The household was bustling with activity. The bright lights caused little Divya to toss and thrash about on her bed. She could sense the bustle, and could hear the voices of her dad and grandmom. But she was in deep sleep, unwilling to wake up or be disturbed.
When bright sunlight shone on her face, she could sleep no more. The house was strangely quiet. The usual morning sounds of her father’s bathroom singing, the metal clanging of steel vessels as her mom cooked, the shhhhhhhh sound of the pressure cooker, all of these were missing.
She ambled towards the kitchen. Two ladies, who worked on the family’s paddy fields, were sitting in the kitchen, talking in hushed tones.
When they say Divya, they stood up and called to her, “Come dear, have you brushed your teeth? Breakfast is ready.”
Divya looked around suspiciously, “I want Amma, where is she?”
“Where are Grandma and Dad?”she asked, not pausing for breath.
One of the ladies replied, “Mom has gone to the hospital to bring you a new baby brother or sister as a gift.”
Divya’s eyes lit up. The day had finally come. The baby would be coming home. She quickly brushed her teeth and bathed, ate her breakfast and paced to the front door and back, at least a hundred times!
Each time she opened the front door, her eyes could only see the lush green
paddy fields and the funny looking scarecrows. The winding road stretched away, brown and lonely.
After what seemed like forever, she heard the big metal gate in the huge courtyard clanking, which could only mean that their car had come home.
There was a sudden buzz. The two women had prepared an ‘arati’ to welcome the new baby home. After much fanfare, her mother finally walked in with a small baby in her arms.
She hugged Divya and showed her the little baby girl, who was to be her sister. Divya peered at the little form, eyes closed, fingers like little flowers and a thick mop of jet black hair. She jumped and whooped, which startled the baby into crying.
A sound which seemed to follow Divya everywhere these days, round the clock. There was no escaping this baby, this all important baby, who seemed to be snatching every ounce of love from her parents, grandmom and every single visitor, all of which she, Divya, had received till recently.
People were constantly asking her not to jump or shout or sing. Why? This sister seemed to sleep all through the day, despite which she managed to grab all the attention.
And when finally her mother came to kiss Divya good night, the baby would wake up and bawl loudly…sometimes through the night.
The worries this five year old girl had!
One day, she decided that she would stay out of sight and see if anyone really missed or remembered her.
So, after she spent the morning playing hopscotch in the courtyard, she had her lunch. When the baby and the women folk settled down for their afternoon nap, she went and hid herself in one of the big cane baskets used to wash rice. The basket was big enough to seat her. She covered herself with the lid, and watched through the gaps in the cane.
Unbeknowst to herself, she fell asleep inside the basket. She woke up suddenly, when she heard noises and angry voices. She heard her dad yelling at her mother asking her how she could be so careless. Grandma was crying and her poor mother was sobbing.
The farm hands entered saying they had asked and searched everywhere with no luck.
Nobody thought to look inside the rice basket. The baby was nowhere in sight, as her mom lamented and her dad banged the front door on his way out.
Divya watched through the gaps, and realized how much her folks missed her and loved her. Her dad came in with her uncle, and they made more plans.
The house was quiet; with worry and tension floating in the air.
At that moment, something tickled Divya’s nose and she let out an explosive sneeze that rattled the basket, bringing the entire family to the store room.