It was a crack of thunder that woke Mythili up. Sitting up and rubbing her eyes, the little girl looked outside through her window and saw that it was raining heavily. With a smile as bright as sunshine, she jumped off her bed and ran to the door of her house.
The road outside had become a stream. The water went down the slope, rising slowly and flowing swiftly. Her street, usually a hub of activity, had not a soul on it. Her neighbors had closed their windows and the carts, which were usually choc-a-bloc with fruits and vegetables, lay empty near the corner, tied to a telephone pole.
Mythili went to the living room, where her mother and father sat deep in conversation with her grandparents.
“Amma, can you make me some paper boats?”
Her mother seemed not to hear. Mythili could hear her talking to her thatha.
“Ammaaaa,” she persisted, tugging on the pallu of her saree.
“Not now, Mythili.”
Her mother only called her by her name when she was angry, so Mythili knew the paper boats will have to wait. With a look of longing toward her parents, she went back to the door and sat on the top step, watching the rain.
Hearing her paati call her by her nickname, Mythili turned back. Her paati had sat behind her, a stack of old newspapers in her hand. With a big smile on her face, Mythili watched her paati make paper boats. Soon as she was done with one, she’d hand them to Mythili who would let it down gently on the stream on the road.
“How many shall we make, Paati?” she asked.
“As many as you want, Chinnu. We have time.”
Looking at the two of them leaving paper boats without a worry, her parents came to the door.
“Amma, they are talking of a possible flood if the rain doesn’t stop, and here you are, making paper boats. We should be ready,” Mythili heard her father say to her paati.
“Here Chinnu, you leave these in the water,” her paati replied calmly, handing her five paper boats and standing up.
“She cares for the boats, not about a flood that may or may not happen. Look at her, Rajiv. See how happy she is. Doesn’t that matter to you? Look at the paper boats in the rain. You used to make them every time it rained when you were of her age. And Nalini,” she looked at her daughter-in-law, “I know that you did too. Paradise, that’s what you called the street when it rained, isn’t it? Even if that doesn’t matter to you, she just wants her Amma and Appa to spend some time with her. She doesn’t get to see you much during her vacations when it’s clear and sunny and you both go to office, does she?”
Mythili looked around hearing her paati’s serious tone, and saw her father smile. He then sat down next to her.
“Could I leave one, Chinnu?”
Her mother sat on her other side, and asked the same. And all was right with the world again. She happily forgave them for ignoring her, and gave them each a paper boat.
Soon, the three of them were leaving the paper boats together. Her paati and thatha, sitting behind the three of them, would make the boats. The street looked colorful again.
Mythili looked across the street and saw that her neighbor and best friend Nandana had come to her front step too. And her mother sat next to her, with old newspapers as well, making paper boats.
“There’ll be hundreds of boats soon, Appa. Will they reach the sea?”
She heard her appa laugh, and hold her close.
“Maybe some of them, Chinnu; maybe some of them,” he said.
She felt her amma hold her close too.
“You don’t have to grow old completely, Rajiv. Not always. Look at the little things that matter. Sometimes, it is good to be a child again,” Mythili heard her paati say.
She looked at her father, and saw him look at her mother. Nalini nodded and smiled.
“Paradise,” she said.
“Paradise,” Rajiv agreed.
And in the warmth of her parents’ company, Mythili felt she was in paradise too.
(© 14th June 2015)