Children

The Castle in the House: Reality strikes

Nandini Nayar 16 June 2021 13:23 IST
Updated: 16 June 2021 13:23 IST

What happened to Samit’s dreams of building the castle along with Shalu?

Story so far: On Shalu’s birthday she gets ‘The Castle of Your Dreams’, a build-it-yourself castle. But how will she build it on her own?

“Wow!” Samit said. “What fun you will have, Shalu!” Pulling out his phone, he walked away. Had he forgotten that they had both dreamt of building this castle? Or that it had been Samit’s idea that she should ask for it for her birthday? “But it will be our castle!” he had grinned.

Now their dream had come true. But between asking for the castle and getting it, Samit had turned a year older and been gifted a phone. Everything had changed from that moment.

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Changing priorities

In the beginning, Shalu had asked to play on his phone. But soon she saw how he snatched it away within minutes. She had known then that the days of easily sharing things were gone. But what really hurt was how distant Samit had become. He was always hunched over his phone and always too busy to play.

“I hope,” Amma said, “you are going to share your castle with Samit!”

“Of course!” Shalu said. “And we are going to start working on it immediately. Right, Samit?”

Samit didn’t look terribly excited at the thought. When Shalu bounced into his room after dinner, she found him with his phone. The glow of its screen lit up his face, turning him into an alien creature.

“Coming?” Shalu asked.

“Where?” Samit asked irritably.

“To build the castle!” Shalu said.

“I can’t!” Samit announced. “I have homework!”

When Shalu pointed out that he wasn’t doing his homework, Samit only said, “Hmm” and continued tapping on his phone. When he did look up, it was to say, “I can’t help you” with an air of finality. Then he bent over the phone again, Shalu and all the plans they had made together, forgotten.

Can Shalu do it?

Shalu walked sadly down the stairs. It should have been the happiest day of her life but never had she felt so lonely. She stared at the big box for a long time. Did she need Samit to build the castle? Surely, she could build it herself. There were bound to be instructions. “I can follow instructions,” she thought.

Excited, she dragged the box to the little room under the stairs. Amma found her there and asked, “Are you sure you can manage on your own?”

Shalu looked up from the instruction booklet to grin, “Oh, yes. I’ll soon have the castle ready!”

“I am glad,” Amma laughed.

In bed that night, sleep was a long time coming. Shalu tossed restlessly and the wrapping papers under her mattress rustled and crinkled with every movement.

Why, oh why, had she lied to Amma? But, Shalu argued with herself, what else could she have done? How could she tell her parents the truth — that, without Samit, the castle would never be built!

To be continued

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