(This is my second story - trying my hand at story writing.)
I've been searching for some time now, and haven't found her yet. It never took so long. I start feeling a little worried and decide to tell her then, that this will be the last for the day. Playing hide and seek is one of her favourite games. She always picks the coconut and mango grove to play though it doesn't suite my old, complaining knees. She loves hiding and flitting from tree to tree, teasing me with her calls, till I find her. Also, I can never say no to the lovely smile accompanying the twinkle in her eyes. She means the world to me, being my only grandchild.
As I walk around, looking for her, a coconut frond falls a few feet away, with a huge thud, catching me unawares. After steadying myself and rubbing my bothering knee, I continue my search. I register in my mind to remember and call Moosa, the lad who drops the coconuts and dried fronds. There's a cool breeze blowing and I can hear the soothing sound of the fronds swaying in the breeze. My mind goes back to another time, another age, when I was young. When I was fifteen. The grove in my grandfather's house was much much bigger, with coconut, mango and arecanut trees. It used to be my favourite place to spend the day. And then I see, the young boy, me, running for life, pursued by an elderly man with a piece of frond in his hand.
One evening, walking back home after school with friends, we passed by the graveyard. I ridiculed my friends' belief in ghosts and proclaimed my fearlessness. They made a bet and I took it. To prove their non-existence I was to stay overnight at the graveyard. So, as my friends made their way home, I walked into the graveyard, looking for a nice place to spend the night.
At first light, after an uneventful night, I walked back home still half asleep. As I passed through the gate, I saw my grandfather standing on the steps, transfixed. The next thing I knew, he had picked a slit piece of coconut frond from a pile meant for firewood and was coming after me. I raced towards the grove. I ran around the coconut, mango and arecanut trees, with my grandfather pursuing me, the slit piece of coconut frond raised in his hand, yelling at me, eyes blazing fire, tears running down his cheeks. I ran for life like I never had. It eventually ended with me getting caught, and beaten.
I learnt later, that my grandfather had searched frantically, sending people in all directions to look for me till late evening. He had stayed awake worried through the night, fearing the worst, waiting to start the search again early morning. After my parents death, he had taken it upon himself to look after me, his only grandson. I still miss him, my grandfather.
A familiar voice brings me back from my stupor. I am a grandfather myself today. The breeze still blows but the smell is different, a mix of the old and new.
'Appuppa', she calls again. I hear her giggle. I turn around and see her standing behind a mango tree, head sticking out, smile a mile wide with a pup in her hand. Emotions rise within me. Of love, relief and happiness all at once. I walk up to her as fast as my knees allow, swoop her in my arms and kiss her, tears running down my cheeks. Life had come full circle.
* Appuppa - grandfather in Malayalam