“Wake up, sweetie”, said his mum, and kissed him on the cheek. “We need to be there by six or we miss it”. Vik squinted against the bright fluorescent light, and looked at the clock. There’s still time. He pulled the covers over his head and closed his eyes. Around him, mummy’s morning-kitchen-noises sounded unnatural with the lights on. Dad’s sleepy voice sounded from the next room. “Wake up, Vik”.

“Why don’t they leave me alone today, of all days!”, Vik thought.

It’s not like he was looking forward to today, anyway. Not this year. To begin with, there was the matter of his gift. Vik had been wanting the ‘GI Joe Alpha HQ Base’ action set ever since he saw Amit gloat over his stupid ‘Gung-Ho Helicopter (with Rotating Blades)’. Yes, he was going to show Amit that the HQ Base was much, much cooler. Of course, Daddy had looked at the size of the box, and balked. “Where are you going to keep it, Vik? Why don’t I buy you two GI Joe toys instead, hmm… Gung-Ho and Snake Eyes?”. “No! Amit has Gung Ho, and Snake Eyes doesn’t even have a face!”, Vik had protested. In the end, he had to settle for Gung Ho and Baroness, whom Daddy seemed pretty content to buy for him, even though Mummy had seemed miffed at Daddy afterwards.

That wasn’t the only thing that had made him dread today. Annoying Anu aunty and uncle had visited last week and as usual, put things into mummy’s head that they needn’t have had to. “Oh my, Vik is going to be 13, he’s a big boy now!Are you having a party for him?Our own Neeru stopped having parties at 11.We got him a new pair of jeans he liked, some candy for school, and sent himonhisway.You’re not going to have a party for himareyou,Didi?Organizing them, whatadrag!”, Anu aunty had said in her breathless way. The next day, Gone. The party he had been planning with Kumar and Seenu and Reetu and Amit was gone. No cake, no opening of presents. No showing Amit how much cooler his HQ Base was… all gone. The new matching jeans and shoes were his only consolation. Mummy had convinced Daddy to get him the wheelie shoes in exchange for no party. Vik had sniveled and then finally agreed.

And now they wanted to wake him early, to go stand for hours at a temple until they opened the doors of the sanctum. “Vik, wake up”, dad sounded cross now. Vik grudgingly pulled the covers off and padded to the bathroom.

Read Part II | Part III