Children

A promise of fun

If Aaji can’t go to the amusement park, the amusement park will come to her. | Photo Credit: Illustration: Sreejith R. Kumar

My Aaji never forgets anything. She remembers things that everyone else has forgotten! Want to know how many times I threw up on a bus ride to Shimla when I was three? Ask Aaji.

She never forgets promises either. I once promised her 10 ice-creams if I passed a surprise Maths test. Of course, I passed. Aaji should have been happy and bought me ice-creams, right? Instead, she made me buy her the ice-creams and then ate them all herself. So, I’ve learnt to be careful what I promise. But my father hasn’t. He heard Aaji say she’d like to see an amusement park and promised we’d go on my 10th birthday.

Soon after I turned nine, Aaji began to talk of amusement parks. At first, Baba was puzzled. When he understood why his mother was talking about roller coasters, he came to me and said, “Your Aaji wants to go to an amusement park!”

“Promises,” I told him, “are meant to be kept.” He’s always telling me this, but he didn’t like hearing it.

“I know!” he snapped. “But how? There’s a pandemic…a lockdown!...”

Telling Aaji she couldn’t go would mean a lot of sad sighing, unhappy sniffing and stories about how people who broke promises were punished. But, how could we take Aaji to an amusement park?

“If Aaji can’t go to the amusement park, the amusement park will come to her,” I said.

Making a plan

My parents stared at me as if I had gone crazy. But, when they heard my plan, they thumped me joyfully and called me their smart son.

On my birthday, Aaji was more excited than me. “I am going on a roller coaster,” she sang.

“No, no. No roller coaster,” Baba said hastily.

“I am not scared,” Aaji told him.

“But we are,’ Amma explained.

“Cowards,” Aaji muttered.

“Come on, Aaji,” I said, leading her out of the house. Then, I turned her around and pushed her back into our flat.

“Welcome to Dreams Amusement Park,” Amma said, stamping something on Aaji’s wrist.

“That’s your ticket,” I explained.

“Nice!” Aaji smiled. If she had looked closely, she would d have seen that the stamp said, ‘Property of NCL’ and realised that it came from Amma’s office.

“Here’s the Spinning Chair!” I pointed.

It was the wheelchair Baba had used when he broke his leg.

It was the wheelchair Baba had used when he broke his leg. | Photo Credit: Illustration: Sreejith R. Kumar

It was the wheelchair Baba had used when he broke his leg. Once Aaji was strapped in safely, I spun the chair.

“Whee!” Aaji shouted, as I pushed her to Amma. Amma pushed Aaji to Baba. ‘More, more,’ Aaji shouted, as we pushed and shoved.

Off to Dino World

“Time for a snack,” I explained, handing her a juice box and popcorn.

“That was fun. What’s next?” she said happily.

“Dino World,” Baba said.

We had filled the balcony with all our plants for Dino World. It was full of a thick, green light, as if we were deep in a jungle. “Dinosaurs walked our earth long before we did,” a loud voice said and Amma’s laptop flickered to show pictures of dinosaurs. My laptop was there too and Baba’s, each with pictures, videos and graphs.

“So informative,” Aaji said. Who would’ve thought my science project would come in useful?

“And now,” Baba said, “Dino Walk!”

 Amma and I waited with my Holi pichkaris. 

 Amma and I waited with my Holi pichkaris.  | Photo Credit: Illustration: Sreejith R. Kumar

When he brought her back to the balcony, the laptops were gone. Instead, Amma and I waited with my Holi pichkaris.

“Waterfall ahead,” Baba shouted over the thunder of water. Aaji shrieked in joy, as Amma and I sprayed her. The balcony became hot and humid.

“Come on, let’s go to the Haunted House!,” Baba panted.

In the haunted house

My room was in complete darkness so that Aaji wouldn’t see the ropes we had strung around the room. What she saw were the eerie glow-in-the-dark posters and stickers shining bright. Then, I sent a hanky whizzing down a rope and Aaji screamed, “A ghostly hand … touched me!”

I grinned and sent a water-filled balloon towards her. “It’s squishy and cold,” she quavered. “Like…”

By then, I had sent the next item on the rope. Aaji screamed. Floating on air was a face with staring red eyes and sharp white teeth. The torch taped inside the mask gave it an unearthly glow. Aaji took one look and decided that she’d had enough.

“But there’s more,” Baba protested, thinking of the false teeth and staring eyes waiting to be floated. And what about the bowl of human brain meant to land in Aaji’s lap?

“I’ll eat it,” I told Amma. “Red jelly, yum,” I thought.

Aaji had recovered and looked at me, asking, “What next?”

“Swing-A-Ling,” I told her.

We settled Aaji into the basket swing and twisted it round and round. Then, we let go and stepped back. The swing began to spin, slowly at first, then faster. Aji was a blur. All we saw of her were her teeth, flashing past in a big smile. Watching her made me dizzy. I remembered that bus ride to Shimla when I had thrown up dozens of times. Was I going to break my record?

“That was wonderful,” Aaji declared.

“Time to eat,” Amma announced. Aaji ate the burgers and fries, cake and ice-cream. “One day, I want to go to that new mall,” she said, sighing happily.

“If this lockdown ends,” Baba said, “I’ll take you anywhere…even to the moon!”

Uh-oh, I thought, here we go again!


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Printable version | May 12, 2022 4:03:11 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/children/a-promise-of-fun/article65378855.ece