Children

Through the garden tank

After Rahul fell out of the tree, we were told ‘never ever climb trees again’. The next day was perfect with white fluffy floating clouds in a bright blue sky. The grass was as green as green could be and the birds chirped happily, as they went about their work. But, we were at a loss wondering what to do.

Ishaan suggested ‘Kick the Can’ but none of us was interested as it tended to get boisterous and we ended up fighting. Rahul suggested ‘Four Square’. But that too was turned down. ‘Hopscotch’ was a no-no, as it involved standing around watching one player hop around. ‘Jumping Rope’ didn’t seem fun as only two of us could jump at a time. ‘Mother May I’ was considered too tame. We didn’t want ‘Simon Says’, as the last time the game ended in a fight and we didn’t talk to each other for a couple of days. That’s when Smitha came up with the idea of playing ‘Hide ‘n’ Seek’.

“Rahul, with his broken hand, can be the den,” she ordered. “Come on, start counting. Only hiding in the garden.” Obediently, Rahul dragged himself to the tree and began to count. “One. Two. Three. Four…”

Place to hide

We screamed as we ran to hide. I saw Karthik hide behind a large bougainvillaea bush, while Ishaan put a basket over his head. I looked for Smitha, but couldn’t find her. I was so engrossed in watching the others that I got a start when I heard Rahul shout, “Ready or not, I am coming.”

The only place for me to hide in was the garden tank, which, thankfully, was empty.

“Karthik, I can see you behind the bush. You are out…” shouted Rahul.

I pushed myself against the wall of the tank. I lost my balance and fell ... through the wall. I rolled myself into a ball as I hurtled down into the depths of the earth. What was happening? How would I get out? Is this the end? Even as these troubling thoughts swept through my mind, I bounced on flat ground and found myself back in the garden. But it did not seem to be in the same dimension. I couldn’t see Rahul or Smitha or Ishaan or anyone else. I was alone.

Utterly baffled, I looked around and spotted a black blot in the blue sky. It got larger and larger until it landed in front of me. I took in the open umbrella, the black coat and a mid-length skirt and recognised her. It was Mary Poppins. As I gawped at her, she began to sing:

“Ain’t it a jolly holiday

Right as a morning in May…”

I giggled and followed her. She danced and sang and disappeared into the horizon.

A little girl of about seven joined me. She said her name was Madeline. I recognised her as the girl from the old house in Paris that was covered in vines.

“Are you off to the zoo, to say, ‘pooh, pooh’?” I asked her.

“No,” she replied, “just to say, ‘how do you do?’”

I laughed at her wit. We were hailed by a voice.

“Hallloooo! Halllloooo!” we heard. A boy came running up and said, “Hi, I’m Charlie, Grandpa Jo has given me a single silver sixpence to buy a chocolate bar. Would you like to come with me?”

Surprises and shocks!

So we turned around and went with him. He bought the chocolate bar. When he opened it, he whooped with joy. He had the Golden Ticket. We cheered too, as we looked at it.

Just then, a thin, white skeletal hand with long fingers shot out of nowhere and a cold, cruel voice said, “I think I will take that. Thank you.” We gasped. It was Lord Voldemort. That cruel face, the pale chalk-white skin stretched over the skull-like face with snake-like slits for nostrils and red eyes froze us. His hand reached out for the ticket but Charlie was quick. He thrust something into my hand and shouted, “Run!”

I ran like the wind. I felt Lord Voldemort’s foetid breath on my neck, as he followed closely, hissing and spitting at me. Then disaster struck. I lost my footing and went down. I screamed as I saw the skull-like face and the white, cold hands draw close. I covered my face and rolled over.

Suddenly I could hear my name being shouted: “Kavya! Kavya!” I was just about to answer when a head appeared above the wall of the tank. It was Ishaan. “I’ve found her. I’ve found her!” he shouted.

Soon, everyone else was crowding around and someone helped me up. “What are you doing here? Don’t you know the game was over long ago?” asked Smitha, annoyed. “We searched everywhere for you and then gave up.” Reluctantly, she said, “So I guess you are the winner now.”

I had hit the jackpot. Not only had I won the game I had had the most wonderful adventure imaginable. I couldn’t wait to play another game of Hide ‘n’ Seek.


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Printable version | May 9, 2022 6:18:59 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/children/through-the-garden-tank/article65359073.ece