Of books and raccoons

‘Aise nahi chalega! Look at this – there is red ink on the blue tee shirt, fevicol on the skirt and the white shirt is a dull yellow thanks to the food colour. How do I wash this?’

I shuffled a bit and wondered what would be a good time to tell him I had superglued my crocs.

My house help is exasperated. Everyday ends in a puddle of glue, glitter on the breakfast table and yes, superglued slippers. But I am not entirely to blame! I have this bunch of raccoons coming in everyday – they make stuff out of nothing, read, write (some have to prodded to do so) and listen to stories. For a good four hours the house is transformed. We paint, we cut, we glue, we dance, we tell tales, we read, and we also remind the senior raccoon about her promise to teach them how to make slime. So I lay the blame squarely on them as far as our helper goes. There is no way he can figure out that I am the clumsiest of the lot, can he? So superglued slippers are thanks to the bunch. Shhh. 

Each afternoon I plop down exhausted. And each afternoon the boys and I giggle as we discuss the stories we heard. The evenings sometimes see me frantically scaling the narrow streets of Old Faridabad and sometimes Sadar trying to source that exact shade of orange (well we do have an orange obsessed raccoon!). The kabaadiwalas know me and welcome me with a smile, for where do you find a mad woman wanting to buy bottle caps? By nightfall, I am below the normal threshold of exhaustion. That’s when I plan the session for the next day. The younger ones mostly plan the session themselves, for each day, nearly all of them pull me to corner, and ‘secretly’ tell me about the book I should be reading from.

The first day when they came, a few of them were excited about the idea of a library, some let out a tired, barely perceptible sigh at the sight of books, and some plain and simple scowled. But in the span of last nine days, I have seen a shift (no, this time I am not merrily delusional). They are eager to go in the library as soon as their artwork is finished, and excited at the sight of storybooks. Initially I was skeptical about story sessions for the senior raccoons, but somewhere I believe a story captures you irrespective of age, and thankfully I went with that instinct. They laughed with Lafcadio, enjoyed the flanimals, and were awed by the Navajo code talkers.

The artwork that we made was amateur stuff – some was skewed, some untidy, some had an overzealous shading of the crayons and some had three eyes on the chin. But all had one thing in common – it was our own work. We put mismatched ears on the pig if we wanted to, insisted on everything being blue or black because that was the favoured colour, and even decided the colour and shape of glitter paper that we wanted on our art (which by the way can be frustrating if you do not have ‘that shade of yellow’).

Two weeks whizzed past. Each day, I look forward to them being here, make a mental note of the books they say that they like, order them at night, and start hoping that the orders arrive in time. My friend had rightly asked, ‘Are you saving anything?’ His son loves pop-ups and yours truly absolutely had to order ‘just two more’ Robert Sabuda books to see his eyes widen in wonder! So yeah, I am not sure about the finances! But then who counts while spending on books? Trust me, no one. 

 Tomorrow is our last day for now, and psst, we have some mischief planned! Err….we are going to explore the science behind slime – you know the long chain polymers and all that – all in the name of academics. Bwahaha!

From the day when some feet dragged in, and some tiny whispers asked, ‘when will Nani come to pick?’ to today, when I have to tell them twice that it is time to go and they quickly flip through ‘just one more’ book before being dragged out- the journey has just begun. I cannot thank the little raccoons enough for the fun I have had in the last two weeks – stories, art, books, smiles, a flower, and a pretty card with flowers stuck on it and a beautiful handwriting declaring, ‘For my sweet ma’am.’

 Thanks you, and hope to see you soon, in some corner with your nose firmly stuck inside some book.

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