It’s 7pm midweek. While I am in my best mood ever, humming with Alexa as I fix dinner, the 8-year-old returns home upset the playground is bare as a runway. She pulls a long face, decorated with upset features that trigger my warning button. Yet, in my head, “Golmaal hai bhai sab golmaal hai” plays on with filmy music.

I offer her a glass of her favourite Milo and open dialogue. Tears well down her cheeks as she names loneliness as her culprit. But my brain is so glued to music, it begins to play, “Show me the meaning of being lonely…

But I quickly abandon my thoughts, make my best attempt not to laugh and give her my ‘KNOWN TO HEAL’ bear hug. That is also undeniably my moment of truth. It is during this hundredth of a millisecond when I am overcome with emotions that wisdom dawns – those tears are a mere trap. God, the things girls are capable of. I suddenly feel sorry for the better half; mine and everybody else’s.

End result – I have signed an unwritten contract to play one game chosen by the damsel in distress. She is quick to bring out her toolbox with her brusque smile and before I know it, I am the customer with several broken things in my house.

I abandon music, don my acting cape, get into my element and call her, “Hello, is this Baby Doll who fixes everything?”

I hear a stylish, “Yes it is”.

“Oh great. The tap in my kitchen is broken and the shower in the bathroom is all leaky…”

And before I can bog her down with the rest of my boring list, she interrupts me brutally and announces, “Pause, pause, pause, I am not a plumber!!!”

Wow, I didn’t see that coming. I can’t help but laugh hysterically when the expert customer, her father makes a grand entry back home stating matter of factly I ought to be smart enough to figure from the instruments in the toolbox what kind of a helper I am calling. ‘My bad’, I think and we start over. Did I mention, the second time round I only had electrical issues? Since when did my fragmented brain start acting so structured?

This time the game doesn’t pause. She walks in professionally, checks every broken corner and offers me a quote. Next, she smartly advises me on buying batteries, oiling a unit and changing bulbs. I gape like a goldfish and question the huge amount she is going to charge me without actually fixing anything. “Well, I told you what was wrong. If you want me to buy all the stuff, you need to pay extra.”

While my face turns a beetroot red, the better half hiding behind his laptop  is all smiles with jumping eyebrows. As my Indian-ness kicks in, I roll my sleeves and get into a bargain. On the hindsight, I am glad she’s inherited some of those Marwadi genes that will ensure she won’t go hungry ever, no matter what grades or degrees she earns. Around 8pm, the game is over and the little helper is hungry. Big sister is back from her big girl gang and we all vie for audience to listen to our interesting tales.

At the dinner table, the sisters indulge in Coffee Pot, a game where one thinks of a verb while the other guesses what it could be, ruling out options by asking questions.

As I am done serving, I hear the older one asking, “Do adults coffee pot?”

“Yes”

“Do children coffee pot?”

“No”

“Is it kissing on the lips?”

“But even teenagers do that”, announces the little munchkin.

All heads turn in her direction and we laugh. Teenagers? Yes, in a year we will have one in house. But to imagine they kiss is a scary story for another day.

P.S. As we come to the end of another mundane, uneventful weekday, I feel good we still experience boredom and resort to pretend plays and hard to believe Coffee Pot. I am aware her childhood is withering quickly just like her sister’s. The sister keeps commenting, ”this is so childish” to everything the 8-year-old and I like. She is in be-’tween’ a child and a teen after all. So when they say time flies, it’s true. Am going to hold on to these sweet nothings for as long as I can.