“Yes, she has always been a dare devil. I knew she would do something like this someday.” 

Not that Mami could make out any head or tail of the contents of the CM’s speech. She had nothing to do with the national or the state politics; her entire politics was her individual psyche, of catching attention of one and all. Getting acceptance was her personal agenda. Only one sentence of the CM had impressed her greatly, “Mami Pradhan has a dream in her eyes”. True indeed. After that day, she became the best ever dreamer under the sun. 

The CM was ready to leave. Mami got tears in her eyes. “Don’t leave… don’t leave….don’t leave….my dream merchant”. She was not ready to be parted with her glorious moment. It was her lifetime achievement award. 

Mami-bou rushed to the ground as someone told her about the happenings. She dragged her daughter home, hurling her choicest abuses at her. 

“Ay Bou, leave me alone. Let me go near the helicopter!” 

“You bloody girl, go and broom the house. Ma will come home after this meeting and then shout at me that she had given you off, not me, from the household chores. I can’t broom today, I have back pain.” 

So the king of kings, Biju babu, left, leaving behind ambitions and a truckload of dreams in Mami Pradhan’s eyes. 

The next day, the front pages of all news papers in the state carried photographs of Biju babu holding the hands of a BPL girl and showing a Utopian future for every poor of Odisha. The front lines were, ‘Biju Babu identifies the real face of Odisha,’ ‘BPL girl makes history!’ 

Mami managed to collect most paper cuts of the day. (Till today one can find a few of them laminated, hanging on the broken walls of her hut.) 

In the evening, Ma was amazed talking to her. 

“Ay Mami, why were you jumping like that in front of the dais? You wanted them to notice you and call you there, eh? What an idiot you are! If something would have happened to you? Your Bou would have scolded my daughters that they had left you alone. Do you know how these politicians are? Biju Babu is a nice gentleman, no doubt, but do you know the party workers? If someone would have lifted you? If you were crushed in the crowd? Don’t do such things again, you get that? What a girl!” 

Mami got annoyed; she was still basking in the glory of the morning. She rushed out of the room bouncing her pig-tail, grumbling something at Ma. Hurling a gali or two, perhaps. 

From that day, she stopped having pigtails and managed to snatch some money from her mother’s monthly salary to buy Lifebuoy soaps to wash her hair and have a pony tail, just like me. Perhaps she had a proper hair-cut too. 

To add fuel to the fire, the next day two local journalists came with a mike to our house and Madame Mami was hailed. 

“Mami-ji, how old are you?” 

“Ten years.” 

“Do you go to the school?” 

“Yes, of course!” 

“Yesterday, the chief Minister of Odisha could identify you among all and said that you are the real face of Odisha. How do you feel?” 

“Oh, I was the most beautiful among all present over there; in fact I am the most beautiful one in the whole town, so he noticed me. Someday I shall go to his house and stay there; I shall…. I shall…” 

My Ma pushed her Bou to go and stop her. “You never know what rubbish this stupid girl is going to tell them! Go stop her. All these journalists are making a tamasha here, they have no other business. Those politicians left. Now we shall see them again after five years. I don’t know why on earth all of you are getting such excited. We have seen it all.” 

But Mami became, or at least she thought that she was, a celebrity overnight. All that media attention, photographs in news papers. “Mamiji, Mamiji, Mamiji, how do you feel? How do you feel? How do you feel?” She was metamorphosed from an ugly caterpillar to a pretty butterfly. The ugly duckling turned into a princes charming with the magic wand of Biju babu. She felt she was more of a socialite , page-three lady now than a mere maid in our house. She had new airs. She was stubborn not to wear my old frocks anymore; thus her Bou gave her some finicky slaps. 

“Ay Bou, slap me. Till I go to his house someday, you scold me, hit me. Then all of you would come to meet me with appointments. Then I won’t have time.” 

With this new-found celebrityhood, she stopped studying with us during the evenings. Baba had made it a point for Ma that Mami could help her during the day time, but she had to sit down to study with us from six to nine in the evening, till Baba would allow us to watch Door Darshan channel on our new Surya Kiran colour T.V. 

Mami started dozing and dreaming during her study hours, looking forward for that T.V. time, to get in touch with the hot and happening girls in big cities, their new hair styles and make up. She would experiment those hair styles on herself. But her new hair styles always ended up in a disaster. (To be continued) 

Nandini Sahu, Professor of English and Former Director, School of Foreign Languages, IGNOU, New Delhi, India, is an established Indian English poet, creative writer and folklorist. She is the author/editor of twenty books. She is the recipient of the Literary Award/Gold Medal from the hon’ble Vice President of India for her contribution to English Studies.