Pinky sat huddled up in a corner of the attic, surrounded by old, broken furniture. She felt cold, hungry and a little afraid. Darkness was descending on the cold December afternoon and she fancied that she could see shadowy figures all round her. But she would not budge. Let the ghosts devour her! Better still, maybe a kind ghost would come along, and she could request it to take her to her mother. She had gone to heaven, everyone said.
Nobody in this house spoke about Pinky’s father. She knew his name was taboo so she never asked anybody about him. Pinky would rather go to her mother in heaven than stay here. Nobody loved her.
Pinky was angry and hurt. Monima (aunty) and Mama (uncle) had scolded her like never before. Monima had even twisted her ear. She said Pinky was always up to mischief and lying about things.
So what if Pinky made stories sometimes? One day didu had made narkel nadus (coconut sweets) and put them in a jar. Pinky thought she’d taste one or two but she ended up finishing half of them. When Didu discovered that the jar was half empty there was quite a commotion. “It must have been Bhulu” Pinky volunteered. “Don’t be absurd, dogs cannot open lids”, Didu said. Monima gave Pinky a suspicious look and said sternly “Pinky, green horns grow on the heads of children who tell lies”. Then Monima felt Pinky’s head and said solemnly “I think there are already to little lumps on your head.” Pinky was scared out of her wits. Why should horns appear only children’s head? Why no on adults too?
Pinky knew they also lied sometimes. The other day Monima and Mama had gone to the movies. Pinky had seen the yellow tickets in Mams’s hands. But when little Bablu cried and made a scene, demanding to be taken along, Monima told him “We are going to doctor uncle. Do you want to be taken there Bablu?” Bablu promptly ran inside and hid himself under the bed.
Today things really go bad. In the garden, there was a bushy tree of beautiful red flowers. This tree was very special to Pinky because her mother had planted it. Pinky was very possessive and protective about it. She caressed the tree and even talked to it whenever she could. Then she had discover that the newly married bride next door had been plucking flowers from the tree. Pinky had complained to Didu and Monima but Monima said, “Don’t be mean, Pinky. It is only some flowers.” So Pinky decided she’d do some thing about it herself.
This morning, Pinky went to the neighbour’s house and knocked on the door. When the bride opened the door, Pinky said, “Don’t pluck flowers from our tree. You don’t know my Mama. He has said if he catches you plucking flowers again he will eat up those apple red cheeks of yours. “ To Pinky’s satisfaction, the girl went red with terror and fled inside. Pinky returned relaxed and happy.
She was sitting the garden when Monima yelled, “Pinky come inside, fast.” Now what, Pinky wondered! She went in and saw Mama pacing up and down the room. Pinky had never seen him look so furious. “What have you told the bride next door, you shameless little brat?” he thundered. Monima twisted Pinky’s ear and said, “You are a fool and a little devil. Hold your ears and stand with your face towards the wall, you naughty girl.” Then Mama said that Pinky was a bad influence on Bablu and instructed Bablu not to talk to Pinky. This hurt Pinky more than anything else did. Didu came to Pinky’s rescue and said , “Stop it now. Pinky is only a child. She did not know what she was doing.”
“Ma, you just spoil her.” Monima grumbled and dragged away a reluctant, crying Bablu out of the room. Mama stormed out too. Pinky felt so upset and humiliated that she decided never to go down from the attic again. She clutched her mother’s picture and waited for the ghosts to come and ear her up. She sat there for a long time and almost fell asleep. Then suddenly, she saw a shadow take shape in a corner of the room. It was a skinny figure with a round face and two huge round eyes. He had thin arms and legs and two green horns on his head. He was wearing red shorts. He gave Pinky a toothless smile.
Who are you? Pinky asked
I am Lambu the ghost
Are you going to eat me up?
No I am not hungry
Then take me to my mother. She is in heaven
I can’t do that. But why do you want to go? Lambu asked.
Because nobody loves me here”
Lambu laughed and said “Don’t worry, we ghosts like naughty children, and I’ll cast a magic spell, so that everybody here will love you”
Then Lambu started to shrink and finally became invisible. Pinky felt something crawling up her leg. She bent close to have a look and what she saw made her scream. Monima, Mama. Didu, Bablu and Bhulu came in and stood staring down at her. She was a sight with cobwebs on her curly head, dusty legs spread out, clutching the photograph, eyes tightly shut and screaming loudly. A huge spider was crawling up her leg. Bhulu leapt at it but it scurried away and disappeared under chair. Didu picked up Pinky and held her close. Didu reproached Pinky mildly, “Here you are. We have been looking for you everywhere, and your Mama has been to every house in the neighborhood. We were so worried. You really gave us a fright today.
At dinner Didu prepared Pinky’ favourite dishes. Bablu wouldn’t leave Pinky for a moment and he was allowed to sleep with her, with Bhulu at their feet. Once alone, Bablu whispered “Did Ma hurt you, didi (sister)?” Pinky replied in the negative. ”Ma is bad. I don’t love Ma, I love you.” Bablu put his small arms round Pinky’s neck and put his soft, warm lips on Pinky’s cheek. Pinky’s little injured heart was flooded with love for her small cousin. So someone did love her, after all. “I love you too, Bhai, (brother)“ Pinky said, finally feeling happy and loved.