It all began with Ramu's dream. When he woke up he knew he had to get to the bottom of things.
The children from the apartment complex would approach Sunita aunty to help them with English. In fact, she was a specialist in what one calls the “Queen's English”.
One day Ramu saw an old lady calling out, “Old words for sale, who wants them?” Some words jumped out and started running away. The old lady screamed, “Somebody please help me catch them”. Ramu woke up with a start and was relieved to find that it was only a dream.
That evening, Ramu told the other children about his dream. Lily wanted to know what “old words” meant.
They asked Sunita aunty. She said, “Okay I will use some words and you must tell me what they mean. Last evening I attended a gay party.” The children were aghast and began to giggle.
“Did you not feel out of place?” they asked her. Sunita laughed and said, “Do you know that gay in olden days meant happiness or joy?” Pasupathi and John asked aunty for some more words.
Arundati had a brain wave. She suggested that they play a word game.
“Aunty please give us some words and we will tell you what they mean now. You tell us whether there is another meaning for the same word. We will clap our hands instead of a buzzer.”
Sunita aunty said, “Dear”.
Jothi clapped her hand, “It is a term of endearment”.
Sunita laughed, “No, it meant expensive in our days. It is a very British term.”
One of Sunita aunty's friends dropped in. She was quite angry. “Why did you not return my phone call, were you cross with me?” she asked.
“Aunty your friend seems to be weak in English, how can you be cross in a telephone conversation? We will only cross roads,” said Rahul. Aunty smiled and said “Beta! Cross in our days meant to be angry. The knights used to cross-swords, which meant fighting. You people call us ‘Sic', if you feel that we are not in tune with you. In our times we referred to the people who were ill, as sick.”
The children got quite excited and decided to approach some elders who were familiar with old English words. They decided to make a basket out of old words and have “word games” with them.