Do you know Wilt, Eduardo, Coco and Bloo from ‘Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends’? Well, here is a story of a little boy who had imaginary friends much before he knew of any TV characters and certainly before he was introduced to books by Dr Seuss.

Rishi was three years old and went to playschool for a couple of hours in the morning. He was an only child and was too shy to make friends with other children of his age. Then, one day, Balziga walked into his life. Balziga was older than Rishi, much stronger and knew everything.

He was also willing to play any game. The two of them became good friends and Balziga practically became a part of Rishi’s family. Amma would make chapattis for him and anna reluctantly agreed to accommodate him on the bed. When Rishi and Balziga came down with bouts of cold and cough, Amma dosed them both with medicine. They went together to the park to play and listened to the stories Amma read to them. When Rishi went to kindergarten, Balziga also went to school.

 Of course there were times when Balziga made Rishi do things that Amma didn’t approve of - like playing in water or refusing to put away his toys. But most of the time, they were one happy family. Balziga even visited Ajji and Suju maushi’s home and everybody, including Rishi’s cousins got to know him well. Rishi’s younger cousin, Aakanksha, also had an imaginary friend called Smiggy and they would compare notes as to who was more fun.

 Then Balziga brought his friend Abizzia to play with them. Abizzia, like Balziga, decided to stay on with Rishi’s family. Soon they were joined by Dimbi. And suddenly all the friends of the imaginary friends came visiting regularly. Now Amma had to make nearly ten extra chapattis and decided that the steady inflow of imaginary friends had to stop. When she asked Rishi to do something about it, he explained that they were all getting together to fight against a deadly imaginary enemy called Puski. Thankfully, Puski did not put up a tough fight and retired from the scene gracefully.

Two years with the imaginary friends simply flew by. And then things changed. Rishi found that it was fun to play with the children in the neighbourhood. Besides, Balziga was now grown up, went to office and occasionally on business trips out of town. It seemed that all three of them - Balziga, Abizzia and Dimbi visited less frequently. Then they decided to stay back in Delhi when they holidayed with Rishi’s cousins there. Amma felt a little sad, not so much because she missed them, but because she felt that a little boy had become less imaginative.

Does a child lose his imagination when he starts school? Not really. Now when they play Name-Place-Animal-Thing, places like Tarka (for ‘T’), Borisas (for ‘B’) and Lancon (for ‘L’) surface regularly. Now Amma knows that the imaginary friends may have gone to these imaginary places. And that there is still plenty of imagination in the mind of the not-so-little boy!