Lunch. My life has become all about food. I stuff myself as usual. We watch the news as we eat. This is the first time since I came here, the television was turned on.
As we listened Meghna said,"It really scares me to watch the news these days. There is always some news about kidnapping, rape or likewise. Its just not safe for girls these days."
"Amma", Tara said, "It does not matter if you are a girl or a boy to be kidnapped. Human trafficking does not know gender. Only the purpose is different."
"Whatever you say, I cant just sit coolly while you go out on your own sometimes. It scares me to no end." Meghna said.
Tara smiled. "Kavya, amma is always concered about me going out alone. But I think they have prepared me well enough for it. First I have him with me, (i heard a low woof!) second, I learnt karate..and then.."
"You know karate?" I asked, interupting her, totally in awe.
"Yes. I learnt it solely for the purpose of self defence. And I never go out alone. My best friends are always with me." said Tara.
"I am still not convinced" Meghna grumbled.
"Was it tough to learn?" I asked her.
Tara smiled. "Nothing is tough if you set your heart to it. My parents taught me that. I work with sounds and rhythm. I use the sounds around me and how they resonate, to estimate distances and presence of objects in my path. The same goes for defense, in predicting moves based on sounds. And everything has a rhythm. Listen to amma's foot steps. There is a specific rhythm to it. To her chopping vegetables. The dripping water from the tap. The carpenter hammering a nail. The mailman running at the sight of Tigger..ha ha.."
"So how did it all start? How did you learn to do all that?" I asked.
"I could not possibly learn rhythm, without knowing music. My parents played loads of music when I was a baby. Taught me to identify places with sounds. Check this out. My dad used to sit and play with me in the sandbox outside. The left the windows open and my mom always played that radio in the kitchen, next to the service area, so I could know in which direction the house was. From within the house, I can find the dining area from the sounds of the wind chimes at the window. The puja room plays my favourite chants all the time, if not, the lovely fragrance of the flowers, camphor and insence sticks help me."
Meghna stopped her and continued, "Tara hated toys that make noise. So we bought her toys that played soft music and left them around the house so she would move and find them. And she did. That's the way we got her to explore the house. But the best was when Tigger turned up. We put bells around his neck. But he ran all over the place and it was very confusing."
Tara laughed at the thought. "I have a big collection of music. I prefer soft music to hard rock and jazz. I learnt carnatic music and trained in Hindustani vocals as well. I was in my school and college music team and choir. I made so many friends there. It was so much fun."
"All that said, I feel the safest when Tigger is around me. I have never been without him. Except at school and college hours. But he is trained to help me. Only after training did he become a little obedient." Smiled Tara.
"You mean he became probably 1% better than the mischief maker he was", Said Meghna and we all laughed together. I saw a tail wag.
"How is it he reacts to your every statement? Its just amazing. Its as if he knows what you are thinking." I tell Tara.
"He does assess my moods beautifully. You should get used to him. come here. You can start by petting him." She called.
I froze. "That's a dangerous and disasterous proposition" I said.
"Dogs are like A.R.Rahman's music. You have no idea when you first listen to the song. It sound vague and confusing and not too great. But the more number of times you listen to his music, it grows on you and never goes away. It stays in your heart forever." She said, I could sense the passion for music and her love for Tigger in her voice.
I moved over and sat next to..rather close to Tara. She called him over. He jumped up excitedly and ran around a few times before he sat at Tara's feet. Why can't he just walk over. I thought. I was shaking now. My heart rate increased and I was sweating. Am I going into cardiac arrest?
Tara put her hand on mine. She picked it up and placed it slowly on his head. It was soft. He looked into my eyes. I was focused on my hand. I patted his head a few times and slowly removed my hand. Looked like he loved it. He put his head on my knee. I pet him again. Not bad kavya...I thought. And the door bell rang. He barked, jumped up and ran to the door. I was definitely going into cardiac arrest the next time that happens.
"Stop him!!" I heard a new voice.
"Amma, he won't do anything. He is just excited to see you." I hear Aakaash's voice.
"Paati(grandmother), come here, i want you to meet someone." Called Tara.
Tara's grandmother walks in and hugs her. I stand up. "This is kavya, the journalist who is writing a story about me Paati" says Tara.
"Namaste" I say folding my hands and touch her feet.
"See, there is a good girl. Tara I have taught you to say vanakkam(namaste in tamil) so many times. You never do it. And why have you let your hair loose? Its Friday. Its not good for the house. Meghna, why cant you tell her?" Paati said.
I sat down and watched fondly as the family sat down together and talked. I have to talk to Paati too. I thought. Evidently she was back from a pilgrimage of all south Indian temples and was explaining each visit as she handed over small packets of vibuthi(holy ash) to Meghna.
As I sat there, I wondered, had Tara ever Traveled? How would that experience be for her? I would have to ask her that next.
I just then felt a soft head on my knee. I smiled as i gingerly put my hand on his head.
To be continued....