Across the lake...there’s only pining
By Jeannette Cabraal
The bungalow across the lake glittered in all its glory, lit up like a veritable fairyland. Hazy, gauzy curtains danced in the breeze revealing a glimpse of a sparkling Christmas tree. Now and then children would run out to light firecrackers which cart-wheeled and rocketed and the greeny blue droppings of the sparkles animated the faces of the little ones who held them. The joyous shouts of childish mirth interspersed with the admonishing shouts of the elders would gather momentum and then die away. But all the time it was activity, activity across the lake.

Sunil sat on his haunches gazing across the lake at the fascinating scene. How he wished he were there, even as a servant. However, he had a vicarious pleasure sitting here in the gathering gloom witnessing the scene.

Here on this side of the lake was abject poverty. Sunil and his mother living in squalor weren't sure of even a meagre meal sometimes. But across the lake it was affluence and opulence. Sunil sat there till darkness enveloped the sky, taking in every bit of the panorama before him, straining his eyes, a smile touching the corners of his lips.

Suddenly there was a commotion. Children came running to the edge of the lake pointing, screaming in excitement. To Sunil's wonderment he heard strains of music. There was a boat on the lake, gaily decorated with balloons, all lit up. And the centre of attraction a Natthal Seeya dancing to the jolly beat. The music wafted across the lake. Sunil's excitement knew no bounds. He jumped and somersaulted as the boat neared. On the other side richly dressed children danced about at the water's edge awaiting the central figure.

On this side, lone Sunil enjoyed every bit of the scene hopes rising within him too. As the boat neared Sunil screamed, "Natthal Seeya, Natthal Seeya ! I'm here! I'm here!” The rowers heard! Natthal Seeya heard! But they could do nothing. This was part of the organisation for the children's party across the lake. They could not reach out to the boy, whoever it was, screaming in the darkness. The boat was loaded with gifts wrapped in sparkling paper. Sunil was sure Natthal Seeya would give him a gift too. He had heard of this generous seeya who distributed gifts on the 24th night. Here was his dream come true.

But it was not to be. These were gifts for the children across the lake. Not for the likes of him. The boat veered closer perhaps out of curiosity on hearing the excited screams but steered away when there was a shriek of protest from the other side. Sunil expected the incredible to happen. Natthal Seeya only threw him a balloon and drifted on . Sunil was puzzled. There were loads of gifts in the boat. Why didn't the Natthal Seeya give him just one? He watched while the gifts were unloaded across the lake. Tears streamed down his face, he broke into sobs.

There were such a lot of gifts, surely he could have been given just one small gift. The balloon which he listlessly held in his hand burst and dropped from his fingers. He wiped his eyes on his sleeve and went back to his hut.

It is true what mother always says that things would never come their way. "Where have you been all this time?" his mother asked. Sunil said not a word, accepting a shrivelled bun which his mother gave him, he lay down on his well-worn mat to quietly sob himself to sleep.

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