Rani was stuck spending the summer vacations in her ancestral village home. Kaka and Kakima came here every summer. This year, Rani, her mother, and two younger brothers joined them. Kakima and her mother were best friends, her brothers and Kakima’s sons were thick as thieves. Perfect holiday for everyone, Rani thought, except for her!
At 10 years old, she was to be the responsible one. Her mother and aunt expected her to watch over the four hooligans, who paid her no mind.
This afternoon, the boys had started a full-fledged Holi in the middle of June. The almost dry laundry was wet again. If she had stayed a minute longer, the boys would have soaked her too. She had escaped into her Kaka’s study. The boys would not dare to enter here
The house had gone from an uproar to quiet a while back, but she had stayed. This place had so much to see, no wonder Kaka never left here! So many books! Most were too fat and difficult, even for her. And she was the best reader in her class. Walls were covered with interesting pictures of planets and stars.
Then, the telescope standing near the window caught her eye. She walked over and pointed it outside at the afternoon sun.
“Don’t, Rani!” came the urgent, quiet warning. Rani was startled! She let go of the telescope and turned. Kaka was reclining on the sofa, a book on his chest.
“I am sorry!” Rani said with trepidation. Ma had warned them all, not to disturb Kaka.
“It’s ok. I need to get away from the boys too, sometimes,” said Kaka gently. “You shouldn’t look through the telescope at the sun, it can damage your eyes.”
“I am sorry.” Apologizing yet again, and with nothing else to say to her usually a reticent uncle, Rani turned to leave.
“Would you like to look at the stars with the telescope?”
“Could I?” she asked her question equal parts excitement, hope and doubt.
“Midnight, on the bridge. Come alone.” Kaka said. “The boys are not ready yet to be still and enjoy the show.”
Excitement bloomed on Rani’s face, and just as quickly, it dimmed. “Ma, won’t let me.”
“I will talk to her.”
Rani and Kaka sat on the small bridge, the brook gurgling below their feet. The clear, summer night was pleasantly cool.
As Kaka pointed out the stars, Rani started to see patterns in the sky that she had never seen before. Kaka named the constellations, her imagination filled in stories for each one. Through the telescope, she saw the moons around Jupiter, the rings around Saturn. She even caught the International Space Station blazing through! Then, they sat quietly and watched a meteor shower together.
Later, they walked towards the house together.
“Thank you, Kaka,” she said, her voice filled with awe.
Kaka nodded his head and smiled back at her.
Another love affair with the stars had begun.