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Janani walked towards bakery and stood near the juice shop outside the bakery. She searched for Shobana. She was no where to be found. She looked at her Casio watch. It was 3:00 pm. Janani sighed and sat on the big rock near the juice shop. It was Friday. Shobana and Janani always had cream bun in the bakery near their school every Friday. Where is Shobana? Janani thought. She dug inside her pocket and took the 5 rupees she had saved to buy cream bun. She badly wanted to taste the delicacy, but she wanted to enjoy the sweet bun with her friend. So, she waited.
Janani waited till 3:45 pm, got a cream bun and started to push her cycle home. As she turned towards the 2nd junction, from where she and Shobana usually started to cycle. She had finished her bun and wiped her mouth on her sleeves and realised after a second that she will be bashed for this by her mother. ‘The cream is white, maybe it won’t show,’ she thought. As she got on her cycle, she could feel that one of the tyres were punctured. She got down to check. It was the back tyre. Janani pushed her cycle to nearest repair shop. “Anna! Cycle puncture,” she said. The repairperson walked towards Janani and checker the cycle’s tyres. “Yeah!” he said and started to mend it. Janani walked to the small plastic stool outside the shop and sat down. She absently stared at the Hanuman picture on the wall of the shop, when she heard a “Hi!”. Janani turned to see who it was.
“Hi!” repeated Rishi.
“Hi!” said Janani and turned back.
“I am Rishi!” he said.
Janani turned to look at the pestering boy. “Ok!” she said and turned way.
“Aaa…. My cycle’s chain broke,” he said.
“Mmmmm…hmmm” said Janani with a frustrated voice.
“Hmmm…” said Rishi and turned away. “She does not want to talk to me, Angel!” he said, and Janani turned to look at him to see to who he was talking to. “I know! I know! What can I do?” he continued.
Janani looked at the space he was looking at. She could not see anyone. ‘Who is he talking to?’ she thought. Rishi turned toward Janani, “She says to tell you to be careful when crossing the road. I am sorry! But she’s keeps asking me to tell you this,” said Rishi.
“Who?” asked Janani.
“Aaammmm… I call her Angel. You cannot see her, but she is very nice. Look! Just be careful, OK?” said Rishi and got up to leave. He walked towards his cycle and rode away.
‘Wasn’t his cycle’s chain broke?’ thought Janani.
Janani waited in the junction to cross the road. Her cycle’s tyre was completely ruined. She had to come with her father to pay and collect her cycle. She was preoccupied. Why did Shobana not show up? How will she go to school tomorrow? Who was that boy? The signal went green and the person beside her started to walk; so did Janani.
Parvindher stepped on the brake, but his lorry kept moving with the same pace. He frantically pressed more in vain. He looked up and saw an auto parked near the signal. He pressed more. His brakes worked fine just a few minutes back. What happened?
‘Did he tell me his name?’ thought Janani as she crossed the road. She suddenly remembered that he asked her to be careful while crossing the road. She turned to look at the parked vehicles and saw a lorry coming fast at her in her peripheral. It was coming straight at the parked Autorickshaw wherein a mother and a daughter were seated. She looked at the lorry again. It was moving very fast. Janani, habitually searched for bright eyes. She stopped and looked around. She was nowhere to be found. Janani was scared now. What can she do? She started to move towards the autorickshaw. Rishi caught her hand and pulled her back. Just a few seconds later, the lorry dashed the autorickshaw and their screams were deafening. Janani stood there perplexed, shocked and angry. She turned to Rishi, who looked calm, and asked, “Why? How did you know?”
“This is their fate. Don’t interfere,” he said, let go of her hand and walked away. Janani stood there in shock. “Hey!” she heard bright eyes call. She turned to look at her with anger-filled eyes. Janani crossed the rest of the road and walked fast. She could not stop the over-flowing tears. Bright Eyes follower her in silence.
Parimala cooked as she kept an eye on Janani. Her mother was making idli batter in the huge wet grinder on the kitchen floor. Ambujam looked at the baby who was on her stomach and was taking turns biting all her toys. The baby looked up at Ambujam. Ambujam made funny faces and the baby laughed. “Mom!” called Parimala.
“Yeah!” said Ambujam in between making funny faces.
“She’s just 2-months old. She’s on her stomach, laughs, bites stuff. Are these normal?” asked Parimala.
Ambujam stopped what she did and looked at her daughter. She looked worried. She could understand why. This was not normal. Nothing about Janani was normal. The birth, the baby’s development, her daughter’s recovery. Nothing was normal. She was not going to tell her daughter that. “No dear! Look. Today’s kids are very forward. Maybe it is a generation thing. She is good. All this is normal. Just enjoy her growth,” said Ambujam and did a balloon face as she looked at the baby and got a baby giggle in return. Parimala smiled and sighed. Just then, Janani pushed her palms on the floor and moved. Her mom and Parimala looked at the small human with joyful surprise. “It is going to be hard to explain all this to the doctor, right?” said Parimala, not taking her eyes off the baby. “Hmmm” said Ambujam, “Swaddle Janani, maybe she won’t notice.”
Parimala turned to look at her mother with a are-you-kidding-me look.