8. Adventures in Wonderland


Adventures in Wonderland


“…and Edward stabbed Jim and threw him down while Kim ran down to the angry villagers with these extra scissors and told them that Edward was dead. So they went away and left him alone. I THINK he wasn’t really dead, but I’m not sure. This old lady who used to be Kim ends by telling her granddaughter that Edward makes it snow from his ice sculptures.”

Arnav ended dramatically with one hand on his hip and one pointing to the sky as though Edward was fluttering above their heads, throwing snowflakes at them at that very moment.

Payal and Akash gasped and looked up at the sky.

NK looked a little unsure about whether to believe Arnav or not. Khushi rolled her eyes.

“It’s a movie, you guys! Edward isn’t REAL. NO one has scissors for hands okay! And it snows like it rains. Because of clouds. Remember we studied it in school last week?”

Arnav looked faintly annoyed at the wind being pulled from his sails.

“I have a different question. How did Kim get an extra pair of scissors? You say Edward didn’t really die?” NK looked around.

All of them looked entirely stumped by this conundrum.

“Maybe Edward had an extra pair? In case he broke his?” Payal tried cautiously.

This seemed like a plausible explanation to them all.

“I have an extra pair in my bag pack too.” Khushi nodded.

“Of course you do.” Arnav whooped. “Teacher’s pet.”

“Am NOT.”

“Are too.”

“Am NOT.”

“Are too.”



Arnav grinned insolently at Khushi who looked visibly worked up.

Akash, ever the peacemaker, broke in. “How about we play a game? I’ve had enough of Arnav’s weird stories anyway.”

Arnav narrowed his eyes as the others immediately agreed.

“Oh what are we playing?”

“Let’s play Hunters!” The others jumped up in agreement.

Hunters was a game that Arnav’s rather fertile 9 year old imagination had devised and one that all of them loved. It involved one of them being a leopard and the others being hunters. The leopard would sit patiently in a tree in one corner of Khushi’s backyard and the others would stealthily creep as close to it as possible. In the meantime, the leopard would keep an eye out for the hunters. The moment it spotted one in the bushes, it was allowed to jump down from the tree and run after the hunter. At this point, all hunters would have to stand up and reveal themselves and run away from the leopard. Whoever was caught first would become the next leopard. And if any of the hunters got within 15 feet of the tree without being spotted, the leopard stayed the same and the game began again. Khushi’s back garden was the best place to play this game and her parents never minded the war whoops and screams that floated over to the house.

After a few rounds, it was Khushi’s turn to be the leopard. Khushi loved being the leopard. From her spot in the big, leafy mango tree, she could see right till the end of street. It was quiet and peaceful in the tree with the leaves rustling around her and the odd cuckoo calling out in the still, hot summer afternoon.

She couldn’t see any of the others yet but she could see the sky stretching endlessly above her–a clear, bright blue. So blue that it hurt her eyes. She could almost feel herself flying among those fluffy white clouds that reminded her so much of cotton candy. She loved cotton candy although Arnav hated it. Who hated cotton candy? Then again, Arnav didn’t like sweets at all. He preferred samosas and popcorn. And kairi. The unripe mangoes that were sinfully delicious with a dash of salt and chilli.

And then she saw it! A small unripe mango on a branch in front of her. Khushi grinned. The first green mango of the season. She had to take it. She always shared the first green mango from her tree with Arnav. She reached out to grab it and was annoyed to find it swaying just out of her reach–mocking her. She inched forward carefully. Another step and she’d get it. In her excitement, Khushi didn’t realize when she’d reached a particularly narrow section of the branch. With a resoundingly loud ‘CRACK’ the branch snapped and dropped Khushi toward the hard ground and a painful fall.

Only the fall never came. Instead she found herself ensconced safely in a pair of familiar, muscular arms. Opening her eyes, she saw Shyam Bhaiyya twinkling down at her.

“Messing around again, squirt?”

“I’m not a squirt! I’m turning nine next week. I’m big!”

“You’re always going to be a squirt to me, squirt.”

Khushi stuck her tongue out at him and jumped out of his arms. She liked Shyam Bhaiyya. He was much nicer to her than his brother.

“Where’s your sister?”

“Why?” Khushi had a speculative look in her eyes. Even at ‘almost nine’, as she liked to call herself, she knew that her sister had something to do with Shyam Bhaiyya’s frequent visits to her house on the pretext of picking up his brother.

Ruffling her hair and calling her a ‘precocious brat’, Shyam stalked into the house.

With another grin, Khushi turned and bumped straight into a ferociously scowling Arnav. “Are you blind? Crazy? What were you doing up there? Pretending to be a monkey? You were going to fall! What if Shyam Bhaiyya hadn’t caught you? Lag jaati na tumhe? I’m telling your mom if you try that again.”

Khushi shook her head ferociously.

“Forget that. I think Shyam Bhaiyya likes Di. Like likes Di.” Covering her mouth, Khushi burst into a fit of giggles.

Arnav looked wide eyed at her. “How do you know?”

“I’m telling you. Let’s go spy on them. We can pretend to be hunters.”

“The others?”

“Arrey forget them for five minutes yaar! We’ll come back before they even realize we’re missing!”

With a quick nod, Arnav followed Khushi toward the house.


“Hey Anjali! Whatcha baking?”

“Cupcakes.” Anjali brusquely turned away from the counter, neatly sliding the tray she held into the oven.

“Oh come on! You’re not still mad at me! I told you, I was just helping Sheetal out with some homework. Nothing else. You know she’s not very good at Physics. And we have boards this year too!”

Anjali sniffed. “I don’t give a damn. You can do whatever you please during your lunch break. It’s none of my business. Teach Sheetal Physics, Chemistry, Biology– whatever. Practicals bhi de dena usse! Mujhe koi farak nahin padta okay!”

With a smirk, Shyam caught hold of one delicate wrist and pulled her closer, as Anjali stared at him in shock.

Farak toh tumhein padta hai, Anjali Gupta.

Her eyes fluttered shut as he leaned in closer, drawing her into his arms.

Just as he was about to brush his lips against hers, two sets of voices squealed out in glee.

“Anjali and Shyam sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!”

Anjali immediately broke away in embarrassment as Shyam looked toward the window and glared at the two small, laughing faces visible over the sill.

Arnav and Khushi ran away, laughing continuously, as Shyam hugged Anjali again.

“If we ever get married Anjali, can we please not have kids? Please?”


So what are we celebrating today?


One of my all-time favourite actors, John Christopher Depp II was born on 9th June, 1963. And today we’re celebrating being young and carefree. We’re celebrating childhood and kids. Depp’s movies have always done that for me. Right from Edward Scissorhands to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, POC to Alice in Wonderland, The Corpse Bride to Sweeney Todd– I’ve been hooked. His versatility is unbelievable. And just when you think all he can do is play kooky characters in children’s films, he’ll turn around and render you speechless with his performance in a Public Enemies or a Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or a Finding Neverland.

So we’re celebrating the imagination that runs wild in his movies.

It’s kinda short, I know, but I’m seriously pressed for time these days– until the 15th of June. And hey! Short update is better than no update, right?

So here’s wishing Mr. Depp a long and bright career that continues and spreads joy.


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