“Rajjo, please hurry up . I have to get Mini ready . Today is Sports Day in Prof.Sahib’s college and all children will go there.” Rajjo was scrubbing utensils sitting on a low wooden stool and Mini was riding on her back pestering her with questions. “Rajjo, what is this?” “A spoon.” “Rajjo, what is this? “A plate.” Rajjo loved her constant prattle and enjoyed her company.

Prof . Kumar had been transferred to Dharmsala six months back. In early sixties it was a quiet little hill town sans Dalai Lama and Buddhism , without tourists and big hotels, inhibited by simple hill folk and surrounded by idyllic forests .Before long Kumar’s became popular there as parents of little Mini , who could be seen everywhere, talking to the school children , munching almonds and pine nuts at the grocer’s shop , arguing with elderly people. Nobody dared to ignore this chubby little girl.

Mrs Kumar had to struggle taking her away from Rajjo and dressing her up in green pants and red tweed coat . She was asked to sit outside the gate of their bungalow on a stone bench. She was relieved when she saw her father come and take her.

Way to college was full of attractions , white mushrooms covering the ground , a little toad jumping up , a bush laden with flowers , Mini was constantly asking questions but papa ignored her as he was in a hurry. He could not know when he left Mini behind . “Look , Papa What is that?” Mini cried as she saw a rabbit . Excitedly she started following the little bunny. Rabbit disappeared .but then there was a grasshopper , a group of butterflies and soon Mini was in the middle of a restricted forest, collecting colourful stones, making a pile of pine cones and talking to herself.

Now it was time for children ‘s games . Mr. Kumar called out to Mini . He panicked when she was found nowhere. There was a commotion and frantic search started. Mrs Kumar was crying her eyes out and so were many others .

A group of biology students had taken permission from the higher authorities to enter restricted forest for collecting wildflowers and herbs . An armed guard was sent along with them as the forest abounded in brown bears , hyenas and other wild animals. As they were returning, one of them shouted,” What is that red and green thing jumping up and down ?” Others tried to stop him but curiosity took over him . He was stunned to see a little girl playing oblivious of her surroundings . He quickly picked her and asked who she was . “Mini “ “where is your father? “In the college.”

When they reached the college every eye was moist . Her father almost snatched her .When her mother hugged her,she wiped her tears and said,” Don’t worry Ma , I’ll take you there tomorrow .”

Written by Sarita Khullar

Sarita Khullar is a retired associate professor in English from Hans Raj Mahila Mahavidyalaya, Jalandhar. She loves poetry and fiction. She also likes birds, flowers, animals, and humans.