Nandu has been visiting the lake with Anitha aunty every single day. This had become a routine affair for him. He enjoyed listening to Anitha aunty’s stories, the tit bits of wisdom she shared in her animated tone about plants or animals or sometimes just stories.
Radha, on the other hand, found that her son was learning a lot these days and felt proud of her son. Sometimes a tinge of jealousy touched her soul, ‘does her son value Anitha di more now?’ but as Nandu ran back to her after the walk and hugged her, she relaxed and smiled .
In the evenings when the mother and son walked back home after work, Nandu always told Radha about the things he learned that day. Since the school was off, his source of learning was Anitha aunty and those morning walks with her. ‘If only I too had been educated too ‘, thought Radha, ‘but my son is lucky that he has found a mentor in Anitha di. Besides, di has started teaching him to read books in English and Kannada. They say, there is someone for everyone, even someone like me,’ smiled Radha thinking to herself.
One day Anitha aunty did not turn up for the walk, Nandu waited for her for sometime and later decided to go ahead to the lake. There was something about the lake that attracted him. ‘Did the lake too have few friends like him? What about the birds, do they feel lonely too? And miss Shiny scales, what about her?’ Nandu could not help smiling at the thought seeing her again.
He walked hurriedly to the lake and ran around saying ‘sat’ to each tree. This was the game he played in his colony with his friends. He then sat down quietly, brooding. ‘Maybe I should have waited for Anitha aunty? Is she sick?’ he panicked suddenly.
He turned when he heard a loud splash of water in the lake. He noticed how a nearby canal emptied dirty waters into the lake. Some frothing appeared at the mouth of the canal. ‘It must be difficult for miss Shiny Scales,’ he thought to himself.
As if reading his thoughts, a faint hello was heard. He looked around to see if anyone was around. Perhaps hiding behind the trees but no. His attention was drawn to the circles in the water caused by Ms.Shiny Scales. He asked, ‘wait, was it you who spoke?’.
‘Looks like that’, said the voice from water. ‘In fact I too discovered just now that I can speak in your language. You are not smart enough to learn ours anyways, so Turtle dodamma must have played her magic trick on me instead of you’.
‘Btw, I am Meenu, the meemi, glad to meet you, said Ms. Shiny Scales.
‘Oh,’ said the boy blurting ‘, me too’ almost unintentionally.
‘ For many days, I have been thinking of speaking to you, I like the fact that you are a quiet but smart boy’, smiled Meenu, the meemi.
‘Thank you’, said Nandu this seemed to be a normal thing now. ‘Hmmmm…..Maybe some fish do speak actually, maybe Anitha aunty forgot to tell me’, he thought to himself. He made a mental note to tell her about this unusual incident.
‘I don’t have much time, like your Cindrella right, Turtle dodamma’s magic too has a short life time. So, if you don’t mind,I willl come straight to the point, is that fine , Nandu?’, Continued Meenu, the meemi.
‘So, you know my name as well, ‘, asked Nandu.
‘Yes and much more’, replied Meenu, the meemi suddenly all wise and sagely, as she replied in a rather grownup tone.
Time stood still as the conversation went on for about an hour.
Later, Nandu woke up as if from a trance. There was no trace of Ms. Shiny Scales or Ms. Meenu, the meemi anywhere. ‘So, was I dreaming? ‘, asked Nandu himself.
Nandu walked back a bit lost and confused. He reached the apartment where his mother worked looking tired. He hugged his mother tight and went to sleep.
Radha saw that his son had gone to the lake alone. She wanted to scold him for not waiting for Anitha di, but he was so fast asleep that she sat down next to him, on the cot in the parking area, a sort of creche for the workers’ children. She gently put a bedsheet on him and went back to her work.
‘I have to talk to him about this. But first let me check on Anitha di, what happened to her? Poor thing, she stays alone too’. She decided to meet Anitha di during her break.