10 year old Ryan grabbed a bunch of his clothes and shoved it in his little backpack in a jiffy as he prepared to spend the holidays at his grandparents’ home in Ambernath, a little town outside of Bombay.
He couldn’t wait to hop on the train to finally be with grandma, grandpa and all his favourite aunties and uncles. Having all of them under one roof meant he was unstoppable. He could eat all the candy he wanted, drink as many bottles of cold drinks, and there was always a nice big bowl of his favourite homemade kheer waiting to be devoured by him.
His eyes lit up like two little stars when the train finally came to a halt at Ambernath station. The journey from the station to his grandparents’ home seemed longer than the actual train journey. Most children will agree that grandparents, aunties and uncles are a ticket to all things fantasy. For every mother who says No, there’s always an aunty who says yes!
Most little boys wish for big things and little Ryan wished of owning his own pet Tiger whom he would name Christopher. No, not a cute little cub but a full grown adult Tiger, complete with an impressive set of staggering jaws. He dreamt of teaching the big cat how to fetch, giving him treats and belly rubs. He imagined playing with Christopher in Ambernath as the family sat outside the house playing monopoly, Ludo and drinking cold drinks in an attempt to beat the humidity and heat. He wished for a pet tiger for as long as he could remember but for now he wasn’t bothered because nothing could beat the fun times spent with his grandparents, uncles and aunties.
Now that he was in Ambernath, he had to pull up his socks up for all the adventures that would soon follow. He had to pull up his socks quite literally too as he prepared to go on a morning hike with his uncle. They hiked to some nearby hills behind the house where his uncle taught him to catch river crabs by poking sticks into the holes that the crabs lived in. It was like a little game and every crab caught meant an extra point to victory. Once they caught enough, Ryan and Uncle Francis would bring their catch home and cook them for dinner. His heart would sink at the thought of the crabs being cooked but once they reached his bottomless belly, the little boy cheered up again.
There’s nothing like being a little child, where your worries last as long as a shooting star surging through the sky and your smiles as wide as the length of it.
If you’ve reached this far into the story, you would have probably understood that little Ryan’s belly was a black hole. From the deserts, kheer, cold drinks and crabs, his stomach could vacuum anything, and another place he loved to eat at in Ambernath was Shree Rath, a local restaurant. But this time it wasn’t just because of the food. He enjoyed teasing his aunt Celine with a waiter who went by a funny name, Tondoba! Tondoba always pulled a chair out for aunt Celine and treated her better than anyone else. While Tondoba and aunt Celine’s love story never really worked out it always sounded pretty cool to little Ryan.
One day, after a meal and an amusing episode of Tondoba and Celine at Shree Rath, they made their way back home. When Ryan reached home with his aunties, to his surprise, Uncle Francis was waiting at the entrance of the house with a fully grown tiger! Ryan couldn’t believe his eyes, he froze as his jaw dropped to the ground.
“He’s yours for a day!” Uncle Francis proclaims, “Come say hello!”
Ryan always imagined being a brave master to his pet Tiger but now that the tiger was here, he questioned his abilities. The tiger looked bored as he sat at Uncle Francis’s feet. He just sat there licking his paw and grooming himself, like any other sassy house cat. Little Ryan had so many questions for uncle Francis but uncle Francis told him to save the questions for later, be brave, man up and say hello to the tiger.
With trembling hands and at least an arm’s distance away, Ryan patted the tiger’s head with just the tips of his fingers and almost in an instant the tiger steps forward and responded with one big lick dragging his enormous tongue across the boy’s face as if to say hello!
“Hello Christopher”, Ryan whispers as he warms up to the tiger and scratches his neck.
“Can we play outside?” asks Ryan looking up to Uncle Francis
“Of course, like I said, he’s yours for the day”, he responds.
Ryan couldn’t believe what was happening. As he led Christopher out of the house, he felt like the strongest most invincible boy in Ambernath as all of the people on the street looked at him in awe. His wish had come true and his heart was brimming with joy and pride. Not everyone can handle something of such immense power yet here he was leading Christopher out of the house.
Ryan feels a soft touch on his shoulder, “wake up Ryan, you’re going to be late for work”, his mother says.
While he tries to open his sleepy eyes, as most millennials’ morning routine, he checks his cell phone and texts me…
“Guess what? I dreamt I had a pet tiger!”