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Mon Aug 01, 2011 11:44 am

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“Sumathi! It’s time to wash the dishes!”

Little Sumathi gave a start as her mother’s impatient voice rang through their house. Grudgingly, she discarded her rag doll and proceeded to the kitchen where her mother was tapping the table with her ladle.

“Yes mama…”

She hated doing the dishes. It was tiring, boring, and too mundane. She would much rather be outside, playing with her friends. But no, her father had forbidden it. ‘Times are difficult, and it’s dangerous for a little girl to be outside,” he told her with an edge in his voice.

She didn’t really understand what all the fuss was about. But she could see that her mother was really worried. And her father seemed worried, too, as he always answered questions about the ‘revolution’ with a hushed voice. Now that she thought about it, she realized that her mother had talked in hushed tones as well.

Her parents had to huddle together each time they talked about this “revolution.” It made Sumathi feel like she was being left in the dark about a really, really juicy secret. She really didn’t like it.

Oh well, if they didn’t want to tell her, then she’d find out herself!

She slowed her pace in washing the dishes, straining to hear little tidbits from her parents’ conversation. What she heard, however, were words her seven year old brain could barely comprehend. They said something about a “Mr. Churchill,” and they mentioned something about “It” happening soon. What piqued her curiosity, though, was when they said something about a guy named Gandhi who was, she heard, not eating – had not eaten for days, actually.

“The poor guy,” she thought. One time, she missed dinner, and she became so hungry that she almost cried. She couldn’t take it – that insistent churning in her tummy. It was so…so uncomfortable.

She was down to the last few dishes, so she dallied even more. There was still a lot she didn’t know. However, it seemed that her parents had heard her as they had stopped their serious conversation abruptly and changed the topic to something more mundane – Aunt Ahila’s new baby.

How boring, she thought, finishing up the rest of the dishes with a huff.

Sumathi woke up the next day to her mother’s frantic screaming. She was shouting about freedom and independence and a lot of other things which her young brain could still not grasp.

‘What changed?’ She wondered. The whole day, she kept on trying to find out what it was. But the grownups were much too busy to take notice of her. They were hustling about, talking animatedly with each other, giving each other an excited pat on the shoulder. But nobody – not even her mama – had cared to tell her the secret.

“Sumathi! It’s time to wash the dishes!”

This time, though, there was a happy lilt in her mother’s voice. And Sumathi thinks that whatever it is that changed… it must have been good.

And for her, that was enough.

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