We are visiting Meera aunty. I like Meera aunty because she doesn’t pull my cheeks and call me chubby cheeks. Ma also likes her. You know that by watching ma smile. When she smiles at people she don’t like, Ma flashes her teeth and stops smiling quickly.
Ma and Meera aunty are lying down on the floor.
'I love Saturdays. Life slows down and Monday is aeons away’ Ma smiles at the ceiling.
Ma said Meera aunty is her best friend. A best friend, she said, is someone with whom you can be yourself. I did not know how anyone can ever be some one else. ‘Never mind, you’ll learn with time’ she had said.
They are talking and laughing. Meera aunty’s face is animated.
‘And she has the audacity to tell me ‘‘Meera your house doesn’t smell of spices’’. God! when will people learn to unlearn these stereotypes’
‘Yeah. They look at us and see curries and elephants and snakes and half-naked fakirs’
Ma laughs. She is pretty when she laughs.
‘Mom, can I go out and play?’ Akash asks.
‘Not today dear. Why don’t you watch some cartoon with Nita?’ Meera aunty says .
Akash looks at me. He is nine and big. He doesn’t like me, I can see that, but lets me watch TV. Ma and Meer aunty are giggling and it makes me happy. I want to tell Akash that his mom is my ma’s bestfriend, and that you can be yourself and someone else. But I am afraid because he says ‘girls are sissies’ and he is nine. I take out my coloring book and sit by Ma. ‘Don’t you want to watch cartoons?” Ma says. I shake my head and start coloring. It always works. They think I cannot hear them when I am coloring or reading. I like it too, lets me be a part of their world .
A boy walks in . He is holding a ball.
‘Mrs. Agarwal, can Akash play with me?” he says.
‘No dear, we have company. Thanks for asking” Meera aunty says.
Akash comes running “ Mom I want to play with Benny”
‘Listen Akash, It’s rude to leave when you have company’ Meera aunty’s voice is sharp.
The boy looks at Akash and leaves.
‘Neighbour’s kid’ Meera aunty says. ‘I try to keep Akash from getting too chummy with them. You know these Black people …’ she whispers.
‘Yeah. You never know what our kids will pick up from them’ ma says .
I wish Meera aunty would let Akash go because now he will think that ‘girls are sissies and stupid’.