“Well, ummm… actually, I don’t know how to tell you this. But I think I should,” Ritin said after a long pause. “You see, you’re rather fond of my Ma. But you’re younger, it’s easier for you. You practically have no memory of your own mother, right? But I remember my dad, and I miss him. But I also hate the way he treated Ma. She’s so happy now,” he said softly. “It’s very hard to wake up one fine day and call someone else Dad. And worse, there’s a stepsister attached in the package. I’m sorry I was so cold to you… practically like a cold alien statue.”
Rati cringed. She hated the “step” prefix attached to her. She realised how alike they were. She didn’t know where to look. How could he have read her exact thoughts?
“At first I hated you. There you were with ribbons in your hair always jumping and ready for an adventure. But you’re not so bad,” he smiled. “You see, like you, I too am adjusting. But I must admit, your dad’s a great guy.”
“So is Vinitha Aunty. She understands that I’m a girl and not all girls are interested in lathe machines.”
“Haha! Yes, you’re right,” Ritin said with a smile. “Now, let’s go hide the tape before Daadi wakes up. You do know, we aren’t supposed to be going through all this. These must be private recordings,” he said, holding out the cassette and its box for Rati to see.
Rati was quivering with excitement at this treasure. She ran her fingers over the cracked plastic cover. Nestling inside was a worn out yellowing paper with faded handwriting. She assumed this was Urdu. What was inside it? Perhaps, confidential cryptic voice messages. A dozen questions swarmed through Rati’s head leaving her slightly giddy with curiosity and excitement.
“Let’s explore the rest of the boxes and stash them away before anybody comes,” said Ritin.
Rati was now holding a cassette in her hands. A real cassette. A real, vintage treasure! This was so much better than undertaking excavations in the neighbourhood garden. And she had a real partner, who was not her dog.
“See, you can totally pull the tape out and then put it back in and I believe it will still work,” said Ritin. He rolled his finger through the groovy hole in the cassette and using his other hand, he pulled a few inches of the magnetic tape out of its plastic holder. Then he simply reversed his motions and put it all back in together. Rati watched fascinated.
“Let me try it,” she said pulling out some tape and carefully rolling it all back together.
“Isn’t this spinning fun?” Rati grinned and nodded. It was indeed! Rati now understood that the music word “rewind” actually meant physically winding the tape up. So cool! They took turns, each time unrolling more and more of the smooth ribbon and putting it back.
“Oh, I know! Let’s have a spinning contest,” Rati suddenly suggested.
To be continued