by Srijaya N Char
Eight year old Tara was sad and worried. She tossed and turned in bed. ‘How will it be if grandma goes away and I am compelled to live with a new mother in this house?’ She had never felt so upset before. She remembered grandma telling her that morning-
‘Tara, you are a grown up girl. You need not be upset about your papa marrying again. In fact it will be nice that you will have someone to care for you. Nina is a nice girl. I know her. She will look after you better than me. I am becoming old and am not able to run and play with you. Nina is young and she will be more of a friend who can play with you and be of help to you in your school work.’
‘But, she is not my mother. She is just papa’s friend. I won’t like it if she comes to live with us.’ She had said.
‘Why don’t you stop thinking about it from now? Every thing will be okay, now go and play with your friends and stop talking about this.'
Tara ran out to play. But she could not understand why her friends were also saying ‘bad’ things about step-mothers. She herself had read stories about step mothers and it had been troubling her.
‘She may not let you carry your precious ‘blanket’ to bed when you go to sleep.’ – One of her friends had said.
‘She won’t let you sleep in your papa’s room anymore’ – another had said.
‘She won’t be kind to you if you throw your toys around your room.’ – had said Govind.
Her little mind was all mixed up. She could feel hot tears wetting her pillow. ‘Why does papa wants to marry again? Isn’t grandma looking after the house and me quite well?’
However much she tried to push these thoughts away they came back again and again and there were umpteen questions in her mind.
‘Why should grandma go away after Nina comes here?’
‘Why can’t she also live with us even if Nina comes here?’
‘I never asked for a mother. Papa was enough for me and grandma is such a darling.’
She did not know when she went to sleep. Next morning, when she woke up, she could still feel something heavy in her heart. When she saw grandma, she run and hugged her and started to cry. ‘Don’t go away please. Stay with us; was all she could say.
She saw grandma’s things all packed and ready and she was about to leave. Grandma kissed her on her cheeks and said ‘Darling, don’t worry. I’ll keep coming back whenever I feel like seeing you.’
Tara’s father literally pulled her away from her grandma and hugged and kissed her. 'Tara darling, grandma has some work at her own home. She cannot live with us for ever. Nina will come and soon take care of you. I will always be there. Now, it is getting late for school and let us get ready.’
From the corner of her eyes she could see that grandma and papa exchanging some signs and grandma went out and closed the door behind her. ‘Yes. She was also crying. Tara was not so naïve. She could see tears in grandma’s eyes too.
‘I don’t know how to bring Tara around. She is acting funny.’ – Papa was telling Nina when Tara had just come in from school. She did not want to be seen. She stealthily ran to her bed room and from the back door. She was curious to know what Nina and papa were talking about. She hid in her room eves-dropping.
‘Don’t be harsh on her Satish. She is still a kid. I was also a kid when my mother died and was brought up by my step mother. She was a very nice mother and I never felt the pang of losing my biological mother. She has a right to feel what she feels. I empathize with her as I had gone through the same kind of trauma when I was 10. All these Cinderella kind of stories get into these children’s mind. Her friends must be putting ideas into her mind.’ – Nina’s voice was soft and soothing.
‘There is a limit to everything. I have spoken to her at length and have been very kind and understanding to her psychology. But she seems to be stubborn.’ – Satish said.
‘Satish, you know what you could have done? You need not have sent away your mother so soon. She could have stayed with us even after we were married until she got used to me. I feel she is more upset about her grandma’s leaving her than your proposed marriage to me. – Nina spoke something that Tara liked.
‘I did not ask her to leave Nina, why will I ever do that? She insisted on leaving because she felt that way she would come closer to you and not cling to her anymore.’
‘Okay Satish, it is time for Tara’s getting back from school. She may not like it if I am here. I should not be hurting her feelings.’ Nina left without looking back.
‘Wait Nina …’ called Satish. ‘Papa, I am here’ shouted Tara.
‘Oh, you are back, dear Tara. Come on. Let me change your uniform. We’ll have snacks and milk.’ – Satish tried to carry Tara.
‘I have already changed and
I do not want snacks and milk. I am going out to play.’ – Tara just ran out of the house.
Satish was surprised at her quickness. The tardy little girl who would never change her uniform and cling to grandma for doing it for her had suddenly grown up. ‘Hey you, Have your snacks and milk, come back.’ – Satish yelled.
‘I’ll come back for dinner, I am not hungry I am going to Sita’s house.’ – She yelled and left.
Tara went and sat on one of the steps of the house of her friend Sita. Sita came down to meet Tara.
‘Tara, do you know something? Your new mother had come to our house today. She was talking to my mother. She spoke to me also. She is such nice and kind person. She asked me a few questions about you and said that you were such a lovely child.’
‘Is that so? She is also very pretty isn’t she?’ – asked Tara.
‘Yes. She left some goodies for you to eat. She felt that you may not receive it from her because you were cross with her. She has left them with my mother. While she was talking to my mother she said ‘She was not a step-mother. She was just another mother. She said she hated the word ‘step’ and did not understand who coined it. She said ‘I love Tara. She is a sweet girl and I am going to be a real mother to her. I hope she will be okay with me.’
‘Bah, you were the one who put ideas into my head about ‘cruel step mothers’ and now you say Nina was sweet, pretty and nice.’
‘Do you know something? She also has a daughter who is as old as you and me. She was telling my mom that her daughter was also angry and upset about moving into your house and having a step-father.’
‘Step father? Who? Where?’ – Tara seemed surprised.
‘I don’t know. Come let’s go and ask my mother.
‘Mama, who is the step father that Nina aunty was talking about?’ - Sita asked her mother.
Sita’s mother took both the kids and made them sit next to her on either side. Your new mother Nina is such a nice person that she has left some nice goodies for you to eat. She has left it with me because she thought you may not take it from her. She ran her fingers through Tara’s hair and said kindly. ‘Tara, she will be a good mother to you. Your grandma had urgent work in her hometown and so she had to go’
‘No, she left because she wanted me to get used to Nina faster.’ – Tara retorted.
‘You are a very clever girl. Listen to me. Your papa will be a step father to Nina’s daughter just like how Nina is step mother to you. You both are of the same age and you will get along very well. She is a nice girl too. She too has her own fears about coming to a new house and living with you and your father. You will now have not only a mother but also a sister. You will make her feel happy and be friends with her, won’t you?’ – She said and looked at Tara’s face intently.
‘Step sister?’ – Tara asked.
‘Whoever it may be, she will be a good friend to you. You will never feel lonely at anytime even when Papa is not there.’
Tara came back home and seemed happier than when she left. ‘Papa, I have some goodies for us to eat. Nina aunty made them for us. In fact my ‘new mama’ made them for us.
‘Papa, I want to meet my new sister. When is she coming? What is her name? Will she be in our school? Will she be in my class?’ – She questioned animatedly and Satish could see happiness in her eyes.
Tara slept well that night. She had beautiful dreams of a fairyland where there were fairies and angels around her who sang for her and she felt happy and relaxed.
That weekend Nina brought her daughter Nita and introduced her to Tara and both of them played the whole day at home and outdoors. She took Nita with her to introduce her to her friend Sita and a whole lot of other neighbouring friends.
A few days later, Tara’s grandmother received a letter from Tara:Dear Granny,
You were right. I want Nina aunty with me as a mother. She is very kind and nice. Now, I have a new sister. We played the whole of Saturday and Sunday. I think it is nice to have her with me all the time. We will go to the same school, eat together and sleep together. I shall never feel lonely again. I want you to come and see our happy family after Mamma moves in with us with Nita.
So, when Nina finally came to the Tara's household with Nita, everything was fine and okay. She came at the time of New Year and the family had a wonderful party for which the grandma was also invited. When grandma asked her what she wanted for a New Year gift, she said: ‘Thank you. Papa has already given me a mother and sister as a real live gift. What more do I need. I am so happy.” ***