Teju and Tommy
The General Knowledge class was not very fascinating for the 6 year old girl Teju. She scratched her head when the fat teacher posed her a question, oscillated her hip and uttered a feeble ‘I-don’t-know’. The teacher bellowed, “How could you not know what is the National Flower of India! This is bad, Teju. At least now did you get to know? It’s Lotus! I’ll ask you another time in the next class.” Teju looked into her toy-like watch, attempted to ascertain the position of the clock-hands and tried to put her head out of the window to see if the school-bell was about to go. The bell deafened the ears; she repacked her bag and fled out of the class just to hug her mother.
Teju’s mother, Hemalatha, enjoyed the luxury of being a Home-maker and devoted all her time for the welfare of the family. Teju put her hands around Hema’s neck, whimpered about her inability to answer the GK teacher’s question and blamed her parents for that. The patient mother picked up the heavy rucksack from the ground, held Teju’s hand and headed home. Teju didn’t fail to notice all the tiny elements of the street for which she was a habitué. The rainbow on the oil spills in front of a garage, the poster of a girl showing her bosom partially and biting her lips vehemently, the goats that relished those posters and the oranges and apples that hung in baskets in a fruit shop. The climate of the street didn’t change much except the actors in the posters. Teju loved the walk back home everyday and so typical of her to ask mom about what was waiting for her to have for Tiffin again almost everyday.
The modest house that they had rented was an adorned palace for the little girl. She placed her schoolbag in an open-shelf, slipped into a starched white tunic and couldn’t resist the aroma of the evening snacks that her mother served in a stainless steel bowl. Teju screamed, “Aw! Vadai! Ma, Vadai!”
“Yes, Vadai. Just for you, Teju. I’ll switch on the TV for you. Have the Vadai and watch cartoon for sometime. I’ll clean the dishes before we start our homework.” Life was in its simplest form for Teju. She savoured her evening snacks, which tasted heavenly for her, switched on the TV and started talking along with her favourite cartoon characters. Life was all about that day, the next day and the day after tomorrow for the tiny girl.
The ecstasy didn’t last long, when the TV screen flickered and only grains appeared. Teju was chagrined and ran to her mom for rescue but returned with a long face. The TV was switched off and on and the remote was tapped by the tiny hands, but all her efforts ended in vain. The last resort was her mom and so she called for her vociferously. Hema was more annoyed than Teju. She walked to the drawing room adjusting her clothes and wiping her hands with her clothes. “Now what, Teju?”, Hema said. Little Teju explained the strange thing that happened to the TV. “Something is wrong with the cable. Our TV is fine. Don’t worry about that. Now quickly run to Ramu mama’s house and ask for someone to fix this. Probably, Kumar mama will go to the terrace to fix the cable. It will just take 5 minutes. Hurry up!” told the young mother.
Convinced Teju started floating to the cable operator’s house and having forgotten her mother’s instruction to hurry up, she took baby steps. During her quick trip to Ramu’s house, courteous Teju exchanged greetings with the launderer, halted to see and think of the flies that were resting on the cow-dung and reached her destination with an absent-mind. It was a narrow passage that she had to cross to step into the verandah and the doors were unfastened. The tiny tot who was lost in her world ignored the doors that were not locked and legged in.
Ramu’s Pomeranian, Tommy was in the vigil, when Teju stepped in unknowingly. Teju screamed at the sight of the white animal that was sprawled in the living room and found her way back home running and yelling. Least efforts were taken by the horror-stricken kid to look back and find out if the tiny animal was chasing. Teju broke the silence of Hema’s living room and lied supine on the floor. Hema was petrified at the sound of Teju’s panting and rushed to the living room for assurance. Gasping Teju described the account and the concerned mother cursed Tommy for all of it. Hema lifted Teju and walked in the pace of an athlete to begin the word-duel with Ramu. Summer was at its peak and influenced the heads of the people promptly.
Hema pushed the calling bell incessantly to express her anger. Ramu came out buttoning his shirt and Tommy was at its owner’s feet. “I just got a couple of calls, mami. Kumar is in the terrace already. It should start working in another 15 minutes. Why did you…”, Ramu intended to finish the question, but was interrupted by the emotional mother. Staying as a clueless person, Ramu was bewildered and lived through few confused moments to get the real glance of the situation. Hema scowled, “We have told you many times. That dog of yours is unruly. Teju came here few minutes ago to complain about the cable and this animal has chased her till my house. Little baby came home breathless. Thank God! She wasn’t hit by any vehicle, when she escaped from your house. You definitely have to do something about this dog. If not, I’ll call up the corporation to clear this off our neighborhood.” Tommy tilted its head to right and left and listened to the conversation keenly. The small animal would have understood the emotion in Hema’s voice. Ramu was injured by Hema’s heated argument and chose to talk back to the lady. “Didn’t you teach manners to your daughter? I’ve been at home since this morning. I didn’t see her at all here. Why did she come in when she knew that I have a dog? It’s my personal preference to raise a pet. If you call the corporation, I can still show Tommy’s license and it would continue to be with me. You better mind your words and leave the place right away. I wonder why your daughter lied…”, Ramu summed up. The beloved pet couldn’t stand the noise of the humans and so crawled out for peace.
The argument strengthened and called the attention of the vegetable carter, priest, flower vendor and all the other passers by. The fighters were enveloped by a bunch of spectators who enjoyed the duel and helped the debaters by quoting more examples. The performers and the audience were engrossed in the fight and missed to heed a beautiful sight that would have turned everything futile.
Teju was bored by the fight and rested in the porch, when the debate reached its crescendo. At her tiny feet, Tommy sat, looked at Teju, wagged its tail and yawned. Teju was reminded of the cold vadai in her hand. The little angel broke the vadai into 2 pieces and chose to savor one half by her and feed the other half to the Pomeranian. The vadai gratified Tommy’s palate and it drooled for more. Teju patted the dog, wiped the drool off, hugged it a bit and Tommy rested its chin on Teju’s narrow shoulder.
The fight ended when Hema called for her husband’s intervention. The crowd was dispersed after an hour and Teju’s family returned home with dissatisfaction. Hema who was incognito of Teju’s new acquaintance said to her husband, “We should definitely do something about this dog. Teju couldn’t breathe when she came home. The dog chased her so fast. She couldn’t even explain clearly.” Unworldly Teju released her mat and settled for the night.
Hema and Teju still had to cross Ramu’s house everyday to go to the school. Ramu and Hema avoided eye-contact. But the little ones, passed love through their eyes. Everyday, religiously, Tommy waited in the evening to see Teju, wagged its tail looking at her, she slipped a flying-kiss into the air for the pet and her mother cautioned her to stay away.
- Written by Sarada Deepika