Ambika hoisted herself high up on the tree,trying to reach for the ripest of mangoes.It was summer,her favourite time of the year-no school,no drill,no homework!She deftly plucked the fruits one by one,throwing them into the basket her brother held,who was standing on the ground below the tree.
“Akka,finish it fast,Amma will find out!”
“Such a coward you are!” Ambika teased,though she was secretly scared of what her mother would say.She kept a wary eye all around and expertly continued with her job.
“Look at this! A weaver bird’s nest da Aravind!”,she squealed,almost breaking the branch she was sitting on.Aravind started to jump and down in excitement as well,”Where,where?”
Ambika held out a hand for her brother to climb on.He got onto the lowest branch and slowly maneouvred his way up the tree,from where he could have a clear view of the nest.Ambika was smiling in glee and brother and sister exchanged looks of amazement and pride.
“Is it a large family,akka?”
“Yes…Or maybe no…” Ambika wavered,wondering what the right answer would be.She liked to be always right.In this case,there were so many facts missing,like who was the head of the weaver family,how many times a day they went out looking for food,how comfortable the tree at Ambika’s house was to build a home like this one..Phew!Sometimes she wished her brother wouldn’t ask so many silly questions.
Uh-oh.It was their mother calling from the kitchen.In a rush of fear,Ambika scrambled down the tree,like a tiny squirrel.Only when she touched terra firma did she realise that she’d left Aravind behind on the tree.
Frantically,she cried out,”Jump Aravind,jump..”
Aravind,not used to such sudden interruptions of joy and wonder started to wail.Just as Ambika was trying to shush him and get him down,she saw her mother.And by the look on her mother’s face,she knew it was going to be serious.
Her mother’s voice was harsh and stern.
“Do you know how old you are,Ambika?”
Ambika wouldn’t look at her mother in the eye.Yet,she wanted to seem defiant.She looked at her marapachi bommai on the floor lying near her feet and answered nonchalantly,
“You are not a little girl anymore..to be romping about like this..Play with your dolls,do some sketching,some reading,work on your skills..instead of running about in the hot sun and getting your brother also in trouble..do you understand?”
Ambika picked up the marapachi in a fit of rage and threw it furiously onto the floor.Her mother slammed the door on her face.Ambika examined her doll closely for cracks and saw an area where the wood had chipped off,because of her angry fit.Her heart sank.Who will marry her cute doll now?And she’d already promised her a nice groom.She rummaged through her things for a little fevicol,found the broken chip of wood and neatly stuck it onto her doll.There,she was all pretty and nice as before.That night she hushed her little one to sleep,promising her a nice bride groom as she’d always done,every night of her twelve year old life.
As she lay in bed clutching her doll tightly in her hands,Ambika wondered about who would make a nice husband for her.Not somebody too soft and tender,for her doll was a strong woman.And not somebody too fair, for her sweetie was a dusky beauty.And definitely someone caring,for she deserved only the best.Yes,Ambika sometimes ill-treated her doll,but she had not yet learned to deal with her sporadic bouts of anger,and if her doll didn’t understand,who would?
Slowly,her eyes closed and she fell asleep.If angels were true,then they were surely watching over her and they knew her desire to get her doll married was true..
Ambika sat down under her tree,in no mood to jump about, after yesterday’s rebuke. She saw the outline of the beautiful weaver’s nest and wistfully wondered about how many eggs it held within.She had more time to think about the weaver-bird family today, without Aravind nagging her and asking silly questions.The more she thought, the clearer it seemed to her.Everything was just right.Not too fair,not too soft,and who could be more caring and responsible and beauty-loving?
She smiled a lovely smile, which seemed all the more beautiful, because of the thought in her mind.Her princess had a prince! And a handsome one at that!
Ambika rushed into the house,got out the beautiful piece of Zari from an old saree of her mother’s,that she’d been saving for this occasion and draped it neatly around her cute doll.She then sneaked a little kumkum,and haldi and a little string from the kitchen,made a yellow thread and put it around the doll’s neck.Wow,she looks beautiful,she thought.
Wrapping her decked-up bride in the folds of her frock,she tiptoed into the dining hall.There was no one there.She hurriedly grabbed a few bananas,two eclairs and four cream biscuits from the refridgerator and then slipped out slowly into the garden.
She fumbled with the things she was carrying and dropped a few.She gathered them neatly, and looked up at the weaver’s nest.She needed help now.She ran back into the house,found Aravind playing with his new gun and called him to play.Always ready to please his boisterous sister,Aravind complied.
As they neared the tree,she told Aravind in hushed tones,”My doll is getting married today!”. Aravind only looked at her sister in awe.God,she is so smart,why does amma always yell at her then?,he wondered..
Ambika gave all the things she’d collected to Aravind,asking him to hold them carefully.She tied the doll to one end of the sash on her frock and climbed the tree deftly.She peeped into the nest.Mr.Weaver bird was not there yet.Carefully placing the bride at the top of the nest, and wishing the couple good luck,she uttered a little prayer.
She got down and distributed the chocolate and biscuits between them.She placed the bananas on the compound wall for the cows to eat…
She’d found a bridegroom for her doll! Her sweetie was married now!
She took Aravind’s hands in hers.She looked at him and wondered,’Sweet brother of mine…what would I do without him?’.In a spontaneous burst of emotion she spat out,”I love you,Aravind!”
Aravind could only manage a sheepish smile.
[Ambika would be happy to know that she was right with her decision.They make one happy couple :)]
*marapachi bommai:South Indian doll made from wood.