Ritwik jumped out of the shower and went straight to his elder sister, sitting at the table. Reya was reading an article about some new course in the town when she saw him leaping towards her. She realized quickly what he intended to do right then but couldn’t act so fast. Ritwik got around her, brushing away the water from his hair on the newspaper in her hand. She shouted at his mischief and got up for a payback but Ritwik ran away to this room, locking himself up.
Inside, he thought about what all he wanted to do that day. His mother would soon be home and he had something nice in his mind to ask her to cook. And then his father would come too, it being a half-day at work. He thought about asking some money from both of them to buy himself some small nothings and to add some of it to his savings. The festival was right around the corner of the coming week and he had bragged to his friends about a million things that he would be buying. Surely, all of that took a lot of thought and diligence to manage on his part.
Getting dressed in his soccer uniform, he got out of the room. His parents had just bought him that one, on his 9th birthday that is, and he couldn’t wait to show it off among his peers. He moved out into the lobby to see his sister still trying to read about that course in the paper, although it was quite wet. He teased her into a ‘You couldn’t get me’ motion but she just ignored him. Soon the bell rang and it was their mother. She stepped in, keeping her bag on the table beside Reya’s wet newspaper, careful not to damage it further. She announced that her school authorities had finally declared a holiday for the next 5 days and that now, she would be dishing away all requests which she might have denied due to work those past days. She also noticed how Reya had underlined the course contents she wanted to pursue. She had hardly begun to read the piece when Ritwik cut her in between. “You had promised you will make my favourite first, I want Kadhi-Rice now”, he kept going. His mother calmed him down, telling him to wait for her to finish. But he was inexorable as he began to push his mother into the kitchen. She finally gave up and asked Reya to come with her to help.
Seeing them go, Ritwik settled himself on the bean bag and switched on the television. He kept browsing through the channels, finding nothing really of interest because inside, he was just waiting for his father to come. Soon the bell rang again but he did not get up to attend the door. Reya came out of the kitchen, running her hands into his hair, teasing him as she got out to welcome her father. Once he entered, Ritwik rushed to him, hugging him and asking if he too had his holidays now. His father nodded but added that he still would have to go in between to take care of some pending work as it was a tight month. Ritwik didn’t understand a ‘tight month’ but he didn’t ask any further.
As his father got fresh and Ritwik got bored with the television, Reya got in as she placed the bowl of Kadhi on the dining table. Her mother followed with the bowl of rice and the dishes as they began settling in for the food. Ritwik loved it and so did his father, mother and Reya. He couldn’t help but notice how in between their slurps, his mother would look at them and smile, with a peculiar glow turning up on her face. Ritwik loved that glow in his mother.
When they were done, Ritwik again rushed to his room, bringing out the shoes and placing them where everyone could see them, just to give an indication that he was going out to play soon. His mother asked Reya to join her in the kitchen to do the dishes as his father watched him go about slowly tying his shoelaces. But something else caught his father’s attention just then. The newspaper article and the course that Reya had underlined. He read it through in a jiffy and went into the kitchen. There, taking the bowl out of Reya’s hands, he asked her if she was interested in the course. She told him she was to which he said, “Very well then. But you do see that the last date to apply is tomorrow right? Run away and let me help your mother with this. You go fill the application form and post it online”. Reya hugged him thanks, running out and kissing her brother while she was at it as she rushed to her computer.
Ritwik didn’t know what had happened. Just a second earlier, she was working in the kitchen and now she was more happier than he was. What had she won? A new soccer ball? Thinking that, he rushed into the kitchen to find his parents doing the dishes and smiling to each other. They were talking about Reya and suddenly, Ritwik found himself out of the picture. He heard his father tell his mother how Reya had been so hard-working and how he believed she would manage the course despite her board exams the next year. Ritwik heard all this and he felt something inside him.
When they came out, his mother told his father that they needed to get the laundry done by the next day so they could be ironed and in order before the festival holidays truly began for everyone. She asked him if he could help her out with that too. His father agreed the very second and even suggested her to take some rest and join in later. “But the pipe is broken so I would need to hold on to that till the tub gets full while you do the clothes”, she went suggesting how their good old washing machine had begun to come apart. All this while, Ritwik was listening to them and just when he heard that last one from his mother, he jumped in “I will help Dad in the laundry. I would hold on to the pipe just like mother. And mother, you can rest till then”.
“But are you sure Ritwik that you want to help? Don’t you want to go out to play soccer?”, quipped his mother.
“Arre…we will only play after the festival now”.
“Very well then, follow me lad”, said his father as the duo got about doing the laundry.
His mother sat close, sort of reclining against the cushion as she saw the two most wonderful men in her life go about helping her in the chores. She was still wondering how lucky she was when she felt a hand on her shoulder. It was Reya. She brought her lips to her ears and asked “That pipe doesn’t really need to be held right? It can be done with a stopper?” Her mother chuckled and the glow came back upon her as she replied to her daughter “Of course it doesn’t. It was your father’s idea”.