Meet Kushi - the ever smiling lass of Gorkhapur. She had two siblings. Tenzing and Moa.

Moa being the youngest brother loved and cared so much for her. Tenzing did adore her but was unhappy about being her ³BODYGUARD´ all the time. He hated the idea of missing out the cricket matches after school as he had to take care of Kushi.

³Why did he have to take care of Kushi?´ Kushi was polio affected and thus confined to the wheelchair! Moa wasn¶t strong enough to help her move around so a sturdy Tenzing had to be at her beck and call. He never complained but Kushi knew all the while that she was forcibly being a burden and hampering her brother¶s wants.

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Kushi¶s best friends were the Cybele¶s bounty. The happily chirping magpies drove away her blues, the fragrant orchids swayed and nodded their heads in agreement whenever she poured her heart out to them. The only wish Kushi had was to pervade mirth all around and so she smiled always; come rain or shine.

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Her parents had never been to school and hence illiterate. They were ignorant of the perils brought by polio so they did not get her vaccinated when she was five years old « only to repent later. Now she was well fed, nurtured, cuddled, taken good care of and pampered amidst the cozy warmth of togetherness in her ³home sweet home´ but « was there anything missing? Yes« her heart longed for something else«

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« The small school up the hill! Where she wished to go to like all other children of Gorkhapur. She was very keen to read, write and learn. All these cravings hidden deep inside the fourth chamber of her heart she just hoped against hope that one fine day her dream would come true!

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Bahadur- her father« sold his sewing machine as he no longer could run the tailoring shop. That was the end of his noble profession! He began pondering on how to make ends meet. When carrying her piggy back once, it struck to him ³Why don¶t I sell Kushi¶s wheelchair?´ She wouldn¶t be needing it to move inside the house as long as he could carry her. Then, there were her two brothers- young, energetic and growing! They would help her « wouldn¶t they?

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Having lost his work, Bahadur returned to grazing sheep like he used to during his childhood. Kushi watched him through the mirador, helplessly. Wish there was something she could do about!

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³Oh! Not her wheelchair« Why don¶t you sell the golden baton instead? What joy has it ever bestowed on us till now?´ Kushi¶s mother¶s plea fell on deaf ears. Bahadur moved the wheelchair to the barn when Kushi was fast asleep. His heart pounded louder and louder. He felt guilty of snatching away her only mode of motion within the vicinity. ³That precious child never grumbled. How can I take away her things of little joy?... Should I? or shouldn¶t I«?´ Come daybreak and he moved it back to her room.

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Moa never wanted to see the smile on Kushi¶s visage fade away. He couldn¶t stop his father from selling her wheelchair but he could try to divert her heed and keep her cheerful for a while. He placed her kitten on her lap after giving it a good brushing and combing! She gently stroked its velvety coat and it purred back in gratitude. It kept her entertained! She broke into a peel of giggles when it began displaying its crazy antics. Her mother silently shed tears of joy looking at the three bonding well and sharing such pure love.

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Kushi watched the donkeys graze. Suddenly there was a rumbling noise approaching. ³HONK« HONK« HONK´ went the garishly painted van. ³Oh! There¶s going to be a shopping fair set up here for a few days´ she thought. Little did she know that these were the very same people to whom Bahadur intended to sell off her wheelchair!

On the pretext of choosing her a birthday gift he took her to the sale. Bahadur had to bring to her notice sooner or later the fact about the wheelchair. He tried to bribe her with noisy toys in exchange with her wheelchair. He was trying to amuse her when Tenzing just returned from school. He was more than happy to finally see her wheelchair being sold soon.

³I don¶t want those« baba, I¶d rather have a set of school uniform, books and a bag!´ she uttered excitedly. Bahadur was dumbstruck! ³Why would you want to go to school? What will you do there?´ he asked amazed.

Kushi could no longer hold it. Hot tears rolled down her cheeks. She blurted out how she used to stealthily peer into Moa¶s books every night after he slept. When he came to know of her passion and curiosity for numbers he was happy to help. He taught her how to count, add, subtract« Gradually he also made her perform basic arithmetic operations and now she could say out loud- multiplication tables up to 20 by-heart! Hearing this the guilt in Tenzing pricked! He felt ashamed of himself. He took Bahadur aside and convinced him into not selling the wheelchair away. ³« but even if she had it how can she go to school? There are no stairs either; its not even a road what you students take to school! How can anyone move her wheelchair up the hill?´ questioned Bahadur.

Tenzing had to act fast. He ran back to school and caught up with Tamang Sir who was on his way home. He told Tamang Sir- the mathematics teacher everything about Kushi. Like always Tamang Sir had a solution for every problem! He told Tenzing to gather as many volunteers as possible, collect reasonable funds from each and every house of Gorkhapur and get to work the very next day!

Tenzing got busy hunting volunteers. Tamang Sir had a trick up his sleeve! Bahadur set off to the nearby town to specially get Kushi¶s golden biscuits baked for her birthday which was four days from then. Her mother began collecting selected herbs from the foot of the mountain to cook on Kushi¶s birthday her favourite yak milk cream soup. Moa began wrapping a small box of crayons in glittering paper just for his Kushi. The news of Tamang Sir¶s idea spread like wild fire throughout Gorkhapur! Funds were collected in no time. And the school children too enthusiastically joined Tenzing in his venture. Meanwhile Kushi forgot all that happened at the fair, smiled away her worries; as usual and indulged herself in conversation with her friends- the magpies, orchids and the kitten« totally uninformed of what was happening behind her back!

There turned out to be more number of volunteers than expected. In fact almost the whole of Gorkhapur turned up! Tamang Sir gave them instructions on how to execute his plan. All ears, everybody agreed in unison! Tamang Sir prayed for the success of the mission and all set to work immediately!

The school children of Gorkhapur were all excited! It was a ³hush-hush´ matter. There was a big pleasant surprise in store for the gay , most adored and ever smiling lass of Gorkhapur³Kushi´.

Bahadur decided not to sell her wheelchair after all! Up the hill all volunteers enthusiastically began moving big stones, pieces of rocks and boulders lying on the way to school. Here, inside her house was Kushi; unaware of what was going on outside!

The zeal and zest just kept on building. A road on which the wheelchair could be easily pushed was under construction! Within a mere couple of days the road was ready! It was awaiting the dawn of a fresh new beginning of hope«

³The new day has come!´ Bahadur¶s eyes were brimming with tears of gratitude. He was speechless. Smilingly he placed the plate piled with a heap of Kushi¶s golden biscuits and a flask of her favourite hot soup in front of her. The school children gathered outside her house. She invited them in and requested them to help themselves in to some biscuits. He told her what the people of Gorkhapur were up to. She was awestruck! She couldn¶t believe her ears!

Tenzing was more than willing to help Kushi spread her wings now! He has proved to be a more matured, responsible, lovable, caring and worthy brother «

Kushi¶s parents heaved a deep sigh of relief. Their darling could fly now! She could go to school like all the other children! They seldom had to deprive Kushi of her wheelchair« «.. The golden baton- their family heirloom had indeed brought them an ecstasy which knew no bounds! ³A happy ending« ³ « or say ³a happy beginning´?

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