Mridu is a young girl growing up in Madras (now called Chennai) with Tapi, her grandmother, and Thatha, her grandfather. One afternoon Tapi takes her to her aunt Rukku Manni’s house to meet her cousins Lalli, Ravi and Meena.
     A smiling Rukku Manni threw open the door. Ravi and Meena rushed out, and Ravi pulled Mridu into the house. “Wait, let me take off my slippers,” protested Mridu. She set them out neatly near a pair of large black ones. Those were grey, actually, with dust. You could see the clear mark of every toe on the front part of each slipper. The marks for the two big toes were long and scrawny.
     Mridu didn’t have much time to wonder about whose slippers they were, because Ravi dragged her to the backyard, behind a thick bitter-berry bush. There, inside a torn football lined with sacking and filled with sand, lay a very small kitten, lapping up milk from a coconut half-shell.
     “We found him outside the gate this morning. He was mewing and mewing, poor thing,” said Meena. “It’s a secret. Amma says Paati will leave for our Paddu Mama’s house if she knows we have a cat.”
The story is an excerpt taken from the book Goruchaka Turns Up, first in a series called Mridu in Madras, written by Vasantha Surya. She is a writer, journalist, poet, and translator. Her stories have been published in The Hindu Young World newspaper.
The story is set in Chennai. Mridu is a small girl living with her grandparents in Chennai. Her grandmother is Tapi, and her grandfather is Thatha (Tamil word for grandfather). One day, Mridu went with her Tapi to her aunt Rukku Manni's house to meet her cousins Lalli, Ravi and Meena.
Rukku Manni opened the door with a smile. Ravi and Meena, Mridu's cousins, came out excitedly and Ravi pulled Mridu inside the house. Mridu had not even removed her slippers by then, so she asked Ravi to wait. She arranged her slippers neatly near another pair of slippers. She noted that the slippers were:
  • large black ones
  • became grey due to dust
  • marks of each toe were seen clearly on the front of the slippers
  • the marks seemed long and thin, (referring to thin toes)
The dusty slippers with scrawny toe marks!
Although Mridu quickly noted the above details mentally, she did not have to think about whose slippers it could be. By then Ravi had dragged her to their backyard, behind a thick bitter-berry bush. Bitter-berry bushes refer to thick shrub-like bushes, bearing red fruits called bitter-berries. When Mridu saw inside the bush, she saw a small kitten lying down in torn football. It was padded with stuffing and filled with sand to make the kitten comfortable. The kitten was quickly using its tongue to sip up the milk given to it in a coconut shell.
Inside a torn football lined with sacking, Mridu saw a small kitten!
Meena explained to Mridu that they had found the kitten mewing continuously, outside their gate that morning. She also told it should be kept a secret because her Amma (Rukku Manni) had told that Paati (Tamil word for grandmother, here refers to Ravi's grandmother) would leave the house and go off to Paddu Mama's house if she knew that they had a cat.
Meanings of difficult words:
scrawnyunattractively thin and bony
lapping upshort quick movements of a cat's tongue to take liquid up into its mouth
National Council of Educational Research and Training (2007). Honeycomb. A Gift of Chappals - Vasantha Surya (pp. 18-32). Published at the Publication Division by the Secretary, National Council of Educational Research and Training, Sri Aurobindo Marg, New Delhi.