By Savitri Narayanan
“Guess what!” Umesh was brimming with joy as he announced, “Mummy said we can have the party! We’ve to follow the protocol, that’s all!”
“That’s great news”, said his friends equally full of joy.
As usual they had met in the evening in the playground. At this exciting news, the swings and slides were abandoned and they gathered in the sandpit to plan Umesh’s birthday. With the lockdown and online classes the days were getting rather boring.
“When is the party?” “Saturday morning or evening?” asked Raja.
“As if you don’t know!” Simran chipped in, “Parties are always in the evening!”
“Let’s have a garden party,” said Anuj, “We can play hide and seek!”
Umesh’s family lived in a bungalow with a spacious garden. Once in a while, his mother invited them to play there and they loved those times.
“We can play treasure hunt!” said Simran.
“And blind man’s buff too,” said Raja, “So much fun!”
“Mummy said we have to follow protocol,” Umesh said thoughtfully.
“What’s this protocol?” asked Simran.
“I know what’s protocol,” said Raja, “It means follow the corona rules like wear the mask, wash hands and local distancing.” Raja knew many things and liked to show off too.
“Oops! How can we play hide and seek with local distancing?”
“… and ‘ring-a-ring-a-roses’ without holding hands?”
“We can’t even play ‘catch-catch’!”
“We’ll find other games to play!” Simran pitched in, “Umesh, don’t dare cancel the party!”
On that happy note, they got up and ran to play.
It was Saturday afternoon at last! They had assembled in the playground- not to play but to go to Umesh’s house. New dresses were out – frocks, jeans, shirts, even a cap or two and gifts in packets – all were in the party mood. Even Raja, who was Umesh’s neighbour, had come down all the way with his gift to join them.
“Wonder what’s keeping this Simran,” said Anuj. All were there except her. And they were losing time!
“Must be plaiting her hair and putting on lipstick,” said Raja. Simran had long curly hair which was always plaited in two and tied with matching ribbons.
“And kaajal,” added Anuj.
“Even to play in the sandpit she would apply lipstick and nail-polish!” Raja repeated their usual tease.
Just as they were debating whether to ignore her and proceed to Umesh’s house, Simran ran down the steps with a chocolate bar in her hand.
“Let’s go,” she said.
“Why the chocolate?”
“For Umesh, of course!”
“Where’s your gift? You forgot?”
“THIS is my gift, it’s his favourite chocolate!”
Simran noticed how everybody carried a packet. Their gifts were covered with gift wrapping paper, had things written on them and some had some drawings on them too. Toys? Story books? Dresses? Colour pencils?
‘Would Umesh be disappointed with my gift? Will they all laugh at me?’ thought Simran as they crossed the road.
“If only I had wrapped it up!”
Umesh and his mother welcomed them at the gate. The garden was set for the party. There were streamers across the branches. Many balloons swayed in the breeze. The cake was on the table.
The celebrations began soon. They stood around in a circle and sang the birthday song. With great glee the cake was cut after which Umesh went around sharing a piece with all. When he came near Simran, Umesh grabbed the chocolate bar from her hand.
“My favourite chocolate! Thank you, Simran!”