When Pipi finally saw a REAL train, she was SO UPSET that she hardly knew whether she still wanted to travel to mamabari!
Well, it was a chain of boxes alright - and that too with doors, windows and wheels which her matchbox-train didn’t have. But as luck would have it, they expected Pipi to sit IN a box, and not ON it!
Pipi went all grumpy while Ma and Papa carried her into one of the boxes and got her seated beside a window. The scariest of beds - high and still higher - hung all around. Although no one told her about it, didn’t Pipi know for sure that all the naughty kids would be put on the uppermost beds, and they could NEVER EVER come down unless they turned really good!
Then Papa touched Pipi's chin, ran his hands through the curly mess of her hair, asked her to be a lokkhi meye and walked away. Even before she could start wondering, Papa was standing on the OTHER side of the window and waving at them.
Now the box was full of uncles and aunties Pipi had never met before. So she started with a soft whimpering – and saved bawling for later. But Papa still showed no sign of moving back to HER side of the window. Rather, the floor started swinging, there was a LOUD and LOOOONG whistle, and Papa just shifted slowly out of the window WITHOUT moving his legs! To think of that Papa had never bothered to tell Pipi that he had a REAL pair of roller shoes!
Of course, Pipi bawled out loud this time – and why would she stop unless Papa was back? But Ma wiped her tears away with a pink towel-hanky that smelt REALLY good, and told her that Papa would join them in a day or two. Pipi chose to believe her.
Meanwhile it was getting dark outside. Wind blew in through her window, and lights and giant shades ran in a MAD rush outside the box. Had the train entered a MAGIC tunnel? – wondered Pipi. For quite some time, she was excited and curious. But the tunnel seemed endless! And who knew, it could stretch right up to her mamabari! She turned her attention to the uncles and aunties around, somewhat sad that they’d all go away to their own mamabari-s, NEVER to meet her again, once the train reached its station.
So she walked up to the first bed of her box and introduced herself – “I am Pipi and I am going to my mamabari for the FIRST time. My mamabari has Dadu, Dida, Boro Mama, Mejo Mama, Oli Didi, Riku Dada, Chhoto Mashi, and… and… ” She paused to remember ALL the names Ma had told her. But everyone around giggled and pressed her cheeks SO hard that Pipi got all messed up. An auntie even tried to lift her to her lap and offered her some toffees! Didn’t Pipi immediately know that she was a REAL kidnapper! So she hurried off to the other beds, where the uncles and aunties opened their eyes WIDE in surprise when she told them that her Shona Mama could play a REAL mandolin, and no one there tried to kidnap her.
Finally Pipi came to the bed where a knight sat reading a book. On the opposite bed, Snow White munched an apple. They had hair of gold and blue eyes, and were taller than ANYONE Pipi had seen in her ENTIRE life! Pipi was so astonished that she stood looking at them for a long time, and yet couldn’t decide whether banana milk shake would be fairer than them! Finally, she ran back to Ma and asked her to come and have a REALLY good look at them so that they could find such a boy for her to marry. But Ma burst out laughing and no one knew why!
Pipi went SO grumpy that she HERSELF asked Ma to put her on the highest and scariest bed, and she lay there all by herself, occasionally making faces at the naughty boy sitting on another scary-bed some beds away. Luckily, the boy replied by rolling his tongue in and out, pulling his right earlobe down with his left hand, and the left one with his right. That was by far the BEST new thing Pipi had learnt in that entire day, and she couldn’t WAIT to show it to Papa once he met them at mamabari!
Shortly, Ma climbed up to lie beside Pipi, and she right away went to sleep hugging her SO tight that Pipi could no longer sit up to look around. With nothing else to do, she thought and thought. Were ALL babies born with black eyes, and did only a few pair of eyes ripen later to become blue, brown or green? If it indeed DID work that way, would Pipi’s eyes turn blue as well when she grew up? Wouldn’t enough talcum powder make her look fairer than Snow White?
Finally, when it came to the hair of gold – Pipi missed Papa again. She had questions to ask – and they were important ones. But Papa wasn’t there. And all her thoughts had left Pipi in yawns. So she dug her face into her Ma’s neck and cuddled up under the blanket.
The train, the first real train Pipi had ever seen, then rocked her away to the land of sleep.
Notes and Translations:
Mamabari: Mother’s home or maternal uncles’ place.
lokkhi meye: Good girl
Dadu: Maternal grandpa
Dida: Maternal grandma
Mama: Maternal uncle (mother’s brother)
Mashi: Maternal auntie (mother’s sister)
Mejo: Second eldest
Didi: Elder sister or female cousin
Dada: Elder brother or male cousin