It was a glorious, sunny day in Bangalore. People strolled down the market streets, looking at all the wonderful and weird things the merchants had to offer. The air was filled with vendors calling and excited people comparing purchases. But I wasn’t paying attention to any of that.
“Please, please, pleeeeease, Mommy,” I begged. I pulled all the stops on my 7 year old ‘cute’ face: big eyes, head c***ed, slight pout, and jumping up and down. “It’s so great! And it’s only 10 rupees!”
The ‘it’ I was referring to was a brown wooden flute, and I fell in love with it from first sight. The holes were perfect for my little hands. I also know how to play recorder, I thought, and how is a flute so different?
“Fine, okay Adhithi,” Mom conceded. Her short hair glinted in the sunlight as she tried to put on a stern expression, but she totally failed. “But please stop jumping up and down. We have to walk home, you know.”
I skipped along, my mom sweating as she briskly walked behind. I knew I had to have everyone see me play.
As soon as I got back to the house, I raced upstairs to the room I shared with my sister. It was shaped like a cube, with a cement floor, a bunk bed shoved in the corner, and a tiny window that nevertheless let sunlight stream in. I started puffing so hard my cheeks became red, but nothing came out. The wood inside my mouth was bitter and rough, but sweet too. My long black hair blew in my face, and I swept it off crossly. I realized I should have probably asked my mom how to play the little flute, but I couldn’t go back now or I would look like a fool. I decided to stick it out and started huffing again, but was interrupted when my older sister threw open the door. I wondered what she would think of me and my new flute.
“That’s really cool!” Nikitha said, gently prying the flute from my hands, “Are you going to play it for us? Maybe you should do it tonight! You can play Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star!”
I thought about that, but I really wanted my parents and cousins to see how well I could play it now. I blew a note on the flute cautiously. It worked! I replied, “I have a better idea. You take five minutes and call everyone here, and then I’ll play.”
“You sure?” Nikitha said, skeptical.
“Yes,” I replied confidently.
Nikitha went outside and started running through the house to call everyone. I decided I should climb up to the top bunk so everyone would have a better view, and I did so, my thin arms and legs swinging on the wooden frame. I finally heaved myself on to the bed with a grunt of effort. There I sat bouncing apprehensively, excitedly, as my parents and others started streaming in. I gasped. I guess Nikitha had taken ‘everyone’ to heart, from all my aunts and uncles (my dad had 4 sisters), to my cousins, who I knew was studying for exams, to my grandma’s friends, who were still clutching their tea.
I steeled my nerves and started to blow, and was relieved when sound came out. I heard the familiar notes of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
I heard a cousin whispering “Hey, the kid’s cute, but we have to study,”. My grandma and cousins started walking out, and I figured that they were bored and were expecting more than just this one song. As I finished, only my parents, Nikitha, and one of my aunts stayed. She had a little sympathetic smile on her face, and suddenly I felt angry, angry that they still thought of me as a little kid who couldn’t do anything.
Well, I would show them! I started jumping up and down on the bed while playing, which was actually pretty hard. I knew I was being ridiculous, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to be noticed.
Suddenly, I felt myself slipping. I threw my left hand desperately to try to catch something, my right hand still clutching the flute. The wood that had felt so sweet in my mouth before was now bitter and threatening. This was everyone else’s fault! If they hadn’t thought I was a little kid, I wouldn’t be doing this!
I composed myself and realized I was now falling from the bunk. I managed to pull myself up by four fingertips, desperately hanging on and trying not to look below. But it was to no avail. I could feel myself slowly slipping as I prayed desperately for myself not to fall, my heart feeling more fear than it had ever felt. My parents were running toward me, looking horrified, but in slow motion.
WHAM! Suddenly time was back to normal as I slammed into a wall, the flute knocking back into my teeth. Blood stained the front part of the flute, but I didn’t know where it hit because my mouth was feeling strangely numb. I reeled back as I saw two pearly white rectangles on the floor. Those were my teeth! I felt sick to my stomach as I stared at them, but I couldn’t cry. I was in shock.
For some reason my mouth wasn’t bleeding and it didn’t hurt, which I was thankful for as my parents set me on the bed. I could hear them talking, but I was too upset to listen. This was terrible! I had a chance to show I was grown up, and I ruined it. I sulked in my bed, and didn’t respond when I heard Nikitha come in.
“That was pretty dumb, but at least you weren’t crying or something,” She said.
I glared and turned around, and a stony silence ensued.
“Come on. Can’t you learn to take a fall? It’s not like the world has ended, and right now you’re acting like a little kid.”
I took a second to process that. All along I could have looked mature by just not acting like a little kid, and Nikitha decided to tell me that now? But I caught myself in time. I didn’t need to go around doing any more stupid things today. I just wanted this whole business to end. I was never going to live this incident down.
“Are you going to answer me? Adhithi!”
She rolled her big brown eyes, and I couldn’t stop the giggles from pouring out.