1,2, 3…..15, 16…
I held my breath and clung on tightly to my mom as the lift kept moving up to the 21st floor.

I am Parnika and I am visiting Lakshmi Aunty, my mom’s friend. My mom and Lakshmi Aunty were together in school and were so lucky to meet again after 20 years at the dentist clinic last week.
As we rang the doorbell, I admired the rangoli, the lamps and plants keep outside Lakshmi Aunty’s home.
” Mummy, isn’t it beautiful?” I whispered as mummy smiled and nodded.
Lakshmi Aunty was so excited to see us. ” Good to see you again little Pari” she said as she hugged me.
As we sat in the living room, once again I could not help exclaim.Lakshmi Aunty had arranged everything so beautifully and I felt like I was in a different world.Lakshmi Aunty showed us around the home and also her special tortoise keychains, watches, lamps, bags, jewellery, clay and metal figure collection. I watched in awe as I never thought someone could be so fond of tortoises.

As we entered the living room again, I stopped and grabbed my mom’s hand..”I saw something moving under the sofa mummy”, I blurted out.
Oh, that must be Chinna, said Lakshmi Aunty and as she called out, from beneath the sofa out came a tortoise.

I shrieked as Chinna was moving quickly towards us..I thought the tortoise lost the race to the hare but this one seemed like a super speed truck.
I would have ran outside the home but as Lakshmi Aunty picked up Chinna in her palm, I felt bolder.

She laughed and holding Chinna, she bent and called out softly..” Chinna meet Pari”.
” Ooh did he blink?” I jumped as I said hello to Chinna, who peeked out of his shell.
“He’s so cute Aunty, what does he eat.what can I give him?”, I asked.
“Wait, wait, Pari..let me share with you his favourites”..Lakshmi Aunty laughed.

In the next 10 minutes, I knew so much about Chinna and the tortoises. Let me share a few with you.

* A group of tortoises is called a creep.

* Tortoises live on every continent except Antartica.

* Several species can live over hundred years of age.

* They have good eyesight, sense of smell and touch.

* They can absorb oxygen through their skin on their neck allowing them to be submerged underwater for a long time.

* They like to sunbathe.

* The mommies leave the eggs in burrows dug in sand to hatch on their own.

* We need not feed tortoises everyday and they can go a long time without food. There are different species that eat grass, hay, vegetables, fruits and snails, insects and meat.

And finally Tortoise or turtle?

* A tortoise lives entirely on land while the turtle has flippers that help it swim.

When we were leaving, mummy wondered if I would ask for a tortoise as my pet.

“No, I said. Chinna is there. I can always come over to play with him.”

I watched the moon lighting up the sky as we walked back home together. Even that reminded something that Lakshmi aunty told me.

Well before astronauts landed on the moon, it were 2 tortoises that travelled to the moon and returned safely.

How amazing I thought as I walked back home carrying a storybook of The Hippo and the Tortoise that Lakshmi aunty had gifted me.

Tortoises everywhere..was I going to dream about tortoises too?

Artpreneur| Storyteller | Founder -Studio Srnga