It happened in 1982.
Most of you reading this were probably not even born (couldn’t resist that—what with most people addressing me as anything but Vidya these days *evil grin*)
I was in the first year of college, studying for a B.Sc. and had moved mid-year from Secunderabad to Madras. Yes, always Madras to me—I find it so hard to think of it as Chennai. We lived in a little house that was part of a larger house.
The house owners lived upstairs. Their family comprised of a sickly guy—who always had an aura of Iodex or Vicks or liniment around him—and his Mom, an absolutely chirpy full-of-life lady. They were kind people. We shared the downstairs with another family that had its own “portion” and a side entrance. From the looks of it, it appeared as though we occupied the building, as we had the main front entrance.
Right opposite our door was a small room that was let out to yet another family. A couple with a six-year-old son. They called him Gingi. Fair-skinned, he had an abundance of almost golden-brown curly hair that bounced as he moved around. Most days his Mom would slick it down with strong-smelling hair oil, but within an hour those curls would break free. Looked like an extreme perm.
Gingi was a cute kid! It looked like he had a pair of invisible wheels attached to his feet as we’d see him buzzing around all over the place—at our doorstep fiddling with something, peeking through our window and grinning, going at the water pump at the side of the house or playing outside the main gate. We had a quiet street that was safe for kids to hang out in, and enjoy their games. The only traffic we saw was a couple of cars that drove straight into their garages. Smart move, because if they parked them outside the house, kids would be all over it.
Around this time, my cousin was expecting her second child and was at her Mom’s place, which was quite close to ours. My Aunt often visited us with the firstborn, my five-year-old niece. Let’s call her D. She loved to spend time at our place. Quite likely because she was pampered like crazy and back home, everyone was too busy with their own stuff.
So whenever she visited, Gingi and she played together quite happily.
One day, after an hour of energetic yelling and laughing over things that only kids that age are wonderful at, my niece stormed in, sobbing. Nay, howling. And that girl could bring the strongest roof down with her vocal cords.
Naturally we were worried, mainly because her Mom, my cousin, can be a total devil if D cried—particularly if she didn’t accompany her. (what if she did, you might be wondering. Well, nothing. It would still be us coddling the kid while she lorded it over us. Bahahaha!)
So anyway, my Uncle, Grandma, Mom, Aunt—and myself—took turns to pacify her, cuddle her into telling us why she was crying. What was wrong? Now, I must say that D was super-cute and adorable. Chubby, utterly spoiled.
My Mom tried to tell her amusing stories—D would listen for a couple of minutes—then with renewed vigor, start crying again. My Uncle cracked silly jokes. They fell flat in the face of D’s sobs reaching a crescendo. She would just glare at him through her tears and say, “Pongo Mama!” (Go, Uncle!).
My Aunt, ever the feeder, got her something to eat—and D pushed it away. Now even we got worried because D pushing away something to eat…was not normal.
I offered to take her “ta-ta” but it didn’t work.
What to do?
You won’t believe this, but we got worked about what my cousin sis would say—and do—If she saw D like this.
An hour passed. The child continued to sniffle. It broke our heart, because after all, she was our little beloved baby. Her cheeks were rosy from the effort.
Finally she lay down and went to sleep, exhausted.
Later, when she woke up we hoped she had forgotten all about it, as children do.
We managed to get her to drink a glass of milk.
She took a sip.
And guess who breezed in?
Gingi the brat.
He said, “Eyyy D! Irukka?” (Hey D, is it there?) and sprinted off.
All hell broke loose.
D put her glass down and started crying again—nicely refreshed from her nap and the little milk she had had. It would be an understatement to say she brought the roof down.
We like to think we’re rather clever—because we figured that Gingi must be the culprit—the cause of her tears.
I rushed after him. He was playing marbles in the street. I grabbed him and brought him back. Then my Aunt asked him sternly why D was crying.
Of course he shrugged and said, “Teriyaadu” (I don’t know).
The moment D saw him again, she quickly raised her decibel levels.
Now, Gingi was also a kid and I didn’t want him upset and his Mom coming after me. So I steered him out of the house, sat him on the doorstep, hugged him close and tickled him. He loved that and started to laugh and giggle.
I asked him, “Dei Gingi, ennada panne? Why is D crying?” (Hey Gingi, what did you do? Why is D crying?) I assured him I wouldn’t tell anyone.
His dimples came and went and he hung his head. Eh?
I urged him some more, “Dei dei dei… chollu da!” (tell me!)
Out came the story.
Apparently he told D he wanted to pee. And coolly went around the side of the house and pee-d into the plants. Of course D also wanted to do it. When she lowered her panties, Gingi found she did not have what he had. So he asked her where was hers. D said she didn’t have one and looked miserable.
So our hero told her, “D, you have been punished. You are a bad girl. That’s why you don’t have it”
Now you know how terrible it is for a child to be told she’s a bad girl. End of her world. So she thought she was being punished for being a Bad Girl.
Today, D has two kids, is a high-flying working Mom.
I doubt if she even remembers Gingi. But she definitely knows her tears were unfounded.
As for Gingi, well, that’s not even his real name. I didn’t know then, I don’t know it now.
Kids! Charming little imps!
Life’s like that eh?