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SHORT STORIES FOR CHILDREN
This is a compilation of stories submitted by the participants at a Writers Workshop conducted by Children's Book Trust.
© by CBT 1982 Reprinted 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2008. ISBN 81-7011-314-8 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in whole or in part, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. Published by Children's Book Trust, Nehru House, 4 Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, New Delhi-110002 and printed at its Indraprastha Press. Ph: 23316970-74 Fax: 23721090 e-mail: email@example.com Website: www.childrensbooktrust.com
SHORT STORIES FOR CHILDREN
Children's Book Trust, New Delhi
Haidar Ananthakrishrwn E. Batra B.G.P.C. Sheila 59 64 73 80 89 94 99 104 Savant-Tonpe Rupa Gupta Anil Ekbote Parameswaran Savita Singh 108 Pratibha Nath Illustrated by Subir Roy and Geeta Verma .K. S.P. N. Gupta Bannerjee Murthi Singh 27 31 37 45 53 R.Contents Man Overboard When Papa Scolded Me To The Memory Of A Lion The Triumphant Smile The Turkish Cap The Goose Thieves Christmas Bells In A Guava Orchard All Because Of My Hair The Pink Card The Unforgettable Journey Varunkaka's Lemonade Pals Hanuman And I At The Party Outwitted That Sunday Morning The Boy From Standard III Tara Valjayanti Indira Padmini Vasantha Murthi 3 12 Ira Saxena 18 Tara Tixoari K.
Rajula. I'm going back to my parents in Singapore." I replied. The loudspeaker spluttered noisily and then the captain's voice came loud and clear. Yet. Do not panic. "Friends we have just received a message that a storm is brewing in the Indian Ocean." I replied.Man Overboard I stood on the deck of S. there was plenty of room to 11111 around. and a library. Those who are inclined to sea3 . "Yes. There were furnished rooms.S. Uncle. "Are you travelling alone?" asked the person standing next to me. a room for indoor games. It looked just like a big house. having breakfast. a swimming pool. "Vasantha. As she slowly moved out of Madras harbour. I request all of you to keep calm. The next morning the passengers were seated in the dining hall. It was a new experience for me. I spent the day exploring the ship. I was thrilled to be on board a ship. "What's your name?" he asked. I waved to my grandparents till I could see them no more.
who was sitting beside me. you know. I turned to the elderly gentleman sitting next to me. "Oh God! Have mercy on us. won't it be thrilling to face a storm on board a steamer? Have you ever been on a ship during a storm?" "It can be quite unpleasant. We were wandering on the ocean for a couple of days. I remembered the several sea adventures I had read.sickness may please stay in their cabins. We may not be affected at all. it's only a warning. "Not rough weather! I'm already seasick." A gentleman consoled her. Even the heavy pianos in the lounge went crashing against the walls. "Don't worry." he replied rather severely. Thank you." Another lady. looked very ill. "When I crossed the English Channel on my way to Singapore." I remembered my class teacher. "Uncle. there was a big storm near Gibraltar. The ship rocked to and fro. Everything in the cabins rolled up and down. Madam. An old lady prayed aloud." There was panic everywhere. My only son is waiting for me in Singapore." 4 . an English woman. Excitedly. A rough sea will be the end of me!" I could not understand why all the elders were so upset. "I remember a time when the ship on which I was travelling ran off course. telling us in class one day.
I felt sorry for him. Then I ran like someone possessed. but in the evening a strong wind started blowing. Uncle. 'Oh. At the same time a huge wave lashed the ship. "Help! Help! 5 . As another bout of retching shook him he leaned over the railings. isn't it lovely?" I asked him. they've no sense of adventure. That's when I noticed Uncle leaning over the railings. I ran up to him. with all the food on them. It lurched violently and the man tumbled over the railings into the wild sea. thinking he too. would be a merry-go-round. He couldn't reply." Everyone round the table stared at me in horror. I said. with us sitting on them. I was running around. "Can I be of any help? Shall I call the doctor?' I asked him. rocking and rolling to the music of the wind. "Good morning. shouting. And the chairs. but only held up his hand. For a second I stood rooted to the spot. The ship rocked to and fro. How dull they are!' The storm didn't break. was enjoying the experience. But he wasn't well at all.This made my imagination run wild. I thought to myself. "Wouldn't it be fun if the storm broke when we have lunch? Then the tables. Huge waves were dashing against it. Turning to 'Uncle' again. He was retching over the rails and looked rather blue about the mouth. these adults. would run away from us. Even though the deck was slippery.
6 . Quick!" His instructions were immediately obeyed. I kept trailing behind him. Please save him. Drop anchor.Man overboard! Save him!" I must have made a lot of noise." I said pointing a finger. Someone asked. "Stop ship." Here again the men quickly obeyed him. "A man fell into the sea. "Man overboard. "There he is!" could be heard." "Where?" he asked. "Lower the life-boats and crew into the sea towards the helm. "What's the matter? Why are you making so much noise?" he asked in a stern voice. "Oh Sir!" I blurted out in relief." Meanwhile two life-boats moved towards the man. Everyone was tense. "What's happening?" somebody asked me." he cried. I was surprised to see it was the captain. "Don't know. "There. He did not wait for more details but ran at once to a room full of officers. I ran full pelt into an officer." he said. People started crowding the deck. "There is a man overboard. The captain then raced to the upper deck. immediately on the alert. I heard footsteps hurrying even that early in the morning. "Who is he?" Another replied. In his anxiety. Tears streaming down my face and shouting incoherently. Word soon went round. I stood close to the captain. Only an occasional.
my dear. I borrowed the captain's binoculars. "We don't want another accident. Both of them were good swimmers and soon had caught hold of the rope." he said crossing himself.he gripped my shoulder tightly and I winced. My ship has never lost a passenger before. "Keep away from those railings!" he shouted. I tugged at the Captain's sleeve." He sounded nervous." The ship had dropped anchor but was heaving up and down. "They've caught him by the arms and are pulling him towards the boat. The crew in the rescue boats threw a strong rope to the two sailors in the sea and shouted. Then. Sir? Have they rescued the man?" I asked him. Now I could see the rescue operation clearly." I protested. He was watching the rescue operations through a pair of binoculars that hung round his neck. they swam towards Uncle. One of them caught hold 7 . "I am sorry. "You're hurting me Sir." He was giving me a running commentary. "What are they doing. The sea is very rough today. Just then he noticed the passengers crowding against the railings. "Oh what bad luck! A sudden current has swept the man away dragging two of the sailors with him. "Catch". I hope my men can reach him in time. The boat was too far for me to see what was happening. with powerful strokes.
I think so. I edged close to the doctor and asked." he replied. The captain moved away to restore order on the ship." He turned to the passengers thronging the railings. As soon as the rescue team reached the ship. "Thank God!" muttered the captain making the sign of the cross again. "Aye." nodded the doctor. "Doctor! Is everything ready for the patient?" the captain asked. He will need immediate medical care. In a jiffy the boats were heading back to the ship. "Please do not crowd round the man when he is brought up.of him. "They've managed to save him. Uncle was placed on the stretcher and rushed to 8 . All the water will have to be pumped out of him. He'll have to be given artificial respiration and kept warm. aye. "We put him on his stomach and massage him until he brings it all up. "What will you do to him. while the other tied the rope round his waist. doctor? Will he be all right?" "Aye. the sailors swam back to the life-boats. A stretcher was also being brought close to the railings. With Uncle between them and the rope secure." Then he saw the ship's doctor standing with a couple of nurses." "How do you pump the water out?" I asked. Captain. The rescue team in the boats leaned over and heaved the three men into it.
"but he's better now. so I couldn't play any games." I knocked and entered. saying. I went and sat in a cosy chair in the lounge and started reading a story-book. "Run along now and play with your friends. When he saw me. child. He was still smiling when he put me down. The captain was standing in the middle of the room. I might even have a surprise for you. Two nurses were scurrying to and fro with trays full of medicines and syringes." I looked up to see a sailor standing before me." she replied. 10 . "Wake up. I quietly sneaked into the hospital room to see what they were doing to the patient." I followed the officer eagerly. "I'll call you afterwards." The ship was still rolling.the hospital room. "Go right inside." When he turned away. I'm busy. The captain then came to me and said. "Not yet. but will send for you when I'm through. Another was rushing off with Uncle's wet clothes. He should regain consciousness in a little while. he came forward and literally swept me off my feet. It took me a minute to recollect the rescue operation and the captain telling me. I was feeling drowsy and must have dozed off. I stopped her and asked if Uncle was conscious. He left me outside the captain's door. aren't you? The Captain wants to see you in his cabin. You're Vasantha. The next tiling I knew was somebody saying.
" On opening my eyes. 11 ."You will have plenty to tell your friends. Then I threw my hands round the captain and hugged and kissed him. I proudly showed my present to everyone I met. He patted my cheek and smiled as he saw me lift the box and walk happily out of his room. "Does this really belong to me? Can I keep it?" Lying snugly on a velvet backing was a most beautiful model of the ship.S." I did so. I heard him say.S. I saw a big brown box.N." I took the box and eagerly opened it." I placed the box carefully on the table. Seconds later. "See what I've got for you. what a lovely ship!" I exclaimed. I was the happiest person on board that day. Isn't it lovely?" "Yes. eh? Now close your eyes. LINDSAY. "Oh. RAJULA. On it was inscribed "B. "See what the Captain has given me.I." was the unanimous verdict. S. indeed. & Co. On it was written: "WITH THE BEST COMPLIMENTS OF CAPT.
Beeta has got fever. "No. which was opposite the dining hall facing the verandah. my dear child. today. how lovely!" I said aloud. Bhaiya did not reply. my elder brother. Bhaiya. He is very ill." I said. taking a deep breath. too? Look. It was a beautiful day. I don't have a holiday today. picked up my favourite doll. Do you have a holiday. and rushed out into the verandah. "Papa! Papa! I don't have to go to school. all in one breath. While I gulped down the milk. He hasn't gone to the clinic. 12 . Beeta. but I could see Papa talking to someone in his room. I ran across the verandah. it's a holiday.When Papa Scolded Me "Baby. Singh." I said overwhelmed with joy. You go and play while I talk to Mr. I heard Papa calling out to the driver. come for breakfast. "Ah. Being engrossed in a magazine. Your milk is getting cold." called Bhaiya. "Papa is still here. I'll ask the compounder to give your doll some medicine. with Beeta tucked under my arm." Papa said lovingly. The morning air was most refreshing. I quickly put on my slippers.
. "Baby! Baby! Come here. I was on the balcony when I heard. ." I said. I burst out laughing. "Look.because she laughs and laughs. not taking his eyes off 13 . So I was very happy. . was the most affectionate. jumping all the while." I said. was dancing round on his hind legs. I swung on the curtain. pulling the chair. what a variety of sounds they make. "And I'll ask Papa to give some medicine to his darling daughter. clapping my hands.It was quite unusual to find my father at home at that time. because. I ran from one end of the verandah to the other and then onto the balcony. then leaping up and rapping on the door. Tom. Papa of course. Bhaiya. tapped on the table. "Papa will give medicine to Beeta. My father wiped his spectacles with the kerchief as he listened to his patient carefully. pulled and pushed the chair." said Bhaiya." It was my brother from the verandah. He had spread himself on an easy chair and our dog. staying close to Papa's room to attract his attention while I played. Being the youngest child in the family I received everyone's attention and affection. showing off." pleaded Bhaiya. tickling me and sending me into fits of laughter. thumped on the door. see this. Normally he was in his clinic before I woke up. "Don't.
I saw him still busy with the patient. Both Mr. 'No. Unable to resist the temptation to touch it." He nodded with a smile and continued talking to the patient. Papa did not look convinced. This at last drew Papa's attention.' I thought. 'He must be liking it. I loved to see him there before me. All one could see was a set of white teeth and chubby cheeks. "Look. I immediately switched it off. "Papa I'm a big girl.' I was imagining what my mother would have said. now. while I played. 'If you touch it. 'to see me play around in his room. So I said again raising my hands above my head. but how attractive it looked — black against the light blue wall. you'll get hurt. too. I was 14 . "Baby. I touched all that I could reach with my hands till I got to the black switch. be careful. you'll fall down." he said tenderly." I grinned from ear to ear making my eyes disappear. This was a 'forbidden' article for me. I am taller than everyone. you should not touch it. I pressed the switch and the light came on.' Bhaiya had told me once. Singh and Papa smiled. Racing back to the window of Papa's room.the book in his hand.' I dragged a chair and climbed onto the table. Papa.
'I'll do it just once more. He did not see me. but he was busy writing. okay?' I said softly to myself. I looked at Papa again and then at the switch which begged my hands to touch it again.scared. I seemed to have disturbed Papa who was 15 . I looked at Papa with large anxious eyes. I repeated the mischief once more and was unable to stop myself from doing it again and again.
had SHOUTED in anger at his darling daughter. come here. a very soft spoken person. Papa. "Don't do that. I was very angry with him. I was shocked at being scolded so loudly by him — scolded by Papa. My running around had certainly disturbed him. you might get a shock. The patient. GET DOWN FROM THERE!" His loud voice broke my trance. My breath quickened. TIow fantastic! I press — the light is on. "Baby. he said in a serious voice. let Papa do his work. I muttered. Throwing my hands about. obviously. expecting to be obeyed instantly." called my brother. who was known never to raise his voice. I ignored everybody. I jumped down from the table with a loud thud and raced up and down the balcony. had some serious problem.concentrating on the patient's problem. I gaped at him wide-eyed. My father sat with four books open in front of him. my face went red with anger. He fixed his gaze on me. and my eyes felt hot with unshed tears. Completely exasperated. he put down his pen and spectacles and shouted at me. "You're not listening to me. This was the most fascinating game for me at the moment. Without looking up from the book. I push — the light goes off'." The klick-klack of the switch and the glowing bulb fascinated me. I raced up and down wanting to 16 .
I went back into the room. I tried to run away in annoyance. I saw Papa talking to the patient with his usual patience. "Oh. Hearing the commotion Bhaiya came out. ruffling my hair. How unthoughtful of him! He is not a bit bothered about my being so angry with him. "Why couldn't you say it softly? Why did you speak so loudly to me?" The next moment I came out on the balcony and stood beside the money-plant pot. "What is it?" he asked. stamping my feet noisily in anger. My eyes were now full of tears. which came down with the force. The sound of a chair being pushed in Papa's room reached my ears and then I heard his footsteps coming closer to me. I raged vehemently. you big cat!" said Papa. 17 .destroy everything that came in my way. but Papa caught me. He pulled my face towards his and picked me up. I rushed and pulled at the curtain in Papa's room. I felt like bursting into tears. This affectionate gesture melted my wrath. I plucked a leaf and shredded it to pieces. He patted my head lovingly and wiped my tears. A moment later I was once again happy playing round the house. Tears came rolling down my plump cheeks. Standing close to Papa. 1 was fuming all the more. My fury found a ready victim and I ran towards him and pushed him.
To The Memory Of A Lion Tanaji Malusare was Shivaji's childhood friend and companion at arms. Colourful bunting fluttered in the streets. "Where is Tanaji? I must see him at once. Umratha wore a festive look. "Pots decorated with mango leaves and a coconut. Shivaji proudly called him his Sivnha or Lion. Tanaji had planned and fought many a battle by the side of his leader. People went in and out of his house. the rider came to a stop in front of them. They were determined to free their land from Mughal domination. He was very brave and daring. busy running errands. Tanaji lived in the small town of Umratha. Before the servant could reply." the servant called out." "In the house Sir. "I'll take you to him. "What news can he be bringing?" he asked Tanaji's servant who was near him. "Look!" cried a man who had noticed him in the distance. One morning." answered the servant. There was a Mangal Kolas* at every door. Tanaji's son was to be married that day. He had recognised the rider. He leapt off his horse and said. Just then a messenger came galloping down the street. 18 ." "Sire.
"Please wait. "His Majesty. "Who is there?" he asked. "moving a lighted lamp round a soldier before he goes to battle." he said. Postpone the wedding. He turned swiftly to his wife and put his hand affectionately on her shoulder. stopped inspecting the sari she had in her hand. My first duty is to my leader and my land. Tanaji put aside the jewel-case he was holding and stepped forward. "Welcome." replied Suryaji. 19 ." Tanaji's wife was stunned. my friend. Tanaji knew at once that it was something serious. She held back her tears. "My dear. "Ka/e* wants you at Raigarh immediately. Suryaji and my men will be with me. Come. Suryaji entered and bowed to Tanaji and his wife. "Suryaji. His wife.Tanaji and his wife were busy selecting and packing clothes and ornaments for the bride and the groom." replied the servant. Do not wony. too. Suryaji". smile and bid me farewell. "Come in." she said and went in to prepare the ' t i l a k a n d 'arti'*** for the farewell. "you know I have to go. s 3 Vermillion co mark on forehead. What brings you here?" he asked.
he rode fast to reach Raigarh fort. After his wife had applied 'tilak' on his forehead and performed the 'arti\ Tanaji took leave of her. The news spread and soon the soldiers assembled outside his house. Leading an army of horsemen. . Tanaji walked straight into Shivaji's room and found him sitting in a pensive mood.Tanaji buckled his sword and stepped out of the room. He ordered his men to be ready to accompany him.
sit down. it is not the way I intend doing it." Tanaji said coolly — "No. His sons are also with him. "Enter from the west? You're not planning to climb that precipice? It is unassailable. There is also the killer elephant Chandrawati. You are the only one who may be able to find a way. "Come. 4 Queen Mother. We will try to enter from the west. The fort is guarded only on three sides. "I have a plan." The lines deepened on Tanaji's brow. Then he spoke." said Tanaji bowing. Raje." He then explained his plan to Shivaji in detail. His men are guarding the three gates. He embraced Tanaji and said. but not impossible. it is difficult." "Yes. "Very difficult to execute. 21 . All of them are brave fighters. I'm here at your service. I have thought and thought." "What?" Shivaji sprang up. but can't find a way of capturing the fort." said Shivaji anxiously. Everything depends on just one thing. She is a force by herself. Raje. We have a difficult assignment. "Oh! my Sivnha has come!" exclaimed Shivaji. "Udai Singh Rathor is in command of the Mughal forces. Ma Sahib* feels that the other forts are not safe so long as we do not recapture Kondana fort. "It is a daring plan."Raje.
"Tonight we attack. We have to take the enemy by surprise. "We begin preparing at once. so she could clutch the wall. He called Suryaji and some of his personal friends who were waiting in the adjoining room. but do not tell them for what. Tanaji called his friends. we will scale the rock. Tanaji tied a rope to Yashwanti's neck. He swore them to secrecy and then told them of the plan. and announced." Tanaji sounded confident. go ahead with your preparations. We will throw it open for you. It is a moonless night and nothing will be visible.We will prepare well and we will succeed. "Very well. "Shivaji's family diety. Then he threw her up hard." Then he turned to Suryaji." Tanaji bowed to Shivaji and left. In a short while they reached the foot of the precipice. Drill the soldiers. perfect them in the use of arms. I will take the iguana Yashwanti. "You are to take the rest of the men and wait at Kalyan Gate. But the iguana lost her grip and slithered down.' Soon everything was ready. May Goddess Bhawani* bless you. All of you must be absolutely silent as you approach Kondana fort. With her help. 22 1 ." Last minute preparations over. they marched to the fort quietly as shadows.
Tanaji whirled round. With their help you can all climb up. it is a sign of bad luck!" exclaimed one of the soldiers. "There must be a number of guards posted on the ramparts. they rushed into the fort. Tanaji whispered. Within minutes they were at the top. The soldiers followed him." The men stonned the fort and overpowered the guards in no time." Tanaji held the rOpe tight and climbed up and up till he reached the ramparts. "Hand me the bag containing the ropes. This time Yashwanti gripped the top of the fort wall. We'll get down and attack the soldiers inside the fort." said Tanaji. The Mughal soldiers offered stiff resistance and a fierce hand to hand fight ensued."Oh. He must only have faith. Shouting 'Jai Bhatoani'. Tanaji breathed a sigh of relief. They should not be allowed to sound the alarm." Tanaji once again hurled the iguana up with greater force. Remember not a sound. 23 . "Who said that? There is no place for superstition in a soldier's life. Let's go. I will tie the ropes to the projections on the wall and let them down. in himself and in God. A soldier gave it to him and he slung it on his back. "I go up first. Take them unawares and silence them.
Both were brilliant swordsmen. The battle raged fiercely round them." cried Tanaji. "Wake up. my sons. Both were tired and bleeding profusely." Udai Singh's sons joined in the battle and the mahout sent Chandrawati charging into the fray. The Marathas fought bravely. He rushed into the melee. the elephant. The attackers had got the better of the defenders." "That we'll see. Among the first to perish were Udai Singh's three sons and Chandrawati. Udai "Elephant-driver. 24 . "The Marathas have entered my fort? But how?" cried Udai Singh. With drawn swords. Udai Singh had by then heard of his sons deaths. Tanaji and Udai Singh were locked in a life and death struggle. a section of the Maratha soldiers had thrown open Kalyan Gate.One of the Mughal soldiers quietly slipped out and rushed to inform Udai Singh. they closed in. you have a lot to answer for. The casualties were heavy. Tell the mahout* to get Chandrawati. "Tanaji. In a strategic move. He sprang from his bed and hurried to the next apartment. She'll crush the Marathas in no time. Tanaji went looking for Udai Singh. You can't escape me.
Suryaji!" cried Shivaji shaking him by his shoulders. He was anxiously waiting for them. fell on their foes like tigers. "Speak. Suryaji returned to Raigarh fort to inform Shivaji of their victory. Udai Singh's death had taken the fight out of the Mughals. He found him lying in a pool of blood. All was quiet when Suryaji entered the fort. The Marathas. but my lion is gone. drawing his sword.Singh made a gallant effort and plunged his sword into Tanaji's chest. looking for Tanaji. the fort is taken. 25 . After a brief struggle." He turned and walked to the window. Quite unexpectedly he sprang up and inflicted a mortal wound on a triumphant Udai Singh. "What has happened to him?" "He is dead!" Suryaji said in a broken voice. the Marathas won the battle. Tanaji stumbled and fell. But where is Tanaji?" Suryaji hung his head and remained silent. He looked aghast at his dead friend. He knelt to feel his pulse. he muttered. He fell dead." said Suryaji. Tanaji. infuriated by Tanaji's death. too collapsed and died. His grief soon turned into anger. "Raje. "Good. "The fort is won. Kondana fort was once again in their hands. "We must complete your task". He rushed around. Shivaji's face went pale as he mumbled.
It is called 'Sivnha Garh "The lion's fort. . A memorial to Tanaji stands on the spot where he fell.He stood there looking out.
I can't save my own flesh. I promise I won't leave any stone unturned. Beg His "Royal physician.The Triumphant Smile Humayun lay in a coma. His father Babar stood beside his bed. "Save Humayun's life. "Here comes Shahi Hakim. "Save my son from the clutches of death. In between sobs she said again. He is Karim." he said. The queen with tears in her eyes begged of the emperor. . my Lord". "I'm just an ordinary servant of yours. "O God. 27 . Have faith in Him. . how helpless am I! I can't even save my son. . Babar knelt before him pleading. " The palace herald announced." Babar stood aghast and moaned in grief. He is Rahim. the kind and the merciful. "O my Lord." The Hakim was taken aback and bent down to raise the Emperor to his feet. my own b l o o d . sad and worried. "O life-giver! Save my child. But to grant life is in God's hands. The Chief Vizier and the nobles crowded behind him."* The Hakim entered the room and offered his respects to the emperor.
my son. "O Humayun. I can only examine the patient and diagnose the illness. He tried to open his mouth too. but it was shut tight. Don't you recognise your mother sitting by your side?" There was still no response. The Hakim opened another bottle and poured a few drops of nectar into Humayun's parted lips. Then he examined the closed eyelids. here look at your Abba* * * Say something my son. The queen took Humayun in her arms and moaned. But there was no reply. "Look at me Prince. Look at your father. The Hakim mumbled. "God bless you (Muslim greeting). Babar stood dazed beside the Hakim. 00 Mother """Father 28 . The Hakim unbuttoned Humayun's shirt and applied a strongsmelling balm to his chest." The Hakim felt Humayun's pulse.mercy." he repeated. say a few words!" But Humayun didn't utter a sound. won't you call me Anuria* * anymore? Here. but did not show recognition. "Asalam walekumPrince." the Hakim greeted him. But the drops flowed out. The prince slowly opened his eyes and mouth too. while the queen's heartrending cries continued to fill the room. "Asalam ivalekum. Sir. Humayun's vacant looks were fixed on the ceiling.
"My Lord! Kindly offer to God whatever you love most." said the Hakim." "Dearest to my heart is Humayun. "Only you can answer that my Lord. my Lord. "That's up to you." said Babar with a triumphant smile. Howal shaft'•!* May God cure him. I am sure God will be kind enough to give Humayun a new lease of life." He took a piece of paper and wrote down the names of some medicines. I'm sure his throat is swollen and clogged. °God bless you with good health. He bowed low and said." Babar replied. "Ah! It is my own life that I love most." the priest replied. He handed the slip to the Emperor and left the palace in dismay. Babar passed the prescription on to the Chief Vizier. one of the court priests had entered the chamber. to save the Prince. You should offer what you love most."He has not accepted the medicine. 29 . Your Majesty would not hesitate to offer something equally dear to Allah?" urged the priest." "Should I renounce my wealth and my kingdom?" asked Babar. "Here my Lord! I can only prescribe these potions for the patient. Meanwhile. Kindly try them. "Surely. "What do I love most?" the Emperor muttered.
Begum." As soon as he had finished speaking Babar sat down on the mat to offer prayers to the Lord. Humayun must live under your patronage." "No. May I die and may Humayun live for ever and ever. "Woman of noble rank."Allah-O-AkbarIn the presence of all nobles and courtiers of my empire. do hereby offer my own life to God Almighty to save Humayun my dearest son. You cannot die. my Lord. At the same time Humayun regained consciousness and opened his eyes. I have lived a hero's life. The anguished queen flung herself at Babar's feet and cried. Let his malady strike me." whispered Babar again with the same triumphant smile on his lips. "Allah is the Greatest. I. Let Humayun recover. "Allah-O-Akbar. Let me die a hero's death for Humayun. Let the Almighty take my life. no." muttered Babar as he lay down on the mat feeling faint and dizzy from the pain in his chest. 30 .0 My pledge to the Almighty must hold good. as his eyes closed. Zaheerud-Din Babar. "No. I must defeat death.
Brijpal. Picking it up. and took the 'danda to strike the gulli. He struck the 'gulli' hard. Nityanand was the first to reach the 'gulli'. Nityanand. all dashed out. It went flying in another direction. Prakash. We reached the ground outside our school compound where we usually played. It was his turn to begin the game. It flew out of the circle and went quite far. Recess at last! We rushed out of the classroom. He tried to catch "Short stick used in the game of tip-cat (gullidanda). None of us could catch it. Everybody's eyes were on Khushal. Kaushal. followed by others. he threw it back with all his strength. Bishen.The Turkish Cap The school bell rang. Khushal struck hard again. Prakash drew a big circle. Bishen was fielding that side. " S t i c k used in the same game. The others took their positions round the circle. Khushal entered it. I took the 'gulli ° out of my satchel before I ran out. 31 . He placed the 'gulli' in the centre of the circle. Khushal took the ' c l a n d a a n d followed me. Panna. Raghubir.
It did not even reach the circle. It was my turn next. "You naughty boys! See.it but it slipped through his fingers. The 'gulli seemed to have hit the cap on its way to me. Brijpal could not catch it either. But what could he do now? He flung the gulli back with a vengeance." he shouted. Then Panna threw the 'gulli to Khushal. I would have to wait till the next day. "Long loose shirt worn with pyjamas. 32 . It should have been an easy catch. He picked it up and threw it back towards Khushal. The man was furious. Khushal struck it forcefully towards Brijpal. Khushal once again hit it back. I was ready to catch it. what you have done. I will teach you a lesson. A man in kurtci* pyjama was standing in the middle of the play field. Brijpal was also sorry foi the slip. The wonder of it all was that the 'gulli' had landed inside the cap. upside down. Then I would be able to start. But Khushal was proving too good a player for us. But it never came! All of a sudden there was a lot of noise. I was hoping Khushal would miss just once. His turkish cap was lying on the ground. The 'gulli was now flying towards me. Khushal didn't miss this time either. I cursed him for missing it. But the way Khushal was hitting I felt my turn would never come.
" "That is why we play here everyday. I picked up his cap to hand it over to him. Turning round." . I am very sorry. He just brushed him aside and went in. I could not remove the 'gulli from it. All of us followed him. "Is this your playground? Why don't you play in your school compound?" the man shouted. Then you will leam how to play and where to play." Bipin added. We will be careful in future. I too was scared of the headmaster's temper. The man entered the school building. I thought I could save the situation. Our school compound is very small. "Sir." Khushal said promptly. we are sorry for what happened. he started walking rapidly towards the school." The man did not appear to be satisfied. isn't it?" the man said wryly. "And this is how you play here. But. "Sir. It just happened. and went straight to the headmaster's office. please excuse us. I stole a glance at my friends. "I'll go to your headmaster."I am sorry. Sir. Brijpal went up to him. They all looked mournful. We could hear loud voices coming 34 . But he wpuld not listen. The peon outside tried to stop him." Khushal and Brijpal pleaded. begging his pardon all the way. "I did not do it deliberately. He snatched it from me.
"And thank you. "Are all of you dumb? Why don't you speak up?" I made bold to reply." "O. boys. "Who is responsible for all this?" he asked in a thundering voice. One by one we entered the headmaster's room. Just as he was going out and we were about to leave. "Sir. All of us were praying silently. and moved towards the door. we are sorry. "Apologise to this gentleman. "You must apologise in my presence." "We have been begging his pardon. Sir.from within. We had crept to the courtyard facing the headmaster's room. I looked round. We chorused. "Now. Sir. My heart was beating faster 35 ." the headmaster insisted. all of you. No one could say a word. We tried guessing the conversation they were having and the consequences." He looked satisfied. the headmaster asked. whose stroke was it?" I looked towards Khushal. Soon the peon came and called us. "How many times have I told you to keep within the school compound?" We looked at one another. "We are very sorry. The headmaster raised his voice." it was Brijpal. We shall be careful in future. He was looking at me. Sir.K." The headmaster merely said." the man said and turned towards the headmaster.
36 . When I looked round. Then we let ourselves go. I checked myself and with some difficulty managed a wide smile. He too looked amused. hit a man's cap. Still smiling he went away. We were eager to go out and have a hearty laugh. the others were also trying to suppress their laughter. "You strike the 'gulli'. Somehow I felt it was not for any punishment that the question was asked. I decided I would take the blame. The man with the turkish cap also turned round at the door. "Sir. I opened my mouth to reply. I am very sorry. So. it was my stroke. We trooped out of the room. make it fall." "What a stroke!" the headmaster exclaimed. either. But Khushal was quicker. and then land the 'gulli' inside it! A master player. A faint smile played on the headmaster's face. But I could not laugh in the headmaster's presence. no doubt!" I could not suppress my laughter.and faster. But how could I blame my friend? With a sinking feeling.
board duster. Bina. hi Marco Polo. was lounging around talking to the cooks inside. awkward looking geese. their heads bobbing back and forth. she heard one of the cooks giggle and threaten George. The class had roared with laughter as Miss K. "If you keep 37 . during a very boring civics class and had scared the daylights out of Miss K. hi Captain Cook.The Goose Thieves It was Bina who first got wind of what was happening. "Oh hello. The geese hurried towards her. tried to chase the intruders out by flapping a large. who was looking for some botanical specimens in the backyard. She happened to be passing the school kitchen where they cooked meals for the nuns and boarders. Waddling sedately towards her was a bevy of large. stopped suddenly in her tracks. Once they had wandered into Bina's classroom. As Bina patted them. the school-bus driver. hello Amundsen." she greeted them. checked. George. The boarders had named the geese after famous explorers because they were constantly exploring the school grounds. Christopher Columbus.
and Columbus — no. Nishi exploded. We can't let them be killed!" Bina had been quiet all this time." Bina's heart sank. no we won't let them be killed and eaten. After all. "I think we can do something about it. "But how can we stop them? They have every right to do what they like with the geese." she said finally. our poor Captain Cook. Valerie and Nishi and told them what she had overheard. lovable geese were actually being fattened for Christmas! It couldn't be! The schoolgirls were much too fond of them. We have no right to make anybody do anything. "If you're going 38 ." Valerie however was the thoughtful sort.demanding more food. School won't be the same without those darlings waddling in and out of the classrooms. "In fact there is something we can do to stop the geese from turning up on the school dining table for Christmas." Nishi muttered disbelievingly. That's done every Christmas. These sweet. they aren't even our geese!" Vinita was close to tears. But what could they do anyway? Bina sought her friends Vinita. "Nonsense! Not our Marco Polo and Amundsen. we'll really fatten you up and have you for the Christmas feast like those geese outside. working out a plan. "But we've seen them around for weeks.
" said Valerie. "What!" burst out Nishi. "It's a possibility! We could keep them in my backyard.to suggest to Mother Superior that we should have a heart-to-heart talk about it. count me out. "I have a real good idea. The more I think about it. I quake in my boots when I see her coming. Gradually it struck the other three that Bina's idea was workable." Bina interrupted. "who are we for her to listen to? " "Listen to me. "Why not?" Only Valerie said slowly. the four of them thought over and discussed plans in secret. Beans." "Besides." The four sat together and thought. They would huddle in a comer of the lawn or in the assembly hall or library. "We'll kidnap them!" Bina exclaimed and sat back to watch her friends' reaction. The next few days." "Out with it. We have lots of space. till the rest of the class almost went crazy. "kidnap!" "You mean it'll work?" Vinita sounded doubtful. If they could but grab the four geese and smuggle them somewhere far away from school there would be no geese for the cooks to fatten and slaughter for the Christmas dinner. Whenever anybody wanted to find 39 . the better it appears." Vinita was impatient.
I couldn't come to school wearing a wet blazer. D-day drew nearer." "Of course." "Yes Mother. wearing a large sized blue overcoat. The girls came to school clad in heavy blazers. "What is this?" she asked Bina. they would innocently say like Valerie once did to an inquisitive girl — "Oh we are discussing the exploits of Marco Polo the traveller." The next morning Bina went to school." "Everything's fine." 40 ." said the stubborn girl and went off. "You know very well that you're not supposed to wear any coat except your blazer to school. "Everybody sure about their parts?" "Hmmm." Bina said innocently. "All set?" Bina looked round and blew on her hands for warmth.out what they were discussing." "But we learnt all about him in geography last year. even before morning assembly." "Good. Mother Superior noticed her at once. "but on my way here the upstairs lady threw out some water which fell on me. The day before the plan was put into action the four friends met on the lawn. It was mid-December and getting very cold. mumbling to herself.
Their natural science teacher already tottering rather unsteadily on stilettos was thrown offbalance and fell heavily against the tall human skeleton in the corner of the room. as the four ran past her. across the courtyard and towards the kitchen. Their classmates squealed in sympathy." she said. "That's all right. The kitchen was deserted and 41 . Bina. The moment classes were over for that day. "Go on. Valerie. She was however dumbfounded when three other girls of the same class turned up wearing oversized coats. Bina patted her arm and said aloud. Four of us turning up like this! It's funny. past the library and assembly hall. isn't it?" There was a pause and then Mother Superior smiled. the four friends charged out. But I hope coincidences like this do not happen too often.'' she shouted. "This is too much.Mother Superior nodded. "Four of you! Is this some kind of a practical joke?" Nishi looked nervous. "What a coincidence. Nishi and Vinita had already disappeared down the corridor. She shook her head in disbelief as they in turn made some excuse for turning up in their mothers coats." The girls fled to their classroom. go to your class. The others stared at them in surprise.
. Mother Superior stood on top of the kitchen steps. . "Eee-yowa. . The cook. . .great!'' Nishi gripped Amundsen tightly. quick get h i m .there was nobody in sight either. . . . 42 . ." howled Bina as she reached for Marco Polo and was left with a feather from his tail as he slipped away. Mary. "That's enough!" a sharp authoritarian voice lashed out. . Christopher Columbus having fled towards Valerie who was chasing him round and round a cactus bush. . and Vinita after Captain Cook who was scurrying across the cabbage-patch. . There was pin-drop silence for a few seconds. . Just then. . as if on cue. got him. Valerie ran after Amundsen. the four explorers walked out from behind a bush. "Get him from over there. . you go from this s i d e . Bina caught her prey and tossed him inside her overcoat.no? Oh there he i s . . "Grab." yelled Nishi forgetting to whisper and lunged at Christopher Columbus. right t h e r e . . The girls looked up with instinctive dread. Bina ignored him. peeped out from behind her. But he was larger than she had thought and he stuck out conspicuously on her left side as he straggled to free himself. and shouted instructions to the others. . Oh no! he's gone behind the b e n c h . tall and unapproachable.
Bina retrieved him and dumped him unceremoniously on the ground where he shook back his ruffled feathers and trundled off. v Mother Superior was tight lipped. "Can I ex- . Mother Superior looked sternly at them. From inside Bina's coat Marco Polo gave an indignant squawk. "Is this your idea of fun?" There was a deathly silence. as Valerie and Vinita whirled round.Then. their prey fled cackling loudly to safer pastures. Nishi put Amundsen down and he too waddled off. "Now what's all this in aid of?" she asked in a quiet icy voice.
She had a soothing voice. We're too fond of them... They're yours girls! Yours to play with and look after..And we're so fond of them!" "It's not fair to eat them.. "Kidnap?" Mary. Mother Superior." she burst out. We just thought it was very cruel. They all had an uproarious laugh. Mother Superior was quite relaxed and trying to hide a smile. . who had been quiet all this time. we love them so much. Why eat these?" Mother Superior raised one hand to silence them. "One of you explain.pect an explanation?" The four of them exchanged glances. Finally Mother Superior said." four voices sang in chorus. "Kidnap them!" she exclaimed. . "Oh! Its so funny. . suddenly roared with laughter. patting the girls on their shoulders. . ." "Thank you. . By the time she finished." "After all there are so many other animals in the whole world." 44 . Not all of you together. "Whatever gave you girls the idea we were going to eat these fellow's? Certainly not. Mother Superior. We won't kill them for the sake of one meal. "Its wonderful to know you never intended killing them in the first place. "We did not really mean it.. " Bina explained.
exploring every nook and corner. The ball which I kept bouncing up and down went over the parapet into the compound of the neighbouring house. I was bored. rushing out and collecting the ball. I picked up a rubber ball and went into the garden. I pranced round the house. surrounded by banana trees. On arrival at Palai. I too rolled my eyes and 45 . beds of tapioca. Bordering them were a dozen coconut palms. This time to the sleepy town of Palai in Kerala. roses and chrysanthemums. My mother was busy unpacking the cartons and arranging the various articles in the proper places. we moved into a house. put out his tongue and teased me. He rolled his eyes. I saw a little boy. I ran round the garden chasing the ball or watching squirrels scramble up the trees or observing the humming bees. father was transferred.Christmas Bells Once again. almost my age. reaching out to the stars in the sky. I did not like his attitude.
clawing and tearing at each other. I won't give it to you." he offered his hand. playing hide and seek. chasing butterflies. climbing trees. turning and twisting.stuck out my tongue at him. I climbed up the parapet. we sank down. only to forget our 46 . "Thomas. At last. "Glad to meet you. "I did not throw it. eating from the same plate. panting for breath. Occasionally we fought like cats and dogs." That was the beginning of an association that soon developed into a close and intimate friendship." I replied. "Why did you throw the ball into my house?" he asked loudly." "I will snatch it from you. "I am Raman." "All right. "Then let it come back by itself. He ran off." I broke the ice. weaving his way through the thick vegetation." Try." "Let us be friends. after ten minutes of running around. jumped over it and chased the boy. It came by itself. I need a friend. We spent all our time together. I raced round the garden after him. plucking unripe mangoes and sinking our teeth into the slightly sour pulp.
47 . Then we were pulled apart." I too wanted a gift from Father Christmas. whoever he was. We had to be carried away by force by our parents. I listened to him. I associated it with new clothes. sweet dishes. We gave up chasing squirrels. He invited me to spend Christmas Eve with him. I meekly asked. "Thomas. will he give me a gift too?" "Only if you are good. He only said. then?" I teased him. He told me that Christmas came in the last week of December. We gave up fighting. Thomas and I waited eagerly for Christmas to come. But. Thomas told me all about Christmas. I threw dust on his clothes. We obeyed our parents. Only then will I get a gift from Father Christmas.differences soon. Still. "Because I must be good and obedient. I looked forward eagerly for Christmas to come. swearing never to fight again. I did not like this change. Thomas suddenly became docile. He winced with pain. happiness and celebration. fascinated. while we raved and kicked and cried to be left to ourselves. I threw a stone at him." "Why don't you do it." Thomas said in a superior tone. Nights were the hardest for us. "I wish I could hit you back. he kept on smiling. he did not retaliate. We did not misbehave.
Tiny flames at the tips of the candles danced with the mild breeze that wafted along. Thomas accompanied me. I saw the gaily decorated Christmas tree. flashing a bright "Loin-cloth. "New clothes and sweets. "Wait. We saw a bearded man. We waited for Father Christinas to come. further away from the house. He led me round the house. Dressed in my best. Mr. Christmas Eve came. His father. stood in the hazy glow cast by a star-shaped light. for you too. I ran over to my friend's house. Jacob shouted. A jackfruit tree. wearing a dhoti* and a full sleeved shirt. Paper bunting and ornate cardboard lamps peered at us from every corner. 48 ." "For me too?" I asked." Suddenly. there's Father Christmas. Jacob. Star-shaped lamps hung from the branches of the trees too." "What will he bring for me?" Thomas asked. "Of course. my dear. took me by the arm. What we saw was remarkable. "Look." We did a double turn and stared in the direction of the jackfruit tree. your own Santa Claus.It was a long wait for us. Mr. At last. He is due any moment now. "When will he come?" Thomas asked his father. Myriad candles threw gentle shadows and changed shapes with the flickering of the flame.
and you will feel better very soon. "Porter." "You must consult our doctor. "Thank you. come on. children. descending from heaven! Over his shoulder hung a heavy sack. boys. He heaved a sigh of relief." "Oh. He will give you an injection." said Thomas."It is too heavy. "Do you have a cold. "Why didn't you engage a coolie?"* Thomas asked." he muttered." Santa untied the string that bound the sack. We could not conceal our curiosity any longer. "Thank you. Santa. Then." Santa Claus spoke in a gruff but affectionate voice. released his hold. Santa?" Thomas queried. We watched him float down.smile. Santa. "Well. our hearts bursting with delight. let us have the gifts. He pushed his hand into it and pulled out a big fat packet and handed it to me." "Wait. we ran towards him." I replied happily. "Yes. 50 . and allowed the sack that hung on his shoulder to slip down to the floor." "Where are our gifts. "Merry Christmas to you. Santa?" Thomas and I asked almost together. Santa Claus smiled. I wanted to bring the gifts for my dear children myself.
"I can't fly. They held in their hands a long rope that reached down to the ground."Here's your gift. "I did. "Mammen Ammavan* too has a mole on the nose. Puzzled. I raised my eyes. And there he was. our Mammen Ammavan. He suddenly dropped the packet he had in his hand and tugged at my shirt. He bounded up to Santa Claus and shouted. when did you become an agent of God?" Santa laughed aloud. "Ammavan. We saw two sturdy men sitting on one of the branches." Mammen Ammavan replied." Thomas did not waste words. "But you flew down from heaven. Thomas accepted the gift. There's a mole on Santa's nose. Come I'll show you how I did it." Santa took out another packet from the sack and gave it to Thomas. Thomas. He asked us to look closely at the branches. 51 . He took off his flowing beard. "Uncle." "So what?" I asked. But he seemed to have lost interest in it. "When did you learn to fly?" I asked." Thomas remarked. "Look." Mammen Ammavan led us to the foot of the jackfruit tree.
I had a rope round my waist. along with those two men. I arranged it in such a way that my arrival would be sensational. releasing the rope so that it would appear to you as if Father Christmas were coming down from heaven.We were baffled. We looked at Ammavan. slowly. I put the sack full of presents on my shoulder. . it was a grand sight! We'll never forget this evening when a dhoti-c\a. Then I asked them to let me down." "Oh. bringing us gifts. he said. Then. trailing behind Mammen Ammavan. "I climbed up the tree. He smiled.d Santa came down from heaven." Thomas and I shouted happily and moved back to the house.
I stuffed my pockets. We roamed freely.In A Guava Orchard Safdar. How lovely!" I smacked my Hps at the sight of the luscious green guavas in the orchard. and we had a whole hour to play. like lambs! We frisked about cheerfully over a path that led to a guava orchard. I was however. kids. "What fun. There was a mud wall round it. There were trees and trees—all bursting with ripe and unripe guavas. afraid that we might be caught by the watchman. Ajay and I followed him meekly. But Safdar's presence emboldened me. while Ajay and I leaped like monkeys and devoured the unripe ones. also the strongest amongst us." Ajay also leaped over the wall. saying. I wanted to carry them as 53 . Safdar was the tallest. I too jumped over the wall. Safdar was greedily eating ripe guavas. He was our leader. Ajay and I dashed out of the classroom as the bell rang. Let's have a feast. It was the lunch break. I preferred raw guavas and I could never have enough. Safdar who was in high spirits leaped over it and bragged. "Look at the guavas! Come on.
Ajay. I heard Safdar's cry." cried Safdar. run! The fellow is closing in!" I put in every ounce of energy I had and ran like mad. Wouldn't my classmates gape at them. Safdar and Ajay were already on the ground. shouting. run! The watchman is coming. Lokesh." Perched on top of a branch. "Thieves! Thieves! See they don't escape. "Ajay! Lokesh! Run. "Run. "Now jump. Safdar and Ajay were far ahead and I ran faster. The watchman chased us furiously. close behind. the guavas began to fall out of my pockets. I jumped down from the tree and took to my heels. After what seemed ages. bellowing curses. and had started running. eyes bulging! Suddenly. Safdar kept shouting. The watchman came charging like a bull. The watchman waved his staff and ran after them. I saw the tall." I lost no time. As I leapt over ditches and boulders in the orchard. Safdar. A host of street urchins had by then appeared from nowhere and joined the chase. who was the first to reach it took a flying leap over it. He was waving a staff in his hand. managed to roll over. sinister-looking figure of the watchman approaching. 54 .a souvenir of our daring expedition to the orchard. the mud wall came into view.
I took a mighty leap and landed on top of the wall. The last guava in my pocket rolled out. I felt miserably cheated. I didn't want to lose it at any cost. I jumped back into the orchard and stooped to pick it up. It was rather dark, but I managed to find the lost guava. Triumphantly I held it in my hand and leapt over the wall. Beyond it lay the school compound and my friends. I slipped and fell. The looming figure of the watchman drew closer. Safdar and Ajay were screaming and urging me not to waste time. As I scrambled up, the watchman's steely fingers gripped me. I struggled to shake him off, but the burly man picked me up, flung me over his shoulder and walked briskly back into the orchard. Soon afterwards, he deposited me before a man seated on a cot. "Malik",* he addressed him, wiping perspiration off his forehead, "this fellow is the leader of a gang of school children. He regularly brings a number of them to steal our guavas. They destroy more than they eat.'' The 'malik' looked calm but formidable. I felt he would thrash me. I was scared, also ashamed that I had been caught red-handed. He stared hard at me. I stood rooted to the
ground, expecting a tight slap. He got up from the cot and stood before me. He looked tall as a palm tree! "What's your name?" he asked me. "Where do you live?" "I'm Lokesh. I study in the school over there. I'm the Principal's son. "You like guavas?" I nodded. < "Did you come alone?" I pointed to Safdar and Ajay, who were still peeping over the mud wall. The 'malik' asked the watchman to get a basket of guavas. "He's not a thief," he told him. "He is a decent kid." He waved to my friends and signalled them to come in. Safdar and Ajay wouldn't budge an inch. They stayed where they were. "Come on Lokesh, ask them to come in," he urged me. I was rather dazed and undecided. The man smiled. "Call them in, child. Don't be frightened." I was not afraid any more. "Come over, Safdar. Come over, Ajay," I shouted. They soon joined me, looking sheepish and guilty. We could hardly believe our eyes when the
watchman came back with a ^basket of guavas." Gratefully. "Go ahead and eat as many as you want. He'll help you. His words are still fresh in my mind. We had expected him to treat us like thieves. You don't have to enter it like thieves. we accepted the guavas he offered. do not do anything that makes you feel guilty. Thanking him profusely we took leave of him. This is your garden. We just stood looking at him. . "Remember children. You go to the watchman." We left the orchard. You must always be proud of what you do. I was limping a bit but my pockets were bulging with guavas." his gentle voice was soothing. There was a smile on his face as he bade us good-bye. "You're like my children." said the malik.
The classrooms were cleaned and decorated. and charts and photographs fixed. Sometimes my parents would be angry with me on that account. Ghalib and Einstein hanging on the wall started swinging. A very prominent figure was to preside. "You naughty boy!" another slap. For days and weeks now. I lost count of the slaps raining down on my clean shaven head and face. Everybody was busy.All Because Of My Hair "You good for nothing fellow!" one slap. A poem was to be recited in honour of the distinguished guest. But when I was 59 . I was a good singer and there were hardly any school functions at which I did not recite a poem or sing a song. "You rascal!" a shower of slaps. And who else but I could be asked to recite it? I didn't tell you that my hair was rather long in those days. I wondered if I really deserved them. and so excitement ran high. I could see stars dancing at midday! The portraits of Kabir. I was in class VIII and a boarder in a Delhi school. we had been preparing for an important function.
I was de° Powerful person (used sarcastically) 60 . He himself shuddered at the mere mention of my name because I was really troublesome. His hands quivered when he touched my head. I had to decide there and then whether to submit to his threats or revolt. So. every fourth or fifth week I'd be caught and handed over to Khalifafi. The Sunday before the function the warden warned me repeatedly that I would be severely punished if I didn't have a hair-cut. Every Sunday. The devil must have egged me on. However. The situation. an old barber whom we called 'Khalifaficame to the hostel. was stricter than my parents. The warden. very soon.sent to the hostel. He was an artist by profession and quite unnaturally insisted on everything being neat and clean and in perfect order. was worse at the hostel. So the whole morning I spent playing hide-and-seek with the warden. I realised very soon. The dreaded moment had come. a venerable old fellow. But I couldn't escape the warden's clutches and was duly sent to Khalifaji. because I wanted to appear on stage with my crowning glory untrimmed. I thought I would have the freedom of growing my hair as long as I wanted. That was just too bad. my hair became the bone of contention between us.
termined to take revenge and settle all accounts, old and new. I presented my head to Khalifaji humbly. I even asked him to shave off my head completely! But, of course he wouldn't take me seriously. At last, when I insisted, he applied water on my head. Then before picking up the razor he asked me for the last time. "Are you sure you want your head to be clean-shaven?" It took great effort on my part to convince him. Then, with trembling hands, he put the razor to my hair. It took ten minutes to shave my head thrice. There wasn't the trace of a hair on my shining scalp, I made Khalifaji trim my eyebrows too. Then I carefully applied oil to give it a better shine. I went back to my room, put on a pair of shorts and wrapped a towel round my shoulders. Then I came out of the hostel looking victorious. My companions burst out laughing and clapped as they followed me. I headed the procession, looking like a Buddhist monk. The warden was busy decorating a classroom. The boisterous procession of boys, yelling, laughing and clapping, passed by. The warden ran out of the classroom and stood stunned as he watched. He could not believe his eyes. He examined me from head to foot. That's when the blows started raining down on me. I had rather anticipated them and now that
I think of it—deserved them too. I was of course not permitted to appear on stage the next day. But worse still I had to remain with my monk-like appearance for many months. After that nobody ever asked me to have a haircut again, and today I am the sole master of my head and hair!
She sold knick-knacks for little girls. The school bell rang. "A pencil. She grabbed it and turned to cross the road.' "I'm Ponni." the girl said coming back. 64 ." "Oh! I'm sorry. sharpners. I was in such a hurry I forgot. One of them stopped in front of her. don't call me 'hev'." said the vendor. All these were spread out in front of her on a piece of gunny.The Pink Card Ponni sat on the footpath in front of Berywood Girls Primary School. "Hev. And. "The bell has rung. She fished out a 25 paise coin from her bag. quick. rubbers. My name's Sheela. take it. Sheela crossed the road and ran into the school. she had colourful sweets and pretty trinkets too. shoelaces and ribbons. Give me twenty five paise. "Here. she said." Ponni picked up one and gave it to her. Ponni called out. and handed it to Ponni. "You haven't paid me for it. rulers. flashing a friendly smile. "Here. Besides pencils. Ponni watched the girls hasten into the school.
she said. an old man came towards her. 65 .*** "Mother 0 0 Holy 00'Rice Fig Tree porridge.' The next day. screech". Bye!" Sheela hurried home. The bell rang. "At that old man. as her mother was making kanji.° I want to go to school. child. . "Amma.ch. as Ponni lay on the ground beside her mother in their small hut. The parrot in the cage tells you what you'll be when you grow up. The children trooped out of the gate. I wonder who he is?" said Ponni. He carried a small cane basket in one hand and a bird-cage in the other. "What're you looking at?" Sheela called out to Ponni as she came running out. Tucked under his arm was a folded mat. as Ponni sat in her usual place under the shade of a peepul** tree. I don't have money to send you to school.That night. "Scree. He spread the dusty old mat under the tree and sat down on it. That night. School was over. "I think he's a fortune-teller. Sheela looked at him curiously. How exciting! I must get some money from home tomorrow to hear my fortune. ." "Hush. putting the basket and the cage beside him. cried the pretty green parrot in the cage. like Sheela.
and said." "Forget about school. I gave him 50 paise. The man read the card. "I want to go to school. "Ponni." "What did the parrot do?" asked Ponni." The next day Ponni sat under the peepul tree." "You know I have no money to spare. When you grow up and start working like me as a coolie* we can have two meals a day. Sheela came running to her. Amma" cried Ponni.Ponni sat beside her and asked softly. my child. We are just able to manage one meal a day. Ponni. as usual. beside her mother. 66 ." "Really " before Ponni could say anything more. can I have some money?" "Whatever for?" snapped her mother. you know what the fortune-teller told me? I'll study well and am going to be rich. "I want to have my fortune told. Ponni lay awake and restless. "Amma. The parrot picked a pink card for me. That night was hot and stuffy." "Oh no. "Unskilled labourer. "The old man took a bundle of coloured cards from the basket and spread them on his mat. Sheela says the parrot knows everything. Get going and sweep the floor. Sheela had pranced off. "Amma" she began.
There 67 ." Ponni went back to her place feeling sad.. He had the cage beside him. when will I go to school." The next day. Please give me 50 paise. "Will you tell me my fortune?" The man put on his specs and looked up."Hm." "Amma. She sat watching the parrot. Ponni was thirsty. Ponni." Ponni shook her head. and asked softly.. It kept fluttering its wings as it hopped about in the cage. walked up to him. again and again. Go away and don't come here without money. The old man was wiping the dust off his spectacles. Ponni turned to see what the parrot was doing. you can't go to school. "I don't have any money. It said she would study well and be a rich woman. His face was wrinkled and his voice gruff.. the children were in school and all was quiet." "Shut up. "You think I run a free service? I have to earn a living and feed the parrot too. Ponni got up. Don't pester me for money. like Sheela?" "Ponni. go to sleep. I want the pink card too. "Give me 50 paise. I told you. Ponni quietly tiptoed to the cage. It was a hot afternoon.?" "Sheela got a pink card. and peered in." "What?" asked the man raising his voice.
"Get up." Ponni shouted a warning. I told you I want 50 paise. 'Poor little parrot. "Wake up old man." ?? 69 . it began to drink the dripping drops of water.were a few pieces of fruit and red chillies and a small water bowl. The parrot's flapping wings had hit the small bolt holding the cage door. It went straight to the tap and perched on it. Bending down. she heard a 'click. "Oh. The bolt slipped and the door flew open." As she stood up to go.' thought Ponni. Ponni was happy the parrot had got what it wanted. you naughty girl. wake up. before I can do anything for you. He was snoring. "Wait." Ponni called out again. The parrot was free to fly out. "Your parrot is about to escape. "There is a tap across the road.' The old man was fast asleep on the mat. The man continued to snore. little bird. It was dry. I'll run across and get you some water. no!" she exclaimed. She went up to the old man and screamed. 'It is thirsty.' and turned round. "Don't disturb me. But the man was fast asleep. The parrot flew off. because she saw a big black cat." she whispered. It was crouching a few feet away from the tap and was ready to pounce on the parrot. He stirred.
She ran back to her place. Ponni burst into tears. Take him. here is your parrot. wiping her tears with the skirt. she sprinted across the road.He turned round and went to sleep again. what are you doing with my parrot? You want to steal the bird?" he asked her rudely. There was nobody around whom she could call to help her catch the parrot. With one quick movement she caught the bird. Why are you screaming?" he growled." Ponni looked up and saw a stranger standing before her. He stretched his arms and yawned. He opened his eyes. now. "Now. "You naughty girl. "Leave my bird alone and go back to your place. "I told you not to disturb me. Only a car was parked in front of the school gate. Ponni decided to go to the parrot's rescue herself. Ponni looked about. little girl. "Old man. blinking." he shouted and snatched the parrot from her. Hitching up her skirt. her eyes closed in relief. don't cry. she held the parrot close to her heart. Chest heaving." she shouted in his ears. Then he put on his specs and glared at Ponni. 70 . Then she turned round and ran back to the shade of the peepul tree. Tears welled up in Ponni's eyes.
getting up to put the parrot back in it's cage. Her mother won't give her any." she sobbed. "Ponni. the school bell rang and the children came pouring out. this is Ponni 1 was talking to you about yesterday." commanded the stranger." "Really! She is such a nice girl. This girl is trying to steal my parrot and sell it." shouted Sheela." cried Sheela. bah!" growled the old man. catching hold of Ponni's hands." "Quiet. a cat would have gobbled up this fellow's parrot. "Ponni is a good girl. "Daddy. Wiping beads of perspiration off her face with her sari."The old man is so rude to me. "She stole my parrot." "Tell me all about it." They turned round to see Ponni's mother coming towards them." Just then. "I saw this girl saving your parrot. dashing across the road. she looked at Ponni and at Sheela." Ponni wept aloud. "I did not steal his parrot. The old man sat still. Her gaze rested on Sheela's father. I came to the school to take my daughter home. come let's go home." "Save it. "Daddy." said the old man. "This girl has no money. "My daugh71 ." he told her. But for her. She is only a coolie. "I only tried to save it.
" Sheela replied. Sir. She can go to school with Sheela. you?" he asked hoarsely. parrot dear. thank you." she burst out and turned to go home with her mother." was all the woman could say. I'll meet all the expenses. It was the pink card! Ponni jumped with joy. I know. old man. "Bye. Even before the old man could spread the cards fully on the mat. Ponni rushed towards the cage." "Oh. The old man edged close to Ponni. She was so overwhelmed that tears of joy ran down her dusty face. "I know. "Bye. removing his spectacles and wiping them. Sheela. "Do you want the parrot to pick a card for. bye.ter likes her very much. But that shouldn't worry you." said Ponni's mother. "I would like her to go to a school." He paused and continued. looking miserable." "But I can't afford it. "Thank you." she said. 72 . Sir. see you in school. the parrot picked a card with its beak for Ponni.
In the meantime. But now we may have to shell out that too.E. Where has he appeared from?" asked Raman. the T. "No use peeping out. For. enter the coach from the other end. I heaved a sigh of relief. Raman. "I'm sure. Khanna. Let's not try to jump. "We saved our fare this morning. But the relief was shortlived." I said. followed me into the compartment. I was shocked to see Mr." I said. he did. as penalty. Shyam! The train has picked up speed. when I saw they were safe." replied Shyam. "What bad luck!" commented Raman. "Where the hell is he coming from?" whispered Raman. looking at the fast receding platform. "He must have seen us boarding this coach.T. had started ex73 . My friends. Raman and Shyam. a Travelling Ticket Examiner. But he was nowhere on the platform. "Only he can answer that.The Unforgettable Journey I jumped into the first coach of the train." said Shyam.
" Raman put in. we never tell lies. "No." he said.. Why?" asked Mr." I said.' I suggested. Khanna in disgust. Khanna. and try to win his sympathy. particularly when he checks your tickets. "Because. we are only children. "Oh! is that so? I will teach you a lesson. Sir. you bought the tickets and lost them?" "Certainly. See. Sir. Sir. "Yes." I said." I tried to smile bravely. I don't have pockets. "Are you sure." Shyam showed him his torn pockets. Khanna shouted angrily. "Look! He is coming towards us. Let's make sad faces. We are all telling the truth. "I too gave him my ticket.E. "Whenever I've checked. It did not take long for Mr. we are telling the truth." Mr. "Sorry Sir! They fell out of my pocket. you haven't shown your tickets." added Mr. It will help you to keep your tickets safe." I answered for all of us. he had my ticket too. my pockets are torn. while I was boarding the train. boys. Sir.amining the passengers tickets. Khanna to check the other passengers tickets and come to us.T. "Now all three of you go to that 74 . "Show me your tickets. We have really lost our tickets. We lose tickets easily. boys. "Except to the T.
He took down 76 . boys. We will never again travel without tickets. I am leaving you this time. But. He would always ask us to sit in a corner. And as Rajapur station approached. This is the last time. Khanna was adamant. I will have all of you sent to jail." "Please. Khanna had caught us.comer and sit there. But. I won't. Khanna. Sir. He then let us go. "Please allow us to go. But Mr. while the train crossed the Rajapur outer signal." Shyam said in a choked voice." "Please excuse us. I felt restless and tried to get up. next time. Khanna would permit us to get out at the outer signal of Rajapur. Then he would threaten to penalise us for ticketless travelling. "Sit down!'' shouted Mr. too. Give me your father's name and address. it is not good to travel like this. Sir. "Look. The train had by then reached Rajapur and we were afraid it would start moving shortly. He kept quiet. Mr. I was confident that this time. but a number of times Mr. Not once or twice. he would say. I find you without tickets. "Don't move from there." I pleaded. Sir." I was accustomed to this drama." I pleaded. I will see that we buy tickets and keep them safe. Why don't you buy tickets? Now the next time. he didn't. "pardon us this time.
Khanna." Turning to us. He ordered us to get down. "Well. Raman and Shyam were anxious. Our pleading." said Mr. "All right. After walking for a mile or so. too. addressing him. will you?" Raj tried to stand up. A cold fear gripped us. "Please keep an eye on these boys till I return." said Mr. "Get up.our addresses and then turning to the other passengers. I was. Khanna was telling him. Khanna relent. he said. who looked in our direction and nodded to whatever Mr. all right. but was finding it difficult. have you seen him?" 77 . but there was something abnormal about him. the train reached Ram Nagar. we reached a house. take it easy. I could see someone sitting on a cot. started pleading for our release. The other passengers. Mr. There. We saw him talking to the Station Master. We got down from the train and followed Mr. he said. He seemed to be a grown-up man. "Raj. in the dim light of a lantern. who were earlier supporting him."' He got out of the compartment. It was then I noticed that Raj had no legs. assurances. by now. "Relax. Khanna out of the station. Khamia took us inside. very apprehensive. Khanna didn't budge. nothing seemed to make Mr. But Mr. In the meantime. Khanna.
" I replied. Let me talk to them. My heart sank. Khanna asked with a penetrating look. Shyam whispered. do you also want to lose your legs like him?" Mr. too. . "They are already very shaken. "Does this demon want to cut our legs?" I was badly shaken but tried to think of some way of escaping from the house. "for quite some time. tell me. I wanted to bring all of you here to meet Raj. and had kept men to cut off people's legs for travelling without tickets. The very thought of not having legs made me feel sick. Khanna was a maniac. "Look. boys. Khanna." Mr. Khanna broke in on my thoughts. She 78 . I heard footsteps behind us. "No. wTere sweating with fear. to see for yourselves the hazards of ticketless travelling." said! a woman's voice behind me. Could what Shyam had whispered be true? Right then. I looked at Shyam and Raman. I wondered if Mr. " we all cried in one voice. . "Now." She introduced herself as Mrs. They. The person who was coming from behind seemed to have come close to us. "Enough. I was afraid to turn round to see who was approaching. ." My heart started beating faster."Yes.
"You saw Raj. Khanna. I will buy tickets for your return journey. 79 .had a soft voice. We developed a great respect and affection for Mr. I have already sent messages to your parents through the Station Master at Rajapur. " Raj. Khanna's soothing voice." He couldn't speak further. with rare understanding. He had shown us the right path. boys. In a choked voice." Mr. I fell between the bogie and the signal post. I was jolted back to reality by Mrs. you can go back. He would travel without a ticket and was very happy about it. and you will stay with us tonight. I wanted you to see for yourselves the consequence of ticketless travelling. They will not worry about you. . boys. Khanna added. Tomorrow morning. "Yes. suddenly. My legs were caught between the wheels." That evening we realised our mistake. stopped her. . but pointed towards his legs. "Now sit down. there was a surprise check and I tried to jump off the moving train. But then one day. "It was great fun to travel without tickets. when he was boarding a train. But once. Here's coffee for all of you. When he was young. he was just like you. He raised his head and looked straight at us. The money I thus saved was spent on movies and sweets. . he said.
" "Paternal Uncle 80 . and with my help. is my father's youngest cousin. "I hope you're going to be a doctor. I wasn't expecting a Leviclad. "Because if you are. long-haired 'Uncle. both Army doctors. I remember the day he arrived. But the nearest I can get to doing anything for them professionally is to join the SPCA. Varunkaka accepted a post at the Veterinary Hospital in Jabalpore. Look.Varunkaka's Lemonade Pals Not that I didn't like my Uncle Varun.' But that didn't trouble me as much as his attitude. "I'm going to study literature. "Varunkaka. On his return from America." I said firmly. I am fond of animals. until he got a house of his own. were posted. I was just a bit cross with him." he said when he finally noticed me. He trained as a veterinary surgeon and went abroad for higher studies. Vanmkaka* that's what I call him. Vani. Vamnkaka intended staying with us. where my parents. I'm sure you'll turn out to be a good Vet". you ought to be a Vet.
I had to suffer him. Our ancestors must have been vaidyas** and witch-doctors. then turning to my mother he said." You see. for "Brother's wife. The last straw however. but I instantly declared a cold war. 81 000A . While he stayed with us. That obviously did the trick. was the snake I found coiled on a cane chair in the verandah. And he had said briefly. let me tell you he's my pet. He was an absolute wizard with my Alsatian. though." Varun kaka said sarcastically. An unkempt garden and untidy rooms swarming with dogs. we were quite shocked. "Bhabhi* is your daughter crazy? She's going to ruin the family tradition. for generations our family profession has been the practice of medicine. Cats lay in sunny patches all over the garden. "Before you squeal. I am a good cook! Soon afterwards. Of course. I'm good at keeping quiet. Sultan. it was. When we visited him the first time. I went and patted the snake gently. Miss Prim and Proper. "Your roghanjosh*** is delicious. meat preparation. He had his positive points. The house was miles away from the city." the second time I made it during his stay. 00 Physicians. mostly pye. Uncle got his accommodation. so I didn't tell him he was a creep.First lie just gaped. To get even with him.
" "Will you take me there and show me. He said he had caught the female "Wild """Sir. who. Then he started pleading with me.he became communicative. "Several monkeys too come here. Actually they stay on the ber* trees. "Saheblet me catch just one male monkey. Vani I'll even show you the one I managed to fix up." he said condescendingly. "Till then I didn't even know I had monkeys in my garden. when I was having a cup of tea." "Is it some kind of toy or what?" I taunted him. "Early one morning. "Sure. Bahadur brought a guy." "I told him to catch one elsewhere. . right at the back of the garden." And sure enough he started. Please. forgetting my hostility. "I'll tell you all about it. But he kept on pleading. "Look. He took me to this tree which was practically loaded with monkeys. kid. Saheb. he said was a 'madari'** Bahadur had caught him in the back garden trying to catch baby monkeys. I have a large family to support. Otherwise my show can't go on. Varunkaka?" I said. Saheb. 82 Berry. "Showman. But they come here occasionally to visit me. So I asked the madari to show me where they were.
He returned wearing a pair of gum-boots and carrying another pair. Catch one." he said. "To meet my pet Bobo and the rest of his family. "But the story?" I protested. puzzled. and no one had objected at that time. but you'd better put them on." he said briefly. I shall wring your neck. "How did you fix' the monkey? How did he climb the tree with a broken leg?" 83 . "Bahadur told me briefly how the little one fell from the tree when the 'madan threw a net round it to trap it. The 'madan was nowhere to be seen. But if you hurt any. "The grass there is taller than you and there are mosquitoes and snakes in the undergrowth " "But where are we going?" I asked." I was pretty engrossed in the tale. it had fractured its leg. monkeys can be very difficult patients.from this tree. "All right. Otherwise. By now I had discovered that the baby had not merely hurt itself. so it was easy to put the plaster cast on. So I was rather annoyed when Varun kaka abruptly went inside. I relented. I found Bahadur trying to coax a baby monkey to drink water." When I came home for lunch that afternoon. "They're a bit big for you. There was a blood-stained bandage on the poor thing's hind leg. So. It was half-dead with fright.
"Look here. "Bobo was stubborn and refused to eat or drink. "To tempt him to eat. I brought Bobo and left him on the table. As I was thirsty. Instead. Whenever I picked up the bottle. I managed to force some milk down his throat. With every sip I took. Then. I had. decided to cure him. I opened the fridge and took out a bottle of lemonade. of course. You know he was such a sweet little thing. I held the bottle out to him. I pressed the marble in and put the bottle to my lips. Bahadur had kept my food on the table and gone off somewhere. off we went and Varun kaka continued. 84 . but he was very weak. I used to put him on the dining table while I had my food. "Where was I? Oh. Bobo was staring at me. But he didn't take it. but not at the hospital. one day. yes! The plaster on Bobo's leg. But it didn't work. he turned his face away. but the progress was extremely slow. He really needed much more nourishment to recover. I could see he was recovering. the blue marble would bob up and down. "I came back rather late for lunch." So. because he was more active. the funniest thing happened. but that was not enough. his eyes would dart to the marble in the bottle. Will you let me tell the story or are you going to keep asking questions? I'll tell you the rest while we walk to the back of the compound.
But he kept turning round to see if I had picked up the bottle. If I asked him for some." he continued. "After that I stopped coaxing him to eat. even if I left him on the table. But gradually he learnt to pick up an apple or some other fruit and nibble it. I took out another bottle of lemonade and drank it without offering him any.I started eating. on his plaster cast. I led him to the fridge and left the door open. Then he forced the marble in with a finger." I was finding it quite difficult to follow Varunkaka through the grass in those big gum-boots. He took a sip and you should have seen his face! The fizz in the lemonade must have been too strong for him. But he couldn't care less. for he grimaced. he took only the lemonade. After I finished eating. just because he wanted to see the marble bob up and down! I let him enjoy himself. But he would not give up. to amuse him. How delighted he was to see the marble bobbing up and down. he'd hand me the seeds! 85 . So. he picked up a lemonade bottle. "Bobo by now had learned to hobble about. "Actually. To begin with. He dragged himself to the edge of the table. he would manage to get down to the floor. He went on drinking the lemonade. So. reached out and opened the fridge. I hid behind the curtain to watch his movements. Glancing round quickly.
He even tried his hand at shaving with my razor. Monkeys of all shapes and sizes. Monkeys eating 'ber'. . a little fellow with a black shoelace round his neck swung on to the lowest branch. One evening I didn't find him there. Before he could answer. He pretended to drink the im87 .". had gone back to his clan. . He was miming for Bobo's benefit the opening of a lemonade bottle! "Glug. . monkeys chattering and monkeys fighting. At times he kept opening and closing the door to see the light come on. He tweaked the dogs' ears and they went charging at him. glug. "That was more than enough for me.. Was he bluffing? I didn't know. We soon came to a cluster of ber trees and they were swarming with monkeys. "Which one is Bobo?" I asked Varun kaka."He recovered in no time and became quite a nuisance around the house. But the little fellow would shin up a door and grin at them from there. . I let him be. Nothing in the fridge was safe from him. . I knew then h . "Is t h a t . glug. ? " I turned to Varun kaka and gaped. I started locking up the house and leaving him in the garden. Now he comes back occasionally for a lemonade!" Warunkaka finished his story. His face looked a sight! Varun kaka is crazy.
he made a beeline for the fridge and helped himself to a lemonade.aginary stuff. As I gulped down the sweet fizzy beverage. And there he sat until we got home. I thought Varun kaka wasn't a bad sort really. He leapt down from the tree. Once inside. . Bobo watched him closely. He was quite a pal in fact. went to Varun kaka and swung on to his shoulder. So did Varun kaka and I.
"" "Monkey brigade that helped Lord Rama. "I have a role for you. I had never acted in a play but was sure that once on stage I would give a brilliant performance. The senior section was to enact 'Merchant of Venice' and the junior section. imagining myself on stage with a bow and arrow slung on my shoulders. the prettiest girl in our class. How surprised my parents would be! I could almost hear my father saying. 89 . I decided. You'll be one of the monkeys in the Vanar Sena. 'The Story of Rama'. "Imagine we had such a talented daughter and we didn't even realise it. I went around for a few days. would certainly get Sita's role." I was terribly disappointed when the drama teacher smiled and said. Two plays were to be staged. But I wouldn't mind being Rama's brother Laxmana.Hanuman And I Preparations had begun for our school annual day. Since I was shorter than Radhika and had a shrill voice I could not hope to be Rama. giving a brilliant performance as Laxmana. I was hoping with all my heart that the drama teacher would include me in die cast. Radhika.
" was the teacher's reply. red vest and a monkey mask."Can't I at least get the role of Hanuman." she said doubtfully. I shall be prompting from the "Victory to Lord Rama. We were all very excited. All I had to do along with seven other girls was to jump up and down and shout. "Dear Madam. I had to wear a red shirt. "Of course 1 can. red pants. 90 ." Alka was to play Hanuman. "You wanted to be Hanuman? You think you can manage?" My dream was suddenly coming true! I was quite overwhelmed. We were dressing up when the chaukidar* * handed a note to the teacher." she said. "No. "Even if I forget. she will not be able to act in the play. "Jai Hanuman' in a chorus. The teacher looked round in dismay and her eyes fell on me. "Look here. your voice is too squeaky. Our rehearsals began the next day. "Jai Rama'. "You shall certainly not do any such thing. She read it aloud. Victory to Lord Hanuman. I am very sorry to inform you that Alka has contracted measles and has been running a high temperature since morning. Finally the great day arrived." "Oh no. Sorry." 1 asked timidly." I said confidently. ""Watchman. I can always think up something else.
Speak as loudly as you can. "you have . I would gladly die for him. I kneeled in front of Rama telling him with folded hands that I was his faithful servant. The drums were echoing in my ears and my hands and feet were cold and numb. I repeated loudly what my teacher was saying. Thankfully I heard my teacher reading out my lines again and again. All you have to do is repeat what I say and. "Oh. my Lord". I opened my mouth to say my lines but my throat was dry and I couldn't remember them. for god's sake. I began repeating whatever she said without realising what I was saying. I almost fell on my face.wings." As the curtains went up for the third scene I was pushed on stage to the accompaniment of drums. For sometime I could not see a thing. don't mumble.
"I am sorry. Since Sita was not saying anything I decided that it was my turn to speak."' I touched the spot where the tail should have been.forgotten to pin your tail. "Not you." I said trying to make up for my mistake. She hid her face in her hands and began to weep. I was feeling less nervous now and said my lines well." Rama shouted at me." hissed Rama. "I am not supposed to have a tail. my Lord. Suddenly I realised that the teacher was prompting while Sita kept sobbing. Sita said some beautiful lines about Rama's greatness and how much she missed him. jump. "Jump. "Jump. "It is because of my beauty that the wicked Ravana wants to marry me. "I meant my tail." I shouted. You've forgotten yours. but I had to be on stage in the last act." The teacher now whispered. I showed Rama's ring to Sita to convince her that 1 was Rama's messenger." I repeated what the tea92 . "My beauty is my bane." "You jump." "Don't be silly. There and then the teacher cut short my role as much as possible. Then realising my second mistake I began to jump like mad and the curtains came down to the sound of laughter. you idiot." I said grandly. I have forgotten to pin on my tail." "What?" said Sita looking startled.
"Maharaja* is coming. "Who is this puny creature who dares to intrude into my kingdom?" I was supposed to answer in a proud voice that I was the son of Pawandev.cher said. which 1 didn't know about until that time. I am not Hanuman." I pulled off my mask as I spoke. Ravana the Great is here!" I was struck dumb by the huge figure in six-inch heels. bearing down on me with a shining sword in hand. He raised his sword and I screamed in terror. "Don't kill me. Seeing the startled expression of the whole cast I bit my tongue. The sound of laughter became louder when an infuriated teacher came on stage and unceremoniously dragged me away. realising my mistake too late. Just then everyone on stage began shouting. "King 93 . the immortal Hanuman. But Ravana was towering over me. He said in a thunderous voice that made me tremble. the wind God. the worshipper of Rama. By now the audience was rolling with laughter.
but it didn't work. "All right. No." she said sternly. come here!" she shouted. she pleaded." "Elder sister. "either you take Sudhir to the party or you too don't go.At The Partq "I won't. "Mother. Leeladidi didn't stop." Leela didi agreed reluctantly. heeladidi turned unwillingly and slowly walked towards Amma. But she didn't forget to hit me hard on the head with her knuckles when she swept past me. Amma started scolding Leeladidi. Amma** came out of the kitchen. "Leela. "Leela. She argued. "Did you hear me? Come back!" Amma commanded in a louder voice. I won't. I won't. I'll never. but if he behaves like a greedy wrorm. never take him with me. He's a greedy glutton and I won't take him to the party. I stopped wailing and watched them anxiously. 94 ." said Leeladidi* stamping her feet as she stormed out of the room. Amma gave her an ultimatum. I screamed and began to cry. never again in my life. but she kept denying she had done anything.
I hesitated. "I will. "And. . I will. She pushed and pinched even when she helped me put on my shirt and shoes. mind you. "Promise?" Didi asked again. I knew she was trying to trap me. understand?" I was still doubtful. I suffered all this in silence. "You will not touch any cakes or biscuits or chocolates without my permission! Promise?" Leeladidi wanted to be absolutely sure I'd behave. then you just remember that whenever someone offers you something. and supposing you don't permit me at all?" I asked. "Come on. . let's get you ready and dressed for the party. . but I promised. "Oh. I was about to smile when Amma turned her angry gaze on me. . "But supposing you aren't near me or you are talking to someone. You should say 'no thank you' at least twice or thrice. stupid. She pulled me and pushed me and deliberately held my arm so tight that it hurt." "But suppose you don't then?" I persisted. ." Leela didi was getting impatient. then?" " T h e n ? . "And you. But when she pressed both my cheeks with her left 95 . you mustn't grab a handful.I was happy I had won. if you don't behave properly I'll give you a nice thrashing.' Didi said and dragged me away. understand?" I just lowered my eyes and nodded.
"Do you want to come with me or not?" she threatened and asked me to shut up. she once again made me promise I would behave and would not take anything before refusing it three times. A lot of boys and girls had gathered now. A single red candle stood 96 . it became unbearable and I let out a loud whine. In the centre was a huge cake. there were balloons and streamers. For I was supposed to sit quietly in a corner. When we left the house. After a few minutes Shyamadidi came to me and whispered in my ear. remember your promise and behave yourself. "Sudhir. At last after dabbing a little powder over my face. She nagged all the way and stopped only when we entered the nicely decorated hall where the party was being held. I alone was unhappy. I knew it was about me because every now and then. At one end of the room was a large table with all the eatables arranged nicely on it. she finished. They were laughing and talking. okay?" They made me sit on a chair and vanished into the crowd.hand and ran the comb hard through my hair. There she met her friend Shyama and immediately started telling her a lengthy secret. All round. they kept looking at me. It had pretty pink marzipan flowers on the icing and plenty of small silver sugar beads all round.
suddenly. as they were quickly passed round. Soon a girl in a green sari held a plate piled high with slices of cake before me. then another and another. First there was one cut. It was beautiful. Standing beside her was Shyamadidi who was glaring at 97 . everybody was getting ready to watch the cutting of the cake. Then a whole piece was sliced off. It was wonderful. Then. I kept gazing at it and soon my mouth started watering.in the centre waiting to be lit. I looked up.
I was uneasy. I had to behave. Yet. I had to be a good boy! I looked round for Leela didi. I overheard Shyamadidi telling her what I had done and she too burst out laughing. Taking a big bite. Then I spotted Leela didi coming towards me and my heart sank. The girl in the green sari too began to laugh. have some cake. if I kept refusing and the girl went away.me. Standing close to me Shyamarfidi burst out laughing. and I helped myself to another slice." the girl in green said sweetly. . "Yes. . The girl in the green sari offered me some more cake and I gladly took yet another slice. "No. She gave me a dirty look. I remembered the promise." Then I grabbed the biggest slice of cake and started munching. . no. . I gaped at them. I gazed at the slices of cake and my mouth watered. what then? An idea flashed through my mind and I blurted out in one breath. She was nowhere to be seen. no.but I must refuse three times. So I knew I was safe. but.
a large garden." she said and laughed. who had been advised to eat lots of vegetables and drink plenty of milk. Granny. Dindigul is near a hill station called Kodaikanal. because 99 . Our neighbours told us to be veiy careful at night. who had lived in a village. The house was an old fashioned one with many rooms. in every way it was an ideal place for Grandpa. a cowshed. and a well.Outwitted I We were all very excited. too. His doctor had said that the damp sea air of Madras would not suit Grandpa any more. So. had decided to keep a cow. because the climate there was good for people with weak lungs. This holiday was to be spent in Dindigul where Grandpa had decided to settle down. and said she would show us how to draw water from the well. to lock all our doors and windows. as well as many varieties of vegetables and milk too. "I will teach you how to milk a cow. from where fruits and vegetables came to market every day by lorry and cart. In Dindigul itself one could get excellent bananas and grapes.
the burglars came! They were not ordinary thieves. bleeding. they made a big hole in the wall and entered the house through it. with long black hair. when we were fast asleep. I'll show you where it is. Though our neighbours had told us to close all the doors and windows leading to each room and not to sleep in the outer rooms. there was an iron safe built into the wall. and the family jewels and money were kept in this. "How can any burglar break open this safe?" Grandpa asked." said Granny coolly. Grandpa had not followed their advice. pulled Grandpa out of bed and asked him where the jewellery and money were kept. They did not try to open the doors or windows. Grandpa refused to answer. So the burglars were able to go straight into his room. Granny pushed him away. though they had tried ever so hard. One of the men stabbed him and he fell to the ground. One night.a gang of burglars had been on the prowl for some time. 100 . a huge dark man. Instead. They came armed with knives and clubs. The police had not been able to catch them. The doors in our house had heavy iron bolts and the windows had bars. My father came in just then and tried to grab one of the thieves. The leader. In one room. "Come.
only don't hurt any of us. Both were allowed to keep their wedding necklaces. but bolted it from outside! There was no other way of getting out." She took them into the room where the safe was and gave them the keys." she said. she not only closed the door. My grandmother was a clever woman."Keep quiet. they did not notice that when she went out. cursed. Be brave and do as I tell you. quick! Children. "Take whatever you want. "All right." she said." In those days there were no telephones in that area. and the door could not be broken open easily. and banged on the door. Our neighbours. now go out!" she was told. Granny laughed and said to my father. "Run and call the police and a doctor. "It is no use. the men yelled. came rushing to our house. 102 . They will stab or kill you. Father drove to the police station. Inside the room. The robbers wanted the ornaments she was wearing and my mother's too. Look after your father. The robbers were so busy opening the safe and admiring the jewels. hearing the commotion. Granny said. Tell our neighbours we have caught the thieves!" We were crying and shivering with fright. you go to the front yard and shout. "They can't harm you now.
which had so terrorised the town and surrounding villages. a mischievous grin on her wrinkled face. He told people that he got it defending us against the robbers! Granny kept mum. "Just imagine an old woman catching them when even the police couldn't!" they kept saying.Granny and my mother washed and bandaged Grandpa's wound. The robbers were handcuffed and taken away. had at last been caught. of which he was very proud. Soon the police came and the doctor too. Everyone was happy that this gang. Granny was rewarded in cash. which was a deep cut. She gave the money to the hospital where Grandpa had been admitted. . He was there for a month and came out with a big scar. It was the first time I had seen so much blood and I felt sick and dizzy.
two. Only my brother had invariably beaten me and then crowed about it for days. from where we had just come. I pedalled as fast as I could. okay?" "Okay. This was not the first time we had raced. my brother and I decided to do a little exploring on our bikes. in a haze.That Sunday Morning My father was posted in Patna. I was 104 . "Come on. My legs ached and my skirt billowed out. I'll race you to that corner. three!" I said. one. The loser treats the other to a chocolate. threatening to hit my face. Soon I drew level with my brother and then gradually I moved ahead. On the first Sunday there. The trees on either side of the road had become one green blur. I was determined to win this time. I could see the corner. The roads were good and the trees lining them were shady. There were no imposing buildings or monuments as there are in Delhi. and then we were off. It was still very early in the morning. my brother got bored and said. and only a few people were about. My hair blew behind me and my lungs were bursting for air. After cycling for about half-an-hour.
but the whoop froze on my lips.starting to whoop with glee. The cow managed to fall into a ditch and in the process. Some of them were running like mad in circles. lowering its head. I spotted two rows of resplendent Cavalry officers. as she charged up the road and round the corner. They obviously belonged to the governor's bodyguard. while their riders tried to bring them under control. dislodged me. charged 105 . reared up and started running. As we turned. mounted on their magnificent horses coming towards us. right in the middle of the road. The cow thinking this was another attack. bellowed loudly and. I clung to her for dear Me. The horses panicked and scattered. I sat up with a groan and saw that the Cavalry horses were still out of control. There. and one horse threw its rider right in front of my eyes. and I landed on the soft earth bordering the ditch. startled by this sudden attack. I could only cling helplessly as the frightened cow charged straight at the horses. There was a regular stampede. Two horses were nowhere to be seen. The cow. The poor man landed in the ditch just next to the cow. I flew over the handlebars and landed smack on the back of the unfortunate animal. but I could not stop the momentum of my own body. stood a lone cow! I jammed on the brakes and the cycle stopped abruptly.
" he said and started laughing. "Are you all right?" "Of course. With one accord we got onto our bikes and beat a hasty retreat.at the unfortunate man. Then he probably realised that I might have been hurt and asked. I saw my brother approaching with my bike in tow. the cow belonged. we would be called in for a lot of explanations. Behind him was the man to whom. "I think it would be nice if we moved quickly from here. The morning had already been rather eventful and we did not want to add another unpleasant episode to it. I felt like hitting him. Nothing on earth would have made me admit to him how frightened and shaken I was. I am. in all probability.' I looked round and saw that if both of us did not move fast enough. tearing his pants at rather an awkward place. Realising this." I said haughtily and got up at once. 107 . "You looked such a sight on top of that cow. My brother gave them an uneasy glance and said. coming up to me with a grin on his face. The poor fellow scrambled out of the ditch. he sat down on the road with a thump and would not get up. Just then my brother spotted one of the horseriders coming towards us with a thunderous scowl on his face.
his vast bulk filling the roomy revolving chair. Silence." said Father and Raja put his head between his paws. . If the wind so much as stirred Father's latch. The clock had just struck ten when Father signed the last of the papers. Some more. the room was very quiet. In the daytime. . Raja let out a deep growl. But at night a change came over him. On the carpet below lay Father's dog. The curtains were drawn. grr " "Quiet. And then Father heard a soft footfall. 'Swish. Raja was barking furiously as Father walked to the door and threw it open. In the dark he could just make out a small form. "Who is there?" he called. 108 . swish'. As he put down his pen.The Boy From Standard III Father Rebello sat in his study. "Grrr. Even his meals had to be pushed right under his nose or he wouldn't eat. The windows were shut against the chill mountain air. Raja acted bone-lazy. Tick-tock went the clock on top of the bookshelf. Otherwise. went his pen as he wrote. he heard a low rumble. Raja. Slowly they came up the staircase and on to the landing where they stopped.
the new Tibetan boy from Standard III." he replied. his frightened eyes darting about the room. twice." he said aloud and presently the light shone on the face of Norbu. for already the boy's face had gone very white. Norbu? Tell me. half-way down the hill. Father took a torch. and Father did not want to press him. "What is it. and saw Norbu to his dormitory. directly after evening study. He put an arm round the boys' shoulders. At last he spoke. what makes you think God has forgotten you?" But Norbu would not say anything more. while the rest of the boys went tearing 109 . Father Rebello waited so that the thudding of the boy's heart had time to ease. but on Father's ears the words fell harshly. They had a cup of hot milk together. Later. before he found his small voice. He sat huddled in one corner of a chair. "Father. He passed his tongue over his lips once. "Of course. Norbu. three times. Norbu came every day." he said."Come in." Norbu tried. but the words wouldn't come." Norbu spoke without bitterness. "Why son. "I can light some joss-sticks in chapel every evening? Yes? You not mind?" Father was taken aback. "But why?" "Because to tell God I am here. Norbu shivered slightly as Father Rebello led him into the study.
As he zig-zagged up the path to the top of the knoll. and her likeness to Norbu was so remarkable that Father 110 . And then he saw the startled face of Norbu. something caught his eye. Here Father would sit and watch the sun sink to rest among the pines. He stole past Father's room and entered the chapel. And five minutes later. He never missed his evening walk. for he knew the knoll was out of bounds at that hour. Father Rebello could smell the joss-sticks. The rains had come and gone early that year. In one hand the boy clutched a pencil. starting from the school on top of the hill. Father Rebello quickened his pace. but Father knew that this was not the end. A blue-clad arm. a sheaf of papers. pink and dotted with stray white clouds. Father Rebello loved the evenings—a time when he could take his mind off the day-to-day problems of running the school. in the other. In uniform. "Who's there?" he said sharply. Someone from the school. Autumn twilight trailed over the land. down into the valley and up again to the little knoll that overlooked a running stream. Norbu seemed content. drawing level with the figure behind the bush. One day Father Rebello came later than usual.down to the dining-hall. He had been drawing the face of a girl. jutting out from behind a bush. a Tibetan girl.
Grandmother old. Next morning two buses come. all coming to India. Soon. They give us small white bowls to eat porridge. "Some time later. the boy wiped his face and plunged into his story. My sister put in the other with girls. Then Father spoke 112 . "I never knew you could draw so well. My grandmother she take me and my sister and run to India. we find us in a large house." There was a long silence. I put in one with boys. Somehow we drag along with the rest. for they meant that his defences were down and he would be ready to talk." Norbu took a deep breath. Father sat down on the grass beside him.caught his breath. one night Grandmother go to sleep and never get up My sister and I go on with the crowd." he said. house and clothes and goats. grateful for the tears that shone in the boy's eyes. no mother. We leave our all behind. Can't walk much. I not seen her again. "And who is this girl? Your sister?" Norbu nodded. Father Rebello waited. They—they take her away. Even then I have no father. Can't carry. Lots of other Tibetans there too and some people we don't know. "I seven years old when Chinese come to Tibet. "One day they tell us we go to school. Many moons after. Hundreds of Tibetans. My sister and I small.
" "In that case. do you mind if we do it together? I could make enquiries through our mission. it will take time But Father Rebello never quite finished what he was saying. For. you want to look for your sister. Norbu had flung two small arms round his neck. 'Norbu.gently. rising like a little whirlwind. while over the mop of brown hair he watched the last little bit of the sun sink peacefully to rest. other missions will help. Perhaps your sister is in one of our schools. And Father held him tight. don't you?" Norbu's eyes met his and he said. . "Yes. If not. Of course.
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