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Last month some cousins visited along with their families. One of them had their grandson in tow. The little fellow, of four or five, got restless after a while and went wandering around the house. A few seconds later I heard squeaks as if from a toy.

Squeaks? Squeaks? Of course squeaks!

Even as realisation dawned I saw the boy walk out of my bedroom with a pleased expression. In his hand was an orange duck whose tummy he was pressing making it squeak.

At that moment, my heart sank.

The orange duck belonged to Luci. It is the only one of Luci’s toys that I have kept back for myself in her memory. The rest of her stuff I gave away to other dogs. The duck occupies pride of place on my study table from where the little boy had picked it up.

I worried for a moment on how to tackle the issue. Many parents and grandparents are notorious for their inability to say ‘no’ to children/grandchildren. They expect others to show the same understanding and acquiesce to the demands of their darlings. Which category did my cousins belong to?

Whichever one it was I was going to stand my ground. As a first step, I decided to be upfront. It belonged to Luci and I have retained it in her memory, I told them with a smile.

Now, everyone knows about Luci and me and our love for each other. My cousin immediately told her grandson, ‘You must give it back before you leave, okay?’ I was relieved. She obviously didn’t belong to the my-grandson-should-have-all-that-he-desires school.

The boy though didn’t say ‘yes’ or even nod in agreement and that was cause for concern. He walked around squeaking the toy. I found my mind wandering even while I was conversing with my cousins. If the boy insisted on taking it with him, I was going to put my foot down, I kept telling myself. No way was I going to let the orange duck leave my house.

But, but…. what if the L&M interfered?

The L&M is notorious for giving things away, never mind if it is something I value. The other day he was found offering someone a gift I had received from a dear friend, a camera lens shaped cup. Luckily for me I caught him in the nick of time and nipped the offer in the bud. It is MINE,’ I said, and under my breath I added ‘not YOURS to give away’. The very idea!

Soon the guests were ready to leave and we got up to walk them down to their car. As we stood talking at the front door, a custom we Indians follow religiously, talking for hours at the door, I surreptitiously stepped back inside and took a quick look around.

The orange duck was resting on its side on the counter next to the dining table.


The duck is now back where it belongs, on my table, looking down at me with one eye from its perch on the book shelf. And oh, if any one’s interested, the painting behind the duck is by the Second Born.

© Shail Mohan 2022