The constant flurry of visitors did nothing to assuage little Tanu‟s feelings. No one had any time to spare for the forlorn ten-year old and she felt as if the world had forsaken her. She had tried to catch Mummy‟s attention once by tugging on her dress but had been waved off with an impatient “Tanu, please go out of the kitchen. I am too busy to look after you and you might hurt yourself somehow. Go play with your dolls or something.”
Thus rejected by the most important person in her life, she had returned, disheartened, to her cubbyhole in the corner of the den. Cut off from view by the bookcase, this small alcove had long been claimed by this youngest member of the Mathur family, primarily because she was the only one small enough to fit through the narrow opening. Today it seemed the perfect place for wallowing in her misery. “All because of Sissy”, thought the abandoned child angrily, “why doesn‟t she go away right now?” The object of her anger, Tanu‟s older sister Nisha, was currently on the phone, chatting with her boyfriend and finishing the remnants of her packing. Sissy was off to the US for studies and all the chaos in the house was centered on her. “The first in the family to study abroad”, relatives gushed proudly. “My firstborn leaving me”, lamented the mother silently. And in the midst of all this a little girl was forgotten.
Tanu did not know when she fell asleep in her little hidey-hole and was awakened by her mother who finally came looking for her. “Hurry up Tanu”, she chided her younger daughter, “it‟s time to go to the airport to see-off Sissy. We will see the big planes, won‟t you like that? Get dressed quickly; I have laid out your dress on the bed.” Tanu hopefully extended her hand to grasp her Mummy‟s fingers and for one glorious second Mummy was about to respond when Sissy called out to her. And in a blinking of an eye, Mummy was gone, leaving Tanu alone again.
It was with a heavy heart that the little child got dressed and seated herself in a dark corner of the car that was to carry them to the airport. With sorrowful eyes she watched as Sissy was embraced by their many aunts and uncles. Tears were running down their faces at the impending separation. Sissy’s bags were already stuffed with numerous small going away gifts but there was not even a single chocolate for Tanu. “If I go away now, no one will miss me, not even Mummy. Nobody loves me anymore. I don‟t like Sissy and I am glad she is going away” she decided disconsolately. Till a month back she had been the apple of everyone‟s eyes and now she had been discarded like an old toy.
The tearful farewells were cut short by Papa who was worrying about reaching late and off they went to the airport. After reaching, Papa loaded Sissy’s bags onto the trolley while Mummy held Sissy and cried. Papa‟s eyes were also wet as he kissed Sissy‟s forehead and asked her to take care. And then Sissy turned to Tanu, holding out her hands. Sissy was crying? All her anger melted away as she ran into her elder sister‟s arms, bawling her eyes out. As Sissy kissed all of them tearfully and entered the terminal, turning and waving continuously, Tanu felt Mummy’s arms creep around her. And they both sobbed as they watched Sissy go far away from them.