Growing up in a Grandpa's garden

Submitted into Contest #40 in response to: Write a story about two people who meet and become instant friends.... view prompt



Growing up in a Grandpa's Garden

Viney Kirpal

           Fruit-laden Mango trees, long dry grass and wild creepers hid the old house, next door. The people of Dehra used to say it was haunted. But Pari knew that was not true because the 8-year- old often played in the big garden and never felt scared. Pari’s favourite spot was the low bough of a Mango tree on which she lazed and read storybooks.

Then, news spread like wildfire that the locked house had been bought by an elderly Englishman. His neighbours were excited to hear that someone was going to occupy the house.

The new owner had hired workers to spruce up the house before his arrival.  The big house was painted white. Tangled creepers were torn away and a newly-touched up, red slanting roof stood against the blue sky. To please his new master, Ramu, the  gardener began digging the buried flower- beds and planting them with Red Ball Lilies, purple-faced Pansies, shocking yellow and white Chrysanthemums, sensuous pink and red Roses. It looked like the dream house Pari had always wanted to own.

When all was ready, the new owner, Mr. Robert White, tall and white-haired arrived one afternoon and occupied the house. He was about eighty years old and lived alone. He had a cook and a cleaner to look after him.

The day after his arrival, Pari’s Mother sent him a gift hamper of fruits with Pari to welcome their neighbour.

 “Pari, please carry this hamper to Uncle White and tell him it’s sent with our compliments.”

Pari who needed no excuse to go to the next-door house was delighted to run the errand. As she rang the bell, Mr. White opened the door. He smiled when he saw the sweet little girl with dimpled cheeks holding up the hamper to hand it to him.

“Sir, we’re your neighbours. Mother has sent some fruit from our garden.”

 “Thank you, so much young lady! Please convey my thanks to your Mother and tell her I’m lucky to have such wonderful neighbours! Please come in.”

Pari looked very pleased as he offered her a chair and fetched a plateful of chocolates for her. “What’s your name, young lady?”

“My name is Pari. I am 8 years old and I study in the Girls’ Convent nearby.”

“You’re a very smart girl! I love small children. You can play in my garden whenever you wish to.”

“Thank you, Sir!” She was overjoyed at the thought of being able to play in the garden once again. “When this house was empty, I used to come and play here. I like this garden very much.”

“Think it’s yours!”

 Pari’s eyes glistened with joy and her pigtails flew across her face as she twirled in excitement. “What shall I call you, Sir?” she asked him.

“Call me Grandpa.”

“Ooh! That sounds delightful. I don’t have a Grandpa”.

“Once upon a time, I used to have two lovely grandchildren in my house.”

“Where’re they now?” Pari asked eagerly, hoping to make some new friends.

 “They live in England”, he answered.

“Why haven’t they come with you?”

“They wanted to stay on in England with their parents.”

“So you will live all alone?”


“Grandpa, can I come and talk with you. I don’t have a brother or sister to talk to.”


“May I leave, Grandpa? It’s getting late.”

“Yes but come again. You and I have lots to talk about”. She waved to him with glee and left.

At last, Pari had a friend to talk to and her very own Grandpa, like other children had.

Every day after school, she’d sprint across to his house and play in the garden until Grandpa woke up from his nap.  When he was awake, she would chatter with him non-stop about all that made up her world.

“Today, Martha brought sweets to school. It was her Birthday. We sang for her.”

How old is Martha?”


“How old are you?”

“I’m eight. My birthday falls on 6 September this year. When’s yours? How old are you?”

 “I'll turn 82 on 4 December.”

“You’re ancient, Grandpa!”

Grandpa guffawed loudly. His face grew red as he roared with laughter.  After many months, tears of merriment ran out of his eyes. His heart had broken into shards when his son had said “Dad, our apartment is small. The children have grown up and need a place to study. Mom’s no more; perhaps you would want to try out an Old Age Home? But do visit us.”

Punched in his heart, he at once took the decision not to stay on in England. With Amy, gone, what do I have to stick around here for? I’ll live in Dehra. Lovely place. I’ll hire some servants and live a good life within a small budget. He had served in Dehra as an Army Officer 50 years ago, and loved the place.

Pari was chirping again as usual. “Today, Mrs Nancy taught us how to write a personal narrative. We enjoyed the class.”

“Mrs Nancy must be a very good Teacher!”

“Yes, she dramatizes everything. She makes us laugh. She makes us remember what she’s teaching! She also likes our class!”

“What does she say?”

“She says ‘I love it. Some are already writing as I said. This class is so quick!’”

“You’re really lucky.”


Grandpa also told her stories from his life. They were so different, so full of adventure.

“Once when I was travelling from England to New Cape Town, our ship met with an accident. We barely escaped with our lives.”

“Did some lose their lives?

“Yes, I’m afraid. The weather was foul and not everyone could be rescued.”

“Grandpa, that must have been sad.”

“It was. Travel by ship in those days was dangerous.”

“I want to become an Officer in the Army like you, Grandpa.”

“You can if you work hard on building your body, strengthening your mind and are good at studies.”

“Done, Grandpa’.

Grandpa enjoyed her innocent, sparrow-like babble and laughed heartily at everything she said. Living in Dehra, he had suddenly found an adorable granddaughter who was washing his life with an ocean of love.  A very dear friendship between the English ‘Grandpa’ and his Indian ‘granddaughter’ grew big like an Amaryllis bloom.

Pari did not know that Grandpa was lonely. She continued to give him her sweet company. Pari turned ten on 6 September the year after.

“Will you come to my birthday, Grandpa? Okay, don’t come. I’ll bring a cake for you.” She knew he found it difficult to walk. In the morning, she took a home-made cake for Grandpa and cut it in his presence. Grandpa sang for her. He gifted her a copy of Alice in Wonderland and gently kissed both her cheeks. She thanked him joyfully and hugged him saying, “I love you, Grandpa. You’re the best”. Grandpa’s eyes misted. Their love was foreordained.

One morning in January, news broke out that Grandpa had died in his sleep.  A cloud of gloom filled Pari’s tender heart. She cried, hiccupping inconsolably. She loved Grandpa and she knew she would feel his absence like an extracted tooth. I love you, Grandpa. I’ll miss you all my life, she said to Grandpa as he was being conveyed in a hearse to the graveyard.

No one from Mr. White’s family came to his funeral. The neighbours got together and bid him goodbye, with flowers and prayers.


A month later, a big surprise lay in store for Pari. Grandpa had willed his entire wealth and house to her. He had thanked her in his Will for bringing the golden sunshine into his life.

Everybody was moved to tears. “Mr White was desolate but Pari became his new family.”

 “You must be so proud of your daughter,” a neighbour complimented her Mother. “We did not understand it then but obviously what she was giving the old man was precious to him.  I wish all Dehra children were like her!”

Mrs Jones beamed with joy as she thanked her neighbour.


1337 words 

May 06, 2020 07:58

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DJ Bundst
21:34 May 14, 2020

I loved this story! I like some of your descriptions of emotion and action, which matched the garden theme of the story. Something to try would be to maybe do more showing and less telling, with regard to Grandpa's backstory...perhaps showing more things in his house that come from his past, and more dialog between Grandpa and Pari that reveal how he feels and what his family situation was, and why he moved. Keep writing!


Viney Kirpal
01:15 May 15, 2020

Thank you so much, Robert. I will surely re-write those parts of the story and introduce a couple of scenes bringing in more emotion and showing. Your comments are truly useful. Thanks again.


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