The house was only a stone’s throw away from our own, but it felt a lot further trotting there on my little legs. It was a hotbed of girls, a kind of sorority, vibrant, sparkling and full of beans. Four femme fatales were aunts, two married and two very young bachelor-girls, and the rest a bevy of girl cousins.
I lucidly remember an afternoon party at the house, arranged by the two youngest aunts, Badi and Chhoti. It was, purportedly, a wedding between my beautiful, buxom and blonde Angela, and Kiko, Cousin Raju’s large baby doll with rubbery curls embossed on his skull.
Clearly decorated as a venue for a wedding, there was a priest and a miniscule fire around which the nuptials were to be solemnized. Hordes of underage wedding guests milled around, bearing gifts and clutching glasses of ‘sherbet’; and a banquet of sorts was laid on the large dining table.
Raju and I took our places around the fire as mothers of the dolls as the wedding got underway. It was so real and so fantastic!
As the guests began to troop out with little farewell gifts after the revelry, Badi and Chhoti produced two identical packages for Raju and me. These were supposedly gifts from our fictional fiancé-brothers, Sunil and Sagar. Sagar, always portrayed as steady and earnest by the aunts, had gifted Raju, senior to me by two years, a beautiful piece of jewellery.
The illusory Sunil was apparently another kettle of fish altogether, so I should actually have known what to expect when I excitedly tore the wrapping from the box and flung it open. Nestling within the expensive tissue was a larger than life cockroach – in plastic, thank God.
The mother of the bride, in classic, time-honoured tradition, sobbed all the way home....!