Celebrations do not Stop for Chikoo

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Children Stories  |  House: Booksie Classic
A day after Chikoo’s grandma’s death, he celebrated his birthday. When a neighbour confronted him, he said he was doing it for the sake of his friends.

Submitted: August 10, 2017

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Submitted: August 10, 2017

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Yesterday people were crying and consoling each other in my neighbour’s living room.  It was chock-a-block with visitors coming to console the death of her mother-in-law.  She was in her mid-seventies and suffered from many ailments  which could not lessen her zest for life.  She would treat every visitor with an affable smile and every day would receive guests who would come to share their worries and seek solutions and rarely did anyone leave disappointed.

My own children were fond of her and would often compare their obdurate and stern grandmother with that of Chikoo, my neighbour’s son, which I highly disproved of and explained, “No two children are the same and neither are their grandmas.  They should respect them both and appreciate their differences.”  My children may not be convinced with my argument but they would nod their head in agreement.

Her death was a personal loss to me also as she would share recipes of old traditional delicacies with me, and if were not successful in preparing them, she would help me succeed.  Whenever she cooked something special, she would not forget to send some to me.  If I had to run a few errands and there was nobody to look after my children, I would leave them in her care.  She would ensure that they would eat, sleep, do their homework and play on time.  Sometimes she would also read out a story to them.  While reading, she would often pause to catch her breath and then continue.  

She was often in and out of hospital.  Being a COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) patient, her breathing was laboured and a noisy sound of wheezing could be heard even from a distance.  She had difficulty even in walking a few steps, and her movements were restricted.  Considering her critical health condition, we all knew that she would not survive long but what we did not know that her end would come so soon. 

After performing her last rites, Chikoo’s parents decided to go to Varanasi to immerse  her ashes in the Gang and for performing other ceremonies.  They packed their luggage and Ritu, Chikoo’s mother, came to inform me about their decision.  “You see, Ma always wanted her ashes to be immersed in the Ganga, so we are going to Varanasi to fulfil her last wish.  As Chikoo’s exams are on, I can’t take him along.  I request you to keep a watch on him.  It is his birthday tomorrow and he is in a state of shock over his Grandma’s death.  This is the first time that he has seen any death in the family.  Please take care of him in my absence.”

“Don’t worry, I will look after him.”

The next day, in the early morning, Ritu, her husband and some relatives left for Varanasi, and an hour later their son also left for school.  He had his Maths exam.  When he returned home, he said he was tired and did not want to be disturbed.  I served him a hot lunch after which he went for a nap.  As both he and my children were resting, I decided to go to the market to buy vegetables, groceries and ingredients to bake a cake for Chikoo.

As I met an old school-time friend in the market, I got late in returning home.  As I was climbing the stairs, I heard music from the latest Bollywood numbers.  I thought a neighbour might be having a party.  As I neared my apartment, the sound was louder and clearer.  At first I thought it must be my children playing the loud music.  But as I began to turn open the lock of my apartment, I realized that the music was coming from the neighbour’s apartment.  The thought of Bollywood music in a house in which a senior member of the family had died  several hours ago, appalled me.  “Who could it be?  Is Chikoo not there?”

Instead of ringing the bell, I peered inside the house from my balcony.  The inside was decorated with balloons, bunting and flowers.  I could see boys and girls dancing, just sitting around, munching and drinking; some others were playing a video game.

While trying to figure out what was going on, I saw a petite girl, wearing a short dress and flowing hair f bringing a cake on a trolley.  I was aghast.  “Has Chikoo forgotten his Grandma who used to dote on him so soon?  She would not let anybody in the house say anything to him; he was the apple of her eyes.  I know it is his birthday but the celebrations could have been subtle?”  Mustering courage, I decided to go there and find out for myself.  After all I had been given charge of looking after him.  

I rang the bell a couple of times before the door opened.  It was Chikoo with his face partly covered with  butterscotch cake.  He was perturbed to see me.  He did not expect me.  Snatching a handkerchief from one of his friends standing nearby, he quickly cleaned his face and said, “Eh, it is my sixteenth birthday…my friends decided to give me a surprise.  I didn’t want the celebrations but couldn’t say no to them.” 

Nodding my head, I said, “Many happy returns of the day.  Your grandma would have been very happy to see you enjoying your birthday.”  His eyes met mine and he seemed to be figuring out whether it was sarcasm or I really meant it.  Most of his friends had still not noticed me.  They were busy chatting, dancing, eating and playing.  I decided not to go inside and left the place saying, “If you need anything, just let me know.”

While at the table during dinner with my family later, I popped a seemingly weird question to my children,  which I answered on my own.  I asked them, “Do you think it is right to celebrate your birthday a day after one of your dear one dies?”  Before they could say anything, I said, “Even if you think it is right, I will not allow it to happen in my house.  I expect everyone in my house to respect elders in life and death and earn their blessings.”

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