“Yash, are you done packing your books and toys in the boxes?” Anjali asked her 10 year old son who was sitting by the window staring at the playground, watching his friends playing cricket. Yash nodded at Anjali with a heavy sigh.

Sensing her son’s pensive mood, Anjali walked into the room and sat next to him, ruffling his hair. A lopsided smile hung on his face.

“Honey, why you are sad? The new place is really beautiful and there will be a lot many…” Before Anjali could say a few more words to console, Yash interrupted her.

“But I will miss my friends. These are my best friends.” Pointing towards the boys in the playground with his finger.

“I know it is tough to leave your friends and shift to a new place. But look at it this way, we will have our own house and we don’t have to pay rent anymore. You can decorate your room the way you want and there will be new friends waiting for you.” She tried her best though she knew that it would take time for Yash to get acquainted with the new place.

“I know…” Yash finally turned to look at her with a puny smile exhibiting his dejected mood. He picked up his comics and stuffed them into a box. Anjali could never understand how their child was more mature than his age.

The packers and movers guys knocked at the door, they were ready to carry out the job. Anjali asked them to come in and Yash quietly followed her mom to the dining area. Sameer was already talking over the phone and supervising the guys from the agency.

The new house of Yash was located in the suburbs of Mumbai. A newly developed residency, Sameer had managed to crack a good deal for the new flat. He had finally purchased a place and now he owned his first house, a new home for his family.

Sameer was a crime reporter in the leading newspaper of the city and his wife, Anjali worked in a bank. Thanks to Anjali, there were no complications in getting and processing the loan. Now, they were ready to move into their new house.

The luggage was shifted in the morning the following day. Sameer and Anjali both had taken a day off from the office so that their son won’t feel lonely at the new place. They even needed to arrange everything to make the house look like a home. Like an obedient and polite kid, Yash helped his parents in whatever he could with like arranging the furniture in the house.

The day had been long and tiresome one. The night was a celebration night for the family. They went for dinner at the favourite place of Yash. All the while at the new house and the restaurant, Anjali and Sameer tried their best to cheer up Yash but it did not work out the way they had anticipated. Yash only responded when prompted, however, he remained quiet and lost in thoughts.

Next day, Anjali and Sameer had to be back at the work and Yash also got busy with his daily routine i.e. going to school. The biggest challenge for Yash was to spend time after school alone. He had not seen many people in society. Most of the flats were empty, only a handful had been occupied and to his hard luck, none of them had any kids. All were business professionals, singles or newly married couples who were trying to mend the ends of their life.

With nothing much to do, one fine evening, Yash went down to play with his ball. He walked through a narrow alley that opened to the back of residency into a park with a huge rusty gate. The lush green lawns and the tall trees surrounding the park. The atmosphere was soothing and mesmerising. It had swings, a seesaw, slides and a huge sandpit for kids to play.

Yash fell for the park at first glance as he slowly walked in. There were many senior citizens and some were couples among them. An ice-cream seller with his bicycle was strolling in, smiling and waving his hand to the people there.

With the utter delight of finding such a good place, Yash kicked his ball that went to the sandpit. A boy almost his age was playing in the sandpit, trying to make different shapes from the sand. The boy turned around to look at Yash who was running to get the ball.

“Hi…I am Yash.” Introducing himself, Yash waited for the boy to respond who was holding the ball now.

“Hi… I am Ansh.” The boy responded as he tossed back the ball towards Yash. He had a sweet and enchanting smile that quickly thickened the bond between the two kids.

“Will you play with me?” Yash tossed the ball back to Ansh.

“Why not…” Saying so, Ansh kicked the ball high and both the kids got busy playing. The old couples began to enjoy the delightful sight of innocent kids playing. They had not witnessed such a sight in ages.

The sun bid the earth good bye with the last flying kiss as the winds rustled the leaves in the tree and it was about to turn dark. Yash realised that it was his time for him to return back home as his parents would be home any minute.

“Do you come here every day?” Yash asked as the kids dusted the sand and walked out of the sandpit.

“Yes, I am mostly here.” Ansh replied and dusted a patch of dust that was still on the back of Yash’s shirt.

“Cool then, I will come tomorrow evening too; I will also bring other toys too.” Yash replied shaking his hand with Ansh.

“It would be fun then. I haven’t played with toys since long.” Ansh replied as he turned back in the opposite direction.

Before Yash could ask what he meant by his last words, Ansh was already gone. Yash kept looking for him but the park had suddenly become dark deserted and scary. Taking careful quick strides through a narrow dark alley, he reached the back entrance of the residency. Finally, Yash had found a new friend who was very nice and playful just like him.

At night, his happiness was sensed easily by his parents over the dinner table. Finally, they were relieved from the worry about what they had to do to keep Yash busy.

“You seemed to be acquainted quite well.” Sameer asked as Yash was busy in digging rice and curry on his plate.

“Yes Dad, and I made a new friend also, Ansh. Like me, he also visits the park every evening.” His joyful answer was music to their ears.

“Well, invite your friend sometimes to our place and you can show him your room too. You guys can play here also.” This time Anjali spoke.

“And you will make tacos for us.” Yash winked as he gulped the last spoon of rice from his plate.

“Of course honey, just let me know a day before so that I’ll be back home early.” Anjali walked with the soiled plates to the kitchen.

It was quite a routine for Yash, morning school, afternoon lunch, homework and playing in the evening at the park with Ansh. Even the aged couples there were fond of these kids. It was a weekday evening when Mr. and Mrs. Mehta were sitting and telling a story to Ansh who was all ears to them.

“Hey, Ansh… Let’s play.” Yash came with his bag of toys hung loosely on his shoulder.

“Hey Yash, join us. Mr. Mehta is telling an interesting story.” Ansh waved and said it loudly for the Yash who was walking towards them.

“Who is the new young man?” Mr. Mehta asked as Yash sat next to Ansh.

“He is my park friend and we…” Before Ansh could say anything more, Mr. Mehta interrupted.

“And you guys enjoy a lot playing.” Mr. Mehta laughed. His laughter was followed by the approval from the other couples who were sitting nearby.

“So Yash, you seem to be new here.” Mr. Mehta asked just like grandparents at home.

Yash told them that they had recently shifted there with his parents and what they did for living. Mr. and Mrs. Mehta were all ears to him. The spark of joy for this evening time was clearly revealed in those innocent eyes of Yash.

“Can we get back to story…?” Ansh interrupted and they all laughed with Mr. Mehta getting back to the story. The boys were so engrossed that they didn’t realize when the time ran out.

“It’s late, I should go back home. My Mom and Dad would be waiting for me.” Yash got up dusting his shorts.

“Not before a sweet treat.” Ansh spoke as Mr. Mehta smiled and waved a hand to the ice-cream seller. Ice cream treat was mandatory after every storytelling session that used to take place once in a week.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Written by: Hemang
Sketch: Paranj Sankdecha

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