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The Thrill of a Lifetime

As she jumped off the Solang Valley in a para glider, a bout of hitherto unfelt thrill shot through her veins. She had always wanted to this ever since she saw her mom do it a couple of years ago when they were holidaying in the region. Her parents thought she was far too young to attempt the adventurous task and forbade her from doing so. But now that she was a teenager, she was allowed her first real spurt at a mountain sport.

Her younger brother looked at her in awe as she strapped up and then plunged into the valley. In a few seconds, she was far away from where her family stood on the hilltop, and gliding away. She saw the majestic beauty of the mountains in the region, the undulating hills and valleys, the streams that were like blue creepers on the ground, the lush green trees and the grass, which seemed like a huge carpet laid out for her to set feet on.

Maya had never known such happiness and joy. She was literally on a cloud. Her instructor turned the glider towards the large playground where they were going to land, and she felt a bit sad that this wonderful journey was coming to an end. She couldn’t ask her parents if she could take another shot at it. They would be uncomfortable. And, as it is, the family had other plans, and time was limited. 

"Fold your feet up to your knee. Don’t leave them hanging loosely,’’ her instructor had told her before they had taken off. She remembered that, and did as instructed. With a smooth glide, they landed. It was unbelievable. Maya was on top of the world. She couldn’t wait to tell her friends all about this experience back in Indore. She began walking to the bus which was at a certain distance. Her parents were to arrive there by road, down the valley. "So, how was it,’’ asked Sahil, her little brother. "You looked like a bird. Did you also feel like one,’’ he probed. "Is it not scary? Can I do it, too,’’ his questions continued. "Please ask Mom and Dad to let me do it as well,’’ he pleaded. He was ten. In any case, she hadn’t been allowed to try it until now, and she had celebrated her 16th birthday only last week.

Maya looked for her parents. Not finding them around, she herded Sahil to the bus, which had brought them here. "Where are Mom and Dad? Weren’t they with you,’’ she asked. Sahil nodded and got busy with other things. The bus was about to leave. "Stop. My parents aren’t here, yet. Please don’t leave. Let me look for them. It’ll only take a couple of minutes,’’ she implored. The driver agreed. Maya got off the bus and went into the super market nearby.  She found her mother haggling with a shopkeeper over the price of a beautiful pink and blue shawl.

Her father stood next to her, quite meekly, and without a worry on his brow. "Dad. The bus is about to leave. Ma, please hurry. Forget about the shawl. Sahil is alone on the bus, and it would have left already. C’mon, let’s go,’’ Maya cried. "Oh! Sorry. Just got a bit swept away. By the way, how was the gliding,’’ her mother asked. 

Maya said nothing. All she wanted to do was to get her parents back on that bus. They finally got in, and began inching towards their seats. They were numbers 15 to 18. "Where’s Sahil,’’ asked her mother. "What,’’ replied Maya. "Why? He was right here. I left him right here. I also told him not to get off the bus. My God! Did he go somewhere? That boy will get a thrashing today,’’ said Maya, quite irritated, and very nervous now.

"Did you see my brother get off the bus,’’ she asked. "What,’’ snapped the driver, who was busy talking to the conductor. "My brother. He was wearing a red Spiderman t-shirt and blue jeans,’’ she elaborated. "Phew! First your parents were lost, and now your brother has gone missing. We have lost precious time because of you people. Why don’t you just get off the bus,’’ he shot back. 

Maya felt like crying. Her parents were quite upset, as well. "Just give us ten minutes. Then, you can leave,’’ said Dad. The driver grunted and mumbled under his breath and looked away. ``These people have no sense of time. No wonder we are so punctual,’’ he grumbled sarcastically. Maya and her father got off the bus. Maya decided to look for Sahil in the playground. Dad decided to look for him in the same market. He crossed the street frantically and went into one of the shops.

Maya began walking to the playground. Suddenly, she heard a scream, "Hey! Look at me.’’ Stunned and relieved, and anxious and hopeful at the same time, Maya looked back. Her younger brother was standing on top of the large bus. He was trying to aim for the nearby tree whose lush branches were almost touching the top of the vehicle. He was going to jump at the tree, hold on to its branches and then glide forward and land on the ground…exactly as he had seen his sister do. "I also wanted to fly like a bird,’’ he said, as she went up the ladder to get him. The kid was such an imp. 

Contributing Story Teller Sangita P. Menon Malhan, I am a short story writer, located in New Delhi, India. For most of my professional life, I was a journalist with a national newspaper. I am currently a freelance editor and translator. The stories I write are primarily for children and the youth. Their readership, so far, has been Indian, and therefore, the stories have Indian sensibilities.

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