“Leave her alone, I said!” mom screamed when he pulled Piroo.
Piroo was crying.
“Dare if you take her back from me this time, Rubita. I dare you.” he shouted and shut the door. Mom stood there without saying a word. I was very scared. I kept looking at her face as tears ran down my cheek. Nana hugged me and told me to go to bed.
All night, I couldn’t sleep because I missed Piroo.
Dugwan uncle was dad’s cousin. We used to call him Duggu affectionately. He used to visit us on weekends and would get us gifts, chocolates and clothes. It was fun when Duggu was around. I used to look forward to weekends, because he would take us to park and give us ice cream. He used to tell us stories about dad and his childhood. He was so descriptive, it used to feel like it’s happening right in front of my eyes. After dad passed away, Duggu started visiting us often. He was our emotional support.
Once, on a Sunday evening, when he came home, he brought a lot of gifts for Piroo for no reason. Piroo was only four. I was seven.
“Duggu, her birthday is still a month away. Don’t you know?” mom asked.
“Rubita, Piroo is like a fairy. Keep her happy, and see how your fortune shines!” Duggu laughed.
Mom just smiled looking at him. Then, she looked at me and smiled wider. Piroo was busy playing with the new dolls. I was sitting in Nana’s lap.
Nana kissed my head and said, “You’re nothing less.”
It was very weird to see him do all this. He used to behave like our dad sometimes. Piroo meant the world to him. He used to pamper her so much. One day, I heard mom talking to Nana about Duggu and his behaviour with Piroo.
“But, all I am saying is, if he wants to become a part of the family, he should do the same for Sukhi also. I don’t know what’s going on in his mind.” mom said.
“You should talk to him. Tell him you don’t like this behaviour. Tell him to stop doing all this.” said Nana.
Later when mom spoke to Duggu about it, he started crying.
“I am disappointed Rubita. Piroo and Sukhi are like my daughters. Piroo is the younger one, I feel like pampering her, hence I do. What is wrong with you?”
“I get it Duggu, but there should be some limit to all this. I don’t want you to spoil her like this. Enough now.” Mom said calmly.
Duggu got up and left and didn’t show up for a month. Mom called him a lot of times, but he never answered.
Mom was expecting him to come home on Piroo’s birthday. I was hoping he didn’t.
But, he did.
“Duggu, what is this? Again so many gifts?” mom asked.
“Rubita let it be. It’s her birthday. I have a good reason to pamper her. And oh, Sukhi jaan, the other bag has few chocolates for you too.” He smiled.
I nodded.
Duggu stayed at our house that night and celebrated Piroo’s birthday. After we were done cutting the cake, he asked mom if he could take Piroo home for a week. Mom didn’t want him to take her along.
“You stay here for a day or two. Piroo won’t stay without Nana, Duggu. She is used to her.” Mom said.
“Don’t worry. Mona is there at home. She will take good care of Piroo. She won’t miss you all a bit.” Duggu said.
Before mom said anything, Duggu said,
“Mona will be so happy to see Piroo. She will spoil her, I am sure.” He laughed.
Mom smiled and said, “Fine. But, just a week. Give my regards to Mona.”
I was getting a really bad feeling. It wasn’t seeming fine. I knew something bad was going to happen soon. That week went really slow. We all missed Piroo. We would call Duggu all the time to ask about Piroo. Times when Mona or Duggu didn’t answer, I would get very scared. That week passed and Duggu said that he will get her back in a day or two, and he didn’t. He didn’t even take mom’s calls. Mom decided to go to his house and get Piroo back.
When mom came home, she was very angry. Piroo was asleep in mom’s arms. Mom took her to the room, and made her bed.
I was drawing sitting on the floor in the living room, so I could hear the conversation between Nana and mom.
“He has lost it! He wasn’t ready to let her go. I am not letting him step in this house ever again!” exclaimed mom.
“What was he saying Rubi?”
“He is an insane man. He started to state that Piroo is his daughter, and that I am not her mother.”
“Oh, my god! What else did he say?”
“He said I am going to regret what I did. I don’t want him to come here again. He is insane. Mona also didn’t say anything. I think he has… Sukhi go in your room.” mom broke down.
Mom didn’t want me to know what happened, but somehow, I knew, it was something I wouldn’t want to know.
After Duggu took her away like this again, mom was very scared, and so was I. We called the police and Duggu was put in jail.
But after Piroo came home, she stopped talking to anyone. Every time, someone went near her, or tried to cheer her up, all she said was,

“Don’t tickle me.”

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