She must have been about 6. Some days when her school would have a holiday she would come with her mum. Her bright eyes and shy demeanour reminded me of a tiny sparrow as she sat in the corner of the kitchen following her mum with her eyes as she swept and mopped.
Try as I might, I could never draw her out. She'd watch the kids sprawled around reading, colouring or simply bickering. But she'd never try to get friendly, always remaining aloof, seeming way older than her years. She'd look away quickly when she'd see me watching.
Often I wanted to tell her, 'It's okay.. take a look, join them...." but something held me back. Would she become too familiar, cheeky over time? Would it sound patronising of me? And so I kept quiet and let her be.
One day her mum told me, "Didi can you get a warm jacket for my daughter? It's her birthday next week and I don't know where to find one." She came that day dressed in her prettiest frock. After she'd tried out the jacket I handed her another packet... She tore open the cover and as a bunch of books tumbled out, for the first time acting her age, she whooped for joy. Her mum looked on startled at her reaction.
But not me, I knew. Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye. A book lover myself how could I not see her love for them?
Yes, I'd seen those curious interested looks she sneaked at the kids' books. And that day I'd found her reading 'Stories from Panchatantra'. So engrossed was she in putting the letters together that she didn't hear me enter. When she did, she dropped the book with a startled, guilty look and vanished back to her post at the kitchen.
Yes I saw all of that and I knew..
Happy reading little friend!
Labels: fiction, Write Tribe