Looking after the little ones

It is dark outside and I check the time. Nine o’clock on a Sunday morning, but that is in Dubai, here it is still only five. I have plenty of time to kill. The safari stories from the Times travel section keep me intrigued. Travel reports from tiger sanctuaries, penguin colonies, chimp and painted wolf expeditions. Seeing animals in their natural habitat, their interactions up close and personal and all that in some of the most beautiful places on earth. It all reads like a dream. I am transported to the sub-Saharan African desert, Antarctica and Ranthambore National Park for a few minutes and brought back to reality as the alarm goes off.

The drive to Epping on this bright crisp autumn morning wakes up my happy senses. I can’t wait to see the little ones. It is the first time I am being entrusted with the two of them at the same time. Huw is treating Kavitha to a helicopter ride above London. They have chosen a good day for it.

Lakshmi wakes up with a jolt as I open her bedroom door. “Ammamma?” She asks. She introduces me to her stuffed animal friends who share her cot. After breakfast Lavinia joins us and her parents leave for their trip. She seems happy and plays with her toys.

The happiness doesn’t last for long and the whimpering starts. I try to console Lavinia but she doesn’t settle. Lakshmi, who was playing happily till then, scratches her feet on a plastic table. As the scratch starts to sting, she starts sniffling. The sniffles grow louder and she wants me to comfort her. Lavinia’s tone drops and Lakshmi’s grow louder and soon the two of them cry in tandem, one on each shoulder. Lavinia looks tired. I put her in her pushchair and rock her to sleep. Lakshmi settles down by this point. Their parents are not away for long and I breathe a sigh of relief as they return from their trip.

A restaurant voucher is due to expire soon and we treat ourselves to a hefty meal at the local Italian restaurant in exchange for it. The dessert comes with a side serving of popping candy. It brings up memories from Kavitha’s school days. She and her classmates were assigned a project to design something, market and sell it. A version of the ‘Apprentice’ show in a much smaller scale. Along with two of her friends she created a dessert, made it, designed a poster to go with it and sold it to the children in the school playground that day. The dessert had popping candy added to it to give it the extra fizz. It proved quite popular and they sold all they had made that day. A few months down the line, the exact version of the dessert was available to buy on the supermarket shelves. We have no idea how it came about. Did somebody steal their idea or was it a coincidence? She went to a school with children from families with business and entrepreneurial backgrounds. Anything was possible. The mystery remains unsolved.

A quick stop at the supermarket on our way home and we bump into a TV personality. A woman who used to be a bubbly young girl in a popular long running TV drama. Years of drug abuse has ravaged her and she now looks like someone in her twilight years. Destructive tendencies that once take hold is difficult to shake off. A promising career brought to a halt prematurely. I wonder what she is doing these days to survive.

I say my goodbyes to the little ones. I will not be seeing them for a couple of weeks. It will be a long two weeks indeed.

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