By the time Maanvi was done dealing, there was nothing but darkness outside the house. Whatever light was there in the room was strained, pressed against the cards – illuminating whatever it could.
“Paan,” she declared.
I looked at Daadi ma, eyebrows raised. In the most nonchalant way, she shook her head. It would have been inconsequential, had Maanvi not been watching us closely.
“You’re both cheating again!”
“I am not,” I swore. Daadi ma grinned.
“No, no, we aren’t,” she promised. “We didn’t even say anything!”
“Just because we won all the games so far,” I sneered.
“Baba!” Maanvi complained. “They’re cheating.”
Baba didn’t say anything, he was busy pondering his cards. Baba would always look at his cards slowly – one by one. Even when they were playing Teen Patti – he would slowly slide the cards one over the other, and then place his bets. I tried doing it that way once – it had surprisingly satisfying results. For one thing, I got a trail. And that too not an ordinary, stupid trail. I got a King trail. Needless to say that I won that round.
It had been happening very regularly this summer: the electricity would go around six, and by seven it would be too dark to play outside. Maanvi and I – since the house was rather empty and lonely without Papa – would call Daadi ma and Baba outside. We’d set up a table under whatever lights worked with the inverter and deal out the cards for Kotpees. Daadi Ma and I won very regularly.
“Cheaters,” muttered Maanvi under her breath.
From the kitchen, I could smell lauki cooking slowly. Summers weren’t all bad, even without the electricity.