The Best Gift

I’m sleeping peacefully. My sister pinched me and covered my eyes. I was still drowsy and the warmth of her cupped hands invigorated my flickering eyes. She guided me to the pooja room and took off her hands as I saw the magnificent idol of Lord Krishna festooned by the freshest of all laburnums and a long garland made of state of the art marigolds from which water was still dripping over the yellow mask kept below. Oh? Wait.. what? A mask? I turned back and saw her scintillating face and before I could ask something, she held my hands and dragged me to my grandfather who was sitting in his wooden armchair, distributing kaineetam to my fellow cousins. I was tossing and turning to find how much I’d get and I’ve already kept my piggy bank out of the heavily stuffed cupboard yesterday night itself. It was my turn. He asked me to close my eyes. From his stockpile, he took something and held it tightly between my fingers. My fingers couldn’t trace its whereabouts. It was something obscure. I opened my eyes and saw a sanitiser along with a yellow mask in my hands. I was transfixed in stupefaction for a while. Soon, my sister held my arms as if she wanted to take me somewhere. Everything disappeared with a glitch. Now, I could see my brother beside me in my bed with a pillow over his stomach. What? Was it a dream? How sweet it was… a new gift: a mask and a sanitiser; quite exotic and out of the blue no? Indeed, the best of all gifts one could get in this corona season. However, this dream pinpoints a very familiar reality: now, the mask and sanitiser is indeed part of our day to day life and is as common to our lifestyle as a toothbrush and paste.

Oh… yes. Toothbrush and paste. I haven’t brushed yet. Kissing my sleeping brother on his forehead, I went towards the wash-basin. While I was engrossed in brushing, contemplating on the dream, I heard my father talking on the phone, “sure. I’ll come. It’s at 12 no?”. I could very well extrapolate from his conversation that he was talking about going out. I was delighted as it has been over a month since I’ve stepped out from the four walls of my house. It seems to be nothing less than an open prison. I was craving to breathe the open air outside. Intending to coax him to take me with him; I asked, “acha.. where you going at 12? He answered while he turned on the TV, “It’s Mr S’s daughter’s birthday today” (he’s our neighbour). Taking a long breath, he continued, “his daughter would turn a year old today. He was planning to throw a grand party and now..” He choked. I didn’t allow him to complete and I interceded, “so there’s no party?” I was in melancholy of losing a grand feast. He replied, “yes, there is. But, on a small scale at his own house. He has invited only around ten from the neighbourhood and there are no many celebrations”. I presumed that it was not appropriate for me to accompany him and I turned back to shave. 

It’s 11.50 now. My father dressed up in his brand new embroidered brown shirt and stepped out to wear his shoes. My mother was standing at the door and I was watching TV in the hall. He asked my mother, “but..but.. what’ll I buy her? I can’t go empty-handed no?” thinking for a while, she answered, “you can’t buy any sort of gift from closed fancy stores. Better but some oranges and go”. While he was about to nod in consent, I called aloud, “acha.. buy her a sanitiser”