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Children weren’t allowed to scream in our house. So, I didn’t.
I had fallen straight, like a ramrod. Chinky was in stitches, she had managed to trip a girl double her size. ‘Come here,’ I hissed. ‘I’ll break your legs!’
When I looked up, her giggling stopped. I felt something on my left eyebrow. I scrambled to the dressing table; there was a bump on the edge of my eye the size of a lemon.
Chinky was hysterical. ‘Don't tell Dragon, please don't tell Dragon!’
I shot up and covered her mouth. 'Shut up! Let me think!’
I dabbed some Lacto Calamine on my eye. It made me look like a dirty disco lady, so I scrubbed it off. The swelling was still numb but I didn't let Chinky know that. I took off my clip and released my bangs.
‘No, Didi, no, she will kill you!’
'Tell me what I should do then!'
Chinky just stood there, trying to blink back tears. She was only five but she understood what I was doing for her. Dragon had trained us to keep our hair pulled away from the face. Unruly hair gave Her indigestion. I faced the mirror and removed the rest of my clips.
When I was a baby, Dragon’s mother used to massage the back of my head so that it turned flat. Good for joodas, she used to say, the bun will stay in place. Now I had a deformed head and perennially short hair. Too curly, too wild. I envied Chinky, she had silky-silky hair. She was crooked but her hair was straight.
At dinner, Dragon was in a bad mood. I did my chores silently. I set the plates, poured the water, fetched the dishes, all the while keeping an eye on Her. Chinky tried to look normal, but her little chin quivered. All of a sudden, Dragon turned towards me, ‘Where is your hairband?’
I kept my eyes down and my mouth shut.
'I said, WHERE IS YOUR HAIRBAND!'
CLANG! Chinky dropped a glass.
That did it. Dragon rushed towards Chinky but Chinky bolted under the table and Dragon spun around but I was not quick enough. THWACK! She served a perfectly pronated slap on my forehead. At that precise moment, the hitherto benign bump decided to sing.
Children weren’t allowed to scream in our house, but that day I did.