Tania was a very sweet girl who had a lot of friends. Everyone around her thought she was kind-hearted and polite. Tania only faced one problem — she felt very awkward around strangers. It wasn’t something that bothered others, but it sure was a big problem for her.
One day during summer holidays, Aunt Mino came to visit Tania’s mother, who was very excited because they were meeting after a long time. As soon as the guest arrived, she and Tania’s mum got busy chatting and laughing. A little later Tania’s mum excused herself to go to the kitchen. As she was setting a tray with a variety of snacks, Tania tiptoed behind her.
“Mum, who is in the drawing room?” she asked in a hushed whisper.
“Oh Tania, you haven’t been to meet her yet?” her mother asked, “She is one of my very good friends, and we are meeting after ages! I would love for you to come and sit with us.”
“But mummy, I don’t even know her! What will I talk about?” Tania began to panic.
“Don’t worry, my dear. Just greet her and stay on for a minute and then you can politely excuse yourself. Isn’t that easy?”
Tania bit her lip. It didn’t sound that difficult, but she was sure it wouldn’t go as smoothly.
‘What if Aunt Mino asked something I didn’t have an answer to? Or what if I fall on the floor as soon as I enter the room?’ Tania gasped at the thoughts. Surely, she would make a fool of herself!
Tania turned around to talk mum into forgetting about the idea, but saw that her mum was already walking away from the kitchen. She had definitely lost so much time in contemplating!
‘What do I do now?’ she thought to herself, clicking her right foot on the marble floor. ‘If I keep mummy waiting, that would be wrong. And what if mummy has already announced to her friend that I am coming to see her? Oh God, it would be so embarrassing if I don’t show up!’ Tania was very puzzled now. But she mustered up all her courage and finally set off towards the drawing room which, quite frankly, looked like a battleground to her at the time.
As soon as Tania reached the door, which was already wide open, she saw a young woman dressed in a tea pink shirt and white trousers, sitting with her legs crossed on the sofa, a hand on her stomach as she laughed loudly, and another in the air gesturing to mum to stop making her laugh so hard.
Tania’s eyes moved to the left where mum sat, laughing just as loud, joy evident on her beaming face. For a minute, Tania pondered if she would be disturbing them with her presence, but just as she was about to take a little step backward, Aunt Mino’s eyes caught her.
“Oh hey, princess! Come in! Your daughter is lovely, Mumtaz!” she squealed.
Fidgeting slightly, the nervous girl managed to put on a smile and entered the room. She began to walk towards her mother so she could sit right beside her when, to her utter disappointment, Aunt Mino spoke again.
“Come, sit with me, darling! I have been waiting to meet you!”
Tania looked at mum helplessly, who gave her a wordless nod as if assuring her there was nothing to worry about. Tania turned around to sit next to Aunt Mino now but in doing that, her body collided with the small glass table on which the snacks’ tray was set. Nothing broke, but Tania jumped from the sound. Seeing the look of horror on her face, Aunt Mino quickly moved forward and touched her elbow calmly.
“It’s okay, sweetie. Come, sit with me!” her voice exuded kindness and warmth.
Tania went near her and sat on the sofa, not without an audible plop. “I am sorry,” she mumbled.
“What are you sorry for?” Aunt Mino sounded surprised.
Tania waited for a moment before she answered in a small voice, as honestly as she could, “I am just too clumsy.”
Aunt Mino smiled, “Well, I don’t think so. But it could be because your mum and I were way clumsier in our childhood! Oh Mumtaz, do you remember how I fell down in the principal’s office the moment I entered it on our first day? And not stopping there, I even happened to break his glass of water while turning back!” she turned to mum and started laughing.
She also held Tania’s little hand and gently clasped it in her own soft hands. Even though she was still looking at mummy, Tania felt a little closer to her.
“And what happened at the throwball ground? My! The number of times I swung myself over while trying to swing that ugly ball!” Tania started laughing too. She looked at her and continued, “And it’s not even about my childhood, you see. Now since we’re friends, I’ll let you in a little secret.”
“When I was in college, even then I was so immature! You know what they say about older people getting sophisticated with age? Oh, I was going in the opposite direction, I tell you! One day I was supposed to make a presentation in our language class and I was hiding behind the rostrum on the stage. Our teacher, all of a sudden, asked for the rostrum to be removed so she could hear and watch us all clearly. What a moment that was! I was shivering alright! And my speech? That I had forgotten like someone had clicked close the radio button,” Aunt Mino gave a dramatic pause in her story before continuing in a soft voice, “But God bless that teacher, she didn’t let anyone laugh or make fun of me. In fact, she encouraged me to talk about things I knew or she would ask me easy questions that I started to answer and slowly but surely, it helped me gain my confidence! I gave the best presentation that day.”
“It sounds like you had an amazing teacher,” Tania exclaimed happily, speaking for the first time in a while.
Aunt Mino smiled again. “You are right about that! I am so grateful for her. There was something I learned from her that helped me come a long way. It was that when chaos clouds our vision, it is important to start finding our way back one little step at a time. You see, the first thing she did was to let me talk about things I already knew. That allowed me to see within myself and pave my way through focusing on my strengths, not my weaknesses.
“Then she also asked me some easy questions that helped me sort things out in a better way. It was like finding keys through my own course of knowledge. Finally, I was able to stand upright and face people, see them as I saw myself, and then do what I was supposed to do in the best possible way!”
“My dear, everyone gets confused over things every once in a while. That’s just part of human nature. But what really works is realising that it’s okay, and by focusing on your own powers you can always find a solution. You don’t have to wish for bad moments to magically disappear like we sometimes do! You can actually shape yourself in a way that each hurdle only looks like an adventure to try! Won’t it be fun like that?”
Tania, who was looking at Aunt Mino’s face in amazement, nodded her head. Pressing her hand, Aunt Mino turned towards her friend. Mummy gave a wide smile, her eyes glistening with hints of water while Aunt Mino’s shone bright too.
“And now we’ll all have some tea, won’t we? Because I’m starving!” she said in her loud, cheery voice to lighten the mood while aiming for a cupcake at the same time. Her bangle clinked against the tray and Tania couldn’t help smiling.
Published in Dawn, Young World, November 3rd, 2018