I don’t know if they have them these days, lollipops with a whistle. They were the thing about four decades back. Strawberry colored and flavored, with a small stick to hold it. One could blow through the top portion and lo, the whistle sounded. What could be more fascinating? The sweet taste of candy and the novelty of a whistle, all rolled into one. Except that my parents didn’t think such frivolous expenditure was warranted. And that made one covet it all the more.
That is where Janaki stepped in. Beautiful Janaki, dark-haired and fair of face. Soft-spoken and gentle of manner, with the sweetest of smiles. If there walked an ant in her way, she’d probably step aside so as not to inconvenience it. Selfless. She was that too. And generous.
Those days I was in middle school. So was Janaki. Unlike me, whose parents were pretty strict, Janaki seemed to have money to spend. Not too much. Just the occasional orange flavored ‘cool drink’ and of course, lollipops. The college canteen stocked them among other items like notebooks, pencils and pens.
Some evenings after school, Janaki would ask me to go with her to the canteen. She’d buy the orange-flavored drink. Every time, I’d studiously refuse her offer of buying me one. I thought it wasn’t fair considering I wouldn’t be able to return the favor. But when she gave me the strawberry-pink lollipop, I forgot my resolve and accepted it happily.
Janaki and I were the same age. But I always felt she was older to me, an elder sister. May be it was the maturity with which she carried herself compared to the gawky girl that I used to be. Sigh. Why am I saying that in the past tense? I am still as gawky as ever. When I met Janaki recently, she was as graceful and serene as ever. And her smile, sweeter than those strawberry-flavored lollipops.
©Shail Mohan 2007