“Kanta, Kanta”, thundered Rohini’s voice as she frantically went room to room checking cupboards and drawers.
Kanta too scampered room to room trying to locate Rohini. “Don’t worry Madam”, Kanta pacified an anxious Rohini. “I have checked all the locks myself”. “There is no reason to be concerned Madam.”
“I have to make sure everything is well secured. Last time the gas supply knob was left switched on and the entire holiday I was stressed.” Kanta stepped aside choosing to keep a low profile, given the situation.
Keenly observing the hustle bustle in the house, five year old Vineet wondered whether it was a celebration, or an expected apocalypse! His innocent eyes followed the human movements intensely. His tender heart sought answers but all questions had to wait. His mother, Kanta worked in this house as a house help. It had been three years. His father had abandoned them, leaving them homeless, in rags and hungry. Mother, Kanta, was left with no choice but to quit the meagrely paying job at a construction site and look for better avenues. With Vineet in her arms she had traversed the uber rich residential areas in the vicinity. After a treacherous week, battling hunger and heavy rain she was lucky to get an open door at “Shanti Niwas”, Rohini and Rajat’s glamourous three storey house. That fateful day, Kanta and Vineet’s life changed.
Lost in thoughts, suddenly, Vineet felt a forceful tugging at his arm, he looked sideways to see mother urging him to stand up. “Vineet it is time to go. Madam and Sir have left for the holiday. We will now return to work next week.” “Oh! How boring!” he exclaimed. He hated staying back at the slum. Though they had moved to a better section of the slum which had better rooms, better water and regular electricity, he still held a strong dislike. Fuming and frowning, he looked up to his mother, “What is a holiday Mummy?” Kanta smiled, “It means you have nothing to do.” “Like you and me are also on holiday till Madam and Sir return.” Vineet scoffed, “You are fibbing again Mummy” “I have heard Rohit bhaiya* talk to his friends about holidays. He seemed to be quite excited as he mentioned they will be travelling in an aeroplane, living in a place called Hotel which was at least fifty times bigger than the house and eating at least fifteen types of food.”
He jerked mother’s hand off and trotted down the street frowning. Kanta knew Vineet was attracted to the posterity, it was normal for any child from his kind of background. But she was helpless and couldn’t do much other than comfort him. “Anyways”, she sighed and hastened to catch up with the young boy.
That evening Kanta cooked Maggi, just to brighten up the boy. And she sure was successful as he gulped down a bowl full of the special ‘Holiday Dinner’, as she had jokingly christened it.
And sure enough, after the hearty meal, Vineet was snoring having wandered off into the kingdom of dreams.
“Oooh la, la…..what a beautiful sight”, exclaimed Vineet as the autorickshaw dropped them both at the dockyard. “Mummy see, that mammoth white and blue ship is the one we are travelling by.”
Vineet was fascinated by the sea and looked like his wish had come true. The slum was quite close to the dockyard and he often heard the loud airhorns emanating from arriving and departing ships. And today he stood facing one of them, about to realise his fantasy. Vineet paused glanced sideways towards his mother and then himself. How clean their clothes looked. Neatly tailored by the corner shop. Just right for the ‘Holiday’ that was about to begin! This time it was he who tugged at Mummy’s hand making sure she hurried towards the waiting vessel. Vineet’s spirits rose as he climbed up the stairway taking him from the platform to the heights of the vessel. He stood at the deck and looked around at the expanse of the sea…..how magnificent it looked, resplendent in the glory of the rising sun. As the sun kissed deck glistened, the young boy stood in awe, as if frozen to the ground. As the ship was underway, Vineet watched the land being left behind, as if the inadequacies of life too were distancing away. He pranced around the deck, so carefree and satisfied. He was trying out every snack and drink that came his way. “Wow! Such abundance”, he wondered. His excitement did not let him stay still even for a minute. Holding his mother’s hand he climbed further up, “Imagine Mummy, this ship is higher than Sir and Madam’s house. It goes up four storeys.” Each storey is a world in itself.”
They stepped onto the first deck, and were ushered into a massive hall that was lit up in dancing lights. The carpet so soft that their feet sunk into it. A bright board drew his attention that said it was the auditorium. He assumed they had to occupy the cushioned chairs for a performance of some sorts. As they sat down and straightened their clothes, the lights were dimmed and a magician appeared. Vineet screeched, “Mummy look!!” the magician wore a costume highlighted by small illuminated bulbs. He walked to the stage with a massive troupe. Vineet sunk deeper into the magical world enjoying every minute of the presentation.
Soon, the hall returned to normal with a thunderous applause and hearty laughter. The crowd had doubled during this period. Vineet extended his hand to tap his mother’s shoulder, “Let’s go Mummy. There is definitely much more excitement waiting for us on the next level.” Hearing no response, he looked at the empty seat next to him, and panicked.
“Mummy, Mummy……he cried out loud”, trying his best to make his voice audible over the noise around him. But to no avail. For he had probably lost his mother in the glamour of a dream holiday.
“Mummy, Mummy, Mummy”, the shouting continued till Mummy actually shook him hard and hugged him. Vineet opened his eyes when he felt the warm hug and realised it had all been a dream.
And yes he was grateful that for nothing was more important than his mother….not even the Holiday that he always wanted. He could not pay a price as heavy as losing his Mummy. He hugged her tight and drifted back to sleep…probably this time treading cautiously in the world of dreams.