A balloon from Chacha

The sense of excitement in the house was palpable. Kamala listened, as everyone talked about a visit by someone called Jagarlanegru. She understood that he was an important person and would pass by their house.

Kamala was dressed in her new red pavadai and had matching ribbons in her hair. “Who is this Jagarlanegru?” she asked.

There was silence for a minute and then everyone burst out laughing.

“Not Jagarlanegru, Kamala,” said her father. “His name is Jawaharlal Nehru. Children call him Chacha. He is our Prime Minister. He is visiting Madras and will go past our house in an hour. We will stand outside our gate and watch, as he drives by.”

Sense of anticipation

Now that Kamala knew who was waiting to see she was excited. At the gate, a crowd had already gathered. Someone had set up a stall selling lime juice, another was frying peanuts. A man carrying a bunch of colourful balloons tried to sell some to grandfather, who told him to move on.

Kamala was disappointed. She would have liked to have held a red balloon to match her pavadai and ribbon. Her cousins too looked wistfully at the balloon seller.

The crowds were getting larger and people were jostling one another. The elders formed a tight group around the children. Someone had started playing music. Loud, cinema music. There was an air of festivity all around.

Finally, when Kamala felt her heart would burst and she could wait no longer a long row of cars came by. Then she saw a car with an open top. In it sat a man wearing a white cap and he had a kindly face. He waved and smiled as he slowly passed by.

“That’s Chacha Nehru,” said her father.

“Chacha! Chacha! Chacha!” they shouted. Kamala jumped up and down with feverish joy. She clapped her hands and waved enthusiastically. Her cousins too did the same. Sriram could contain himself no longer and began to dance. Kamala saw Nehru laugh as he spotted them. Then he leaned forward and said something to the driver. The cavalcade came to a halt.

A balloon from Chacha

Close encounter

The crowd became silent. Big, burly men jumped out of the car behind and rushed forward. Kamala’s face paled when she saw Nehru get out of the car and head their way.

“Did we do something wrong? Is he angry because Sriram was dancing or because we were shouting?” Troubled thoughts went through her head.

But Nehru was smiling as he said something to his men and pointed to the balloon seller. One of the men came back with the balloons clutched in his powerful arm.

Nehru took the balloons and handed them out to each child. By the time he reached Kamala, she could hardly breathe.

She looked up at him and gave him her most dazzling smile. He gave her a red balloon and gently patted her cheek and said, “This is a gift for you from Chacha.”

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2022 5:06:56 AM |

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