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– a short story


Vulgar!” she screeched in distaste looking at the frock I had taken out for her.

That was the latest word in her vocabulary, vulgar. Anything and everything she didn’t like was vulgar. The milk was no longer yuck, it was vulgar. The vegetable she did not want to eat was vulgar. And now even the frock she did not want to wear was vulgar.

She had obviously picked the word up from the teen-aged Ria living next door who was Nisha’s idol for the present. Ria and friends found everything in life vulgar. The show was vulgar, the college was vulgar, and the teaching was even more vulgar. Hearing Ria and friends conversing I wondered how many of the words had changed meanings over the years since I myself had been in school. But that was the least of my worries now. Getting Nisha ready for the family function was.

I gave my daughter a baleful look which was totally lost on her. She was busy jumping up and down on the mattress. I sighed and turned to pick another one from among her many frocks. This time it was one of her favorites, the one with the cute yellow roses.

Vulgar! Vulgar!” she screeched again wrinkling her nose in distaste.

It was uncanny, the resemblance to her Grandma when she did that. I almost felt I was back in time and Amma was taking a look at my report card.

“Nisha! Stop it.” I said in warning tones albeit low.

I did not want her Grandma to hear me. She would then come in and start ticking me off for intimidating her sweet and gentle grandchild. This girl of mine was turning into a regular brat with all the interfering ways of her Grandma. And nothing I said would convince Amma. She still thought of me as her too quiet, docile little girl whose life had to be manage by her at every step.

“Come on Nisha, take out a dress of your choice” I said changing tactics.

“No No Nooooo Mummy!! You take!” she said, still busy jumping.

“Nisha!!!!” I screamed at her then, losing my cool.

That brought her Grandma running into the room just as I had feared.

“Come to Grandma darling. Did your mother scold you??”

The wily daughter of mine gave a sweet wicked smile and went to her Grandma to be hugged and comforted.

“Why are you shouting at this sweet child??” she turned on me unceremoniously

“Amma, you are spoiling her. She does not listen to me any more.” I told her exasperated.

“This gentle child?? She is the best, the most obedient and loving child I have ever seen.”

Nisha smiled sweetly at her grandma enjoying the fuss and the words of praise.

“Amma is vulgar!” she stated matter-of-factly to her Grandma.

I blew my top right then and gave Nisha a piece of my mind. Of course her Grandma dear stepped in not letting me give her a smack, which my hands were dying to, right then. I left her sobbing in her Grandma’s arms at my verbal onslaught. Oh yeah, her Grandma did not feel anything was wrong when her sweet gentle granddaughter called me, her mother, vulgar.

“What fuss over something silly as that!” she told me holding Nisha close to her chest. “Vulgar is not such a bad word. I have heard children say worse.”

Was that the point at all?? I threw up my hands in despair and walked out of the room with my mother’s words following me.

“She is still a child. She will learn things soon.”

“Oh yeah she will, with you interfering at every step Amma,” I said in frustration as I walked off.

All in all it was a pretty somber trio that trooped into the car an hour later. Grandma had chosen a dress which the brat had meekly acquiesced to wearing. I seethed at the injustice of it, feeling a little silly too. My husband, who had hurried from office to drive us to the venue, raised his eyebrows questioningly at me. The unusual silence hadn’t gone unnoticed by him. I ignored it and looked straight ahead.

The drama was soon forgotten amidst friends and relatives. We were all assembling together after a long time. Cousins and uncles and aunts…. Lot of chatter and laughter could be heard. My daughter was being shown off proudly to all and sundry by her Grandma. I smiled to myself at the, she is such a sweet child, so obedient, so good-natured, loves her Grandma so much, don’t you darling that I could hear. Amma was really into her role of the proud grandparent and my daughter was being a perfect doll and lapping up all the attention.

Hours later, having done justice to a sumptuous meal, we were all sitting around in a contented mood. Occasional chatter and laughter could be heard. Paan was being served by one of the younger nieces. I looked across at Nisha. She had stuck to Grandma the whole of the time we had been there enjoying all the praise and adulation coming her way. She hadn’t even protested at the loving pinches she got on her cheeks from older relatives. I glanced across at her sitting contentedly in her Grandma’s lap. I was thankful her brat side hadn’t surfaced. Amma held her possessively as she chewed paan and talked to her friends.

Feeling relaxed, I looked around, caught my husband’s eye and smiled at him for the first time since arriving. He raised his eyebrows again. I knew what it meant this time. Grumpiness over?? I grinned in reply.

Cheee!” I heard Nisha screech in disgust and turned quickly around. What was happening??

She had slipped off Grandma’s lap and was  standing, staring at her accusingly. Her Grandma leaned forward and tried to gather Nisha in her arms, trying to pacify her.

No!!” I heard Nisha scream. “Grandma vulgar!” she added in a loud tones making heads turn. Amma was red with embarrassment now.

“Red spit… vulgar vulgar vulgar!” she stamped her tiny feet, hand pointing to her Grandma.

I had half-risen in my seat when I saw my husband walking across to her, picking her up and walking out. I don’t know what he said to her. But she was subdued on the way back, unlike her Grandma.

“Kids these days!” she sniffed disapprovingly, wrinkling her nose just the way my daughter did. Or is it the other way around??

“I don’t know where they are headed!” she lamented. “No respect for elders!”

She turned accusing eyes on me.

“And are parents any better??!” More sniffs of disapproval.

I stared at her in surprise. Okay, now it was all my fault.

“Calling me vulgar, her old Grandma and in front of all those people!” her voice quivered a little.

Wow, this was such an about turn. Her pride was terribly hurt I could see. But I couldn’t help feeling amused.

“She is still a child. She will learn things soon.” I said mock seriously.

“Is this how you parents in the modern age bring up children??” She turned on me, choosing not to hear what I had just said.

My husband’s ears were turning red. I knew he was dying to laugh.

“Look at the way I brought you up. You were such a gentle and sweet child and so well mannered.”

Of course I had been. But it took my daughter to scream at her to help her remember that. And what about the present?? Wasn’t I still the same sweet gentle well-mannered daughter of hers who accepted her bossy ways?? As if she read my unspoken thoughts, she added as an afterthought,

“You still are.”

I smiled at her honeyed words of praise.

Vulgar is not such a bad word, Amma. I have heard children say worse.” I told her mischievously, repeating her own words back to her.

She frowned at me, then smiled and was soon giggling self-consciously. That was all that needed my husband to give vent to the laughter he was holding in. Nisha hesitantly looked from one to the other. All three of us were now laughing helplessly. My clever little brat decided it was the best time to put forward her request for ice-cream.

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This is written for the Three Word Wednesday

This week’s 3WW CXCVII words: gentle, praise, vulgar.