There were nearly 50 rupees left in the piggy bank. Mini hardly noticed the thin stream of sadness at spending the money creeping into her excitement as she overturned the piggy and prised open the hole. She coupled her palms to hold the clinging coins and notes together. She put them in the money purse her sister bought her on her last visit home and started for the Archies shop just around the corner. Mini was out with a purpose and that was to buy and send her dear sister a birthday card. This was the first time she was sending one on her own without any help from her mother. And was she proud of herself!
She walked down the isles of cards. There were cards for newborns, for first birthdays, for sweethearts, for friends, mothers, fathers, granddads, grandmas, uncles and auntys…she wanted to buy all of them and send them to everybody she knew. Well, there weren’t many any way. In her eagerness to get to the sister’s section, she cut across the ‘graduation day’ cards and ‘get well soons’ and reached the intended pile leaning against the wall in a plethora of colors. She started from the middle and opened each card and read the words slowly. Most of them wished the sister happiness, joy and May all dreams come true. But mini knew her sister was happy and she was sure to be a success in life. So she put them back and looked for more.
Mini was taking the first major choice in her life. Independently. she was passing one card for another, deciding on each based on the color, the words and pictures printed on them, as she would to books she would read, to friends she will make and to the whole life she will lead..
And she saw her card. It showed a beachside at night and a sassy girl about to blow candles on a pink cake, surrounded by her friends. It simply read “Happy Birthday Sister!! May You Rock In Peace”. She knew instantly her sister would love it. She paid for it and hurried home to send it off.
After reaching her room, she showed the card to her mother and got the stamps needed. She quaintly copied her sister’s office address on the cover and started wondering what personal message she should write inside the card. She wondered if her sister would find out if she copied something from other birthday cards she had received. Or should she go for a designed ‘happy birthday’ with balloons and stars. But her mother was calling her to have lunch and she was definitely hungry after the hunt for the perfect card.
Coming back from lunch Mini crawled back into her bed which was overflowing with sketch pens and glowing inks and more birthday cards. She just couldn’t find anything to write on the card. She sat doodling in the back of a card and that was when she remembered the kissing scene in ‘Shakespeare in love’. She had sneakily watched it when her parents were not at home. Her infant mind had caught the intensity involved in the scene and left an impression. This was what she would send her sister. A kiss on the card.
Mini hurried to her mother’s bedroom. Mother was busy cleaning the kitchen and chatting to her friend over the phone at the same time. Mini chose the brightest lipstick she could find and ran back to her room. She knew how to put it on after her dance recital. She put double and triple coats of the lipstick on her lips and rubbed them hard against each other while facing the mirror. Then she took the card, opened it, pouted her lips and firmly kissed the card.
She was very much pleased with the result and it was with a skip that she ran down the hall and handed over the card to the mali to post it.
The postman at the Thane post office was worried. He knew there was no question of delivering the heaps of mail under the torrent. Water was everywhere and slowly rising in level. The roof leaked and the windows wouldn’t hold together. It had been raining for a week. It was getting dangerous to venture out. He would have given anything to go home, curl into the charpoy and enjoy a hot cup of chai his wife makes. But his superior demanded that he come to the post office till relieved and here he was, cursing his fate…
Suddenly the phone bell rang. He got up and waded through the muddy water to the phone. It was his relieve order. With a sigh of relief he fetched his long black umbrella, locked the door or whatever was left of it, took a long look at the rain and straddled home.
The mails were floating about in the room, thoroughly wet. Inks and colors had spread and disappeared in the water, leaving behind the faints marks of pens which conveyed nothing. Some of the letters escaped through the gap under the door.
Mini’s greeting card sustained the lipstick kiss though it was thoroughly wet. There were a few letters ahead of it in the current through the door gap. Slowly it floated on, hung on for some time beside the gap as if reluctant to go and then drifted out into the streets.