This little Birthday Girl loved balloons!

This little Birthday Girl loved balloons!

This little Birthday Girl loved balloons!

She especially liked to almost-close-her-eyes. And then she could see winky, pinky, pointy lights in red, green and blue.

 It was the perfect day for her birthday party. There were ribbons that held each other’s shoulders and went in and out of each other.

 A pudgy cake sat on the table. It was full of chocolate, and had the same secret written on it that everyone’s cake had on every birthday.

 Mama had told her that her name was on this cake too. She had pointed out some letters on the cake which spelt out her name, she said. Mita thought those were the prettiest letters of all. They looked very smiley.

 Already, the party was going to be perfect. Her friends with Mummies-attached suddenly began to stand around wherever she looked. She was sure that was Mama’s idea. Mama always got such great ideas.

 And now her friends were coming in, one by one, and each carried a present. All her UKG friends---Bunty and Anubha and Ramachandran and Ameera. They all gave her presents which she piled high on the table.

  “Hi, cake, give me, give me, give me,” cried Rocky. He always came straight to the point. He was small and chubby and had warm hands. They smelt of chocolate when you held them. Mita held them now.

 Ritu ran up in excitement, in a blue and pink glittery, dress. Mita’s eyes bulged when she looked at it. “Here is your present,” she said, and thrust her red package into her hands, and immediately ran away.

 Parul and Bunty came up and stood with her.

 “What a lot of presents. Don’t you think you’ve got a million by now?” said Bunty.
 “No, more than that. A hundred, I think.”

 Mita began to count her presents. “One, two, three, four…” and then stopped. She could count up to four, because she had just finished four years. But what came after that? She had forgotten the number. It was on the tip of her mind, but it refused to come out.
 Something that started with a P, she was sure. Was it pive? Or poove? Or peeve? Or no, maybe it started with an S. Perhaps a Six. Or Sich.

 She tried out all these sentences in her tongue, just to see if they sounded right.
 One, two, three, four, pive….no, that sounded strange.  One, two three, four, poove…oh no, no way! One, two, three, four, peeve…chi, chi, chi.

 “Rocky, what comes after four?” she asked.
 “I don’t know.” He pulled away his hands and ran after an electric train on the floor. He ran very fast when he wanted to, Mita noticed.

 “Bunty, what comes after four?” she asked the little boy with specs. He looked as if he knew a lot. Maybe he would have told her, but suddenly, he decided that he wanted his mother.

 “Parul, what comes after four?” she asked her best friend.
 Parul squinted and said, “A big number.”

 Mita was beginning to get a little nervous. What if her teacher, Miss Maini, asked her how old she was going to be after today? What was she going to say? It just wouldn’t do to invite all the people of the world to a birthday party, when you didn’t know why you were doing it.

 She had to ask Mama or Papa, quick. Now. Mita looked around wildly for Mama, but she wasn’t there. She was in the kitchen, probably.

 She looked around wildly for Papa, but he wasn’t there either. He was probably out in the garden.

 So Mita just sat on the floor and felt sobby. A huge cry welled up inside her stomach and almost rattled out of her throat.

 Parul was saying something, but Mita couldn’t hear her. “What comes after four? After four? After four?” a mean, mean line began to start up in her head, like a nursery rhyme.
 Then she saw Mama coming up to her, and beaming, with---aiyyooo, oh so horrible! Miss Maini, Ranu Sir and Pinky Madame in tow. They were all smiling at her, and held red packages tied up with pink ribbons.

 Pinky Madame came up and hugged and kissed her and exclaimed at her dress, her party and her cake. “So all the five-year-olds will be out of UKG,” she laughed.
Mita opened her mouth, and suddenly, she could see the word on the tip of her mind. It was cute, shiny and fat, small and smiley, like her name.

 Miss Maini, who had been talking to someone, now walked up and hugged her. “Happy birthday, precious. So how old are you today?”

“One, two, three, four….Five, five, fiveeeeeeeeee,” yelled Mita, jumping up-and-down, up-and-down, up-and-down.

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