I used to bring them along to work as they stayed at my office crèche all day. I got popular in the campus because of them. Many a times I have people smiling at me while I’m clueless as to who they are. Now I have got the hang of it and smile back at them. They were given identity cards along with lanyards and they would daily stop by the gate and look at the security guards, exhibit their ID cards and say “Unccccllllllle…. ID Card!!!” It was a welcome change for those people who have to check people’s ID cards only to bear their frowns and irritated reactions. They had befriended most of the employees travelling in my route’s bus. People would bring goodies for them daily evening. Mannat was very shy and clung to me initially. Tamanna was outgoing and she would get toffees / biscuits, she would confidently present her other palm and sweetly ask them “For Mannat?” and bring goodies for her sister. Gradually Mannu came to know that by being with Mommy, she is not at the profitable side. Hence, she decided to come out of her shell and began socializing. They would sing rhymes, hop from seat to seat, lap to lap, listen to songs, identify objects in newspapers and magazines, wear people’s accessories, pose for photoshoots… Those days were very memorable for all of us!
Quoting a few incidents from the daily bus journey here:
- Deepa is the first bencher of our bus and initially my kids could recognize her only when she was seated in the bus. They would be confused when she greeted them in the campus! Tammu shares a strange bond with Deepa as in she would give a share of whatever she is eating to Deepa without second thoughts. I too never got that privilege! Deepa is the first one to get down from the bus and no matter where they are seated, they would stretch their necks, shoot their hands up in the air to say “Deepa aunty… Green chocolate!” Deepa would pleasantly smile with a nod assuring that she will get it for them the next day. And then history repeats itself the next day too.
- Prabha got different names from them at different times. Starting off from Dabba aunty to Yabba aunty to Labba aunty! She is the only person who taught them ‘A for Orange’. They would trouble her to take off her accessories and make them wear those. They would then do a ramp walk in the aisle showing off to all the passengers. One day Tammu told me that “Mamma, Labba aunty doesn’t have a home na? She stays in the bus only” At first I wondered what made her say so. On pondering further I realized Prabha always got down after us and that was the reason Tammu assumed she was homeless! She conferred the titles ‘Tarle Timmi Tamanna’ and ‘Sundari Mannat’ to them which I believe will stay etched in their hearts for a long time to come.
- They would address all men as uncles and women as aunties. Rishma did not like to be called Aunty. She told them that she was ‘Didi’ (as in sister) and they started calling her ‘Didi aunty’. After some days, she again taught them that she was not Didi Aunty but only Didi. After that they would address as ‘Not Didi Aunty, Only Didi’
- There was a girl named Suganthi, they called her ‘Chunthi aunty’. She would draw for them in a notebook. One day they asked her to draw a rabbit. She was caught unawares and she told them that she would draw for them the next day. Poor girl, she went home, googled for rabbit sketches and learnt drawing one just for them. How sweet!!! My kids began demanding a new creature to be drawn daily…
- There is Lamayya aunty, in whose presence I could relax by outsourcing them to be taken care of. She has truckloads of patience in entertaining all their demands. She would bring fruits for them, peel and feed them. She would play games with them, play songs for them. If she was held up with work and couldn’t leave office by 5, she would try to come to the bus just to see them, bid good bye and then go back to work! Unconditional love, I say!
- We then have Devleena, who is called Debbina aunty. They knew each entity that existed in her carry bag. Daily they would bring out everything out of the bag and name it, put it back. Never did I see her getting irritated with the delicate scrutiny crucial that her bag underwent. She lovingly calls them Gublu… She taught them looking out of the window and exclaiming “Kitne saare uncle, kitne saare bike…”
- Once, I had to stay back at office due to some important work and I caught the 7:15 bus. A guy was sitting besides us and was fondly looking at Mannu Tammu. All of a sudden, Tammu tightly hugged me possessively and stared at him with a stern expression and hissed “My Mamma!!!” The guy did not dare look in our direction after that.
- A guy was being playful with Tammu and was showing her his ID card and mocking at her saying she did not have one. She immediately put her head and told him “My Juttu”!!! All people in the nearby seats burst out into a hearty laugh…
Since June, they have been going to school and Route#8 bus misses them. I sadly travel alone and have now started reading and listening to FM after almost a year!!! But their absence haunts me all the time. Just today while I was coming to office, I spotted a train, jumped in my seat and had almost exclaimed “Train!!!” but controlled my urge to do that… They have taught me to keep the child in me alive, appreciate simple things like watching birds, enjoying rain and many simple things which people tend to overlook in this busy mundane world.