Ekta Mahajan had beautiful red cheeks and pink lips. Her skin was soft and fair like butter. As she was born in Sikkim her pet name was Sikku. She was born to a Punjabi mom who got very angry to have a second daughter and almost disowned the beautiful child at birth. My Mom was in the hospital during her birth. She got very angry and said to Sikku’s mom ‘if you do not want her, give her to me.’ Sikku’s mom in her grief said ‘yes, take her, I do not want another kudi (girl).’ Henceforth, She became my mom’s foster daughter.
Sikku literally started growing up in our house. She used to go reluctantly to her parent’s only at night to sleep. She called my mom Ma and my Dad Bapi (what I used to call). The whole of Gangtok came to know that Sikku was my mom’s second daughter. Sikku started speaking in Bengali instead of Punjabi. She loved fish curry and not rajma. She could recite Bengali rhymes better than me. My mom was proud of her second daughter.
My mom used to do amateur theatre and Sikku became her regular companion for rehearsals. Sikku remembered all my mom’s dialogues better than my mom. In one of the plays, the character played by mom gets killed. Each time my mom rehearsed that scene Sikku used to start crying. One day, she even went and hit the actor who killed my mom’s character in the play. On the day of the play, Sikku was sitting in the audience and prompting the dialogues before the actors uttered the lines. She was actually giving out the spoilers. Those who were sitting near her definitely must have got annoyed that evening.
One day Sikku was playing in our garden and she fell and got a deep cut in her forehead. My mom was in the kitchen, when she saw blood, she didn’t think twice. She just picked up Sikku in her arms and ran to the nearest doctor. She had not worn her sandals or even locked the door. Sikku’s mom saw my mom running with a bleeding Sikku in her arms like a mad woman. She ran to our house and then stood guard at our unlocked door. That was the day I saw both my Mom and Sikku’s mom hugging each other and crying, while Sikku was giving a toothless smile with a bandaged forehead.
Days passed happily in the small hill town of Gangtok. One day rolled into another and then one day my dad received his transfer orders. My mom had never liked Gangtok and always prayed for my dad’s transfer. Finally, dad got transfer orders to Kolkata, my mom’s prayers were answered however she was not happy. It suddenly dawned on her that a transfer meant she would have to part with Sikku. She started crying non-stop. On the day we left Gangtok, my mom was not ready to leave Sikku. She was hugging and kissing her constantly. Sikku didn’t understand what was happening and she found the whole thing quite amusing. She was giggling at the attention she was getting. I even saw a drop of tear in my otherwise strong dad’s eyes.
Two weeks after we shifted to Kolkata, my dad got a telegram from Sikku’s dad that Sikku was very sick. She had stopped eating and was constantly crying holding the lock at our door. It was difficult to move her from the portico of our house. When the next occupant of the house shifted, Sikku went and created a ruckus that why others were shifting in her house. The telegram drove my parents into a shock and within a couple of days, we went back to Gangtok only to meet Sikku.
We went and stayed at Sikku’s house. The moment she saw us her fever went down. She had not eaten properly ever since we left but the moment my mom fed her she finished a full bowl of rice. We spent a whole week at her house and in that one week, the mothers explained to Sikku that we would be gone for some time. This time perhaps the little child understood that few relationships are meant to part.