The sunny morning was a welcome respite after the cyclone rains. The roads were clear, almost.
“Hiya! How are those feet?” My sister, senior by three years, was nursing her swollen and blistered feet.
“Neku kullu. You are jealous.” She made a face at me.
“Neku pichi. You’re mad. Whose idea was it to go for 400 rounds with a skipping rope?”
“I won. You didn’t even reach 100.” Tinku was proud of her achievement despite having been confined to the bed for four days after her display of talent. It made her cranky. She yelled until my pedamma*, her mother, threatened to tape her mouth.
“I’m going to the market with amma and pinni*. Reku, you stay back with Tinku.” Kiran announced and left. As the eldest, he liked to dominate us all the time.
“Wait!” Why should I stay back?
“Poni. Let them go. I have a plan.” Tinku stopped me.
Uh oh… She was a storehouse of plans that failed almost every time.
“Vinnu. Listen, Reku. We always wanted to see the rice mill na. Let’s go after they’d left. Ammamma* and tatha* will be busy with their work.”
The rice mill was on the opposite side of grandpa’s house. We weren’t allowed to go there for obvious reasons. Naturally, we were curious. And, if we were going to go back home soon after the summer holidays, we’d have to wait another year.
Five minutes later we were inside the compound of the rice mill. The sounds from the machines were intriguing. Hand in hand, we stepped inside the forbidden area. The place was huge. The equipment was large. Men were scattered around as grains of rice fell from a height.
We ran to stand under the shower of rice.
“Oye! Kids have come.” Someone yelled.
Before we could react, another person spoke. “Murthy saar’s grand daughters. It’s okay.”
Tinku elbowed me. We became celebrities. Some of them stopped their work to show us around the place.
“Jagrata. Be careful. Don’t touch anything.”
We nodded and toured the place jumping, showering rice on each other, and hopping between the gunny bags. They explained how the rice would be gathered into bags and sealed. Who cared? We wanted to play.
Time passed in abandon. Until…
“Tinku!!” Kiran was back. He was in the mill followed by grandpa.
“Umm… Tatha*… We just…” She mumbled. I hid behind a rice bag.
Of course, Grandpa said nothing. He thanked the men for taking care of us and assured them it won’t be repeated.
“Parledu, saar. It’s okay. They are our kids only na. They did not trouble us at all.”
“See.” She grinned at them. I had enough sense to look embarrassed.
Mom and aunt arrived on the scene. They dragged us home with lectures that lasted the entire day. Kiran became our most annoying shadow for the rest of the stay. No matter how many other adventures my sister and I had, this remained a favorite.
Pedamma- mother’s elder sister
Pinni- mother’s younger sister
Ammamma- Grandmother (maternal)