My daughter’s high pitched squeal invited curious glances from fellow shoppers. With a sheepish grin, I grasped her hand and dragged her away from the scene. The item which had caught the little one’s fancy was a bright blue bicycle. A quick swipe at the credit card machine and we were out of the shop, the bicycle perched atop the SUV.
Stopping by at the park, the doting father fixed the trainer wheels while the little one chatted non-stop, shooting a million questions. In no time, the duo straddled off while I settled down on the bench.
Tring tring… She takes off and I can’t help but focus on the wheels of her bright new bicycle – the wheels of time taking me back to a time when I was a kid.
“How many times will you check the passbook? Buy it some other time.” Amma’s soothing voice failed to comfort an emotional Appa. “But I’ve promised… I’ve to get it for her birthday.”
Butterflies fluttered in my stomach. I was finally getting a new bicycle! Hugging the heavy pillow, which was stuffed with my elder sister’s old clothes, I rode off to dreamland; the hushed whispers left behind.
“Mumma,” my daughter calls out to me, her face beaming with pride. “Here, papa bought a cornetto for you,” she says, pointing to a paper bag in her basket. “I ate an orange bar!” She veers off, the training wheels rattling on the paved pathway and my husband jogs behind her.
The cornetto melts in my mouth, bringing with it memories of the treasured annual visits to Nirulas. Dressed in our best clothes, we would hop onto the public bus, brimming with excitement. Spending hours laughing and talking, we would savour every bite of the triple american banana split sundae!
I feel a slight trickle on my lap. I blame the ice-cream, but deep inside I know the answer. My track pants remind me of an era when new dresses were bought only twice a year – diwali and birthday, but the joy those clothes gave was far more than the overflowing wardrobes of today.
When I look back, I don’t see the bicycle anymore, nor do I remember the taste of the sundae. But what I see clearly are the worry lines on Appa’s face, and his unspoken love for his daughters. The 7-year-old me hadn’t seen all that, all she saw and experienced was a happy family. I grew up without much riches, yet never felt poor, for my home was filled with an abundance of love.
I pick up my phone, “Appa.”
“Sollu da kanna*”
“I love you Appa…”
He coughs, and I hear his voice crack, “ I love you too chellam,” and he leaves me with a smile and yet another beautiful memory.
Sollu da kanna – [Tamil] Tell me my child
Chellam – dear
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