Jhimli sat on the branch of a mango tree swinging her legs and slurping on the mango in her hand. Her anklets let out a mellow music that tied the air between her and Annu. He gathered the fruit that she had thrown his way. When the tub of mangoes seemed full, he climbed up on the tree and sat by her side to enjoy his share. Summer afternoons often stuck to this routine.
“I like summer holidays,” Jhimli continued swinging her legs.
“Oh yes, nothing like being able to while away one’s time like this,” Akku agreed.
“Why do you stay so far, Annu?”
“Because school is closer from my home.”
“But if you stay closer, I can pick you on the way in my car.”
“Do you think Thakurji will allow that?”
“If I say, he would. Come on, let’s go home and rob a few laddoos to eat.”
“Huh?” Annu gaped in disbelief. “It’s your house, you can always eat as many as you like.”
“Of course, I can. But eating that way is more fun.” Jhimli giggled.
“Why are you always hungry?
“As if you are never hungry! Don’t you remember masterji beating your wits out when he caught you eating in the class, the other day?” saying this Jhimli erupted into laughter.
“Oho, but why were you crying then?” Both went silent at this. Well, how many questions can 8-year-olds answer, anyway?
“Acha, now let me go home. It will take me an hour to cross the marsh. And if there are people close to the slaughterhouse, then it will take me some more time.”
“So soon? What’ll you do at home so early now?”
“Oho, you know nothing, Jhimli. By the time I reach, it will be time for azaan. And this place is so far. Ammi says our god doesn’t reach here.”
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