Achu's Bombay Aunty
by Lakshmi Menon
Since the last two weeks, there was talk in the house about Bombay aunty’s arrival. She was his mother's elder sister who had been in Bombay for over 10 years. It was on a Monday that Achu's mother received a letter from her. Since then Achu's mother was busy in making various pickles and chips for her to take along when she would go back.
Achu liked Bombay aunty the most; more than his other aunties. Every time she came, there was something new she would bring for him which none of his friends had. Last time, Bombay aunty had brought to him a magic design card in which he could make hundreds of designs. He walked among his friends with his head high like a hero and became the most talked about. All of them had gathered around Achu and asked him to show the magic designs. Those days he had felt at the top of the world. The year before that Bombay aunty had presented him a polyester shirt. He happily wore it on his birthday. Sunil, the Headmaster's son, was the only other boy who had a polyester shirt in his class; so he was proud of himself equatting to Sunil.
Achu hated his Delhi aunty. She would bring sweets and give it to him with a beaming smile. But later on when the neighbours and their children come home to see her she would inadvertently, almost always; coolly take away the whole box from Achu's hand and distribute them among them. Finally he would be left with only a small share like anyone else. Disappointed, he would complain to his helpless mother in the kitchen.
"If she is my aunty, she should have given me the preference by asking me to distribute the sweets to my friends as I wished," he would mutter.
He disliked his Madras aunty also. The fat aunty would pat him over his head every now and then for some trivial things and make him run about hundred and one times daily either up or down to the stairs or to the shops. Besides, she would always call him 'boy' and never address him by his name. Achu knew that his mother was afraid of her. But she would never utter a word of protest to her.
He looked forward to the 15th of June. Since he was a brilliant boy, his class teacher had given him permission to stay back at home to welcome his favorite aunty.
The previous night Achu could not have a wink of sleep. No sooner he heard the alarm ringing; than he would get up from the bed even before his mother did and would freshen himself up. After his morning chores, he would keep checking every corner of the house to ensure that everything was in order.
In short, his anxiety knew no bounds.
Exactly at seven Bombay aunty arrived in a taxi. A bald headed man, her husband, was also with her. "Hello, Achu...!" Bombay aunty grabbed Achu in her bejeweled hands and kissed him on the forehead. He giggled, 'Oh,God! Hope nobody had seen the scene. Otherwise his friends would have teased him. He looked around and took a deep sigh of relief. However; he enjoyed the fragrance of the scent she had used. She looked like a doll with her face full of make up and the bobbed hair in her pink churidaar dress. Achu mentally guessed she had added another 4 kgs to her weight.
Achu was elated when he was asked to sit for breakfast with his Bombay aunty and uncle. Soon; he came to know that the mustached uncle was not as rough as he had appeared. He spoke to him nicely and gently patting him on his shoulder. About half an hour later;
the house was filled with Achu's friends and neighbours who had come to see the guests.
"Achu, keep an eye on these people. They don't look very honest to me," whispered his uncle in Achu's ears, which only made him feel like a gentleman at least for the moment. When the neighbors had gone, Bombay aunty took Achu upstairs with her. She had opened her suitcase and took out a big packet with his name on it. Achu untied the packet and to his great surprise, he found many presents for him - 2 sets of polyester dresses, an unbreakable water bottle, one red steam engine, a colorful ball and a water proof bag. Achu was elated and found no words to express gratitude. Every day his aunty gave him different types of sweets which he had not tasted hitherto. The days passed very fast. On the eleventh day Achu's mother said, "Achu, they're going tomorrow."
Achu felt very sad. But he could do nothing about it. He realized that within the short time span of a week he was so attached to them that he would miss them terribly. They invited Achu and his mother to Bombay so that they could stay with them. They also promised that Achu would be sent to a good school there and keep a tuition master to coach him in English. But Achu's mother did not agree to their idea. She hopefully expected that one day or the other her long-estranged husband would come back to take their responsibility.
The next day evening, arrangements were made for their departure. Packing was going on for two full days. Achu's mother had no time to relax even for a minute. She had enthusiastically prepared and packed different types of pickles like gooseberry, mango, lime and ginger. Various home made chips were also packed for her sister and brother-in-law. Sunday evening came all too soon. Only half-an-hour was left for Bombay aunty and uncle to leave. Even their taxi had come to drop them to the railway station. Aunty packed her old chappals which she was wearing at home in a newspaper and looked for her high heeled slippers to change over. But to her surprise, they were not to be seen.
"Do you remember where you had left them?" asked uncle scratching his bald head.
"Just here. I remember it very well." Bombay aunty pointed her nail-polished finger towards the corner.
"Yes, uncle, even I had seen them." Achu supported her.
"Then how can they disappear mysteriously?"
"No one enters this room," said Achu's mother.
"Who would take these high heeled slippers in this village?" Uncle expressed his shock. "Check thoroughly…I'm sure nobody would have taken them away."
The taxi driver pressed the horn several times indicating impatience.
"Please tell the taxiwalla to wait for sometime," screamed Bombay aunty.
"He will wait as long as you want, provided you pay his waiting charges. Remember, it is not he who would miss the train if we are late," reminded uncle.
Achu and his mother also joined them in their frantic search of the slippers.
Minutes turned into hours.
"We can cancel our today's trip. Please go and book tickets for tomorrow." Bombay aunty ordered her henpecked husband.
"How can we get tickets for tomorrow now? We'll have to wait at least for a week," uncle was desperate.
"It doesn't matter. I'll wait. By that time go and buy new slippers for me from the city. I won't put a step out without my slippers."
Achu was very happy. Now; Bombay aunty and uncle would stay with them for one more week. In the evening when they were busy chatting in the garden, Achu stole in like a cat and kept back the missing slippers by the door with a naughty smile. The End