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Chapter 5

“I’ll tell you’ll about my story”, the kid said to us and began. “The year was 1995. I was in show and tell class. Tommy had brought a hamster to the class and was showing it around. It was his pet that his dada had got him for his birthday. The poor little hamster seemed so scared. I don’t think he had ever been in front of so many people. I mean thinking from the hamster’s point of you, how would it feel to be suddenly taken from the place you were comfortably sleeping in and be held at a height and then having the whole world look at you. It must have scared him to bits. I know I’d have been scared. Suddenly the hamster jumped from Tommy’s hands and ran straight for the children. The girls in the class all screamed and jumped on their chairs. It was such a funny sight, so many of these kids just screaming and shouting about something as harmless as a poor little hamster. What was that poor little thing going to do? I ran behind the hamster trying to help Tommy catch it. Ms.Ripley, our class teacher declared it was time for recess and the entire class trooped out. She stayed back and helped us catch him. She held him close to her chest and comforted the scared little hamster. It seemed to like her for in no time it had quieted down. She then put the hamster into its cage. She then turned to Tommy, smiled that wonderful smile of hers and said “Tommy, you’ve done a great job. I hope you will look after the hamster really well”. I liked Ms.Ripley. She was a very nice person. She always listened to us and always said we did a good job even if we weren’t really that good. Nigel who always seemed to know more than anybody else about the teachers said she had been married but her husband had left her. I didn’t believe him. It wasn’t possible for someone not to like her. She was so sweet. I remember how when I had first joined, she had taken time out to find out if I was ok and if I was finding the place hospitable. She had asked me about my life back home and I had told her all about it.

It hadn’t been that long since I had come to America. When the family had heard that dada had gotten the big promotion everyone was very happy. It seemed like the only person who seemed saddened by the news was me. What would I do without Ramu? He was everything to me. He was my best friend, my best companion. We did almost everything together. He was the son of Kamini aunty who had been with us ever since she was as small as me. She helped mama and grandma out at home. There was a lot of work at home, what with all the people that stayed at home. Mama ran a paying guest accommodation at home and at any given time we had almost 40 people living in our house. It was like they were part of our family. They joined in for the meals; they watched television with us and did a lot of fun things together. Thanks to them I always had people to play with me.

There were so many different people we always got to meet. There was Samudrika or Sam for short, who loved playing with me. She’d take Ramu and me on these real long walks and we’d all climb trees and there on the trees she’d tell us such lovely stories. Sam was from Bombay. She had come to learn design or something like that. I didn’t really understand what she was doing but I totally loved the cartoons she would draw. She and I both loved Calvin. She called him her ‘toon crush.’ I never really understood why she wanted to crush him if she liked him so much for a real long time. Then there was Raj uncle. He was the best. He was from Calcutta. He was the one who taught me how to play cricket. He would play with all his friends and Ramu and I’d stand by the side watching. Then he’d call us to him and they’d let us play with them. When mama first found out she wasn’t too happy that we were going and disturbing people who stayed with us. Thankfully Raj uncle said he’d look after us and that he liked having us play with him. Raj uncle seemed to never want to go to college. All his friends would leave real early in the morning to go to their college but Raj uncle would just sleep. He was very lazy was what mama said. “That’s true,” said dad on the odd off day that he had, “but that boy’s got potential. He will go places.” I didn’t care, he was always home when I was and Ramu and I enjoyed ourselves with him.

The day I was leaving, I wept. I didn’t want to go to this far off place and meet new people. I didn’t like the fact that we were going and I made it clear to everyone. I cried so much with Ramu but somehow he seemed to understand. He said it was destined to happen but no matter what, we would always stay close. So what if we didn’t see each other everyday. He had a photo of me and I had one of his. He said that all we had to do was to look at each our photo’s and talk to them and they’d talk right back. That’s what he’d seen his mama doing with his father’s photo every night even though he had died a long time ago. If they could talk to each other even after they were dead, he said he was sure we could talk to each other with no problem. That evening I went up to mama and asked her if Ramu could come along but I knew the answer even before she said anything. It was so painful moving away. I was so angry with dada and mama. Why did they have to move away just when I was enjoying everything about this lovely place. There would be no more Raj uncle to play cricket with. No Sam to go on long walks with.” I poured my heart out to Ms.Ripley. She put her arms around me and told me everything would be alright. She then made it a point from that day onwards to make sure I was always involved in something or the other in class.

I went home that day and talked to grandpa about all that happened in school that day. It was a routine that I never wavered from. It was a lot of fun to sit with him and talk about all that had happened. He always had a different way of looking at things. I told him all about the hamster incident and how all the kids had gotten so scared at something as harmless as that poor little hamster. I asked him, “What would they do if they went to India and saw the cows and the dogs running around all over the place. All they’d have time for was to complain. Grandpa laughed at this and said, “It’s a human tendency to always take what isn’t theirs and then displace the people who actually owned it. This world belonged to the animals. It was part ours and part theirs. What right do we have to take away something that isn’t ours and then lock up the real owners?” This got me thinking. I asked him, “But if we hadn’t taken the land away from them then how would we have built so much up? How would all the good things in the world have come up? We need the space.” He looked down at me, and then said, “What if we hadn’t taken away all their space? What if we used enough for ourselves and gave them the rest? That way we’d both have enough space.” I hadn’t thought of it that way. What he said seemed to make sense. It always did. I was happy he was here even if it meant he was here only for a while.

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