The Puffle Chronicles

The child is in tears when I pick her up after school. She flings her arms around me and buries her face in my shoulders.

“CuddlePot went missing” , she tells me between sobs.

For the uninitiated CuddlePot is a bright orange Puffle. What do you mean you do not know what a Puffle is? Where were you when Club Penguin mania hit the town? And why did I not escape it? But I digress. CuddlePot is a bright orange blob with a mop of unruly hair and a demented smile. Miss A adores him. He is a permanent fixture on all our shopping trips and weekend jaunts.

But to understand why CuddlePot went missing, dear reader, we need to step back in time. By precisely two days.

Miss A and her best friends Emma and Charlie decided that they would write a short play to extol the virtues of Puffles and Penguins to the greater unwashed masses (aka the school mates). The play was to have singing and dancing and much general mirth, one gathers. Tickets were printed (read scribbled). The other girls in the class were invited to this magnum opus. Dialogues were written. Dance steps were put into place.

“Please can I take CuddlePot to school with me?”, Miss A begged.

“What if you lose him?”

“I won’t Mum. You know how much I love him. I need him as a prop”

“If you lose him, I am NOT buying you another one”

“You won’t need to. I will be like super careful”

“Good. Because I am not going Puffle hunting if something happens to him”

After much hugging and squealing, the day of the play dawned. CuddlePot was stashed next to her lunch box and he went off to school, demented grin intact. The story should have had a happy ending, one hoped.

Except that when I went to pick her up, CuddlePot had left the building. So we walked around the school locker room looking for a bright orange stuffed toy. The Puffle was nowhere to be seen. The child was mildly hysterical. The janitor was mildly annoyed at my insistence of going through bins and empty lockers. I swear the janitors think I am some kind of a bag lady because I am always peering in the bins to find A’s missing items.

Miss A set up a magnificent wail as I coaxed her back to the car.

“What will we do now?”

“We will go home. We have homework to do, remember?”

“I mean what will we do about the Puffle?”

“Umm, nothing. Cause and Effect, Missy. He was your responsibility. And you lost him!”

“I didn’t. Someone took him!!!!!!!!!!”

“Then why didn’t you put him in a safer place to begin with?”

“I did. Someone took him, it was not my fault.” The crying goes up a notch.

“Well, too bad. You can save up some money and buy yourself another one when you have $8”

“But someone took him.”  Her face is crumpled.

“Yes, A, so you have been saying!”

“Please buy me another Puffle, Mum. Please?”

“Nope. You took him to school on the premise that you would be careful. And if you are old enough to write a play, you are old enough to look after a Puffle” (very wise words, these).

Much sulking and sobbing over the pillow happened as she imagined CuddlePot  struggling alone at night in a big bad world where people did not have the largesse of heart to be kind to orange Puffles.

She came back from school the next day with a smile on her face.

“Did you find the Puffle?”

“Nope”

“Ah, you look very happy. I wondered if you had found him!”

“Emma helped me make a poster. I made a poster asking for people to contact me if they saw him or if they knew what happened to him! So, someone will find him soon!”

Faith is a lovely, lovely thing.

“Aww, that’s wonderful, A. I am SO proud of you”

“And I said I would offer a reward of $2 to the person that returned him to me”

“Ummm, I don’t think you are allowed to hand out money like that at school”.  The mind boggles at the simplicity of her thought. Her innocence. The idea of a little person handing out $2 to get back a much-loved toy. And innocence hurts. With the same simplicity.

“Why not?”

“Because you cannot. Someone could misuse this. Someone could nick someone’s things and not give them back till they were paid for it. All kinds of dishonest practices could result from this, ya know?”

“Mmm hmmm!”

“You could say that you will offer a hug to the person that returns the puffle, instead of the $2.”

“Nah. Because if someone did nick him, I am not hugging them AT ALL. Bad people!”

“Uh ok”

She revises the wording on the poster. And puts a sketch of CuddlePot next to the Missing Puffle Poster.

A few days pass by on knife-edge. No Puffle sighting. No Cuddlepot. Every now and then, she wonders how the stuffed thing is faring on its own in the world .

A week later, a jubilant Miss A greets me in the evening.

“Guess what?? ”

“Tell me.”

“Sophie from Year 5 came to talk to me today. She may have seen CuddlePot.”

“Ah ha. Tell me more.” Faith is an A4 poster with a crayon sketch. Faith is a child’s handwriting asking for a toy back.

“She saw the poster and came to find me. She said she had seen the Puffle that evening. He was in an empty cupboard.”

The plot – it always thickens. Especially this side of town.

“What did she do?”

“She adopted him. Sophie is nice that way.”

“Rrright!”

“She took him home that evening. He now lives with her.”

“Wow. Is she bringing him back?”

“Yeah, of course. She came looking for me, didnt she? She says when she saw the poster, it made sense to her.”

Faith is is a simple belief that order shall return.

I tell Miss A I am happy for her. And CuddlePot. And Sophie too.

CuddlePot doesnt turn up that day. Or the next day or the day after. Sophie forgets to bring him with her to school. I start wondering if Sophie has developed a bond of attachment with the said Puffle.

Miss A waits for a while.  I suggest that she go over to the Year 5 classroom and politely remind Sophie to keep up her promise.

Emma and Charlie and Miss A end up outside Sophie’s classroom. Emma and Charlie feel compelled to shower Sophie with hugs, she being the one that looked after the elusive Puffle and all.

Sophie has a change of heart, one presumes. Three 8 year olds that are not shy of hugging and squealing with cheerful shrieks of “We cannot believe you found CuddlePot”  perhaps are too much for one to handle. She hands CuddlePot over.

More shrieking on the lines of  “Sophie you are awesome” happens. CuddlePot comes home at the end of the day. He looks none the worse for the wear or his adventures. He looks cleaner too – Sophie must have given him a bath.

Miss A tells CuddlePot that he is never,ever, ever going to come to school with her again. CuddlePot grins back in the same zany fashion. All is well in the world again.

Nothing you truly love ever leaves you. Sometimes you have to make an impassioned plea for the objects of your affection to come back to you. Sometimes you have to wait for the universe to do its bit.  The universe has a lot of chaotic order to restore so you need to bide your time.

Which is why, dear reader, while you wait, do remember that faith is a lovely, lovely thing.

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The Finishing Line

Dear Miss A,

As I watch you fall asleep after an exhausting sports day, a part of me wonders what moments of time you have picked for yourself as memories of today. Will you remember the rain, the sleet, the freezing winds? The girls from your house dressed up in blue with matching face paint? Also, while on the matter of dressing up in house colours, if you think that I am ever going to allow you to paint yourself blue and dance around in such skimpy clothing, you have another think coming. It is not cool when it is that cold! Yeah, that was a pun, my child.

Did you like wandering around with your friends, eating sandwiches in the break, and running excitedly under the endless skies? I must confess that I didn’t think you would enjoy the day as much as you did. And when your teacher asked all of your classmates  (the youngest kids to be participating) if you wanted to run in the mega relay, I fully expected a “Let us go home now, Mum”. But you put your hand up as did most of your friends. You wanted to run, you said. You wanted to give the big race a try. You trooped off with your friends and joined the house groups, waiting under a relentless downpour for the race to begin. The race is for the serious runners, the ones that mark time and practice all year around. The ones that study sport as a special subject – big, tall, athletic girls who have spent days practicing for their victory lap.

I nearly couldn’t see you at first when the race began. There were about a 100 girls on the track, the rain was clouding visibility and the pace was fierce. I saw you then at the tail end of the procession, running for all you were worth. You were not struggling to keep up and your were not falling behind – you were running for yourself, doing your bit to carry the house colour around.

There was a still long way to go, the finishing line was far away. I saw you fall behind, tired but still running. And then suddenly I could not see you anymore. My eyes scanned the throng of blue for you, to no avail.

“Watch this”, your teacher said, pointing to a moving figure in the race.

And there you were. An older girl had stopped for you. Even as your teacher and I watched, she picked you up and put you on her back and asked you to hold on. And then she ran for all she was worth, oblivious to the cheers, the rain, the time, the records. Soon she had merged with the crowd. She and you – one with those in movement.  She and you – together against the rain and the ticking time. Other little girls met similar friends along the way, tiny beaming faces being carried on the backs of those who had walked this way before.

I could see the smiles on your face and on hers and on the faces of the girls that ruffled your hair as they ran past. In that moment, a relief that was overwhelming in its profoundness washed over me. When you least expect it, we as a people walk the right way.

“School tradition”, the teacher nodded at me. “Everyone that starts gets to finish the race. Together”.

As you both neared the finish line, you wriggled off her back. Held her hand. So did your other little friends. And as all of us erupted into applause, a giant sea of blue stormed across the finish line.  As one.

Someday you will no longer need to be carried by a stronger pair of arms for a race. Someday you will race the clock by yourself. Whether you win or not, I hope that today has taught you that someone will be looking up to you, hoping you can help them make it.  Someone will finish the race ,Miss A, only because of you. You will never lose as long as you help someone else find their way home.

Somewhere between my moist eyes and the giant hugs you showered on me, a new kind of faith has reaffirmed itself. We do not run alone. Any of us. There are people that stop and take you across the finish line. Everyone that starts gets to finish the race. Together. Sometimes that is all you need to know.

Love,

Mum

Happy Ganesh Chaturthi

Mounds of chrysanthemums waiting to be shaped into garlands. Milk, coconut and cardamom bubbling together in a large vat, the air getting sweeter by the minute. The last minute run to the shops. Sidestepping puddles. Staring defiantly at the sky hoping the rain would abate till the shopping had been done. Dawdling at the displays to see the giant cut-outs. Guessing games with friends to decipher the theme of the Ganesh decoration display around the corner.

Gathering the 21 vegetables needed for the special offering after the puja. Ticking off items on itty-bitty lists. Incense sticks. Young mango leaves. A kitchen overflowing with food and cheer. Piles of red hibiscus flowers from the front garden. The sizzle of puris being deep fried. Lata’s divine voice on the radio, the TV, the neighbourhood speakers singing melodies that defined the season – and still do after two decades and more.

The sound of fire-crackers. Of late ‘aartis’. The late night jaunts in a hired rickshaw to see the displays around the town.  The afternoon siestas after a heavy meal. Sleeping through firecrackers. Relatives. The general din. Waking up to eat more of the lunch left-overs. The twinkling silhouettes of lights across homes and street corners.

Baked karanjis await in the oven. Lata’s songs are playing in an endless loop on my laptop. The air is thick with incense. And soon I am about to go look for red hibiscus blooms.

A part of my heart is back home. The other part of my heart realizes with flooding and overehelming relief that home is a memory away. Ready to be beckoned at will. The more I travel, the more I know the road back to where I came from.

Happy Ganesh Chaturthi. May the paths you choose have obstacles that can be easily vanquished.

Not now!

Dear Neighbour,

You may have completely missed the memo but someone needs to tell you that it is not yet summer.  It is cold and miserable and wet and foggy. Mowing your lawn in the rain during a storm may well be your idea of adventure. But in case no one ever pointed this out to you – the contraption that you reckon is a lawn mower is probably a lathe machine. Or a military combat vehicle. Possibly both.

The grass is not really being cut – did you see that? You are merely flattening it – it is still there. And by tomorrow when you wake up and look outside the window, it will have found enough strength to stand up again. It is not magic, I must tell you this. And since there is nothing remotely magical about having a combat vehicle making painful chugging sounds outside your house on a cold evening, I wish you would abandon your grand plans and go back inside. Have you noticed that a whole lot of us are waiting for you to go back to whatever you were doing before you decided to indulge in gardening? Do you see the lights in the front porches and the windows? No?

Also, take those sun-glasses off. And while you are at it, take those clunky ear phones off too. See. Different world, ain’t it? It is dark. Like really dark. Because it is night you dear owl (no sun, look around). You are being loud too but you cannot hear yourself, so I may forgive you for this aberration.

I admire your tenacity to change landscapes and seasons and believe in the spring in your heart. I really do. It is deeply moving and empowering. BUT. I swear, the crickets and birds have migrated to the next suburb, thanks to you. And some of us need to go to sleep in our own homes because we cannot flee the street unlike these winged creatures.

Could you please give it a rest till tomorrow morning? Or the weekend when I won’t be home much? No? Oh well, I think I just got my first valid excuse for having a complete lapse of words for updating this blog. You are not that bad after all.

Wait, come back. You simply cannot finish up your job now.  I cannot write in such sterile silence. Mow the bleddy lawn.  My writing depends on it.

Kind regards,

The deranged woman who is staring at you from her front window

Left behind

Dear A,

I know that I complain that it takes ages  for you to gather your things and say goodbye to your friends and make the short trip to the car so that we can finally set off home after a long day at school. Yes, it is fairly annoying to be  the search party that looks  for your missing hat, shoe, leotard, lunch box or homework contract nearly every day. I really do not like to implore, coax, plead with you to finish your lunch/dinner because you take forever. You promise to wash your face in the mirror and then forget all about it and spend your time chasing soap bubbles in the bathroom instead. A routine trip to get your homework books from the study takes a long time because you see your stuffed dog on the way and stop to give it a cuddle.

I do not mean to be impatient. I want to spend time listening to your tales, watching your antics and sharing your world – you must believe me. And then suddenly, on a day like today when the rain will not let up and the sky’s murmur reminds me of your constant chatter, I miss you with an ache so powerful that I need all my self control to leave work and pick you up from school.  I want to take you home and sit next to the roaring fire and count the raindrops – for no matter how long it takes. If we miss a raindrop, we will simply start again. I want to make us hot chocolate and bake us a cake and have an indoors picnic with your stuffed toys. I miss the days when you were the dimpled baby asleep in the next room – I was never too far away to stop time, it was easy then.

Somewhere along the way, as you learnt to walk and talk and step outside the front door and amble into the backyard and then the greater world that lay beyond the confines of our fence,  Time became a miser. It gave lesser and lesser, yet it had so many demands.

I do not ask you to hurry up because there is any better place to go to, nothing can be sweeter than being with you, wrapped securely in our little world of crayons and stories and giggles and secrets. Rather, I ask you to keep up with me because I am scared of being left behind. One day soon, you will not need a reminder to pack your bag, finish your lunch, wash your face or hurry up with your work. Soon you will not chase bubbles all day or spend ages talking to your stuffed toys and dolls. One day soon you will have a world that will be new and real and built on the foundation of your relationships and friendships and dreams. And as much as we both deny this now, one day I will not be the centre of your universe anymore, your world will flourish and grow while I take the role of the bystander.

One day soon no matter how much I try, or how fast I walk, I will be left behind.

And when that does happen, could you perhaps leave the stuffed toys and the bubble maker behind for me? It is not like I am going to be in a great rush to get anywhere then.

Love,

Mum

Huh!

Dear Blog,

I miss posting. I have no brilliant ideas at the moment of course, but I miss writing here. It has been a whole 24 hours and I have not updated a blog post. I had no idea that this could be so addictive. This is all your fault. Mostly because nothing is ever my fault. Ever.

Anyways, I wanted you to know that I have had a day where my brain cells have fallen off and disappeared behind damage control and business documents (or damage control business documents). I have had so many long blacks and Pepsi Maxs (is that a word?, it is now!) that I am bouncing off the walls. I feel excitable. And irritable. And if I drink any more coffee, I will probably unleash my dormant power of levitation! I can almost fly.

Which probably explains why I am writing to a blog instead of going home. The world is a gorgeously hazy albeit charged place, Bloggy! There, I gave you a name. Which is a good thing. The name that is. Because I am close to forgetting my own. No, the coffee isn’t helping. But thanks for asking.

I am going home now Bloggy. I will be back tomorrow. And if I finish my business docos, maybe I could write? A bit of a treat for you and me? Yes?

Bye. I suppose.

The Person Who Owns Bloggy.

Thank You Kindly

It has been a month dear readers.  One whole month. Scarlett, of the disappearing fame, was actually disciplined enough to write everyday for 31 whole days (or re-post at times but we must let that pass).  Words find their home with warm readers, otherwise they orbit into nothingness. For all the encouragement, comments,  gentle prodding and time that you have given me this month, Scary says thanks. Sincerely. You people are the best (hint : this is when you say, “No, Scarlett, you are!”). Oh and I  must give out a big shout to Captain and Rajavel –  for being there to comment every single day 🙂

Fear not, I shall be back soon. This ride has been so much fun that I hope not to be erratic in posting again – yes, I know I have said this before but this time I mean it. Not on a daily basis perhaps because I am doing a creative mentoring course that leaves me with much homework to tackle but hopefully I will post atleast once every 3-4 days – okay, make that a week. This is a promise. I promise to be here if you promise to check up on me.

I am all about instant gratification – in case you hadn’t noticed this very endearing quality of mine. So, thanks again and I will see you around.

Sooner rather than later. And oh, please, please, pretty please, if you have been reading and not commenting, please do delurk and say Hello, won’t you? 🙂