Nandu’s sparkling eyes greeted all those who took the stairs up or down. He smiled brightly and wished anyone who took the trouble to meet his eyes good morning in his sing song tone. It was impossible to ignore him.
At one of the flats, Antony uncle who came to put his dust bins out for mom to collect always asked after Nandu.
‘So, how’s the little master today?’ Sometimes Antony uncle held out a toffee, sometimes a pen. Once he invited Nandu to his home. Radha had strictly told his son not to enter anyone’s home, even if they invite him. ‘We should know our place. Tomorrow if something goes missing, they will blame you. Better safe than sorry.’
Nandu was tempted to go in and check but he refused politely. After this Antony uncle only gave him books, colors and other such stationery, he never asked Nandu to visit his flat. Radha told her son, ‘he is a nice man but we have to always be polite and careful. I know you will understand me, Nandu’. Nandu nodded happily. Anything for his mom.
It was the silver haired Anita aunty who Nandu liked a lot. Once Anita aunty had given them lift to their home. She even visited them on Diwali with a packet of sweets and some money and a cricket bat for him.
‘Why, madam, there is no need’, said Radha, wary of accepting free offers. ‘It’s ok, Radha, just take this’. Anitha aunty drove off.
Radha somehow became friends with Anitha didi, who seemed to keep herself busy with one thing or the other. She too smiled a lot like Radha, maybe that’s why the friendship struck.
One day Anita was going on a walk when she met Radha and Nandu.
‘Hello, Radha, ‘Channagidhira’, she said.
‘Audhu madam. Where are you going so early?’
‘I am going for a walk to the lake here. Do you want to come with me, Nandu?’
Nandu looked at his mother for permission. Radha said ok with some reluctance. Getting too close to strangers was not her thing. But Anita di was different.
Nandu turned to Radha,’Amma, thank you’.
Anyways, where did the boy go ever, she thought. At least Anita di was kind and caring and the lake is nearby, she consoled herself.
This was to become a routine. Daily at around 7.45 am when Anita di started off to walk, she was joined by Nandu,the curious, who huffed and and puffed to keep pace with her.
Anita was always particular of her fitness besides her morning walks were her ‘absolute me time’. She always felt charged up for the day after it. When she discovered a lake near her apartment, she thought of getting herself a bicycle but there’s nothing like a walk. In the company of little Nandu, the curious she felt all the more enthusiastic and never skipped her morning walk a day.