During one of my recent trips out of Delhi I got acquainted with two drop-dead gorgeous girls with faces full of smiles and heads full of ideas. I was lucky, since not only does one seldom find oneself in such company but they also allowed me a brief but most enlightening peep into their world… a world that I had thought I had lost and had left far behind.
Aishwarya and Sanaya; the former fluttering at 14 and the latter evolving at 11. During our brief encounter, they took me on a heady journey back to my carefree young days, when I still believed in the power of dreams and thought that anything was possible. They both rekindled my faith and my belief that one must continue to dream and that anything was still possible. This post is of them, for them and by them.
Trying my best not to swallow one of the millions of flying ants that infested the air, I gingerly stepped on the verandah of the house where I had been invited over for dinner. After being ushered in, I found myself in a sitting space tastefully done up with earthly colored cushions and curtains in simple pastels of wet sand. Soon walked in Aishwarya. Surprisingly she recognized me without introduction. Throwing me a delightful smile she said, ‘you are the mountaineer, right!’ Even if I wasn’t I wouldn’t have said otherwise. Sanaya joined us little later and as she realized who I was, her bespectacled eyelashes rose rather high into her forehead and she said, ‘but what you do is so useless!’ And capped her observation with a jiggle of her nose. I found no words to defend my profession. She was right and had hit the nail squarely on the head. As if sensing my loss of self-esteem, she added coyly, ‘but I love your pictures, they are WOW!’ My wide grin must have spread out of my face.
Shortly snacks and drinks rolled in and the evening rolled on. While I was ferrying my young audience across the globe, from the Arctic to Antarctic and into the dark jungles of Africa, through my stories, they punctuated my narrative with witty observations and candid remarks. They both gave me a guided tour of their rooms and shared few of their aspirations.
Aishwarya’s room was a riot of colors submerged in shades of grey. Like herself, she preferred her room to have corners beyond the reach of the most with a well stocked library at one corner. Books of Meg Cabot perhaps took most of the space, while I was surprised to see the likes of Gone with the Wind and Rebecca among the collection. Harry Potter and the entire collection of Princess Diaries vied for attention… well Aishwarya was a princess too. A wall mounted flat 22”TFT screen was her window to the outside world. We discussed books and movies and chicklits. I thanked my stars that I had watched the two movies of Sisterhood of the travelling pants while crisscrossing the Atlantic few months ago. If she was surprised that I could talk about these movies and her kind of books Aishwarya did not show it. But then, on second thoughts why should she be surprised! Aishwarya, like any child must truly believe that her world of stories and dreams are the only ones worth having and that everyone must know them… I guess she would have been surprised if I told her that I had no idea what she was talking about. No wonder, children are so often disappointed with their elders! When she mentioned that she wanted to climb one mountain though she hadn’t seen one yet up close, my spirit soared to the lofty heights she wished to visit. Now we are bound with a pact that I would train her to climb and then take her to the top of a mountain.
Sanaya’s room was brightly lit, like her perpetual smile, with big spots of violet and mauve scattered on all the walls. She became my latest best friend the moment she revealed that she loved badminton. Having won medals for India 25 years ago in the same sport, I found an immediate kinship to her. A firebrand and feisty animal rights activist, Sanaya did not use any leather product, could not see any animal suffering or being ill-treated by man (the worst animals on earth – as she told me) and had huge dreams of creating a real sanctuary for the animals of this world. A sanctuary where no one would disturb the animals or encroach upon their privacy and where they could flourish as if the planet was their own. She knew that she could and would do it one day. However her immediate need was to acquire the land, nearly half the size of the city where she lived and she wanted her mother to buy this land for her. For children no problem was impossible, no obstacle insurmountable and everything had a very simple and direct solution. For the present though she wanted either a guinea pig or a hamster.
Sanaya asked me about my travels and all the countries I have visited. With round eyes she confessed that she too wanted to see all the seven continents but minus the air travel. She loved my mountain stories but did not seem too enthused (unlike her sister) to actually go there. But when I told her that mountains were full of woolly and cottony lambs, sheep and cuddly puppies she instantly nodded her ascent, with a condition that a full-fledged toilet would accompany her as well. Though an impossibility, I assured her of the same. By this time I guess I too had begun to believe that anything was possible; or it could be the effect of peaty molt I had been sipping through the evening. While discussing different tribal rites and rituals across the globe, she observed that the Chinese tradition of binding a girl’s feet from childhood to keep it small as a symbol of beauty could backfire later if the girl turned out to be fat and obese in adulthood. With a huge ungainly upper torso she could wobble and topple on her tiny feet and crash land on ground.
The dining table reverberated with our laughter, jokes and delectable veggie food. Aishwarya watched what she ate, except when it came to Pizza and Sanaya (like me) loved sweets and desserts. Between the two of us we nearly polished off the entire serving of ice cream on stuffed mango rolls. With my academic excellence of being first from the last always, I found myself rather insignificant and under severe complex when I learned that Sanaya and Aishwaya had recently secured 5th and 9th positions respectively in the state.
Post dinner, I got myself clicked with them and then took my leave. As I drove back from their house, I found myself smiling without any particular reason.
The next day, Sanaya took me to the Science City where we monkeyed around for an hour or so rampaging through the Astronomy and science section and then sitting through a 10 minute show, of which both of us understood absolutely nothing. On the phosphorous walls we captured our shadows and then rolled in laughter with absurd images on the funny mirrors. As we drove back, Sanaya confided that above all, she and Aishwarya were planning to open their own shop called ‘Booo…yeah’ that will stock girl’s accessories and custom made swimming costumes.
I stayed in their city for precisely two days and when I had left my home I had no idea that I would meet them. Life is full of surprises and moments undreamt of… and these two sisters proved that it is also wonderful and beautiful. I hope and sincerely wish that they would never grow up and would always keep their dreams alive.
Dear Aishwarya and Sanaya, all the pictures with this post were taken during my visit to your city, except one. This picture is my special gift for you, since just like the two of you; this is one of the prettiest sights I have ever seen in my life. I will remember my promises to you both and we shall fulfill them soon. Till then; have fun!
I love you both.