Gopu rushed home from school and got busy getting ready for the evening. The excitement was writ all over his chubby bespectacled face.. “Ma, hope you remember about the kite?” he called out to his mother even as his tiny hands were busy scrubbing his lunch box. “Yes dear! “, Lallu replied from the kitchen. The evening was warm, but Gopu was sweating more out of anxiety than the summer heat! Memories of his grandpa taking him to the beach and flying a kite together, kept crossing his mind. He recalled how his grandpa reveled in joy as Gopu yanked the kite higher and higher..
“I thought you were ready! Its already 5.00 and I promised Sunil’s ma that I’ll be there at 5.15. Whats come over you Gopu? C’mon, get ready! Quick!”, cried Gopu’s mother, startling him. “Yeah ma, in a giffy!”. The 7 year old hardly remembered his dad and it was his grand-pa who did his best to fill that void. Gopu had vague memories of seeing his dad off at the Chennai airport. What started as a phone call twice a week, dwindled to once a week, then once a month, and got more irregular as months progressed. The promised money never came and Gopu’s mom took to working. His grand-pa’s demise a few months earlier unsettled Gopu, leaving his mom more things to cope with.. Gopu was her world and she’d vowed to try everything in her means to make his world bright and hopeful..
Suma answered the door when Gopu climbed up the grill-gate and rang the bell. “What are you doing Gopu! get off the gate! You might hurt yourself!”, she bellowed! The little boy shrugged and said, “Aunty, I will be careful..” and walked past her to meet his pal Sunil. “Are you ready? See? I’ve worn your jeans.. It fits me so well..”. “Yeah, its nice. How is mine?”. “Very nice. Sunil, have you seen me fly a kite? I love it!” chirped Gopu. “Amma has promised to buy me one this evening. Do you want one too?”. “I like to shoot balloons. Hey, we’ll take the ball too..” said Sunil. The two caught up on an unfinished chess game from the previous day. The board and the coins lay on the table untouched.
Sunil’s dad, joined the kids on the game and 30 minutes later, Suma and Lallu were ready to go. The prospect of feeling the cool wind caress his cheek and allowing the sands of the beach clog his hair kept Gopu excited. Sunil’s dad drove the pack to the beach just in time to catch the sunset. Gopu caught sight of beautiful kites in the beach sky even as the car was being parked and his spirits soared as high as the kites. He was the first to hop out of the car. Gopu wondered how the birds never flew into the kites and how the string never caught a bird’s legs! He and Sunil loved walking bare-feet on the sand and were running ahead of their parents with their footwear adorning their little hands.
The aroma of onion and mirchi bajjis from Maami’s Bajji Stall wafted in the air and appealed to Gopu’s olfactory senses, and he turned around and gave his mom a cheeky look.. Lallu signaled a ‘No’ with her eyes and Gopu got the cue and failed to conceal his disappointment. “If only grandpa was here…” he thought.. Just as he turned away from his mom, he saw a girl, almost his age and height, thrust a kite into his hands and urged him to buy saying it would cost him only ten rupees.. He looked back hopefully at his mom and his eyes shone bright. “Gopu, give it back to her. Kids ought not be buying stuff on their own”, said Suma. Gopu looked at his mom who was shifting uneasily and she looked away from her son. Gopu was puzzled and wondered if something was actually wrong with the world. Lallu walked a little slowly and took out her small purse to check how much money she carried and zipped it again.
“Gopu, Sunil, come let us shoot some balloons” called out the dad. “No uncle, I do not want to shoot the balloons. I don’t like it. I want to fly a kite” replied Gopu. “Okay, I’ll surely buy you one ” he said and went on to shoot some balloons with Sunil. Sunil enjoyed it thoroughly and Gopu cheered him. He refused to trial it when Sunil’s dad asked him to take turns and shoot. “No, am interested only in the kite” he said with a little more emphasis.
“Here boys, take this ball”, said Suma after the boys came back from shooting. Gopu, Sunil and his dad played with the ball for a long time and Gopu was caught 9 out of 10 times gaping at a kite high in the sky instead of seeing the ball come at him! Lallu’s palms were moist and she gazed aimlessly at the sea and unconsciously kept rubbing her palms, concealing anxiety and helplessness. “Lallu, what happened? Why are you quiet all of a sudden? You look a little pale too?”. “No, nothing madam. Its, its just that I was reminded about Gopu’s grandpa.. Nothing else..” Lallu added.