Piece of Cake
"Be careful. Never eat anything given by strangers and if you girls fight again, I will take you to the tallest peak you see and leave you all alone there." The father instructed his children pointing at the silhouette of foggy mountains in the backdrop. Two sweet little sisters who were always at loggerheads - the elder one is nine years and the other is seven years old.
Going to Tirupathi during the winter vacations has always been a great ordeal for the family. This year was no different. The month of December is particularly the busiest, with a deluge of devotees offering their prayers to the almighty.
Return journey after two days of toil, is another challenge altogether.
After a two hour wait for the bus, the family managed to get some space to stand in the bus. The bus was overcrowded. The north east monsoon contributed to the raised humidity levels which resulted in an aroma inside the bus which was a combination of human sweat and sandal paste, that was smeared as an ice cool after shave, on the bald heads of the returning devotees. The nauseating aroma inside the bus in many ways is a gross injustice to the picturesque natural canvass, the bus meandered through.
"One of the girls can sit with us. We can adjust", said an elderly lady, who was travelling with her husband. They were sitting in a two seater and offered to help the younger couple who were struggling with all their might to hold on to the girls and still maintain their balance. The mother gave her a thankful smile and let the younger one to sit with them to the utter disappointment of other. The elderly couple, seeing the eagerness of the kid to look outside, made enough space to let her sit in the window seat. Eager to watch the world passing by, she rushed to her seat.
"Priya, Thank uncle and aunty before you sit there", instructed her mother.
"Thank you very much aunty!" She positioned herself to get the prime view.
For the next hour the ride was with minimum of fuss.
"Would you like to have a piece of cake?" The women offered her a piece of pastry that had custard cream topped with a cherry.
The delicious cake was tempting enough not to refuse. From the corner of her eyes she watched out for her parents, and more importantly her elder sister. They were away from her visibility. So she slowly turned around, keeping her cake down. Her dad was turned the other way, mom's eyes were closed, resting her head on the railing and her sister was happily looking out, clutching her mom's hand. She knew this was the opportune moment!! Just to be sure she looked around once again to confirm that all others were not looking at her. She started eating the cake biting off as large a piece as she could. The custard cream and the cherry was delicious and her appetite increased with every bite. In no time she devoured the entire cake.
With a overwhelming sense of satisfaction she continued to look outside.
"Priya” her mother called out. She was startled for a moment.
"Come here and let Suji sit there for some time. She has been uncomfortable too long." She made her face look so sad and hoped her mother would change her mind.
"Come on Priya!! Be a good girl and come fast", her father said with a compassionate authority, she could not refuse.
Priya reluctantly walked off, smiling at the elderly couple. Her sister, with a triumphant smile, gleefully took over the window seat. Just then, the elderly couple also offered her the very same custard cake. Suji was more forthcoming and directly started eating.
"Amma, see Suji is eating the cake from that aunty." She said that with a sense of satisfaction at being able to catch her sister at fault.
Her mom burst into a fit of laughter and said "You naughty brat! First wipe your face." To her dismay, Priya realized that she had a beautiful custard cream mustache on her face!! ********