Daddy woke her up. It was early in the morning. The train was standing in a small station; the lamps on the top of high poles were spreading bright light. There were very few people in the station. All wearing sweaters and mufflers, they looked a little scary, like ghosts of her story books.
“Is it our station?” she asked chirpily, her sweet face glowing with that special excitement which only kids possess and very rare adults. The excitement that generates from pleasant surprises and the world is still new to them, full of joyful surprises and fun.
“No sweetheart!” daddy stroked her cheek. Mommy was packing up their beds in beddings. “Come on! Brush your teeth!” he sat down beside her and started to brush her small, perfect teeth.
When they had returned from toilet mommy has finished packing and was sitting with their breakfast. She quickly ate it and started to look out of window, it was light outside now.
A little later the train pulled in a small station. Dad and mom exchanged their glances and dad got up, “Next station is ours sweetie!” he smiled and started to carry the bedding and suitcase towards the gate. Mommy held her hand and followed him.
The train soon reached next station. The board was old, but she could read the name, Sirsha Halt.
They came down; an old man was standing on the station. There was no one else. The station was so small, and only one platform, there were no other platforms beside it like in her home.
A small room at the middle of the station was the ticket counter. She has learned all these things while waiting for the train in Asansol.
“How are you Rakhalda?” daddy smiled happily when he saw the old man.
The man grinned happily. His joy was glowing in his dark face, making it very beautiful.
“So this is our young mistress?” he looked at Pritha tenderly. “Come didimoni, your grandparents are waiting for you.”
A rickshaw was waiting outside the station, they climbed it and Rakhal uncle followed them in his bicycle.
“How are you dadababu?” the rickshaw puller asked daddy.
Daddy smiled and gestured that he is alright. The rickshaw started to move. It was a high road of red gravels, on both sides there were patches of green fields and shrubs and clusters of trees and bushes.
On one side there was a river, a small one, the trees of the other bank were visible from here. A boat was floating in its water.
“What’s the name of the river daddy?” she asked.
“Chhotonadi.” He replied, his voice was filled with a nostalgia, “I used to come here as child, to fish or bathe. We had to lie at home, still one person or another conveyed the news to grandpa.” He laughed.
“Grandpa used to stand at the gate with a cane in his hand, we used to creep inside from the backdoor and hide under my grandma’s bed. She always saved me.” He chuckled merrily.
“Don’t say these things to her Prasad.” Mommy laughed.
“Hmmm I guess you are right!” he said with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.
“Here we are!” daddy said as the rickshaw pulled in front of a huge house. He went down first and helped them both to come down.
It was an old, very old building, there were ruins scattered all around it. An old lady and an old man were sitting on the benches near the gate. They slowly stood up as they reached them.
“Touch their feet Pritha! These are your grandfather and grandmother.”
She was smothered by her grandmother’s kisses.
“Come son!” Grandpa stepped inside, dad followed him.
Mommy and Pritha stayed back with grandma. “Rakhal, Haru come inside and eat something before you leave.” Grandma called out to the rickshaw puller and Rakhal before entering the gate.
They stepped into a huge courtyard. “This is bigger than our school’s playground mommy!” she squealed with delight.
The grownups laughed.
There was a huge verandah after climbing quite a lot of stairs. “Why is the house so high granny?” she asked.
“It used to flood every monsoon, so our ancestors have built these houses high, to save the houses from flood water.” Granny said.
Granny handed them a plate full of puffed rice and coconut laddoos.
“Come didimoni, let me show you around!” Rakhal was standing at the door.
She returned home at noon, exhausted, happy.
She was lying next to daddy after having the lunch. She wrapped her arms around his neck. “Why did not you brought me here before?” she asked. “It’s so much fun here!”
“I forgot the way!” her daddy said, “I had to find it out!” she looked up and saw drops of tears in his eyes.