By Savitri Narayanan
“I’m bored”, said Babloo as he switched off the TV, put down the remote and got up.
It was Sunday morning. There wasnothing to do, no friends to play with, nowhere to go. Babloo was surfing the channels. They had just moved to Delhi as Papaji got a transfer. Babloo had got admission in a nearby school but had no online classes as it was summer vacation. The bungalow was big, the garden was big, and there was a car and driver but no friends to play with. In the morning, soon after breakfast, Papaji went to office. Mummyji roamed around the house, talked on the phone and watched TV. Life was getting boring.
Babloo snuggled close to his mother and said, “Mummyji, let’s play snakes and ladders!”
“Just a minute, Rekha, Babloo wants something,” she paused her telephone conversation and turned to him, “Play? Now? You promised to practice your Maths, remember? Do those four sums I gave you this morning.”
True he had got low marks in Maths and promised to practice, but it was so boring!
“How I wish I were in Bangalore,” he thought often. Life was so good at grandfather’s farm! There were so many people around! Usha mausi and Roopesh kaka with the twins, Asha aunty who cooked, Meena aunty who cleaned and all those uncles who kept walking in and out to chat with Dadaji – there was life!
“Can’t we go back to Bangalore?” he asked once in a while.
“Babloo, you are a big boy now, you know the answer,” Mummyji’s reply closed the conversation. Papaji had got a promotional transfer so had to work very hard. Everything was new to him, too. So in a way, it was up to Babloo to make new friends and find things to do.
Babloo picked up his ball and went out to play. The gardener was busy with the lawn-mower. It was a brand–new machine, bright yellow in colour, a little smaller than the Bangalore one.
“Uncle, I will mow the lawn! You sit down and rest for a while!”
“You grow up first,” said the gardener, smiling affectionately and continuing to work, “Get your arms and legs strong like mine, then you can mow the whole lawn!”
It was then that Babloo noticed the boy outside the gate. Clad in a faded brown shirt and worn out shorts he stood there, his face pressed against the gate, his eyes glued to the ball in Babloo’s hand.
“Where did you get it? How many rupees?” he asked.
“Come, let’s play!” said Babloo opening the gate.
The sun rose higher and the day turned hotter as a new friendship was being born. Babloo struck an instant liking for Bholu who was very innovative as he devised new games. He picked up a broken branch which he made into a bat and cheered as Babloo kept bowling. Then he pulled out some marbles from his pocket, dug up a few pits and time flew as they continued to play.
“It’s lunchtime, Babloo!” Mummyji called out.
“Come Bholu, let’s have lunch,” said Babloo and they ran inside hand in hand.
“Stop, stop,” called out the gardener as they reached the kitchen door.
Just then Mummyji opened the door.
“My friend Bholu,” said Babloo, “He made a bat from a branch and we played cricket! He got marbles too!”
“How dare you enter the bungalow!” the gardener put down the lawn mower and joined them. He turned to Mummyji, “He lives in that slum. Parents must have gone to work, will be back after sundown. Till then these children roam around all over!” he concluded with an accusing glance at Bholu.
Babloo felt scared. What if Mummyji also shouts at him!
“Come on, bhaiyya! Children are children!” Mummyji dismissed him with a smile and turned to Bholu, “Wash your hands properly with soap, ok?”
She paused for a minute and added, “I have an idea! Babloo, show him the bathroom and switch on the geyser; by the time he cleans himself let’s find some clothes for him!”
Babloo hugged his mother tight before guiding Bholu to have a shower.