A cracked mirror can never be put together again,” Grandpa says in utter disbelief.”Want to see the magic?” I challenge him.
I am still in bed, warm and cosy, when my cousin Anu runs in and gives me a vigorous shaking.
She is two years older to me. She is 10. She is proud of this fact. Since her birthday, she has been telling all and sundry that she has touched two figures. That, she thinks, is something unique. She feels that has given her a right to dominate. But I don’t let her do that. I tick her off, saying that I am 8 and this is a number which, when turned upside down, still reads the same. That is one quality that 10 doesn’t have.
“Hi, what has come over you? Let me sleep for some more time,” I turn over, pull the bed sheet over my head and curl up. But Anu punches me with mailed fists, pokes her sharp nails after pushing her arm under the bed sheet. I get the message. This is one occasion when I will have to forgo my sleep. I sit up, throw off the bed sheet, yawn to drive away the sleepiness and then ask her, “What’s the matter, Anu?”
Anu says, “Do you know that we can crack a mirror and yet get away with it?”
“Have you lost your head?” I rasp out.
“Have you become blind? Can’t you see my head is where it always has been,” Anu hits back.
“I mean …” I fumble for words.
“If you want some fun today, join me. Otherwise I will go about seeking fun all by myself and take a swing at the mirror. I am keen to see the mirror with cracks,” Anu rolls on.
“I won’t miss the fun, ever. But tell me, is it not risky? Won’t we run into trouble with Grandpa? We are here for the holidays. And if we earn Grandpa’s anger, our holidays will be spoilt,” I register a weak objection.
“You have to take risks if you want fun. But you seem to lack the courage to take risks. I am off, my boy. Off to dare and act and give cracks to the mirror,” Anu uses the bait to draw me right into her net.
“For fun, I am ready to even risk my neck,” I repeat a phrase I picked up, the other day, from an uncle.
“Good. So you are my partner in Operation Mirror,” Anu grins. “And you won’t rat on me,” she seeks an assurance.
“I promise I won’t turn into a rat,” I pause and add, “Is it a military campaign that you are planning? The name strikes me so. I have heard of Operation Brasstacks and Operation Desert Storm. Now we have Operation Mirror. Give me the details, dear.”
“Come closer. I can’t speak out loudly. Even walls have ears,” Anu whispers.
“And walls lend their ears readily and then rat on those who give them the news,” I joke.
I sit, our heads almost knocking into each other. Anu details her plan. It looks perfect in every way. I cannot but admire it. It is truly fantastic, out of this world.
Grandpa is reading the day’s newspaper when we march into his presence, with long faces. He hears our footsteps and looks at us, pushing the paper aside.
“Ah, how are you? Want me for company? I will just take ten minutes to finish reading. Then I will join you,” he says, smiling at us.
We do not reply. Nor do we draw closer to him, even when he signals to us to do so. We stand, with our heads bent.
That makes Grandpa a little suspicious. Anu mumbles, “I’m sorry”
I speak out next, “I too am sorry.”
“Sorry for what?” Grandpa is confused.
“Not my fault,” Anu speaks with a sob.
“Not mine either,” my voice is hardly audible.
Grandpa throws the paper aside and asks us to come over to him. We stay put. His nostrils quiver. That, I know, indicates rising anger.
“Tell me, Ranga. What’s it all about? Have you been up to some mischief?” Grandpa has already arrived at the conclusion.
“Ask Anu. She is older,” I manage to say.
“Anu, why don’t you speak up, girl? You speak umpteen to the dozen when I seek silence. And when I ask you to speak you clam down. Out with it, girl. This minute,” Grandpa glares at us.
“The dressing room mirror…” Anu stops, giving the impression that words have failed her.
“What happened to the mirror?” Grandpa raises his voice.
“It is cracked,” I speak hesitantly.
“Cracked? Oh, my God! How did it happen?” Grandpa comes closer to us and breathes down the napes of our necks.
“Not our fault,” Anu repeats, while Grandpa walks out, heading to the dressing room to check the mirror.
We trail behind him. Grandpa enters the dressing room. He surveys the mirror. It has cracks all over.
That turns him into a time bomb. He bellows, angrily, “Who broke the mirror?”
“Not I,” says Anu.
“Not I, either,” I reply.
“There’s none else here, but the two of you, who could have done it, but you,” Grandpa fixes us with an icy glance.
We don’t reply. We stand, our heads bent, our eyes staring at the marble tiles of the floor.
“I must get to the root of this matter. One of you is behind this crime. Tell me, did you run wild with a tennis ball? Bounced it around. It bumped into the mirror, causing the cracks?” Grandpa tries to reconstruct the crime.
“But Grandpa,” Anu manages to say in a low tone.
“No IFs and BUTs,” Grandpa growls.
“If only you listen, Grandpa,” I butt in.
“Tell me,” Grandpa reaches out for me, lifts my chin and let his eyes lock with mine.
“We will remove the cracks,” I say.
“Stupid,” Grandpa hisses.
“We will,” Anu repeats my message, with a smile.
“Want to see,” I add.
“Impossible,” says Grandpa.
“The impossible, Grandpa, is the untried,” I remember a tip our teacher gave the other day.
“Magic! Silly. Whom are you trying to fool? A cracked mirror can never be put together again,” Grandpa says in utter disbelief.
“Want to see the magic?” I challenge him.
“If you do remove the cracks on the mirror, I will agree with you that the impossible is the untried,” Grandpa is certain that this is one magic we can’t perform. He thinks our offer absolutely absurd.
Anu signals to me. I get the cue. I run out, return with a wet towel. I walk to the mirror and wipe its surface. The cracks vanish, in a trice.
Grandpa can’t believe himself. He looks at us in utter surprise, while we greet him with the cry, “April fool!”
“April Fool?” Grandpa sighs.
“Yes, Grandpa. We fooled you. We picked up a thin piece of soap and sharpened it. We drew lines on the mirror, with the soap. Once we completed the work, the faint lines, drawn on the mirror, stood out. They made the mirror look cracked. Ranga wiped out the lines made by soap. Now there are no cracks on the mirror,” Anu explains
Where did you get the idea from?” Grandpa grins happily.
“From our teacher. This was a trick she played on her parents, years ago, when she was a child. She made a fool of her parents on April First,” I reply.
“So you are only copycats!” Grandpa banters and hugs us warmly.
This teen story was first published in Meghdutam.com (between 1999 to 2002).
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