“Papa told Girdhariji to drive me straight to you,” she said, barely inside the room. “What happened, grandpa? Aren’t you feeling better?”
“Come here sweetheart. Sit by my side. I need to talk to my darling.”
She sat on the cushioned chair by his bed. Her eyes were busy looking at the small, blue and green lights on the machines that ran wires to him. It was a strange room with a strange smell. There were machines and bottles hanging, all connected to grandpa’s body.
Her hand felt small inside his. But her hands were the biggest in her class. She looked at his wrinkled right hand. It was cold. Then she looked at his face. She craned her neck and with her free left hand pushed back the few strands of grey hair falling on his forehead. She smiled. He smiled back.
“So, how was school?” he asked, as she settled back in the chair.
“School was good. Rahul forgot to get lunch. So, I told him he could share mine. And we had double sports period. I played soccer with the boys. Then there was math. We practiced adding two digit numbers. And there’s no homework!”
“Good. Good. So we can spend some time together. Listen to me now. Grandpa’s body has become very old. Some parts need to be changed. But it’s not certain if the new parts will work alright. If they do, great. But if they don’t, then grandpa will have to go to God. And if grandpa goes to God, you have to promise that you will act like a big girl and you won’t cry.”
She looked confused. “But even if you go to God, you will come back as a child. That’s what happens. And when you come, you just remember to join my school. Then I can meet you every day, again.”
He sighed."That’s true… but I may not be born in Delhi. And you see…”
“No. You tell them that you want to be born in Delhi. They will listen to you. You are a good man.” She cut him short. Then counting on her fingers, she added “This is 2011. If you go to God now, you can join class Nursery by 2015. I will be in grade 5 then. You know how I look. I will always keep my hair like this. And I’m the tallest girl in class. You will recognize me.” She was excited.
He gave up, cupping her cheek in his hand; he looked far away into her face. A nurse came and asked her to wait outside. Grandpa needed to be taken to the operation theatre.
She waited outside, humming a rhyme, pirouetting on the shiny marble. Grandpa was driven out on a stretcher. He looked at her and waved as he was being carried away. Suddenly, something dawned upon her and she froze. Her face drained of color, her eyes welling; she ran after him and caught his hand. “But grandpa, you will come only after four years! Who will I talk to till then?” she burst out crying. “What will I do without you?”
Her father caught hold of her and freed grandpa’s hand. She was inconsolable.