Krishna’s story, and Krishna’s story is full of adventures.” Amrita looked really worried.
“There is no need to get vexed. I guess it is better to let her parents know about what she is going through. It is best for the child. Leave the story narration part to me, I’ll take care of that.”
Amrita said,” Shivani is content with her parents just staying home, whether they spend time with her or not.”
Chandran spoke gently. “See Amrita, she is a child, hardly five years old, and she believes whatever is told to her. It is better to be honest to children, especially when they trust us, we should know how much information to give and where to stop.
Look at the world from her perspective, She is in a quest for information, her sense of reasoning has not developed yet. She cannot differentiate between wants and needs. How much ever her parents spend time with her, she just wants more. Anyways I’ll take care of it, I’m going to make coffee for myself, do you want?”
“No, I’ll have it when I make coffee for Rajeev.”
“I don’t know how much honey he fed you!” Chandran went to the kitchen and Amrita was looking at Shivani who had fallen asleep with the headphones on.
Chandran decided to take up the issue to Shivani’s parents at dinner time. He helped his wife in preparing the family’s traditional dishes for dinner. He checked with Rajeev and Meenal if they could have dinner together.
Mr. and Mrs. Rajeev couldn’t deny the offer. They also felt bad they couldn’t spend much time with the elderly at home since they arrived there.
Amrita had filled the dinner table with so many scrumptious dishes that anyone hardly spoke.
She gestured to Chandran to start the topic, “Of course, I’ll have another serving!” Chandran hesitantly started. “Don’t forget the dessert, it doesn’t have sugar, mama has added honey to it!”
Rajeev and Meenal felt that their decision to move to their hometown was the best blessing they received during the pandemic. Amrita was growing restless. Her knees threatened to break apart with pain. Rajeev noticed that and made his mom sit on a chair.
“Such a lovely meal! Amazing taste mama, it made me feel so nostalgic.” He hugged his mom.
Meenal was busy explaining Shivani all the health benefits of eating the traditional dishes.
Shivani’s radiant face added, “I know something about the honey mama!”
Shushing the exuberant Shivani, Chandran looked at Rajeev and said, “You know why the food tasted so nice, as I told you earlier, mama added honey to it, the honey from Nepal which makes people love others and show empathy. She first had a spoonful, so she can love you. Inspite of you staying inside the room all the time, she gave a spoonful to me, so I could help her in preparing the dishes.”
The confused couple looked at each other. They were not sure if Chandran was joking. He had such a serious expression on his face.
Rajeev inquired, “What happened papa, I don’t get you.”
Shivani said, “no, no. Papa, grandpa is right, just like how I gave one spoonful of honey to your fruit salad praying that you both should always always love me, stay home. And then corana happened. Maybegrandma feel the same, she also wants you stay here forever, isn’t it grandma?”
“If we need more of the lovely Nepalese honey, I can go to Nepal and fetch it. The flight services have resumed anyway.” Chandran started running, predicting his wife’s attack, Amrita chased him despite her knee pain. Shivani jumped and followed, “Don’t play catch and catch without me!”
Shivani’s words made little sense to Mr. and Mrs. Rajeev but they knew it carried a lot of meaning. They decided to take a short break from work and spend time with Shivani and Rajeev’s parents.
Nepalese Honey: The honey from Nepal is called ‘mad honey’ and is believed to make people hallucinate and may not be fit for consumption like regular honey, especially for children. The usage of the term Nepalese honey, thus, is purely fictional in this story.
*pallu – The loose end of a saree draped over the shoulders.
Pic Credit: Jakob Owens