“In the beginning, it was just them. The entire universe their playground. They could do anything they wanted, have anything they chose. Create what they willed. Change it all to their pleasure. It was the grandest playground there could be.”
“Grand playground? Did it have jungle jims? And merry-go-rounds?” Aniya asked, butting in.
“And slides?” I added softly.
Aunt didn’t mind the interruption. She welcomed them. She was the best among all at telling stories. And she enjoyed telling us the stories as much as we loved listening to her. She smiled before replying, continuing the story with animated actions accompanying.
“The biggest, highest jungle jim you could imagine. So large, our house would fit into it, and then ten more. You could start at one end in the morning, and at the end of the day you still wouldn’t be able to reach the other end. So big a jungle jim. And merry-go-rounds so fast, they had seat belts so you wouldn’t fall off when it went round and round. Remember the ride at the amusement park you two weren’t allowed onto because you were too little? Picture that, make it like a hundred times bigger, a thousand times faster, and that would be smaller and slower than their merry-go-round. And the slides, do they need any telling. So long, so high, it would take a full day to get to the top. You could sleep at the top for the night, with the stars singing you lullabies, the clouds your pillows. And your blankets. Next morning, rested well, you would get onto the slide. All day you would be going down, shooting down like a bullet. And if you were fast enough, the stars would be singing for you as you reach the end in the darkness of the old night. If you were fast enough, that is.”
Of course aunt knew us, knew well what would excite us. She gave us just that. What we would call the best. And there couldn’t have been anything more awesome. We could see how amazing a playground it was. The excitement showed on our seven year old faces, our longing to see the greatest, most amazing playground. Have the days to enjoy them all. Climb across the jungle jim. Slide down the slide. Go round and round in the merry-go-round.
“They would be playing all the time. Of course they didn’t have parents to tell them to eat on time, eat the boring vegetables good for health. They didn’t have to get to bed on time, and wake up early. They didn’t have to go to school where they would be given homework to do. Didn’t have to sit through all the boring classes. They were always in the playground, always playing, having fun. Doing whatever they wanted. Eat when they wanted, what they wanted. Sleep when they felt like. Everything fun you can imagine, they would be doing all the time.”
She was giving us exactly what we loved, and we were lapping it all up. There couldn’t have been a better storyteller enjoying herself more telling the story. And she couldn’t have had more eager audience than the two of us.
“It was great, for the longest time. But then, it got boring. How long could you be in the playground? And how long could you just play by yourselves? With no other company. With nothing else to do. They wanted to have a different kind of fun. Where they wouldn’t have to do anything. Instead, lay down and watch someone else play.”
“Like the movies,” Aniya cut in, throwing us into snickers.
“Yes, exactly like the movies. But it wasn’t like the movies we see. It was grander. Imagine the biggest, grandest cinema. Like a million, million times bigger and better than our favourite cinemas. And imagine the biggest, bestest movie, and imagine a movie a million times better.”
“Better than Shrek?” Aniya asked, taking the name of her favourite movie.
“Of course, a million times better,” I answered for aunt.
She smiled at me, patting me before continuing.
“Yes, a million times better. Like a millions Shreks in one movie. Imagine something so great.”
A million Shreks. That was a picture Aniya could live with. A million Shreks in a movie would make the movie a million times better than her favourite Shrek. It did wonders for me too. Satisfied that we understood her, aunt continued with the story.
“And so, they decided to build a new world. It was easy for them. They made a world far grander than their playground, far more beautiful. So beautiful, they felt envious of their own creation. So much so they wanted it for themselves. They were really, really smart. And so they knew, it wasn’t a good thing. This longing they felt for their creation. And so they decided to make some rules. They could never break the rules, not even if no one was looking. And so, with the rules in place, they completed the world. And it was so much more beautiful than before. So amazing, it delighted them just looking at it. Remember the aquarium? How much we all loved it? How amazing it was, with all the different kinds of fishes swimming around. Remember how Aniya wanted to jump into the water so she could play with the fishes? But they wouldn’t let her? It was just like that. But only, million, million times better.”
We said it at the same time as aunt. “A million, million times better.” And we all burst into a long round of laughter. I wasn’t sure I could picture the world aunt was talking about. I knew how amazing the aquarium was, but I couldn’t imagine what would be a million times better. Aniya was different though. I could see it in her eyes, she was seeing the world. I wished I could see it too.
“And you know what they did then? They left the world by itself. It was their grand movie, their grand cinema. And it was exactly what they were looking for. There was so much happening, it was impossible for them to see it all. Which was exactly what they needed. It was just what could keep them entertained. They were back to the good old days of fun. This time, the fun never ended.”
“Like an endless evening at the park,” Aniya said.
There was no need to talk about how much she loved the park. It was so very much, it overflowed out of her. And drenched us too. We all had to go to the park with her, and play for as long as she could. She was an endless source of energy, especially at the park. Uncle used to tease her, calling her a monkey. Because monkeys never got tired. Like squirrels. Or so we thought. It was so amusing to our parents, they never bothered correcting us. Maybe they were too busy having fun at our expense, they got used to it. And they couldn’t stand losing the joke.
“Yeah, like an endless evening at the park. That would be such a nightmare,” I exclaimed.
Aunt burst out laughing hard, blind to the Aniya’s glare.
“It’s so not a nightmare,” Aniya said, making aunt laugh harder.
“You have no idea,” aunt said through her laughter. We didn’t understand what she meant, but it didn’t really matter. We understood her laugh. I joined in, as Aniya glared at us. She couldn’t stop aunt, but she could stop me. If she wanted to.
“What was the rule?” Aniya asked, determined to end the laughter.
“Oh it was a very simple rule,” aunt said, a strange look in her eye. The kind she had when she was telling us something she was sure we wouldn’t understand. Not yet.
“They wouldn’t interfere with the world.”