Chunni caught hold of the railings and peeped outside .
It was a regular May afternoon . The world outside looked deserted . Everything blazing under the wrath of the sun , yellow , dry or sweating .
No cycles were in sight ,the rickshaw-wala was peacefully snoring under the hood . Chunni knew that nothing could wake him up from his slumber , no matter how many passengers came ,or how many kids went and did ‘tring tring’ his rickshaw bell .
The cow had settled peacefully under her usual shadowy abode , next to he wall .
Even that one-eyed puppy , who would run behind every scooter and car ,was nowhere to be seen .
And that mango tree in the orchard , it looked so lonely .
“Chunni ! come arrange the dishes . Where did you escape off to ?”
She skipped down from the stool she was standing on , startled . She had almost forgotten about amma .
She stood on her toes , took one last peep outside . A small sigh escaped her , and then she went darting into the main house .
The silence inside just mirrored the laziness on the streets .
Badi maa had gone to sleep . Her room cold , dark and filled with that intoxicating smell of cooler grass .
Bhaiya was busy on his computer .She could hear he faint ‘tak tak tak’ .
And as she ran downstairs ,she could hear the rustling of fans , didi laughing on the phone and dadi was busy reciting something from her big book .
She ran so fast ,the door banged against the wall as she nearly collided with her amma in the kitchen .
“You girl ! you are like a little mouse ! Suddenly you will appear and make the house go mad .
Go , put some of your energy into cleaning and drying those dishes “
She started scrubbing them clean . Her eyes staring at her own distorted image in the plate .
A ting nose ; wide eyes ,always blinking ;ting small teeth ( though bhaiya ji said that they were as strong and sharp as mice ) ; and fuzzy hair ,it took amma full 15 mins. To oil and plait them in the morning .
She didn’t even realize that she almost slipped on the discarded mango peels .
Her bright eyes shone for a second ,then fizzed out again .
He hadn’t appeared for four days .She had first seen him a week back ,climbing the tall mango tree in the orchard .
He was as tiny as her .Although his face looked like a ‘langur’ .And he climbed like one too .
Every afternoon he would be there . Jumping like a professional .
The first day , she had thought of alarming Thakur ,the big burly watchman .
But he had already spotted her behind the window , and widened his puppy like eyes from the branch above.
Before she knew ,he had snatched two mangoes ,jumped down ,placed one on her palm and disappeared with the cheekiest grin on his monkey face .
Since then ,he would repeat it every day . One mango , one flash of teeth , and then “poof !” , gone !
She placed the last plate on the shelf .,absent mindedly scratching her head .
Maybe he was sick ! Chintu said that her dad had fallen on the road because of heat that day .
Or maybe he went somewhere . Like bhabhi , didi , bhaiya and uncleji go every year .
Or maybe Thakur caught him ! no no no .. Then she would have heard something .
“Take this . Why don’t you eat anything nowadays “
She stared at the mango amma had shoved in her hand . Shinning , ripe , full , yellowed .
But she knew that it would be tasteless .
All mangoes felt like paper now . Maybe , that monkey knew how to steal really good ones .
She started climbing the stairs , skipping steps and dreamily scratching the paint of the walls .
‘I will ask Tipu . That monster keeps roaming behind his father’s milk cycle . He would know’
‘Or Malti chachi ! She washes clothes for the all the houses in the area “
But then , amma will come to know !
Uffff ! She threw that stupid mango on the wall …
She finally stepped into her room . Dark , quiet , filled with the musky smell of old clothes , jars of spices , oil , turmeric and God knows what not !
She hastily turned to close the window . Amma will get angry if any flies or something came in .
And there , on the window ,lay a mango . Tiny , dusty , a bit squashed ,ripened under the sun .
The sweetest mango in the entire world .