Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Ammani's I Ask, You Write 10 - My Story

Read the other entries to 'I Ask, You Write10' here

Somewhere in the dark recess of that wooden cupboard, there is a photo album. And somewhere the middle of the album is a photograph of Vaijayanti. She's leaning against a tree, looking up at something and smiling. What is she looking at? When was this photo taken?

I have only one photo of my daughter Vaijayanti - the one that Magistrate Ramanujam ayya’s daughter Chinnu took just a few minutes before she died. She was only 7 years old. My Vaija was 14 then, the constant companion of Chinnu from the day she was born, as carefree and full of fun and mischief as Chinnu herself. I wonder if Vaija remembers the person she used to be, all those years ago…

Of course I kept telling Vaija to be careful - she was only the cook’s daughter while Chinnu was the pampered, headstrong child of a very rich magistrate. But Vaija didn’t listen… she played along with Chinnu’s wild ideas and enjoyed all the mischief-making. Children never imagine disasters – that is left to the mostly helpless adults.

Magistrate Ramanujam ayya and his wife treated us very well, especially as Chinnu was so fond of Vaija. Vaija was Chinnu’s companion and minder at the same time. They expected her to look after Chinnu and keep her out of trouble - but that was no easy job. How that girl got into mischief! Always running around, always getting into scrapes, never scared of consequences. Maybe my Vaija didn’t always try too hard to stop her because she was such a child herself, even if she was 14 years old.

That day, that terrible day, Chinnu had got a new camera and wanted to take photos from the big mango tree in the garden. Of course she was too short to reach the lowest branch herself, so Vaija lifted her up. I watched from the kitchen window as Chinnu climbed the tree like a monkey. Vaija was leaning against the tree, smiling up at the little girl.

Chinnu took a photo – and then, in one endless moment that I relive in my dreams, it all went wrong… my scream of horror mingling with Chinnu’s shrill cry as she fell headlong from the tree, the smile frozen on my Vaika’s face. That was the last time I saw my daughter smile... the shock and guilt of the tragic fall broke Vaija’s mind as surely as it broke Chinnu’s neck.

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