Our long holiday to Europe came to an end much against my wishes. Schools have begun. But assuming, the girls will be gone for half a day while I enjoy my freedom is far from the truth. My 6-year old hasn’t been able to attend school yet, thanks to jet lag. God does have a special treatment reserved for mothers after all.

My helper is screaming mad about missing supplies at home. The better half has already succumbed to slavery to build the kitty for our next vacation. As for me, life seems devoid of any purpose when the day begins at 5am while it ends at 3am(remember jet lag). Getting back into the grind grinds me like Dosa batter left to ferment. I am at a loss of thoughts and words and rush incessantly to my bar to make myself a drink under the pretext of feeling depressed and mentally reinforce the need to spend on vices like spa and pedicure. But my mission stays incomplete, thanks to the two little soldiers that bring me back to the present that is full of wonder and imagination and laughter.

Even so many as five whole, un-interrupted minutes all to myself are nothing but mere fancy. So, while I almost lounge and decide to day-dream, the little monster appears. Her face is red, her lips pouted and her demeanor lurking trouble. Without any prior notice, just like Mumbai rains, she lashes on my wreathing soul like a howling wolf. Before I can decipher what she has been crumbling (cry-mumbling), she spells out loud and clear – “Mumma, can you buy me detective clothes?”

Afraid of the consequences, I still dare to ask, “Why? Has the school asked for it? Or is it meant for your next pretend play?”

The words ‘pretend-play’ seem to travel faster than light and have the effect of a dam stopping more tears from creating an emotionally charged flood. I look at her and tell matter-of-factly, “That’s easy. Just grab your hat and wear black glasses. And there, you are a detective. Taa Daa”.

Before I can pat my back for this handy recipe for success, the little one scoffs, “No, that is not a what a detective wears. It has to be a brown dress, a long one”.

Now, I surrender to Google. And the search brings up several brown overcoats, hats, leather boots, a pipe and glasses. I reckon she has been imagining Sherlock Gnomes, an unwanted side-effect of long-haul flights bundled with latest animation movies for exactly these kinds of mammals. Phew, whoever thought a holiday could lead to such unforeseen demands!

Time to get back on my feet. I have a task to complete. The little girl must be handed something reasonably good to let her enjoy her game. I slash open the kiddy closet. A quick glance sets the rusted motors of my mind whirring. I offer a fancy, light pink dress and market the idea of looking pretty in pink. Next, I praise an oversized grey colored sweater that belongs to her sister. She loves it and adds to the excitement by asking if I can strap it up with her baby pink ribbon. By this time, tears evaporate as though left in the afternoon sun at some 40 odd degrees. Over the next 10 minutes, the bedroom transforms into the mobile wardrobe of the next blockbuster movie. Our little lead actor is all ready to set the stage on fire. Dress, hat, 2 magnifying glasses and a nerf-gun later, she launches herself on the older one. Her accent changes fashionably in a matter of seconds and her catwalk instantly seizes my gaze. I feel as though I have skydived into the open Scottish landscape and we have a case to solve.

The older one is waiting in a fancy skirt and top. She prefers the Nancy Drew look over the coat-boots-pipe sort of detectives. All that comes to my mind is CID (music playing in the background and eyes of Shivaji Satam narrowing. My hands make laddoos in the air involuntarily). Back to pretense, I mean present, I am tasked with providing some clues to the detectives to reach the treasure. I am handed a 2-inch box filled to the brim with valuables.

By now, I am all involved and scribble notes on 2 separate pieces of paper and leave them around randomly. I divide the treasure to be found in bits, one clue after another. And then, I relax on the sofa, like the bad guy waiting for the expected officials, imaginary cigar in hand. The little one has one more item on the agenda though. She wants me to have an ‘icky, sticky, gooey’ prop  as part of the clue. It’s beyond comprehension. She brings some brown coloured glue and drops it on paper. The game officially begins.

The detectives corner me in my own dwelling after having worked on Clue Number 1 and seizing the missing piece. Next, they read the second clue and rummage everything on my center table. The little detective stylishly uses the gun, lest she leaves fingerprints. Next, she brings out something like a tweezer from the insides of the oversized sweater to lift the box on the icky, sticky, gooey glue. Now, I get the connection. Finally, after threatening me of arrest,  they dig out the treasure box at the witty ideas of the older one. Case closed!

The detectives are out of costumes and I see familiar faces ready with their next demand – food!! After all, they went without food or water until they recovered national treasure from the Godfather. I scramble on my feet and begin my scavenger hunt in the kitchen that looks bereft of edibles due to our vacation. 2-minute noodles it is.

Tummies filled, we all settle into doing homework. And while I can let my hair down for at most 30 seconds approximately, I think, as adults, we lose out on all the fun and zest for the unknown. We hate being pretentious, or at least we declare so. But in the minds of children, pretend play opens up a new world; one that offers excitement, wonder, awe and plenty of stress-free fun.