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Dancing Tumbler

Priya and Preethi were waiting for Sitapur station to arrive. They had been longing to meet their cousins. They were aware that their uncle would be waiting for them at the station. They asked Amma “How long will it take? You have been saying that it will take 15mins for station to arrive from past 1hr.” Amma was having a tough time answering the over-enthusiastic children. How should she explain them that the train had halted in the outer?

She had already packed back all their games as the station was approaching. If her husband would have accompanied him, they could have taken turns in answering their questions but there was a lot of work pressure in office so his leave wasn’t approved. The train finally moved slowly.

Preethi asked “Amma, will Girish and Gayatri also come to the station?” Amma had no clues about it. Finally as the station approached, Amma asked Priya to look out of the window and wave to her uncle if she finds him.

Meanwhile, she herself started taking out their luggage from the space below the berth. Priya couldn’t locate her uncle. They got out of the train as the train halted. Amma decided to wait for her brother. They could now see a hand waving at them from some distance and approaching them. Uncle came to them and said that he was told that S2 coach would be on the opposite side. So he was waiting for them there. Preethi looked around her uncle in the hope of finding her cousins. Uncle could make that out. He told “I thought that space wouldn’t be enough for luggage and 6 people in the car.

 That’s why I didn’t bring them along.” The children’s wait to meet their cousins didn’t end at the station. On the way, uncle told them that he wasn’t satisfied that they were coming for only 4 days. Amma told uncle “What to do Anna (elder brother)? Priya is in 7th std now. They have only 2 days leave for diwali. But she has taken another two days off. If she takes more leaves, her backlog would increase and she would find it hard to cope up with her quarterly exams which are approaching in 10 days.”

When they reached home, they were welcomed by Pati (grandmother), aunty and an equally enthusiastic Girish and Gayatri. Girish was two years younger to Priya and Gayatri was three years younger to him. Preethi was younger to Girish by one year. Whenever the four of them were together, there would be loads of laughter. Uncle went to office and promised that he would take them out somewhere today. Preethi wanted to know Girish’s latest fascination.

“WWF” came the reply from Gayatri. Girish took the girls inside his study room and showed his WWF cards. He taught the girls to play with the WWF cards. They were supposed to see the picture of the wrestling player and guess the weight, biceps and chest size of the players. Grish started explaining Priya and Preethi about the WWF players and their punches. Girish demonstrated his WWF skills by turning his sister upside down. “Pati” she shouted. Pati came running out and scolded Girish saying “Poor girl. You will sprain her muscle”. She asked all of them to take bath and refresh themselves before the lunch as it was already too late.

Uncle called up from office saying that his friend Pande was happy to know that uncle’s sister had come. He had invited Preethi, Priya and Amma in the in the evening for some snacks. Hence they won’t go anywhere else today. They were all ready waiting for Uncle in the evening. When uncle came back from office, he was surprised to see Girish also dressed up.

He asked “Where are you going Girish?” Girish replied “Aren’t we going to Pandey uncle’s house?” Uncle said “All of us are going but not you. You remain at home with Pati.” Everyone thought that uncle was teasing Girish but they realized that uncle wasn’t keen in taking him. Preethi’s mother said “Why don’t you want to take him Anna when all the other children are also coming along with us? Don’t be unfair to him.” Uncle said “You don’t know him. First of all these north Indians serve water in glass tumbler and not steel tumbler which he is not able to hold properly. Wherever I take him, he drops the glass. These are expensive glasses.”

“Oh ho Anna. It might have happened once. It’s their fault if they are giving water in such expensive and heavy glasses to the children. You can always say that please don’t give him water in that glass. This cannot be the reason for not taking Girish along.”

Finally after lot of pleading from Pati and Preethi’s mother, uncle agreed to take Girish along. They were greeted very well by Pande uncle and his wife. Pande aunty went inside and brought water in her expensive glass tumbler as anticipated. All the four children could see the tension on uncle’s face. Girish’s mother quickly said “Mrs. Pande, please don’t give water in those expensive glasses to the children. They might drop it and your set would be spoiled.”

Pande aunty gave the glass tumblers to all elders. She came towards Priya and said “I am sure you can have the glass tumbler.” She handed over the glass tumbler to Priya as she thought Priya was old enough to handle a glass tumbler.Girish said “Aunty, I also want water in glass tumbler. I am a big boy now.” Uncle looked scornfully at Girish. Pande aunty handed him the tumbler. Uncle quickly took the tumbler from his hands and handed it back to Pande aunty.

Pande uncle laughed and said “What’s the matter? Let the child have the glass tumbler.” Uncle said “Last time also he spoiled your set of glass tumblers.” Pande uncle added “You are being too strict with the child.” Gayatri insisted on having a glass tumbler for herself. How could she be left out when Girish was having it? All the children were given the glass tumblers eventually. Pande auntie had prepared a variety of delicacies. One after the other the delicious snacks came from the kitchen starting from samosa, kachori and gulab jamuns.

Suddenly the sound of a glass crash came. Girish had dropped the glass. Uncle started scolding Girish. Girish’s mother started cleaning up the glass pieces as someone could get hurt. Pande uncle tried to cool down uncle’s temper saying “It’s no big deal. Don’t scold the child. This is a reason to get new stuff for the house”. “Your aunty will be very happy to buy a new set” he said jokingly to Girish as he was already feeling guilty. On their way back home, Girish’s mother got scolding from uncle for the entire episode. Preethi’s mother said “Anna, you are being too harsh.”

Uncle said “Don’t support him. We had somehow convinced them not to give him in glass tumbler. He invited the trouble himself.” When they reached home, Pati came to know the entire story through Preethi. Pati had not accompanied them as she wasn’t habituated to eating outside food. Pati tried convincing uncle saying “You shouldn’t scold children too much. He didn’t do it deliberately. I am sure he is regretting it.” Pati was also blamed for supporting Girish.

Next day, uncle had promised them for an outing to snake park in the evening. Everyone’s mood was back to normal as uncle was chit chatting about cricket with Girish. After the day’s play with playing cards and carrom board, the children were ready in the evening for their snake park visit. The saw all sorts of snakes right from python, king cobra to non-poisonous snakes.

They were on time for dinner at home. As usual, Pati had not accompanied them this time also. As they sat for dinner, Priya and Preethi observed Gayatri wink at Girish mischievously. Priya understood that they were upto some prank. Girish’s mother laid the plates for everyone. Pati came with water and steel tumblers for everyone. As she was about to keep the tumbler, uncle ordered her not to keep the tumblers. Preethi’s mother wanted to know the reason. Uncle told her that everyday either one of Girish or Gayatri drop off the tumbler. Pati interfered “Children might find the food spicy. They might need water.” But uncle was adamant about this.

Pati served the food to everybody. As soon as Gayatri took the first bite, she exclaimed “Pati! The food is spicy. Water! Water!” Uncle stopped Pati saying “No need to bring water. She is just acting. The food is not at all spicy.” Pati said “It might not be spicy for you but maybe it’s too spicy for the child.” She brought the tumbler with water. Gayatri had one sip and kept the tumbler. Uncle asked her “You were feeling so spicy. Now has the spiciness gone with just one sip of water? Why are you having the vettakolambu again if it’s so spicy?”

She replied that it was very tasty though a bit spicy. Everyone continued their dinner when they were disturbed by the sound of a dropped tumbler. Uncle was in a rage now. “You did it again today.” He started chanting “Shanmuga, Narayana….”. He called out Pati who was in the kitchen. Pati came running hearing her son’s shouts. Uncle said “I have told you several times not to keep this dancing tumbler for the children. Throw it away. We can buy new ones.” Preethi asked “What’s a dancing tumbler? Does it really dance?”. Girish explained her that the tumbler’s base wasn’t flat at the bottom. It didn’t have a smooth base.

Even if there is little movement on the table, its balance was lost. Girish and Gayatri were laughing over it. Later they told Priya and Preethi that they did some movement to the dining table deliberately everyday during dinner so that the tumbler falls.

Both of them loved to see their father getting irritated over the dancing tumbler. Preethi asked “But since Pati knows about uncle’s temper over the dancing tumbler why does she keep it everyday?” Girish replied “You are so dumb. Any tumbler filled with water would fall off if you do some movement to the table and it’s very easy to make that movement from the bottom of the table. Every tumbler in this house has fallen from the table so many times that now none of them has a smooth flat bottom. All of them dance. But Appa thinks that it is one particular tumbler.” Saying this Girish and Gayatri gave a hi-fi and roared with laughter. Priya asked Girish “Please do it tomorrow also. Now that we know the story of the dancing tumbler, we would be able to enjoy even more.”

Next day, the children went for shopping with their mothers. They were badly waiting for dinner time. Atlast the moment came. Pati laid the plates as usual. She brought the tumbler with water. Uncle asked her to take it back saying everyone can have water after they get up from the dinner table. Priya requested for water so she couldn’t be denied. She just drank two sips of water and winked at Girish. After few minutes, Girish started moving his legs. He tried folding his legs in the chair with great difficulty. Uncle started giving him lecture on table manners. He still continued.

The eyes of all the four children were focused on the tumbler. It went left, right, again left and then came the sound CLING...CLANG CLING CLING CLING. All the four of them burst out into loads of laughter. Uncle got very irritated and started scolding Girish. He said “Since you have been doing this at home, you repeat it in other people’s house also. People would stop inviting you to their place”. Later Priya asked Girish whether he had broken Pande uncle’s glass deliberately. He replied “No I didn’t. Probably I have done it so many times at home that it comes naturally when I go outside also.”

The next two days also the dancing tumbler episode was repeated at the dinner table. Time passed by and the day had come when Priya and Preethi had to leave though they didn’t want to. Girish and Gayatri insisted on coming to the station to see off Priya and Preethi. But space was a problem when they had luggage also to carry in the car.

There was space for only one person. It was decided that Girish would come. Pati gave a flask of coffee for all of them in case the train was late. She didn’t want them to have anything from the station. The flask was ofcourse accompanied by the tumbler. The train was late. Girish asked the girls some puzzles for passing time at the station. He was very good at them. Finally the train arrived. The stoppage was for few minutes.

After arranging the luggage, Preethi’s mother asked uncle for the flask as she had totally forgotten about it. She poured the coffee in the tumbler and kept it on the window sill. Priya winked at Preethi and Preethi moved her hand out of the window. Her hand hit the tumbler and CLING ….CLING CLANG…CLING… .CLING… came the sound. Girish, Priya and Preethi burst out into roars of laughter and gave a hi-fi. This time the scolding came from Preethi’s mother and not uncle. The train started moving and the girls waved goodbye to Girish and uncle.

Contributing Story Teller:  Vrinda Iyer [email protected]

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