Abhinav felt all grown up when his mother asked him to look after his sister. Little did he know what a task that would be!

Abhinav was preparing for the Independence Day Elocution Contest, when his mother thrust one-year-old Anagha into his hands.

“Manu, keep an eye on her,” she said. “I will be back soon.” She had an urgent call from Leela aunty that uncle had been admitted to hospital. Now his sister was under his care. Freedom at Midnight

“Don’t worry, mother. I will take care of her.” He carried Thithi as he called her, to his study table. There he thought, he could prepare for the contest and engage her in some way. He made her sit on the floor and gave her some toys to play with. But, in a few minutes she had exhausted playing with them all and began tugging at his shorts.

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He got up to give her some biscuits. She beamed at him, nibbling the tiny bits he gently pushed into her mouth. Once her tummy was full, she would let him be, he hoped. But hardly 10 minutes had passed, when he caught her opening the Vicks Vaporub kept on the dressing table. He took her to the bathroom and thoroughly washed her hands clean lest she should get it into her eyes.

Soon he was back to work, giving her some of his drawing sheets to play. After a while, he just glanced at Thithi and saw all his paint tubes squeezed and scattered on the floor. “How on earth did you manage to get them?” he gasped.

The little brat sat smiling at him as he cleaned the floor with a wet towel. Then he gave her some silver paper to play with. He desperately wanted to read, but she was getting more and more restless. He searched the cupboards and found the box of building blocks. That clicked. She settled with some of them on her lap. Now and then he glanced at her. She seemed quite content.

Once when he raised his eyes from the book, she sat there looking at him, her cheeks bulged out. In a moment he was by her side digging out his missing pencil sharpener. Exasperated he sat down near her. She had won. A sigh of relief escaped him, when he heard mother.

“Manu, it seems you have had a tough time. But we couldn’t help it. Did you manage to read something? Even if you don’t win, don’t feel disheartened. There are times in life, when you have to forego things you long for. Your aunt was at her wit’s end when I got there...Poor thing. She was worried to death.” Her voice trailed off.

Abhinav felt grown up. He brushed aside all his resentment at not being able to prepare for the elocution. The next day he kissed Anagha goodbye and started for school. But he was in for a surprise when the results of the contest were announced. He had bagged the first prize after all!

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