A Writer’s World #10 When Life Happens…

When I began writing my blog, I was filled with enthusiasm. There were so many things I wanted to write about, my journey as a writer that I wanted to chronicle and other writers that I longed to reach out to. And I did manage to write on several of these topics. Then, there was a longish break in my writing. What happened was nothing unusual. It’s something that happens to all of us, something that comes in the way of fulfilling dreams and doing all the things you had planned to do.

Life. It happened.

How often have you met people who say they have always wanted to write but… I can guess what comes after the ‘but’. Illness, a child’s education, the need to hold on to a job, taking care of family members – the reasons are many but together they can all be clubbed under the overarching umbrella of  – Life. Happening.

Life happens to all of us. It rudely interrupts our beautifully laid plans, it ruthlessly grabs our time and demands our attention and it proceeds to lay waste all our creative energies. What do we do when that happens? I know many writers who wait for the right time. Once the child is off to college, they say, they will focus on their writing. Once an ailing parent is back home, it will be time to write. And yes, this is an admirable and even practical approach to writing and life happening.

But we need to remember that life seldom follows the rules we lay for it. It is wilful and demanding and capable of taking you to places you never imagined going. So, how does a writer deal with life happening?

You just keep thinking and when possible, writing. I understand that every writer needs silence and the space to think and write. But I also feel that writers need life happening around them in order to write.  We cannot all be The Lady of Shalott, isolated on an island while life flows around us, relying on the reflections we see in a mirror to create our magic. Any writing that is inspired by reflections is bound to be pale and underwhelming. Allow yourself, instead, to be inspired by the chaos life unleashes around you.

Early in my writing career most of my time was spent with my son. I chose to embrace all the small things that I had to do for him. The result – stories about school and fears and friends and homework. I wrote a lot of short stories in the time when my son had not yet started school. This was primarily because I wanted to spend time with him. But what could I do of the burning need to write? Short stories provided me the perfect compromise- I was able to use my experiences effectively and do it in a more economical time frame. This not only allowed me to mine the rich resources handed to me by my son every day, it also allowed me to continue writing.

And yes, when he finally started school I did write. I wrote journalism and short stories, I wrote novels and chapter books. I wrote them through illness and the demands of school, I wrote through personal lows and the increasingly difficult conversations about what he wanted to study at college.

That’s how, while life happened around me, I wrote.

Conversations In My Mind #1

 

Son, Mother, Child, Parent, Young, Kid

 

 

Being a writer means you spend a lot of time with just yourself. Even after you have dreamt to your heart’s content there’s still plenty of time between ideas. And that’s the time my writer’s brain comes up with these conversations with various people, some real, some imagined!  

 

Conversation with my son

This was in the days when my son was much younger and spent a good chunk of his day gaining an education and acquiring mysterious streaks of sticky black stuff on his face, hands, and clothes! I thought he knew what I did for a living and hoped he would talk about it to people at school. This was how I imagined a conversation with him on the important topic of what I did for a living would go!

Me: So, how was your day?

Son: It was okay. We discussed jobs and everyone talked about what their parents did.

Me: (heart thudding in pleasant anticipation): And?

Son: And I told them my mother stayed home so she could write amazing stories for children to read and enjoy.

Me: (melting) Oooh! Really!

Son: Yes, I told them you were a famous writer and everyone in the whole world had read your stories!

 

And in reality? This is what happened.

Me: Did you have a good day?

Son: No! I am grumpy and tired. Can you do something to make me feel better?

Me: I have some snacks for you and…

Son: No! Something else.

Me: Umm…oh, you could watch some TV and…

Son: Something better.

Me: I can’t! I am a little tired and…

Son: Tired? But what did you do all day? Didn’t you just lie on the sofa and watch TV? Huh?

 

A Story A Day #31 The Perfect Birthday Gift

We often take the people close to us for granted, until they manage to surprise us in the most unexpected way. 

The word for the day is – Gift.  

The Perfect Birthday Gift

Most people enjoy their birthdays and look forward to their birthday parties. But I only became grumpier as my birthday came closer. “Why does Anuj have to be at my party?” I grumbled to Amma, “Why can’t you take him out somewhere or leave him with the neighbours?”

“Don’t be mean Anu,” Amma scolded, “He is your little brother! He has a right to attend your party!” Yes, I mumbled, he did. But what about me? How was I going to feel, having my little brother tottering about at my birthday party, grabbing all the attention, while I was ignored? It had happened before and it would happen again.  And that’s why I wanted Amma to keep Anuj away from my party. But so far I had had no such luck.

I went back to my homework and Anuj found me there “Hey Anuj!” I said, “How are you?” My brother babbled and I nodded my head. “So Amma isn’t giving you a biscuit? Let’s see what we can do!” I marched to the kitchen lugging my brother and after a short battle, got away with two biscuits. Sitting on my hip, Anuj babbled away into my ear. We were waiting for him to begin talking but for now Anuj’s conversation consisted of these meaningless sounds.

By the day of my party I was resigned to having Anuj there. “Your brother,” exclaimed my friend Smitha, “He’s so cute!” Yes, I thought looking at Anuj, his curly hair framing his round face, and his pudgy hands grabbing things, he was cute and I was glad he was at my party. So what if my friends had gathered around him and were passing him around, as if they were playing pass-the-parcel and he was the parcel, while I stood in a corner, ignored at my own party? Anuj hated the attention, and seemed to want only me. His frantic eyes kept looking at me, as if begging to be rescued from my friends. I smiled and waved, but stayed away. And then, as if he could bear it no longer, my brother Anuj pointed at me and said, “ANU!” The room fell silent. I could hardly believe my ears. And then, as if to oblige me Anuj said again, “Anu!” This time there was no doubting it. My little brother had spoken his first word. And it had been my name! A perfect storm of noise burst then. Anuj’s face crumpled and he looked ready to cry. I grabbed him. “Anu’s here!” I told him. “Don’t worry Anuj, Anu’s here!”

“Anu,” Anuj agreed, patting me on my cheek. And at that moment I felt like the most special person in the world and knew that this was the best gift my brother could have ever given me. And I had actually wanted Anuj to stay away! At the memory of my meanness my arms tightened around Anuj. “Anu!” he yelled. “Anu!” I grinned, enjoying the best birthday gift anyone could have asked for.

 

A Story A Day#30 The Sister of My Dreams

We are often disappointed when our dreams for the future are not fulfilled. What if we get what we need in place of things and people we wished for? 

The word of the day is – Dreams. 

 

The Sister of My Dreams

‘Make a wish!’ Shikha said and the others took up the chant.

‘Make a good wish,’ my sister Priya whispered. ‘Remember, it will come true!’

Ha, I thought, looking at the thirteen candles on my cake. The last time I had wished on a cake had been six years back, when Amma had told me she was going to have a baby. I had wished for a sister and that part of my wish had come true. But I had wished for a sister just like me and instead, I had got Priya.

‘Make a wish,’ my friends were saying while Priya danced in the middle of the circle they made. I hadn’t wished for a dancing sister; the sister of my dreams played a violin while I played the tabla. But Priya didn’t want to learn music; all she wanted was to dance to it.

Someone turned off the light so the candles glowed golden. There had been six candles the last time and I had made six wishes. One of those wishes had been that my sister would hate all the vegetables I disliked. The two of us could have teamed up to fight Amma. No more cucumbers or beetroots, I had thought then. And instead I had got the only vegetable loving child in the world for my sister! She crunched carrots and cucumbers, ate green peas by the handful and begged Amma for brinjal. She was the one who had asked for vegetable sandwiches for my party when I would have demanded fries and chips. The only advantage to this was that Priya helped me finish my vegetables so I didn’t get into trouble with Amma. All she asked for in return was that I read stories to her. And that was another of my dreams, completely destroyed.

I had wished for a book crazy sister so we could have long discussions about our favourite books. But Priya was only interested in tearing up my books. Some of them she had even tried to eat up. Then, fortunately for me and my books, she had discovered vegetables. Since then she had stopped tearing up books. But she still did not like to read. What she liked was listening to me reading to her. She would sit that way for hours, while I read out my favourite stories to her.

‘Neha,’ someone jabbed me so I jumped, ‘make a wish so we can cut the cake!’ It was Priya, Priya who would happily hand over her slice of the cake to me, Priya who would keep me awake so I would read out all my new books to her. Priya, who was not the sister I had wished for. But who had, over the years, become the sister that I wanted very much.

‘What are you going to wish for?’ she whispered to me now.

What could I wish for? ‘Nothing,’ I said and blew the candles out.

 

This story was published in Young World, the children’s pages of The Hindu.

A Story A Day#28 The Magic of Sun and Sand

Overcoming our fears often yields great riches. In this story it yields something unexpected and  magical! 

The word of the day is – Magic.  

 

The Magic of Sun and Sand

 

Summer, Mona and Guna thought, meant a beach vacation. Their parents usually agreed but this year Mama and Papa shook their heads. ‘A vacation is too difficult!’ they said.

The children couldn’t understand why it was difficult. After all, their parents were powerful magicians and only had to snap their fingers for things to happen. The children begged and pleaded, they argued and reasoned.

Finally, Mama and Papa began to say things like, ‘Let’s see!’

And after more begging, Papa said, ‘All right, but you’ll have to earn the vacation!’

‘Anything,’ Mona promised.

‘Anything for sun and sand!’ Guna added rashly.

‘Good!’ Mama said briskly. She and Papa both plucked things out of the air and dropped them into the children’s hands.

Each child was holding something small and soft, something with sharp claws, something that said, ‘Meow!’

The children shrieked and leapt away, dropping the kittens.

‘It’s a cat!’ they yelled, trying to get away. The kittens thought it was a game and raced after their leaping feet.

‘Help!’ they begged.

‘Why?’ Mama asked, surprised. ‘This is what you wanted!’

They gaped at her. Mama pointed to the warm orange kitten and said, ‘This is Sun!’ ‘And this,’ Papa said, picking the brown kitten, ‘is Sand!’

Mona and Guna did not like animals. They ran away from dogs, shuddered at snakes and screamed if any buzzing creature came too close. And they positively hated cats. This was a pity because magic meant working with different animals. Anything with wings gave you lightness, four-legged creatures imparted courage and crawlers added a dash of the cunning essential for good magic.

Mona and Guna were filled with a seething rage at their parents. They had fooled the children and now, they were getting ready to go out.

‘Look after Sun and Sand,’ Mama said, putting on dark glasses, ‘and they’ll fulfil your wishes.’

‘How?’ the children demanded.

‘Open your eyes,’ Mama suggested.

‘See the magic of Sun and Sand!’ Papa laughed. A snap of fingers and they disappeared.

‘I wish,’ Guna said, ‘we knew enough magic to disappear!’

But they knew hardly any magic because of their refusal to work with animals. And now here they were, stuck with two kittens while their parents were out for the day. The kittens were eager to be friends and the children spent their time escaping them.

‘What shall we do?’ Guna panted as they ran away from the kittens.

‘If we feed them,’ Mona said, ‘they’ll fall asleep!’

Her plan worked and grinning triumphantly, the children sneaked away. Mona curled up in a chair with a book. But she was soon asleep. She slept deeply and woke up only because there was a motor thrumming somewhere close by. Then she looked down at her lap and gasped. There lay Sand, fast asleep and purring gently. Mona wanted it out of her lap. But it looked so peaceful that instead she found herself stroking it. The purring increased and Mona smiled. Sand liked it! She stroked the kitten and the purring grew louder. Sand seemed happier. But was he also getting heavier and warmer?

Mona gently picked up the kitten. And then she stared and stared at her skirt, full of soft, fine beach sand. The kitten slept on as Mona stroked it again. With a soft whoosh her lap filled with more sand.

‘Guna!’ Mona called. ‘We are going to the beach!’

‘How?’ Guna demanded.

‘Because now I know the magic of Sun and Sand!’ Mona grinned.

So they petted the kittens till the tiny bodies were thrumming with joy. The children enjoyed the petting so much that they didn’t notice the walls disappearing to let the sun shine in or the floor being replaced by smooth sand.

They only looked up when they heard their parents say, ‘Welcome to the beach!’

Then they saw the bright sun, the miles of sand and heard the dull crash of the blue waves.

‘It worked!’ Mona squeaked. ‘The magic of Sun and Sand worked!’

The children tried to be angry with their parents for tricking them. But the magic of Sun and Sand interfered each time. And that’s how they had the best vacation of their lives!

 

This story was published in Young World, the children’s pages of The Hindu.

A Story A Day#27 First Day Back at School

We all try to get out of things that we don’t like. But does this really help us? 

The word of the day is –  School. 

 

 

“All ready for the first day of school?” Amma asked, walking into Vidya’s room. Vidya had been staring out of the window and jumped at Amma’s voice. “Yes,” she said, “everything is ready.”

“Exciting, isn’t it?” Amma asked. “Going back to school?”

Vidya didn’t think so but, “Yes!” she said. Her voice sounded hollow to herself. Would Amma guess from her lukewarm response that Vidya was dreading going back to school? After a month and half away from school the rules and regulations, the very routine seemed alien and scary.

“I hated going back to school!” Amma declared, surprising Vidya into saying, “Really?” “Yes,” Amma smiled mischievously. “Absolutely hated it. And the last few days of my vacations were spent praying that school would close down. It never happened, of course, but that didn’t stop me from hoping even as I walked to school on the first day!”

“Hmm,” Vidya said and then, taking courage into both her hands she confessed, “I …I feel that way too!”

“You do?” Amma seemed amazed. “I suppose,”she went on, “all children feel that way!” Vidya thought briefly of her friends. None of them seemed concerned about going back to school and accepted it as a necessary part of life.

“You know,” Amma was grinning again, “one year I decided that I wouldn’t go to school on the first day!”

“Did you mother let you do that?” Vidya asked, surprised.

“Oh, yes,” Amma nodded. “Your grandmother had no problem with my staying at home on the first day!”

Wow, thought Vidya, that was an idea. She too could miss the first day of school. Would Amma let her stay home? Did she dare ask her mother? Aloud she said, “Lucky you!”

“Lucky me?”Amma echoed. “Hmm, I suppose so. That is what I thought too. I was so pleased with myself for having missed the first day of school. And then I had to go to school the next day and I realized how wrong I had been. I realized that I had not missed the first day of school after all!”

“What?”Vidya frowned. What was Amma saying? “But you missed school on the first day, didn’t you?” she asked. “Yes,” Amma nodded. “But when I went to school the next day, that was my first day at school!”

“Oooh!” Vidya said, realization dawning.

“Yes,”Amma nodded. “And by then everyone had decided who their seat partner was going to be, the teachers had asked for introductions and…in short,” she sighed, “it was a horrible day for me!”

Vidya could imagine how that would feel- going to school when everyone else knew what was happening, everyone else had decided things. “It must have been worse than the first day of school!” she exclaimed and Amma nodded. “Yes,” she agreed. “It was. The next year when my mother asked me if I wanted to miss the first day of school…”

“…you said ‘No’,” Vidya completed. Amma laughed. “I had decided that I would never ever miss the first day of school.” Amma explained. “I would go even if I had to force myself to go there! Because… trying to escape from scary things never works. The scary things only get…

“Bigger, stronger and scarier!” Vidya said.

“Exactly!”Amma nodded. “And that’s why I wouldn’t let you miss the first day of school, even if you begged me!”

“I was going to ask if I could miss the first day,” Vidya admitted. “But now…I am going to school on the first day!”

“Only on the first day?”Amma teased.

“The first day and every single day after that!”Vidya declared, her words a solemn promise, both to herself and Amma.

 

This story was published in Young World, the children’s pages of The Hindu.

A Story A Day#25 How Pranav Wore Shirts with Pockets

What are your favourite clothes? What are your reasons for liking them? 

The word of the day is  – Pockets 

 

How Pranav wore shirts with pockets

 

One day when Pranav came home from school his mother asked him to change his clothes. She gave Pranav a shirt to wear. Pranav looked at the shirt and said, “I don’t want to wear this shirt! I want something else!”

Pranav’s mother was surprised. “But why?” she asked, “This is a nice shirt! It has got a monkey and a banana on it. And it is blue in colour!”

“Yes,” Pranav said, “It is blue in colour and I like the monkey and the bananas on the shirt. But I want to wear something else!”

Then Pranav’s mother pulled out a T-shirt with cars racing on the front and the back. “I am sure you want to wear this T-shirt,” she said, showing Pranav the T-shirt. But Pranav shook his head. “No,” he said, “I don’t want that T-shirt either!”

So Pranav’s mother pulled out another T-shirt and when Pranav said no to it, she pulled out a green T-shirt, a yellow one and even an orange one. But Pranav said no to all of them. Pranav’s mother looked at all the clothes which Pranav had not wanted to wear. Then she said, “Why don’t you want these clothes?”

“They are not nice,” Pranav said, “I want a nice shirt!”

“What is wrong with these clothes?” Pranav’s mother asked, surprised.

“They don’t have pockets,” Pranav said, “And I want to wear clothes with pockets in them, so that I can carry all my important papers around with me!”

Then Pranav’s mother found a shirt with two pockets on it. She gave it to Pranav. Pranav was happy. “This shirt is double nice,” he said.

“Why is it double nice?” Pranav’s mother asked, puzzled.

“Because it has two pockets! And I can keep my important papers in them!” Pranav said. And Pranav was happy that he had a shirt with two pockets so that he could carry his important things around with him.

 

This story was published in Young Buzz, the children’s pages of Sakal Times.

A Story A Day#23 The View From the Balcony

We are all so worried about how the world sees us, that we often forget to be true to ourselves. At such times, the view from a balcony comes in handy!  

The word of the day is –  view.

 

The view from the balcony

 

Rishabh had never considered the view from the balcony of his house till Sarika came to stay in the flat opposite. The design of the apartment blocks meant that the two flats had their balconies close together.  Rishabh had perfected the art of ignoring the balcony opposite because of the unpleasant couple who lived there. And that’s why it was several days before he noticed that the flat opposite was empty. He hoped that whoever moved in next would be friendlier than the previous occupants.

A few days later as he was hanging the clothes out to dry, he glanced at the balcony opposite and saw a girl of around his age, hanging over the railing. Wow, thought Rishabh, she was really pretty.

“Bhaiyya! Bhaiyya!” his younger brother Rakesh came running up at that moment and Rishabh panicked. What if the girl looked around and saw him staring?  He stepped into the house, slamming the door to the balcony shut. “Why did you shut the door?” Rakesh wailed. “I want to go out on the balcony!”

“Not now,” Rishabh said and then, when it looked as if seven-year-old Rakesh would burst into tears, he said, “Let’s have a pillow fight!” That distracted Rakesh and he forgot about going on the balcony. But Rishabh couldn’t stop thinking of the girl on the balcony. The next time he saw her, he swore, he would be prepared and impress her with his cool behavior.

He saw her the very next day, dressed in the uniform of his school and waiting for the school bus. Rishabh was so surprised that he had to make an effort to keep his jaw from hanging open. So she was going to join his school! Once he had got used to this idea, Rishabh felt  that nothing else would shock him. So he wasn’t really surprised when the girl walked into his class and was introduced as Sarika. Seen at close quarters she was even prettier. Rishabh sighed to himself and bid her a silent goodbye. If she had lived elsewhere, he thought, he might have had a chance with her. But she lived in the flat opposite his  and already knew a lot about him. Rishabh thought of his pillow fights with Rakesh, the vegetables he chopped for his mother and the other chores he helped with. No girl would be interested in a guy like that; especially not a girl like Sarika. And just like that, without even trying, he gave up any thoughts of winning her.

Of course, he couldn’t avoid going out on the balcony but Rishabh perfected the art of avoiding Sarika.  A couple of times he had seen her, out of the corner of his eye, step out on the balcony but he had simply pretended not to see her. Once he even thought he saw her wave, but that was probably his imagination because why would Sarika, already popular at school, want to talk to him?

And yet, despite her popularity Sarika made attempts to befriend his family. She was Rakesh’s favourite didi and his mother said she was a ‘sweet girl’. Rishabh couldn’t understand why she was doing that. She must have realized that he simply wasn’t the kind of guy she would like. Then why be nice his family?

This was something that puzzled him and if it hadn’t been for the slew of tests and assignments that the teachers bombarded them with, Rishabh would have spent all his time worrying over this. Fortunately he came home exhausted, intent only on preparing for the next test. And once the tests were over, there was the class picnic to look forward to.

There was great excitement on the day of the picnic and intent on getting a good seat, Rishabh reached the school early. He found a seat midway down the bus, childishly glad he had the window. When someone dropped into the seat beside his Rishabh turned and found himself face to face with Sarika.

“Oh!” he said stupidly.

“Hi!” Sarika smiled.

“Why are you here?” Rishabh asked and then, realizing how rude that sounded he amended, “I mean, there are lots of empty seats! There’s an empty seat beside Gautam!” Gautam was the most popular boy in the class and it was no secret that he admired Sarika.

“I know,” Sarika said. “But I want to sit here!”

“But why?” Rishabh asked, wondering wildly what was happening. “I am not… your kind of a guy!”

“You are exactly the kind of boy I like!” Sarika corrected him.

“Really?” Rishabh stared at her, “How do you know anything about me?” he demanded suspiciously.

“I am your neighbour, right?” Sarika said, as if talking to a small child. “So when I stand on my balcony, I can see into your house and hear everything and…”

“Oh no!” Rishabh muttered, horror-stricken.

“Oh yes,” Sarika corrected. “And I like all that I’ve seen of you – the way you play with your brother, the way you help your mother with the chores and best of all the way you hide from me!”

“You do?” Rishabh said, a burst of happiness clouding his thinking for a minute. But even through this he was conscious of a feeling of gratitude for many things, but most of all for the view from the balcony.

 

This story was published in Young Buzz, the children’s pages of Sakal Times.

A Story A Day #21 A Secret for Me

A secret is often a truth waiting to be revealed. But what if you hugged the secret to yourself and enjoyed it because of how special it made you feel? 

The word of the day is – Secret!

 

A Secret for me

“Shall we go into that shop there?” I pointed to a shop with a bright pink board. The two display windows on either side of the entrance were a riot of shiny things. But my cousin Vaidehi barely glanced at the shop before she was shaking her head. “I don’t want to buy anything there,” she told me. “So why should we go in there?”

“Because,” I felt like yelling, “because it is fun to look! And because you may actually find something you like!” But I held my tongue and instead sighed to myself. What was the point in saying anything to Vaidehi, I thought. She wasn’t interested in most things. I had spent the afternoon trying to get her to go into some of the shops in the mall close to my house. And all she had done was say things like, “I am not interested,” or “I don’t need anything!” At the thought of the six days that remained of Vaidehi’s stay with us, my heart sank. What was I going to do with a cousin who didn’t seem to be interested in most of the things that I liked?

A week back, the thought of Vaidehi’s visit had thrilled me. I hadn’t met Vaidehi in years and the memory of our childhood meetings, when we had played happily with our dolls, had convinced me that we would have a great time. And so I had made such elaborate plans for our time together that her week long stay had seemed too short. At that time though, the Vaidehi of my dreams had been a girl I had got along with, a cousin I had understood.

The real Vaidehi turned out to be a very quiet girl, whose behaviour and conversation gave no clue to the kind of person she was. How much can you understand of a person from “Yes,” “No” and “I think so”? That was why I had suggested going to the Mall and that was why I was there on a Saturday afternoon, trying desperately to find the key that would unlock my cousin for me.

I did my best to start a conversation as we walked around the mall, pointing to clothes and people, chatting about school and asking her about her friends. To all these Vaidehi gave short, to the point replies. “Ice cream!” I said, stopping in front of my favourite ice cream shop. Fortunately for me, it turned out that Vaidehi too liked ice cream. And so, with a cone in our hands we settled down to eating our ice creams. It was then that Vaidehi saw something in the shoe shop next door that interested her. “What is it?” I asked, looking over her shoulder at the shelves of shoes.

“Look at that pair of sandals,” my cousin said. I followed her pointing finger and saw a pretty pair of sandals, in white and pink.

“Very nice,” I approved. “Do you want to go in and take a look?”

And surprisingly Vaidehi said yes, she did want to take a look at the pair of sandals that had caught her eye.

A few minutes later she had tried on the sandals too and from the look on her face, as she walked up and down the shop, trying to see if the sandals were comfortable, I guessed that she would buy them.

“Like them?” I wanted to know and Vaidehi nodded.

“They are pretty,” I agreed. “And they look very comfortable!”

“Yes, yes,” Vaidehi said impatiently. “But you know, that’s not why I like them so much!” And with a thump she sat down next to me and began unbuckling her sandals in a hurry. “Look!” she said, pulling off one sandal and holding it out to me. I looked, wondering why she seemed so excited. Inside the sandal, in the place where Vaidehi’s heel would come, was a small pink teddy bear, its smile mischievous, the bow in its hair outlined with glittery pink, a pair of pink and white sandals on its minute feet.

“That is pretty!” I exclaimed, sitting up. “But it should have been on the outside of the sandals, so that it would have been seen! Don’t you think so?”

“No!” Vaidehi looked at me as if I was mad. “I like that the teddy bear is inside my sandals!”

“But nobody can even see its there,” I pointed out. “No one will even know you have such a cute little teddy bear on your sandal!”

I will know,” Vaidehi smiled. “Only I will know and it will be my secret, the teddy bear inside my sandals!”

I looked at my cousin, seeing her for the first time and liking what I saw. My cousin Vaidehi, I realised, was a person who didn’t care about appearances, a person for whom all the changes and all the excitement lay within.

As we walked out of the shop a little later, I caught the small smile on Vaidehi’s lips and knew that the knowledge of the teddy bear had put it there. It was a secret that she hugged to herself, a secret that made her walk taller and straighter. I marveled at how much that secret had changed her, and thinking of the unsuspected depths of human beings I was glad that I had understood Vaidehi before I had rushed to dismiss her as ‘my boring cousin Vaidehi’!

 

This story was published in Young Buzz, the children’s pages of Sakal Times.