The fragrant birthday secret

The fragrant birthday secret

He found the tiny clock hidden under his sister’s pillow (how come it hadn’t woken her up?) and switched it off. It was Mama’s birthday and Ravin and Radhika had promised their father before he left for Mumbai last week that they’d make her day a special one.

In one swift movement, he ripped the bed sheet off Radhika’s slumbering and snoring body, and put on the lights. “Wake up, silly!” he hissed. “We’ve got lots to do before Mama wakes up!” Radhika rolled off the bed and headed to the bathroom, with her eyes closed.

Within minutes the two had tiptoed out of their room. The first part of the plan was to finish all the work Mama normally did in the mornings. They started out with the washing machine. After piling in all the clothes, they discovered that neither of them knew where the detergent powder was kept. After searching the house for about 5 minutes, Ravin got into a panic, “We’re running late…” he whined. But Radhika had a good idea.

She emerged from the bathroom with Mama’s shampoo in hand. “I’ve read somewhere that shampoo’s not too good for hair because it’s also got detergent in it, so let’s use this in the machine… just for today.” She then went on to pour out 2 capfuls of shampoo into the washing machine before running it.

Then there was the breakfast. The kids had sneaked in some food that didn’t require much cooking, the previous evening. So the bread was toasted and ready (but only after burning about 4 slices, which were quickly wrapped in newspaper and hidden in the garbage bin).  

Then the flowers that Radhika and Ravin had spent an hour selecting were brought out of the bucket that they’d hidden in the guest bathroom. The two did get into a bit of a fight while arranging the flowers. And it might have gone on to become a full-fledged battle royal, with some serious wrestling on the carpet, except for the sheer cost of what they were fighting over.

When Ravin grabbed a stalk of pink Asta-maria from Radhika’s hand and it broke, they both realised that they’d just damaged Rs 20 worth of precious flower. Silently, the arrangement was completed without any more arguments about what looked good and what didn’t.

Then the difficult part began, which was tidying up the rest of the house. It took the two kids about 45 minutes to clear the drawing room. “It’s all your mess!” Radhika hissed, angrily, collecting Ravin’s toys strewn on the carpet. But she looked a bit sheepish when Ravin held out a bundle of crayons that he’s collected from the floor, “My mess?” he asked, with a wicked grin.

By the time they began cleaning the dining area, the kids gave up on putting everything back in its right place. Anything out of its place was dumped in their bedroom. They decided to handle THAT mess later on. As the rest of the house got neater and cleaner, the mess in the kids’ room got worse and worse.

As 7 o’clock approached, the kids quickly went in to wash and brush their teeth. Mama’s tea had to be made before she woke up. The kids wanted so badly to wake her up with a tray of hot tea at her bedside. Well, they couldn’t find the tray. Then in Ravin’s eagerness to be the one to pour out the tea, he spilled quite a bit onto the kitchen counter, rather than into the flask. Furious, Radhika mopped up the wasted tea.

They decided to arrange all the tea things onto the big stainless steel plate Ma used to knead chapatti dough. Then, when everything was ready, both of them put on their brightest smiles and walked into Mama’s room.

Their first shock was that she wasn’t in bed, fast asleep, as they’d hoped to find her. The two looked at each other, disappointed. “Never mind,” said Radhika, resignedly, “She’s in the bathroom, so she still will be surprised with our tea, when she steps out.” Secretly, Radhika cursed her clumsy brother, certain that they could have caught Ma in bed, if it hadn’t been for the mess he’d made in the kitchen.

As part of their “Mama will not work today” plan, they began tidying up Ma’s bed and when they were folding up the sheets, they heard the scream! It was Mama, no doubt, and it wasn’t coming from the bathroom, because when Ravin opened the door, the bathroom was empty. They rushed out, looking for their mother.  They couldn’t find her anywhere in the house. And then, Radhika had a dreadful thought. Had Mama gone to their bedroom?

Yes, she had. Hoping to cuddle up with her kids on her birthday, Mama and stepped out of her room, and before she’d had a chance to notice the neatness of the entire house, she opened the door to her kids’ bedroom and was greeted with a mess that almost reached the fan!

The kids quickly rescued her, brought her back to her room, tucked her into bed and made her drink her tea propped up against her pillow. Then they led her through the house showing off all their hard work with repeated promises to clear up their own room ‘later’. But when Mama marvelled at how nice the clothes smelled, Radhika pinched Ravin before he could open his mouth.

You see, she’d read the price on the shampoo bottle’s label, which had said, ‘Rs 550/’. So smiling sweetly, she said, “Ma, that’s a secret which we can never tell you, it’s only for birthdays.” And Mama, having recovered from her morning shock, was too pleased with her two angels, to even ask.

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