A Secret For Me
A secret is often a truth waiting to be revealed. But what if you hugged the secret to yourself and enjoyed it because of how special it made you feel?
“Shall we go into that shop there?” I pointed to a shop with a bright pink board. The two display windows on either side of the entrance were a riot of shiny things. But my cousin Vaidehi barely glanced at the shop before she was shaking her head. “I don’t want to buy anything there,” she told me. “So why should we go in there?”
“Because,” I felt like yelling, “because it is fun to look! And because you may actually find something you like!” But I held my tongue and instead sighed to myself. What was the point in saying anything to Vaidehi, I thought. She wasn’t interested in most things. I had spent the afternoon trying to get her to go into some of the shops in the mall close to my house. And all she had done was say things like, “I am not interested,” or “I don’t need anything!” At the thought of the six days that remained of Vaidehi’s stay with us, my heart sank. What was I going to do with a cousin who didn’t seem to be interested in most of the things that I liked?
A week back, the thought of Vaidehi’s visit had thrilled me. I hadn’t met Vaidehi in years and the memory of our childhood meetings, when we had played happily with our dolls, had convinced me that we would have a great time. And so I had made such elaborate plans for our time together that her week long stay had seemed too short. At that time though, the Vaidehi of my dreams had been a girl I had got along with, a cousin I had understood.
The real Vaidehi turned out to be a very quiet girl, whose behaviour and conversation gave no clue to the kind of person she was. How much can you understand of a person from “Yes,” “No” and “I think so”? That was why I had suggested going to the Mall and that was why I was there on a Saturday afternoon, trying desperately to find the key that would unlock my cousin for me.
I did my best to start a conversation as we walked around the mall, pointing to clothes and people, chatting about school and asking her about her friends. To all these Vaidehi gave short, to the point replies. “Ice cream!” I said, stopping in front of my favourite ice cream shop. Fortunately for me, it turned out that Vaidehi too liked ice cream. And so, with a cone in our hands we settled down to eating our ice creams. It was then that Vaidehi saw something in the shoe shop next door that interested her. “What is it?” I asked, looking over her shoulder at the shelves of shoes.
“Look at that pair of sandals,” my cousin said. I followed her pointing finger and saw a pretty pair of sandals, in white and pink.
“Very nice,” I approved. “Do you want to go in and take a look?”
And surprisingly Vaidehi said yes, she did want to take a look at the pair of sandals that had caught her eye.
A few minutes later she had tried on the sandals too and from the look on her face, as she walked up and down the shop, trying to see if the sandals were comfortable, I guessed that she would buy them.
“Like them?” I wanted to know and Vaidehi nodded.
“They are pretty,” I agreed. “And they look very comfortable!”
“Yes, yes,” Vaidehi said impatiently. “But you know, that’s not why I like them so much!” And with a thump she sat down next to me and began unbuckling her sandals in a hurry. “Look!” she said, pulling off one sandal and holding it out to me. I looked, wondering why she seemed so excited. Inside the sandal, in the place where Vaidehi’s heel would come, was a small pink teddy bear, its smile mischievous, the bow in its hair outlined with glittery pink, a pair of pink and white sandals on its minute feet.
“That is pretty!” I exclaimed, sitting up. “But it should have been on the outside of the sandals, so that it would have been seen! Don’t you think so?”
“No!” Vaidehi looked at me as if I was mad. “I like that the teddy bear is inside my sandals!”
“But nobody can even see its there,” I pointed out. “No one will even know you have such a cute little teddy bear on your sandal!”
“I will know,” Vaidehi smiled. “Only I will know and it will be my secret, the teddy bear inside my sandals!”
I looked at my cousin, seeing her for the first time and liking what I saw. My cousin Vaidehi, I realised, was a person who didn’t care about appearances, a person for whom all the changes and all the excitement lay within.
As we walked out of the shop a little later, I caught the small smile on Vaidehi’s lips and knew that the knowledge of the teddy bear had put it there. It was a secret that she hugged to herself, a secret that made her walk taller and straighter. I marveled at how much that secret had changed her, and thinking of the unsuspected depths of human beings I was glad that I had understood Vaidehi before I had rushed to dismiss her as ‘my boring cousin Vaidehi’!
This story was published in Young Buzz, the children’s pages of Sakal Times.