Saturday, 30 May 2020

The Chronicles of Bubbles and Buttons

CHAPTER 3 – A Day with the Birthday Party

Bubbles and Buttons had been very excited since they got the invite yesterday to the birthday celebrations of their classmate and bestie Aaradhana via WhatsApp school group. They also got a personal invite from Aaradhana, whom they fondly call Aari. Aari has been their classmate since kindergarten and a dear neighbour, living just two blocks away. Bubbles and Buttons referred to her home as their “second” home and they had first sleepover during last Christmas holidays. They had lot of fun playing video games and sharing stories they have been fond of. Aari had brother too, Aarav, who was two years younger to her. He was obsessed with Lego toys and if he was in the right mood, he shared them with Bubbles and Buttons. Else, he would become all cranky when they touched it. However, when he went to sleep, Aari, Bubbles and Buttons played with them and had a lot of fun. Also, Aari is the oldest in their class, with her birthday on May 29th. And every first academic day at school would begin with her chocolate distribution.

But this year was different. No one knew when the school would reopen and strangely, they missed the routine of waking up early, uniforms, classrooms, homework and teachers, including their ever strict Rehmath teacher. She was their Mathematics teacher, always scolding and giving imposition. “So strange! Look at her name. Reh-MATH. As if her parents knew she will be a maths teacher from the day she was born”, they used to crib.

“Amma, can you help us get our uniforms”, Bubbles requested immediately after the phone conversation with Aari. “We have a theme for the birthday party this year”, Aari had announced with exhilaration. “Really! What’s that?” Bubbles and Buttons asked in unison. “Back to School”, Aari said. She explained that the party will be hosted by her mother via zoom call and all her friends should attend it in their school uniforms.

“Why would you need them? We don’t even know when the schools will open”, said their mother. So, Bubbles had to explain about the ‘Back to School’ party theme. Their mother, who has obsession with orderliness and categorisation, had neatly folded their uniforms, wrapped in  a brown cover and stashed at the loft.

“I am not even sure if you fit into it. Its been 3 months since you have worn it and with all the sitting at home and the age you are in, I highly doubt”, amma said as a matter of fact.
“Come on amma, don’t give excuses. We need our uniforms”, reasoned Buttons. So amma delegated the work of retrieving the uniforms from the loft to appa. Appa murmured about the autocratic approach taken by amma in delegating such a physically demanding task to him. Bubbles and Buttons just supressed a giggle because they couldn’t control the excitement anymore.

“Did you realise that we have grown taller”, said Bubbles. Uniform was shorter by few inches. Buttons shrugged as he also observed that the shirt was a little too tight than he expected it to be. “This is too uncomfortable”, he complained. “I can’t agree more”, Bubbles said. “Anyways its virtual and only for an hour”, she added.

Their grandmother braided Bubble’s hair on both sides. She applied some kajal and a bindi too. She looked at herself in the mirror and felt happy. Meanwhile. Buttons came with the school identity card and Bubbles’ “Class leader” batch. “I think we should also wear these to complete the look”, he said.

Bubbles and Buttons borrowed their grandmother’s mobile phone, downloaded and set up the Zoom app. They contemplated about the ideal username. Bubbles said it should be B&B. “No one in school knows what B&B means. We should keep it A&A”, said Bubbles - their name being Adwaita and Aditya. “Alright, let’s keep it ‘ADz’?” asked Buttons. And they instantly fell in love with the username. “Short and sweet”, they agreed.

As planned, at the stroke of 5PM, they clicked the zoom meeting link and they saw Aari already waiting with a broad smile. In five minutes, most of their classmates had joined the meeting. They waved at each other and smiled endlessly. None of them knew what to say or how to behave. Thankfully, their discomfort didn’t last long. Aari’s mother pointed the camera towards the cake and Aari cut the cake as their mother sang, “Happy Birthday Aari”. Bubbles and Buttons sang too. But they couldn’t hear anyone else. That confused them. “They have muted all the attendees”, said Bubbles pointing to the mute button and Bubbles shook her head in disapproval. Aari’s mother fed her some cake, then her father fed her a piece. Soon her brother came into the screen, picked a piece and started eating on his own.

“Thank you everyone”, said Aari’s mother. Aari smiled and waved once again, feeling excited and uncertain at the same time. “Let’s take a groupie”, said her mother to the utter shock of everyone. Then she asked everyone to smile and said that the screenshot has been taken and she will share in the WhatsApp group. Bubbles and Buttons looked at each other once again in disbelief. It was only 15 minutes into the party and the kids were bored already. So Aari’s mother nudged Aari to say thank you and said we could disconnect!

“What a stupid party. What a stupid idea. What a waste of time”, Bubbles and Buttons complained. They unbuttoned most of their shirts because it felt too tight. They went downstairs and found everyone sitting in the living room and sipping coffee. Bubbles and Buttons gave the phone back to their grandmother. “How did the party go?”, she asked.

“It was very boring thathi. Only Aari’s mother spoke – let’s cut the cake. Let’s smile. Let’s log off. Let’s this. Let’s that”, Bubbles went on ranting. “She had even muted all of us. So, we didn’t even hear each other”, Buttons added. Their grandparents looked at them as if they were speaking Greek and Latin yet nodded in agreement.

“We really like Aari’s mother and all that okay. But I think people are so different in person and online. This is not how she usually talks”, Bubbles said. “Is this how your office meetings be? Talk only when spoken to and only if required. Else, stay on mute. And what not!” she asked her parents. Their parents looked at each other and smiled.

“Tell us… amma-appa”, they shouted in unison.

“Yes baby. This is how office meetings are. We should stay on mute and speak only if absolutely required. And only if another person has finished talking. Else it could be very confusing”, amma said.

“Are you kidding us? That’s so boring. How do you manage to sit through it for hours and hours in a day?” cried Bubbles. “We couldn’t handle for even 15 minutes”, Buttons echoed.

Their mother sighed and got up from the couch. “How about some mango milkshake”, asked their mother cheerfully as she walked towards the kitchen.
“Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.”, Bubble and Buttons sang in unison as they frog jumped behind her.

To be continued…

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