[ Short Story] Afternoons in Childhood
Amrit threw down the pencil in frustration. Doing fraction sums on a half empty stomach upon a Sunday afternoon was neither easy nor desirable.
His stomach growled.
He should not have protested so strongly about the beetroot curry. He went into the kitchen to see if his lunch plate was still there. His mother sometimes left it covered, knowing that he would return, even adding an enticement like papad or a small bowl of sev.
But today, she had been particularly annoyed.
He tiptoed into his parents’ room to see if they were asleep, then he crept out of the house, wheeling his bicycle to the elevator.
His lived on the fifth floor of a 9 storey apartment block.
He pedaled to the back yard to check if any of his friends were playing.
No one was about.
The summer sun hovered threateningly above, shoving
Crows waddled about, pecking at food droppings from over flowing dumpsters their feet half buried in the soft-top soil.
He chased them on his bicycle. They rose cawing furiously; some flew threateningly above his head.
He soon grew tired of this pastime.
He circled the building and through shaded eyes scanned the monolithic column to see if any of his friends were playing in the balconies.
Suddenly, the smell of potato bhajjis roasting in hot oil, assailed his nostrils. The hunger he had kept in abeyance, rose again.
He took a couple of listless turns around the building.
He hesitated. Perhaps, it was time to go home. His mother might relent or, would she?
He made his way irresolutely towards the elevator.
He left his cycle in the corridor and rang the bell.
Lalitha opened the door; her right hand was caked with flour.
He saw Vipul at the head of the table, his cheeks bulging with the bhajjies stuffed hurriedly into his mouth.
Vipul glared at him, shaking his head vigorously, signalling him to leave.
“Aunty, I wanted to see if Vipul wants to play…” He gave her his winning smile.
She nodded and let him in.
He smiled triumphantly.
He had been right about the house.