Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Grandpa gets a new friend!

Grandpa’s new friend

“Hello grandson! When are you coming down to meet my new friend?” Grandpa sounded very cheerful over the phone. He was an active septuagenarian, keeping himself busy with his kitchen garden and the children of his neighbourhood when he wasn’t chatting with Grandma.
“Sku is just three years old and is very fond of nuts and fruits. Now that it’s autumn, he mostly has nuts, though we have fruit salads and sandwich parties too sometimes in our garden.”
“Who is this Sku, Grandpa?” Shubho felt a little jealous.
“A very interesting character!” Grandpa hung up abruptly, saying “Oh! It’s time for his tomato and corn salad. Bye!”.
At the dinner table, Shubho sat very glum. Mom noticed and said “This summer we’ll all go and see Sku, Shubho.”
Winter was better because Grandpa called Shubho more frequently now.
“Sku is sleeping in his special house because he doesn’t like the cold temperatures outside,” Grandpa said once. “He doesn’t come to visit me now because winter has made him lazy.”
“Doesn’t he like to jump around?” Shubho asked.
“Oh yes! He is very good at jumping long distances, though nowadays he’s mostly relaxing.” Grandpa replied.
Spring arrived and Grandpa got busy with Sku again. He said Sku was back in his element now that it was spring.
The little grey squirrel came running from somewhere and pounced upon the meal of corn and seeds laid out for him on the green grass just next to Grandpa’s kitchen garden. Grandpa stood close, watching it lovingly. It was little less than ten inches long and sported a bushy tail almost that long.
“It’s so cute!” Shubho whispered from behind him.
The little creature stopped halfway through his snack and fled.
“Squirrels have excellent hearing sense,” Grandpa said. “Your whisper scared him away.”
Shubho watched with great curiosity as the squirrel went scurrying up the oak tree.
“Isn’t my new friend smart?” Grandpa asked with pride.
“You never told me Sku is a squirrel!” Shubho exclaimed.
Grandpa grinned and began watering his plants while Shubho just sat down there itself. For the next two hours he watched Sku jumping long distances on tiny branches high up on the big trees that stood tall in Grandpa’s garden and feeding on flowers and buds that were in plenty around for spring was in full swing.
Grandpa was mighty pleased at Shubho for taking such keen interest in Sku. As he uprooted the weeds from the patch of grass around his rose garden, Grandpa said “Sku is no magician, it’s his long tail that helps balance himself as he runs up and down trees.”
As the morning grew into forenoon, it got very warm and Sku decided not to come out in the open now (Grandpa said “Squirrels are mammals and so they prefer cooler hours like us.”). In the evening, Ron came to visit him with his grandmother who was Grandma’s best friend. A short spell of rain had cooled down the earth and Sku came out again. Shubho watched Sku for a while and then went up to Grandpa’s new attic in his bedroom in the first floor with Ron. Grandma had cleaned it up for him in the morning. The attic thrilled him so much that he began spending his forenoons there when he had nothing to do and Sku was out of sight. Owing to the growing heat Sku came out only in the early morning and again later in the evening.
Weeks later, when it was getting quite hot, Shubho invited Ron for a sandwich party in the attic. The sandwiches were accompanied with lemonade and custard from Grandma’s kitchen and biscuits and boiled corn from Ron’s Grandma’s.
Next day, when it was still dark, and everybody was sound asleep, a terrible noise of scampering on the roof of the double-storied house woke up everybody.
“It’s a thief!” Grandma exclaimed.
Everybody sat thinking what to do when the noise died down as abruptly as it had begun. When Shubho was sure everybody had gone back to sleep, he stealthily climbed up to the attic. It was a little before dawn and it was still dark there, so he switched on the light but the bulb wouldn’t glow. Later in the morning, he went back to check something and cried out “It’s Sku and his friends!” Sku had sneaked into the attic with his friends to snack on the scraps from the sandwich party!
“So Sku turned out to be the thief” Grandma grumbled.
“Oh! Don’t bother!” Grandpa said. “Sku has enough food. He had stored nuts everywhere in the soil, under leaves and logs throughout autumn to help him after winter. Like all squirrels he has forgotten about half of them and so came looking in the attic for them.”
Grandpa had become very attached to Sku and couldn’t bear a harsh word about him. And it was hard for Sku now with spring gone and along with it the bounty of flowers. Of course, the fruits helped, but summer was hard on him.
That evening, Shubho emptied his dry fruit box packed with nuts and almonds near the oak tree and waited near his window.....
It was thrilling to watch Sku and his friends snacking on them, their tails going up like flags to communicate their joy at bumping upon such delicacies. “The tail not only helps them to chat, but also shields them from hot sunlight and rain and even warm them during cold weather,” Grandpa said as he too watched. “It was a good idea to leave the nuts there and not feed them from your hand. Their eyes are so positioned on the sides of their head that they can’t see what is at the tip of their nose and might accidentally bite with their sharp teeth, if startled on suddenly seeing the fingers.” Then he whispered, his eyes twinkling “Don’t tell Grandma, Sku had chewed up the electric wire up in the attic to sharpen and also to shorten his ever-growing teeth.” No wonder the attic bulb wasn’t glowing anymore!
Shubho was waving at his grandparents from the cab. Grandpa held in his hand the box of nuts that Shubho had purchased with his pocket money for Sku. Grandma looked sad. Her grandson was returning to Bangalore since his school was about to reopen after the long summer vacation.
Shubho looked towards the oak tree. Was Sku watching him? Would Sku miss him? He cried out “Granny, do take care of Sku and please don’t let cats and snakes in your garden, Grandpa. And do write to me about Sku.” As the old couple nodded, Shubho said softly to his parents, “I have to visit them again to make more such cute friends.”