Monica/Kaali too was enthralled by the new way. This was the farthest she had ever been from the tea shop. They shouted ‘yeah’ feeling they were now free from the brute Heera.
They kept travelling till the Sun was descending in the West. They came to a small dhaba (restaurant) by the wayside. It was much like Heera’s tea stall. Kajri bought two cups of milk and biscuits for the children. She ordered a thick strong tea for herself and ate a long rusk dipping it frequently in the sweet tea.
Kaali and Sona were very excited by this journey. They had watched open mouthed at the passing scenery. The palm trees and pools of water that were common on this camel track. It was a different world all together. It was hot but a pleasant breeze on top of the camel cooled them down. Both the children loved the swaying ride on the camel. Toona was such a sedate creature that Kaali and Sona began to have respect for this tall and gangling creature of God. Toona would turn his head once in a while to make sure the children were still sitting on top of him and Monica/Kaali thought he smiled at her.
About a kilometer from Heera’s tea shopKajri made Toona to slow down; she looked around carefully at the deep forest along the road and finally found something. Peeping from under the shawl Kaali could only make out a wall of trees. Kajri lifted a fallen tree and now a grassy path became visible. Carefully avoiding the overhanging branches Kajri led Toona on to the path. It was remarkable. There was a clear cut camel route not visible from the road. Soon they were travelling comfortably at a good pace because Toona felt at home on the soft sandy path of the camel route. Monica/Kaali too heaved a sigh or relief and Sona popped his head out from under the shawl and smiled at the new vista before him. It seemed Toona was carrying a two headed turtle.
Kaali laughed. ‘No, it is not my baby; Heera has brought him from somewhere.’ Kajri looked at the child in disbelief. She looked at Kaali trying to guess if the little girl was lying. Kali was smiling with pleasure. She was proud of the baby like a mother. Kajri began to shake her head in disbelief. She sat down and sipped her sweet tea.
‘Listen Monica, you might get into trouble here. This child looks like a rich man’s son. You have seen that tiny bracelet he is wearing. It is made of gold and silver. Pure gold and silver. Heera has stolen that child and soon the police will be here looking for him’ said Kajri with extreme seriousness.
At that precise moment Heera walked in and the conversation was interrupted. Boora barked once and then retreated to a distance. Kaali too started stirring the mild, tea and water mixture in the pan. She quickly put some sugar in the mixture and poured the strong tea for a customer sitting on a large stone beside Kajri.
Heera surveyed the scene with suspicion. “Kadak tea and be quick about it.” He stared at Kajri with a frowning look. Kajri pretended to be sipping her tea as if her own thoughts were burdening her brain. She paid for the tea and said ‘hoot, toot’ to Toona the Camel and they walked away on their journey to the city. The other customers too soon went away and Kaali was alone with Heera in the tea hut.
That little baby changed Kaali. Heera was beyond redemption. He sat in a corner drinking his country liquor and eating roasted chickpeas. Kaali took care of the little baby as if she had been doing this all her life. She washed and bathed the baby with extreme care somehow knowing exactly how to hold him. The child was very fair and glowed in the sunlight. He looked even fairer when Kaali held him because of her dark tanned arms. She named the child Sona meaning gold because he glowed like gold in the morning sunlight.