Excerpt: The Clockmaker – A spark in the rain

Here is a small excerpt from my upcoming novel THE CLOCKMAKER. Hope you enjoy it.

***

It had started raining since the evening. A heavy downpour followed by drizzle. With the onset  of the monsoons it was predictable. It was chaos everywhere. The routes were jammed due to water logging on the streets and the traffic came to a standstill in a short while.

Vicky was waiting for Kavya in the parking lot. He knew it would be difficult for her to drive back to her house in her scooty in this weather. So he waited there to help her out.

Kavya came out of the institute in a while. She was very upset to see the chaos on the road. It was already late and she didn’t want to keep her mother worried at home. She called her up to inform that she would be home late due to the traffic.

She pulled her bag above her head and ran to the parking lot. She was almost drenched by the time she reached there.

“Damn. How am I going to make it to Noida in this weather?” She cussed.

“May I help you?”A voice asked from behind. It was Vicky. He had gathered a lot of courage to say those words to her. His heart was racing fast as he waited for her answer.

Kavya turned around and saw a guy standing. His nervous black eyes were the first thing she noticed. It matched his anxious voice. She remembered seeing the guy in the class. One of the back benchers. She dismissed him immediately saying, “No. Thanks,” and turned back. She started her scooty and drove off without giving a second look to him.

Vicky sighed as he watched her go. “Damn! How stupid I looked?”index He said to himself and started laughing. “You need lessons from your old man again,” he reminded himself. His Nanu had been of great help to him when he set out to make his first girlfriend at the age of thirteen. He started his bike and trailed Kavya which he often did without her knowledge.

Kavya couldn’t reached very far. The route she usually took was completely jammed due to the rains and there was no sign of relief any time soon. Most of the people were already reversing their vehicle. So Kavya also thought of doing so.

She took a right turn and didn’t notice the speed bumper ahead. Before she could apply the brakes she lost her balance and bumped into a standing vehicle. The impact threw her out of the bike on the water logged road.

The vehicle was a brand new car and the impact broke one of its tail lights.

Kavya stood up shivering – more from the shock of the accident than her wet clothes. She was drenched completely and her hands and knees were bruised.

Instead of helping her, the driver of the car, she had bumped into, got down and started arguing about the damage done to his vehicle. The poor man was concerned that the car owner will deduct the damage from his salary. People started gathering around and it terrified Kavya more . She was so terrified that she hid her face in her palm.

Vicky reached there in time and found Kavya panic stricken amid the crowd. He didn’t lose a second and took the situation in his hands.

He got down from his bike and yelled at the crowd, “She is with me!” Within a few strides he stood right in front of her.

Kavya heard a familiar voice. She opened her eyes slowly and was curious to find a guy standing in front of her with his back towards her. His broad shoulders shielded her completely from the crowd.

“I will take care of it. Just don’t worry.” He stated.

Kavya remembered the voice. It was of the same guy in the parking she had met a few minutes ago. But his voice sounded so authoritive now.

He spoke something to the driver and he went away without saying  another word. The crowd too disbursed immediately.

He then turned back to face Kavya. “Are you alright?” He looked concerned.

Kavya looked into those eyes once more but could not hold his gaze for more than a few seconds. She was ashamed of her rudeness earlier. She nodded looking down.16445177980_40092b40ae_b

Vicky bent down and picked up her bag from the road. He looked around for her scooty. It stood a few meters away. Someone in the crowd might have picked it up. He went to check it. He started the engine and it roared. He looked at Kavya who was still standing there where he had left her. The rain water washing off the mud stains off her fair skin. He then noticed that she was shivering.

He came over to her and took off his rain jacket and offered it to her.

“Your scooty is fine.” He informed her.

Kavya remained silent. She knew she couldn’t make it home alone but she didn’t have the courage to say it. She started weeping.

“Damn! No! What happened? I am sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you anyway.” He was confused.

Between her sobs Kavya said, “No I am sorry for my rudeness. Please take me home. I can’t ride my scooty.”

There was silence for a moment.

Kavya wasn’t sure anymore what to expect and Vicky was speechless hearing her words. How much he had waited for a moment like this and now he was zapped. He could feel the blood draining his ears and cheeks red as his heart raced.

Then she heard him say. “Don’t worry about your scooty. I will get it picked up by my friend. Come on lets go.”

Kavya followed him quietly to his bike and pillion rode the entire way to her house in Noida. Nobody spoke in between. They spoke only for directions.

Kavya was still in shock and Vicky too cautious of her nearness to him. And it drizzled all the way.

When Vicky stopped the bike in front of her apartment Kavya got down and throwing a small, “Thank you,” behind her ran inside without looking back.

Vicky stood there watching her enter the building. He looked up towards the sky and a smile swept his lips while the rain drops splashed on his face. He started the engine and biked all the way home in super speed.

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Grow Up Messy! Chapter 3

Chapter 3 I Am Bride

Misry had nothing to do. After her last fight with Bheeru, she knew he wouldn’t let her play with any of the children in the village, let alone with his goat kids. After all, it was on Bheeru’s recommendation that the village kids allowed Misry to join the gang but now that he was furious with her, she was certain there was no use going there for few days. They wouldn’t play with her.

She looked out of the window. It was pretty bright outside. Summers in this part of the country were hot and humid. Her intention of talking to the Jawans on sentry duty at the camp gate was also not very tempting at this hour. She turned her attention to Raju.

As usual, Raju was busy with his comics: Phantom, Bahadur, and Batul The Great, one of the favorites of the Bengali teenagers. He had a huge collection of them and carried them wherever he went. Misry envied him for this. She was too young to read on her own and Raju didn’t even allow her to touch his comic books. Sometimes she would persuade him to let her clean the box and then she got a chance to hold them. She would flip through the pages lazily looking at the comic strips and trying to understand the story before neatly keeping them back in the box. How she wished Raju would tell her the stories.

Nevertheless, her quota of stories was fulfilled by her father. Every night while putting her to bed he would narrate a beautiful story. Sometimes of his childhood or his BSF stories or one of the stories he had read. They were always full of adventures and Misry would always wonder if she would ever get a chance to have any at all. In her father’s absence, it was her mother’s duty to tell her a story. Her stories mostly were folklore or mythology that Misry could connect with very easily.

However, her concern as of now was how to kill time. She had nothing to do. She went to the bedroom to look for her mother. Madhavi had just come out of her bath and was draping her saree. Misry watched her mother, her eyes wide with admiration. The lady always looked so fresh and beautiful after her bath. The little girl stood beside the dressing table watching Madhavi , who wiped her wet hair with a dry towel.

“Misry, What are you looking at Shona?” Madhavi asked.

“Ma, you have such a long hair. When will my hair grow long?” Misry replied, looking at her pigtail in the mirror.

“You have to take care of it, sweetheart. Brush it every day, oil it and keep it clean. Then you too will have long hair, just like mine,” Madhavi replied.

“But it hurts when I brush, Ma,” Misry complained.

“Hmm, I know. It’s because you have curly hair, Sona. But you have to take pains for any gains you want, dear.” Madhavi advised.

Misry nodded.

Madhavi brushed her wet hair. The drops of water fell on the floor. A few fell on Misry’s face too. She put out her tongue to catch them. Then she watched Madhavi make a small vermillion dot on her forehead using a small silver pin. Then she put a small amount of vermilion in the parting of her hair, just above her forehead.

“Ma, why do you do that every day?” Misry asked.

“This is a ritual which Hindu married women carry out for their husband. When you get married, you will do it too,” Madhavi replied.

“I don’t want to get married, Ma,” pat came the answer.

“Why not sweetheart? Every girl has to marry one day.” Madhavi reasoned.

“I won’t. I don’t want to leave you and Daddy,” Misry replied.

“But marriage is a great experience in a woman’s life. She gets lots of new sarees, jewellery, gifts, and many more things for her wedding.” Madhavi explained.

“And what else?” Misry’s interest was aroused.

“She is dressed up like a princess, in a lovely red banarasi saree that has a broad zari border. Her hair is done in a bun with lots of pearl pins. She wears a golden tikli, on the parting of her hair that beautifully adorns her forehead just above the vermilion dot. A nose pin which has a chain that hooks into her hair on one side, bangles, a big necklace and earring set too. Her feet and palms are covered with designs made with alta. She puts on a red dupatta and a white crown on her head to complete her bridal makeup. She looks the most beautiful on that day and everyone just keeps looking at her.”

“Were you also dressed like that for your wedding?”

“Yes, dear. And I looked gorgeous that day. Your daddy could not take his eyes off me. People said that I looked like Ma Lakshmi Devi.”

“Ma, will I also dress up like that on my wedding day?”She was curious to know.

“Of course my darling! Even better than that.”

“Fine, I will also marry,” she said. Then, tilting her head to one side she asked, “But who will I marry, Ma?”

“We will choose the boy for you, dear?”

“Fine! But I will have to do a check upon him first.” Misry sounded little doubtful.

“Why? What do you want to check?” Madhavi asked.

“What if he doesn’t know how to climb trees or swim in the river? Our team will be a loser team then!” She said slowly, sounding concerned.

Madhavi smiled and said, “Oh! We will find an all-rounder boy then. And you will both make the best team ever.”

“Promise?”

“Promise.” Madhavi assured her and went out of the room to do her daily chants and prayer.

Misry stood alone silently, watching her own reflection in the mirror, deep in thought.

***

Later in the evening.

Pallavi was sitting in the verandah. She loved sipping her evening tea enjoying the cool summer breeze from the river flowing beside their camp. Amazingly, in this part of the country, even in the summer with no electricity there was hardly any need for the ceiling fan. The vegetation and the water bodies surrounding the area were sufficient enough to keep the rooms airy and cool.

Pallavi was reading her father’s letter that had arrived in the mail in the afternoon. Just then Anurag, who had just returned after a match of volleyball with his boys, came to the balcony and sat down in the cane chair, next to her’s.

“So, what has your father written in his letter?” asked Anurag stretching his feet. He knew about his in-law’s letter since it was addressed to him. He hadn’t opened it but had sent it home to Madhavi.

Pallavi blushed hearing the question. She looked up at Madhavi who had just joined them.

Madhavi handed over the towel to Anurag and replied, “Baba’s written that the groom’s family have liked Pallavi’s details and the matrimonial photograph which they have sent forward to their son by registered post. They are now waiting for their son’s approval.

Anurag smiled at Pallavi and gave thumbs up to her.

Just then the orderly, Goura, appeared with lemon juice for Anurag.

Anurag wiped himself with the towel and picked up the glass of juice from the tray.

As Goura turned to go Madhavi instructed him to put on the generator.

In a few minutes the loud sound of the generator started from the backyard of the house illuminating the house with lights.

Misry had finished her glass of milk that her mother had given her before going out to the verandah. This evening too she didn’t go out to play with the kids and spent her time riding her bicycle in the courtyard. But now with the room illuminated Misry quickly made up a plan while the rest of the family sat outside in the verandah gossiping.

She put on her half saree, applied vermilion on her forehead and head partition, put on the lipstick and blusher. Then she took out her imitation jewellery set and put it on. It had a golden tikli, nose pin with chain on one side, necklace set, bangles, and anklet. She did some designs on her feet and palms with the Alta. Finally she finished by putting a red dupatta over her head. By the time she finished the room was a mess.

When Madhavi entered the room to put out fresh clothes for Anurag from the wardrobe to change into after his bath, she was in for a shock. The floor was smeared with the Alta and talcum powder while her makeup kit lay disarranged on the dressing table. The vermillion case had fallen upside down on the floor with her only lipstick shade smeared in it.

Furiously she shouted at Misry to punish her. But her heart melted when she saw her daughter.

There on the middle of the bed Misry sat, dressed as a Bengali bride.

“Ma, ami bou. Do I look like Ma Lakshmi Devi?”Misry asked innocently.

The little girl’s effort stole Madhavi’s heart. Her voice chocked as she said, “Yes, my sweetheart. You look more than that, My Durga Ma. Wait I will call Daddy”. She went out of the room to call Anurag.

When Anurag came in the room he was speechless. Instantly he visualized that one day she will be married off and go away from him. He took out the camera and clicked her pictures. These memories will remain with him forever.

Madhavi hugged her daughter and said, “So now you are going to leave us?”

The question confused Misry. “Why Ma?”

“Because married girls have to go away to their husband’s house,” answered Madhavi.

“I am never leaving you and Daddy. I shall take you along wherever I go,” Misry answered without any doubts.

Anurag and Madhavi started laughing and hugged her again.

Madhavi whispered, “Don’t GROW UP MESSY.”

 

Grow Up Messy! Chapter Two

Chapter 2 Bheeru Wants Revenge

It was a still, fine morning and Misry didn’t even wait to eat breakfast. All she managed was to get out of her nightwear and put on something decent before escaping from the house unnoticed. Ever since her mother gave her permission to visit Bheeru, she had been anxiously waiting for the morning to arrive. And now she stood shouting, outside Bheeru’s mud house.

“Bheeru! Bheeru! Where are the goat kids?” Misry shouted.

The mud house was single storey structure with a courtyard in the middle of the house. There were several rooms surrounding the courtyard with one side open for the hand pump and the barn.

A dark skinned bald boy appeared from inside the hut. He was wearing khaki shorts fit enough for two on the lower half of his body while on top was a white vest with short sleeves and he stood an inch or two taller than Misry. He stood bare-footed in front of Misry, holding his chin high. The birth of the goat kids was a great moment for him to showdown Misry who did not leave any chance to show off.

A few days ago, Misry had shown him the new toy that her father had bought for her from town. It was a military truck with nine wheels. It worked on battery and could move about easily, even in soil. All the while Misry never even once allowed him to touch the toy and then she suddenly ran off home saying she had heard her mother calling her name.

So today, Bheeru knew it was his day. He had something to show off about too.

“Come, I will show you! I am sure you will love them,” he said confidently and escorted her to the backyard.

There, under the shade of the mango tree, stood the goat kids. Two of then, just like the nanny goat, black and white, while the third one was completely white. Misry watched the kids suckling milk. After feeding, the trio hopped and jumped around while the nanny goat stood vigil.

Before Bheeru could stop her, Misry ran to grab the white kid but it jumped off and ran away. However, Misry didn’t give up and she started running behind it. As she ran, she took hardly any notice of the other things in the surrounding.

Right in the middle of the courtyard, Bheeru’s mother had laid out a cotton sheet on which she had spread out small chunks of Amiyas, to dry. Once they dried up she would mix them with spices to make delicious mango pickle.

Misry running blindly behind the white goat kid tripped over the edge of the sheet on the ground and fell headlong into the dried Amiyas. The yellow stains, of the turmeric-covered Amiyas chunks, were all over her frock.

Bheeru had been waiting patiently for this.

He stood watching her fall, a sly look on his face. It was revenge time. Misry had insulted him the previous day while they were playing with the other kids. She had deliberately held him responsible for the loss of their team in the Kabaddi match. This was his time to avenge his insult.

He knew his mother had taken lots of effort to put the Amiyas to dry and would freak out on seeing the condition of her hard work since all the Amiyas lay smeared in soil. He wanted his mother to catch Misry red-handed. So he raised an alarm.

“Ma! Ma! Look at what Messy has done?”

The lady came out of the house shouting. She lost her temper instantly when she saw the Amiyas. But before she could say anything she saw Misry’s badly bruised knee and frock smeared with haldi.

Seeing her getting angry, Misry began crying, pointing to the bruise on her knee.

The lady forgot about her Amiyas and helped the little girl to her feet. She tried to console the child by wiping off the tears with the corner of her saree. She also began yelling at Bheeru for not taking care of the little girl.

“You good-for-nothing boy! Fetch me some water from the hand pump!” Then she turned to Misry and said sweetly, “Don’t cry Messy baba. I will put medicine on your knee and it will become all right.”

Muttering under his breath, Bheeru went to the hand pump,“What did I do now? I didn’t do anything. Why don’t you yell at her?”

“Don’t talk. Push the pumping rod!” snapped the lady. She took Misry to the hand pump and began rinsing her frock with the water.

The pumping rod was so tight that Bheeru was literally hanging onto it in order to pump out water. He looked at Misry who smiled back at him, jubilant on her victory.

Bheeru did not utter a word but knew what he to do to avenge this insult. He made up his mind that he wouldn’t let Misry near the white goat kid again till she bent on her knees before him and begged him for forgiveness.

The thought put a smile on his face.

***

Back home, Misry lay beside her mother for an afternoon siesta. She hardly slept in the daytime, mostly out of fear. She knew, with everybody else asleep in the night, she would have to fend with the ghosts alone. The very thought gave her goose bumps.

“Close your eyes, sweetheart!” Madhavi crooned softly in her ears.

Misry closed them immediately while Madhavi patted her gently, humming a lullaby. Her thoughts were on the white goat kid. –

how it jumped, how it ran, how it suckled the nanny goat.

Suddenly, Misry crawled up on her four limbs and started pushing her head against her mother’s breast.

“What are you doing?” Madhavi asked, caught unawares by her little daughter’s action.

“I am a white goat kid and it’s my feed time,” she said and started pushing her head again.

“Misry! Stop it! You are hurting me!”

“Maah…Maaah…Maah!” Misry mimicked the baby goat’s cry.

“Okay, so you are a white goat kid. What else can you do? ” Madhavi asked, to divert Misry’s attention.

Misry jumped out of bed and started running all around the house shouting, “Maah…Maah.”

She went to Raju’s room where he was sleeping peacefully with his mouth open. Misry made a pair of horns with her index fingers and jumped on the bed. Before Raju could realize what was going on she started punching the horns in his stomach saying, “Maah…Maah.”

Raju was very sensitive to tickling. Just a mere display of fingers activated him. Misry was well aware of it and continued tickling him with her finger horns.

Raju burst into uncontrollable laughter and begged Misry to stop but the little devil was in no mood to obey.

Their cries woke up Pallavi who was sleeping in the adjacent room. She walked into Raju’s room and saw him giggling while Misry was tickling him.

She just yelled, “GROW UP MESSY!!”

Grow Up Messy!

Chapter 1

Misry Craves Friends

“Ma! Why does everybody call me MESSY? I don’t like it! ” Misry complained.

Madhavi was performing her evening prayers sitting on the floor. She blew the conch shell and continued chanting with her eyes closed. On hearing Misry’s words she gestured to her to wait.

Misry stood waiting by the door of the small puja room, watching her mother.

In a couple of minutes, Madhavi, with folded hands, bowed down to the deity and finished her evening prayers. She got up and turned to look at the child.

Misry stood with a scowl on her face. Her long curls danced when she spoke, doing very little to hide the expression on her small round face. Her lacy green frock was anything but tidy while her hands and feet were smeared with soil as usual. The strap of one of her sandals was hanging by a thin thread and she looked messy. Her inquisitive brown eyes, which she inherited from her father, flashed with anger as she breathed heavily.

Madhavi was sure Misry had fought again with the village kids. Naughty as she was, Misry always befriended children older than her age and that too boys. She was just five years old but acted like a nine year old and invited trouble for herself. However, Madhavi knew how to soothe the child.

“Come here, shona. Tell me what is bothering you?” Madhavi replied stretching out her arms.

Misry didn’t waste a minute. She ran into her mother’s arms and hugged her.

“Ma, Raju keeps calling me MESSY. Now the others too have started calling me the same. I am warning you, I will kill Raju.” Misry cried.

Madhavi kissed her on the cheek and said, “Okay, I will tell him not to bother you anymore. But promise me that you will listen to him. After all, he is your cousin and much older to you.”

“But he plays with me and rides my bicycle too.” Misry nagged.

“Just to give you company, sweetheart. And that too, all the way from Calcutta. If he had not come, what would you do? You’d be alone all the time. As it is there are no other children in this camp. If Raju had not come here, you’d be bored, my child. ” Madhavi reminded her.

Misry thought for a while then replied, “Phulwa and Bheeru are my friends. I can play with them.” She lifted her chin and looked very convinced.

“Of course, you can. But they are civilians. So they are not allowed inside the camp premises and I cannot allow you to go out either. So you see, Raju is really taking good care of you,” Madhavi replied.

But Misry was adamant. “Ma. I don’t want to be at home all the time just because my friends are not allowed in the camp. Bheeru’s house isn’t very far and I can go there. Moreover, I have seen Bheeru’s father in the camp many times. If he can come inside, why can’t Bheeru? Raju does not like playing outdoors; he only loves to read comic books.”

“Reading comic book is very entertaining, Shona. And as far as Bheeru’s father is concerned, he is the village headman and is invited by your father for office work,” answered Madhavi.

“But I want to go to his house tomorrow!” Misry begged. “Bheeru’s goat has given birth to three kids. I want to see them.”

Madhavi knew it would be too hard to stop her little daughter when it came to animals. She had inherited her love for animals from her Dadu, Madhavi’s father, who owned a big farm- house full of animals, in a sleepy town, Ashoknagar, on the outskirts of Howrah. That is where Misry was born and remained till she was two.

Misry missed her friends. Madhavi could see that she craved the company of children. Since Bheeru’s father was the headman of the village Madhavi allowed Misry to visit their house.

“Fine. You can go to Bheeru’s house tomorrow, in the morning,” Madhavi said, finally.

Misry giggled in delight.

“But I want you to clean up before Daddy comes home,” Madhavi said, reminding Misry that it was time for Anurag to come home and she didn’t want him to see Misry in this condition. Taking Misry’s hand in her own, Madhavi led her to the bathroom to wash up and change.

***

Life was very different since they shifted to this border outpost ( B.O.P). Misry was missing both her friends and school while Madhavi missed her life too as an officer’s wife. Earlier she used to be very busy with the welfare association, ladies club, kitty parties and all but here she was devoid of everything including electricity.

The comfort of electricity was limited to only an hour or two in the evening and that too by a generator for the residence. For the rest of the evening, the rooms were illuminated with lanterns and oil lamps. The radio was their only means of entertainment.

Misry’s father, Anurag, was an officer in the Border Security Force ( B.S.F) and work kept him away from family for a long time. After all, keeping vigil against any intrusion on the international land borders of the country was not an easy job. Several times he was stationed at insurgent zones and had to leave his family behind.

When Anurag and Madhavi were getting ready to welcome Misry into this world, Anurag was transferred to an interior location in Assam where the families were not allowed. Since he didn’t want Madhavi to be unattended while he was gone, he had sent her to her parent’s house in Ashoknagar where Misry was born after a month.

Misry grew up surrounded by her cousins, aunts and uncles and not to mention the animals for company. Anurag used to visit them quite often.

When Misry was three years old, Anurag was stationed in the Battalion Head Quarter (HQ) and Madhavi was finally able to move in with her husband. Anurag got the opportunity to spend time with his little daughter whose growing years he had missed terribly all those months. He was very excited about his newfound fatherhood and spent most of his spare time with Misry. He would even take her along to his workplace on several occasions and loved boasting about his new status of life.

The Jawans too loved to have the naughty little girl around. Misry would never stop her crazy questions and they never failed to answer her. In fact, the name, Misry, which meant sugar candy, was suggested by the Jawans themselves. And Anurag and Madhavi had no hesitation in re-naming their little daughter after it.

After two years, Anurag was posted in the BOP again. This time he was stationed in a small village near the Indo-Bangladesh border in West Bengal. He was allowed to bring along his family so Madhavi and Misry shifted in with him. However, the situation was very different from staying in the HQ. Anurag’s family was the only one staying in the BOP camp along with the Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) and Jawans. Misry had no friends to play with and Madhavi too had nobody to talk to.

Anurag quite often had night duty.. He would go unannounced sometimes and return early in the morning. Madhavi was very skeptical about spending the nights alone in the bungalow with a child. Although there were sentries on duty outside and also Jawans who would fall in whenever she needed help but that never satisfied Madhavi. She needed company inside the house in the absence of Anurag. So she had invited her younger sister Pallavi, who had just finished college, to stay over until her marriage was fixed by her parents. Pallavi readily agreed and was escorted by her nephew Raju.

Raju was Madhavi’s elder sister’s younger son. He was a special child. Although he was ten years old yet he behaved like a six year old. He didn’t have much interest in school and was switched to homeschooling. But that too didn’t benefit him much and hence was taking a short break from studies. So he immediately agreed to come along with Pallavi Mashi to stay over for few months.

Misry loved their company in the house and so did her parents. However, her craving for children of her age, to play with, was not fulfilled with the presence of her aunt and cousin.

After Pallavi’s arrival, Misry got a new set of clothes for her doll from her. She also got other lovely goodies which Pallavi was expert at making out of waste material. She was the one who taught Misry dance steps to popular Bengali folk songs that Misry then loved to flaunt to her father during their evening gatherings.

The family usually sat together around the lanterns and spent time chatting with each other or listen to the plays on the radio. Singing folk songs or movie songs together was also one of the means of recreation. And there was plenty of time to watch the night sky. It was the activity Misry enjoyed the most. She would lie beside her father on a cot in the backyard and spend her time counting the stars or listening to stories from him while her mother cooked the dinner. Sometimes she also wore her half saree and danced to the music on the record player.