You should have perhaps done this before you turned the pot over!” said Big-Mouth-Me, as I watched him juggle his fingers so they’d rest in the right places. But all I got in thanks was a maha glare.
“Now,” said Appa when he finally managed, “You tap the pot smartly on … um … this veranda ledge.”
KER-RACK! We solemnly surveyed the shattering attack on the second pot.
“It should have been as easy as making mud pies. That’s what the book said,” muttered Appa. “The soil should have separated so that I was left with the pot in my right hand and the plant in my left.”
I remembered to keep quiet.
“That’s two of your mother’s favourite plants,” said Appa thoughtfully.
I nodded my head.
“So what do we do now'” he wondered aloud.
I knew what was bothering him. Amma’d be back within an hour or so, and the though they did fight sometimes, I knew that Appa wouldn’t want to see Amma feel hurt. And she’d feel so hurt if …
“Okay!” said Appa suddenly, breaking into my thoughts. “Go see if Saroja (our Dai) is there, and ask her if she could come and clean up this mess, and you …”
He shot out the commands and marched out.
“And the plants'” I wondered, looking at the monstera with two of its huge, glossy green, cheese-holed leaves torn, and the rubber plant with its stem broken in half in the awkward fall it’d had when it had plunged, leaves first, from the ledge.
But I needn’t have worried.
When Amma came back everything was as normal as normal can be. Except that Appa had ventured into the kitchen and made two cups of steaming hot, south Indian, filter-brewed “decoction” coffee.
“You made coffee'” asked Amma incredulously.
“Yes,” said Appa gently. “In appreciation. I don’t have the kind of knack that you have with plants. I hand it to you!”
“Oh!” said Amma, and “Oh!” again. When she’d finally recovered from Appa’s rare compliment she asked if her plants were okay.
“What do you mean okay' Of course they’re okay!” said Appa indignantly.
And of course they were. Because, while Saroja had cleaned up the mess, and I’d carefully smuggled the broken plants and pots away. Appa had taken a brisk walk to the nursery round the corner and bought almost identical matches for the monstera and rubber plants that had been Amma’s.
You know, I keep telling myself, with any other father, a kid could have resorted to blackmail but then I’m a decent kind of chap so …
New story next week
Geeta Dharmarajan’s short story, Who wants green fingers anyway' first appeared in the children’s magazine Target edited by Rosalind Wilson. It was later published in the short story collection, The Carpenter’s Apprentice, by Katha, a Delhi-based non-profit organisation and publishing house.