Any stray kitten or puppy is an object of adoration for my daughter and she often brings one home. While she feeds it, her eyes sparkle, her face glows with joy. Only after hours of cajoling does she part with it, eyes brimming with tears.
That's how we met Daler Mehndi for the first time.
One evening she picked up a mangy kitten that was making doleful sounds. Reedy of frame, it had an odd black-and-ochre colour scheme and its fur existed in splotches. It resembled a tattered doll. But, once fed, the little thing started bounding around, exploring things. This circus went on for a while. We decided not let it out into the cold darkness.
One night led to another and another and another. We just couldn't rob our little girl of her joy. The kitten stayed.
We named him Daler Mehndi. Because of his cute antics -- and his name -- he became quite famous in the neighbourhood and brought much delight to my daughter.
But some joys are short-lived. One day Daler Mehndi just went away.
A month or so after coming into our lives, he fell ill. We took him to the vet, who gave him a shot and some pill that was to be mixed with the kitten's milk. We did as told and force-fed the kitty. Daler didn't like it one bit. He thrashed about the house making funny noises and then simply staged a walkout. No forwarding address, not even a goodbye.
My daughter still looks out him. As do her friends and the neighbours.
By the way, we named him Daler Mehndi because he had this typical way of rubbing himself against your leg. It went 'Rub, rub, rub '
Shishir Bhate, Mumbai
My daughter, Pavitra, is two years old.
Every evening, after I returned home from work, I would sit with her and we'd go through her word and picture books. Pavitra took to these sessions like a fish to water. In no time, she knew all the pictures and words in her books.
I was beginning to run out of new words to teach her through books, so I took to showing her things in our surroundings like trees, leaves, cars, men, women, girls, boys, etc. We had great fun identifying these new words.
What I did not realise was that, along the way, I was teaching her way too much about bald people as well.
One day, my husband's close friend paid us a visit. He was nearly bald, though he did have a fringe of grey hair. Much to our embarrassment, Pavitra promptly christened him 'Mottai (bald) thatha (grandfather).'
Uma Ramesh, Bangalore
A few days ago, my husband and I were returning home after spending the weekend with my in-laws in Panvel near Mumbai. We were driving on the Mankhurd highway when a pedestrian suddenly shouted something at us. We could not understand what he was saying, so we continued homewards.
As we slowed down for a red light, another pedestrian shouted at us. That got us worried. We pulled over. As we tried to understand what was wrong, a man came over and said he had seen sparks flying off the car's bonnet. Now, we were really worried. For starters, the place we had stopped at was alien to us. There were no buildings or shops nearby, just oil factories. At 8 pm on a Sunday evening, it was virtually deserted except for the speeding cars on the highway.
The guy said he was a mechanic. He opened the car's bonnet and showed us the faulty part in the engine. Miraculously, he had a replacement in his pocket. He said it would cost us Rs 2,000, which he swore was the retail price. We felt cornered, but didn't have too much of a choice. We paid him.
The next day, our fears were realised. We had been conned. There was nothing wrong with our car's engine. And the replacement for the 'faulty' gadget cost only Rs 300.
Cut to the present. The scene changes to the Western Express highway. The time is 1 pm. My husband is driving home when, again, two pedestrians shout to get his attention. He pulls over. A third person tells him the car's bonnet was giving out sparks...
Ronjita Kulkarni, Mumbai
Tourist friendly Pokhra
A couple of years ago, three of us had gone to Nepal. Another friend joined us in Kathmandu. But the capital of Nepal turned out to be a tame affair. We were told Pokhra was the place to be.
Turned out, they were right.
One night, two of my friends were reluctant to wind up after drinks and dinner. They checked out the bars and discos till they downed their shutters. The disappointed duo bought some alcohol for the journey back to the hotel, then found they had run out of cigarettes.
It was around 2.30 am. No shops were open. Alcohol had temporarily dulled their ability to reason so they were determined to find some cigarettes. To their misfortune, they were stopped by a couple of cops. They were reeking of liquor and were sure the cops would advise them to return to the hotel immediately.
My friends came clean. And events took a totally unexpected turn.
The cops walked up to a closed shop and banged the door. When the owner made his sleepy appearance, the cops identified themselves and insisted the tourists be given the best brand of cigarettes. My friends, who were by now totally bewildered, paid up and thanked the cops and the shop owner before making their merry way home.
Dhiraj Shetty, Mumbai
Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh