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#24 Lost and Found!

Friends are forever. Or are they? Here’s a story about losing a friend…and finding her again! 

The word of the day is –  photograph. 

 

 

Lost – And Found!

“Aren’t you excited? We are going to take the class photo today!”

“Oh no,” Shruti muttered. “It the one and only Miss Photogenic!” Her friends giggled as Avantika walked down the corridor.  Avantika always looked as though she were going to a party, if one could imagine attending a party in a school uniform. But today she had taken extra care. Her hair lay hung in a shining waterfall to her shoulder and her face glowed. She grinned widely as she passed Shruti, Nitya and Payal.

“She can’t have really changed that much, can she?” Shruti wondered. She had known Avantika since the day the two of them had joined the school in Class 1. In those days Avantika had been fun. She had continued to be fun till they were in class 5. And then, Shruti was never sure how or when, she had lost her friend. It had begun gradually, the process of moving away but by the time they were in Class 6, the gulf was wide enough for both of them to have their own separate friends. Shruti had become friends with Payal and Nitya, who had both joined school around the time when her friendship with Avantika had been going through the cooling off phase. Shruti had never told her friends what fun she and Avantika had had in the past. Memories of the sleepovers, the birthday parties and all the secrets that they had shared were things that still made her sad. Now all Avantika thought about were her looks and sometimes Shruti mourned the loss of her fun-loving friend.

 

Discussing the events of the day with her mother that evening, she said, “And that silly Avantika – she came looking as if she were going to model!”

“Has she really changed so much?” Ai asked in a wondering voice.

“Yes,” Shruti said gloomily. “All she can talk of is clothes, perfumes, make up and stuff like that!” And she went to bed hoping that sometime in the future she would get a glimpse of the girl who had been her best friend once upon a time.

But the very next day Avantika came dancing to school, eager to share her exciting news.

“She says some newspaper photographers took pictures of her yesterday,” Nitya reported. “And they will appear in the children’s supplement on Friday!”

“Imagine,” Payal sighed, “how unbearable she will be after that!” Payal rolled her eyes in horror at the thought. The others laughed but Shruti, whose hopes for a better Avantika had just been dashed to the ground, sighed a little.

 

And so, when Avantika came  running into school on Friday, dangerously close to being late for school, Shruti turned away. She wasn’t interested in seeing photos of her old friend looking silly and made up! A crowd gathered around Avantika as she rustled eagerly through the pages. “The paper delivery boy was late,” she gasped. “And Daddy had to go to the shop to get…Oh!” she said.

“What is it?” Niharika asked and then grabbing the paper from Avantika’s hands she looked. And the next minute she was laughing. Everyone crowded around Niharika then, pushing and shoving in their eagerness to see the picture that has caused Niharika to laugh like that. Shruti looked too, her curiosity getting the better of her disappointment.

The photo didn’t show Avantika in her usually groomed avatar. It had been taken in Avantika’s garden and instead of posing below some tree in a fetching pose, Avantika was holding a hose pipe in her hands. Water gushed out of the pipe. Some of it had sprayed on Avantika too, and her hair hung in wild disarray around her face. Her t-shirt was old and faded, and her skirt, a faint pink with dark patches of water on it. But what held Shruti’s attention was the expression on  Avantika’s face. Gone was the look of being constantly in control of herself, Avantika’s face reflected her joy. Under the photo was the caption – Children at play. If this was what Avantika looked like, even for a few minutes, thought Shruti, then she hadn’t changed that much.

The others were jostling her out of the way, eager to see the picture. There was a lot nudging and suppressed giggles as the girls looked at this completely unexpected picture of the normally beautiful Avantika. The first loud laugh, when it came, startled all of them. Not because it was so unexpected but because it was Avantika who was laughing. They stared at her, all of them silenced by the unexpectedness of it. Tears they had expected, but laughter? “Oh!” Avantika laughed, holding her sides. “Don’t I look funny? I didn’t even know that photographer had taken a picture! Wait till I see him again!  I will tell him what I think of him!” There was no anger in her voice, only pure amusement. And that was why Shruti dared to say, “You should thank him Avantika!”

She paused. All eyes were on her and though the bell clanged for attention, none of the girls moved. “Really?” Avantika stopped laughing long enough to ask. “Why?”

“He actually made you look beautiful!” Shruti said and the two girls collapsed into laughter. Everyone wondered why Shruti was laughing so hard and there were some who believed she was being malicious and mean. Only Shruti  knew how much joy ran through her laughter – joy at having found her friend again, joy at having the old Avantika back again!

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 #22 My Beautiful Cream Sweater

Children are often in a great hurry to grow up. But are they really prepared to leave behind their carefree childhood? 

The word of the day is – childhood. 

 

My Beautiful Cream Sweater

The sweater was a beautiful, deep cream, rich and elegant, completely different from all the bright colours  I always wore, and that I had begun to associate now with childhood. I loved the sweater because it was completely adult with an understated elegance that at fourteen, I had begun noticing. My Vinod Mama had bought it for me from the US.

“What an impractical colour for a young girl, Vinod!” Ai said. “She will dirty it the first day she wears it!”

That annoyed me but Vinod Mama said, “She is not a messy child any longer! She is a young lady!”

“Thank you Vinod Mama,” I beamed, stroking the softness of the cream sweater.

“That’s what you think,” Ai grumbled. “If you see how dirty her school uniform is most days…”

I burned with resentment at my mother’s words. I had come home from school with my uniform filthy. But that had been because we had had decided to play Kabaddi in Games. How could anyone play Kabaddi without getting their clothes dirty? I longed to ask my mother that but stopped myself in time. Vinod Mama had said I was a young lady now and arguing with their mother was not something young ladies did. “I am wearing this to the Club picnic!” I announced.

“The Club picnic?” Ai echoed. “No, you are not!”

“What is this picnic?” Vinod Mama asked.

“It’s organized by the Ladies Club,” Ai explained. “The kids come too. And it will such an unsuitable occasion to wear…” I heard no more as I walked out, determined to wear the sweater to the picnic.

 

On the day of the picnic, Ai took one look at me wearing my beautiful cream sweater over my favourite jeans and said, “Ritika, I don’t think you should wear the sweater today!”

“But I want to Ai,” I pouted, ready to argue. But Ai only sighed. My friends’ cries of appreciation made up for Ai’s disapproval and I strutted around, showing off my beautiful new cream sweater. The sweater made me feel so special that everything about the day became special – the bus ride, the songs we sang, the food we ate…

At the park we tumbled out, eager to stretch our legs. Once the food had been arranged in the shade of trees we were free. “Ritu!” Shamili called. “Let’s climb these trees!” In a trice my friends had climbed the trees and were soon perched in the branches. I longed to climb too, but worried about my beautiful cream sweater, I stayed on the ground.

When I got tired of this I wandered away by myself. I was looking at a pond full of coloured fish when I felt drops of water land on me. Shamili, Meena and Sakshi had sneaked up behind me, and with water scooped from the pond, were intent on throwing it on me. “No, no, don’t!” I cried, instantly worried about my sweater. My friends paid no attention and I yelled, “Stop it! You will ruin my beautiful sweater!” They stopped then, and Shamili said a soft “Sorry!”

“Let’s play ball!” I suggested, trying to smooth over the incident. Everyone agreed and soon we had split into two teams, intent on playing dodge ball. I enjoyed myself till it was my team’s turn to be inside the circle, dodging the ball. And then I began worrying about what would happen to my beautiful cream sweater if the dirty ball hit me.

After great thought I came up with a great idea – I would get myself out of the game! When the ball hit me, my team groaned since I was considered a good player, but my heart was beating in joy and relief. That was why when Shamili joined me, I couldn’t resist telling her what I had done. Her anger was frightening. “You deliberately got out?” she said, biting out each word. “To save your sweater?” And when I nodded, she said angrily, “I think, Ritika, that you should simply sit somewhere so that nothing can dirty that precious sweater of yours!” And her voice was so loud that everyone heard. In the hush that followed Shamili said, “Come on girls, if you don’t mind getting your clothes dirty, let’s play a game of Kho-Kho!”

I was left all alone there, as my friends walked away, some of them giving me sympathetic backward glances but none of them stopping to talk. I felt tears blur my eyes. This was not what I had wanted for this day. I stared at my beautiful cream sweater. It did make me look likea young lady. But…I wasn’t ready to be a young lady yet. I wanted to run and play with my friends, climb trees without worrying about my clothes, not sit primly in a corner, keeping myself neat and pretty.

Once I knew my mind, it didn’t take me long to take off the sweater and give it to my mother. She said nothing, just gave me a speaking glance and waved me away to join my friends,  where they were engaged in a noisy, rowdy and completely fun game of Kho-Kho. I joined them, forgetting for the moment my dreams of being a young lady, for the present intent only on enjoying myself.

 

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.

A Story A Day #20 How Pranav Enjoyed the Firecrackers

 There are several things about the world that are frightening. How do we deal with  our fears?

The word of the day is – fear!

How Pranav enjoyed the firecrackers

On Diwali day Pranav woke up very early. He was very excited because it was finally Diwali.  He had his bath. Then his mother gave him some sweets to eat.

“What is this sweet?” Pranav asked.

“That is the sweet that you helped me make,” Pranav’s mother said. Pranav ate the sweet. It was delicious.

“I helped make a yummy sweet, didn’t I?” Pranav asked his mother.

“Yes,” his mother agreed.

Pranav enjoyed Diwali very much. There was so much to do. After he finished eating the sweets that he had helped make, Pranav’s mother told him that there would be firecrackers and lamps in the evening. Pranav could hardly wait to see how the lamps looked.

“Ooh!” he said, when all the lamps had been lit.

“Come on Pranav,” his mother said. “It is time to light the firecrackers!”

Already Pranav could hear other people lighting their firecrackers and they sounded very loud. Then his mother started lighting firecrackers in front of the house. Pranav watched from the doorway as the firecrackers went off with loud noises and a lot of light.

“Aren’t they beautiful, Pranav?” his mother asked him.

But Pranav did not reply. His mother turned around and saw that Pranav was not standing in the door.

“Pranav,” she called. “Where are you?”

But there was no answer from Pranav. His mother went into the house to look for Pranav. He was not playing with his cars and she didn’t see him sitting at his table reading his books. She found Pranav under the bed.

“Pranav,” his mother called. Pranav pulled his fingers out of his ears.

“Why are you under the bed?” his mother asked.

“The firecrackers sound very nice here,” Pranav told his mother. “That is why I came here, under the bed!”

And for the rest of the evening Pranav lay under the bed and enjoyed all the firecrackers that went off loudly around him.

 

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

A Story A Day #15 The Boy Who Could Do Anything

When things don’t go the way we planned, doubt creeps in. What we need at such times is someone who knows us and recognises our potential.  

The word of the day is – Potential! 

The Boy Who Could Do Anything

 

Raju stared at the building and the board that said National High School. It was the same board and the school too looked exactly the same. But Raju was a changed person.

He had left school with so many hopes. And what had happened? He had failed. He had lost all the money he had invested in his company. All that remained was a company. And even that, Raju knew, could go.

Why had he come to his old school? No one knew him and coming here wasn’t going to help him.

‘Hello,’ someone called. Raju turned, surprised. The school vacations were on and he hadn’t expected to see anyone.

When he saw who it was, Raju’s heart sank. It was Ganapathy Sir, the strictest teacher in the school. Perhaps, Raju thought hopefully, the teacher wouldn’t recognise him. But Ganapathy Sir was staring at him. ‘Weren’t you a student here?’ he asked. ‘About twenty years back?’

There was no way out of it and so, Raju nodded. ‘What do you do now?’ Ganapathy Sir asked. What could he tell his teacher? But Ganapathy Sir was waiting, so Raju said, ‘I worked for a few years, then invested in a company…’

‘It’s doing very well, I hope?’ Ganapathy Sir asked.

‘Actually,’ Raju said, ‘no. It’s not doing well at all. I may have to shut it down and lose everything!’

There, he thought, he had said it out loud.

But Ganapathy Sir didn’t seem to think this was the end of the world. ‘Very sad, very sad,’ he said, shaking his head. ‘But you can always work hard and get your company back!’

‘That’s impossible!’ Raju said. ‘No, no, don’t think it’s impossible!’ Ganapathy Sir said. ‘It is possible…’ He exclaimed suddenly, ‘You never did tell me your name!’

‘Rajashekhar Varadarajan.’ Raju said.

‘The Boy Who Could Do Anything!’ Ganapathy Sir said. He looked with greater interest at Raju and said, ‘That’s what we called you, you know, in the Staff Room!’

‘You should change it to the Man Who Can’t Do Anything!’ Raju said bitterly.

‘No, no,’ Ganapathy Sir said.  ‘You can’t tell me what to call you. You see,’ he looked at Raju seriously, ‘an old teacher remembers things from your past. And you will always be the boy who was meant to do great things, achieve the impossible!’

Raju stared at his old teacher. ‘In fact,’ Ganapathy Sir said dreamily, ‘I think you can still do anything you want to!’

Raju nodded, his thoughts confused. What did Ganapathy Sir mean? Could it be that…? Was it possible that…?

‘Goodbye, Sir,’ he said abruptly.

‘Come again,’ Ganapathy Sir called out, ‘if you need anything!’

Raju knew he would not need to. Twenty years after he had left school, his teacher had still managed to teach him something new.

Ganapathy Sir had taught him to look carefully, look closely at himself. And now, Raju was determined to find and be that Rajashekhar Vardarajan, the Boy Who Could Do Anything!

 

This story was published in Young World, the children’s pages of The Hindu as ‘Old Teacher, New Lessons’.

A Story A Day #14 How Pranav Thought About School

School! Love it or hate it, there’s no way you can stay away. Or is there? 

The word for the day is – School!

 

How Pranav thought about school

 

One day Pranav was ill. He didn’t have fever but he simply could not stop coughing. So his mother told him, “You can stay home today!” Pranav was happy. He liked school but staying at home was fun. All that day Pranav coughed and coughed till his chest hurt. In the evening his mother told him, “You can’t go to school tomorrow” and Pranav was happy again. Two days away from school! On the second day he stopped coughing. His mother was happy. “You are better now,” she told Pranav that night. “And you can go to school tomorrow!”

In the morning Pranav’s mother came to wake him up. “Wake up Pranav,” she said. “It is time to go to school!”

But Pranav didn’t want to get up and go to school. And so, even though he was actually awake, he lay there with his eyes closed as if he was asleep.

“Pranav,” his mother called again.

Pranav did not open his eyes. He knew his mother was standing there, staring at him. She stood there for some more time. Then she called out to him again and again, “Pranav! Pranav!”

But Pranav didn’t want to get up. So he lay there with his eyes closed for a long time. Then he slowly opened his eyes. His mother had gone away, thinking he was still asleep. Good! thought Pranav, now I don’t have to go to school!

Just then his mother came back and Pranav closed his eyes. He lay like that for a long time. His mother didn’t say anything. Pranav thought that his mother had gone away. So he opened his eyes slowly. And he saw his mother’s face, very close to his, staring at him. “Why were you lying there with your eyes closed?” Pranav’s mother asked. “I was thinking about school,” Pranav said.

“You don’t have to think about school,” Pranav’s mother told him. “You can get ready and go to school!”

And so Pranav had to open his eyes and stop thinking. And instead of lying in his bed with his eyes closed, he had to get ready and go to school.

 

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

 

A Story a Day#10 – A Birthday Full of Surprises

 

Birthdays are  so special. What makes them special – the gifts or the thought that goes into buying the gifts? In this story, Sushma finds out  what is important.  

That makes Birthday the word of the day! 

 

 

A Birthday full of surprises

“What is today?” Amma peered at the calendar, “Oh! It is the 11th of November!”  she said to herself, “ That means your birthday is just a week away Sushma!”

Sushma felt a thrill of excitement. She had forgotten her birthday and all the while it had been creeping up on her.

“Can you believe it Neelu?” Sushma said to her friend, “Only a week to my birthday! And this year, I am determined to find my Didi’s gifts before my birthday!”

Sharmi Didi usually gave her more than one gift, all of them lovely. “But how did you know I wanted this?” Sushma would cry.

“I knew it,” Sharmi Didi would say, “And so I bought it months ago!” Last year it had been a t-shirt she had admired in a shop, a watch she had drooled over in a mall and a smart backpack. Sushma had wondered, like every year, how Didi  managed to hide the gifts so well.

“But why do you want to find the gifts before your birthday?” Neelu asked, “You are going to get them on your birthday! And aren’t surprises nice?”

“Yes,” Sushma agreed, “But this once I want to find Didi’s hiding place and prove that she’s not such an expert at hiding things!”

“You’ve a week to look!” Neelu said.

“Actually,” Sushma said, “Today is the perfect day to look – Amma is going out,  Didi has an extra class and Papa will be home late!”

“That’s great!” Neelu grinned, “I’ll help you look – I am very good at finding things!”

“This year,” Sushma said with certainty, “I am going to have my birthday a week early!”

 

“Whew!” Sushma dropped into a chair, “Where could Didi have hidden the gifts?”

“Your sister is an expert!” Neelu flopped into a chair too. “We’ll never find the gifts!”

“Don’t say that,” Sushma said. “Let’s look again!”

So they did – pushing aside books, papers and clothes, even prying the lids off dabbas in the kitchen. They looked in the suitcases packed away under the beds, between books, behind furniture. Now they were in the bathroom and Neelu was peering into the cabinet there. “Come on Neelu,” Sushma said, disheartened. “There is no place to hide anything in that tiny cabinet!”

Neelu shut the cabinet with a sigh.  “You are right,” she said. “There is nothing here where….” Her voice trailed away. “Sushma,” she said in a breathless voice, “Sushma!”

“What is it?” Sushma asked.

“Look,” Neelu said, “Look! The perfect hiding place!” Sushma followed her friend’s finger and saw the basket that held their dirty clothes.

“Do you seriously think Didi would hide the gifts among the dirty clothes?” she asked in surprise.

“We could look, right?” Neelu asked.

“But it is the dirty clothes basket!” Sushma protested.

“Just looking, Sushma,” Neelu said. “You are the one who wants to find the gifts before your birthday, right?”

That galvanized Sushma into action. “Come on,” she said, pulling off the lid of the basket, “let’s look!”

She pulled out the dirty clothes with Neelu urging her on. Sushma had almost reached the bottom of the basket now and was leaning over it. “I don’t think there is anything here,” she was saying, when her fingers touched something hard. Something that didn’t feel like clothes. She dug her hand deeper and distinctly heard the stiff crackling of a plastic bag. “I think,” she said, trying to keep the excitement out of her voice, “I think I’ve found them!”

Neelu screamed in triumph. Sushma’s hands closed on the handle of the bag, she pulled and with a loud crackling a bag shot out.  “Look,” Sushma said in awe, holding it up. The plastic bag was full of things hidden by the roll of pretty wrapping paper, with silver stars and moons and meteors on a red background.

“Your Sharmi Didi obviously bought them sometime back,” Neelu said peeping into the bag. “And hid them here till she needed them. And what a pretty wrapping paper she has selected!”

“She chose red because she knows that is my favourite colour,” Sushma explained. Sushma thought of her Sharmi Didi secretly buying these gifts, spending hours looking for things that she would like. And then smuggling them into the house and looking around for a place to hide them till it was time to hand them over to Sushma.

“That is so thoughtful of her,” Neelu exclaimed.

Yes, it was, Sushma thought, it was very very thoughtful of Sharmi Didi. And here she was, looking for the gifts and planning to open them and find out what her sister was going to give her a week later.

“Sushma,” Neelu said, “why are you staring into that bag? Aren’t you going to open it and see what your Didi has bought you?”

“No,” Sushma said quietly. “I am not opening these gifts. I am leaving them for my birthday! I’ll open them on the 18th so that I will be really surprised!”

“But,” Neelu said, obviously surprised, “I thought you…”

“Yes,” Sushma admitted. “I did want to find out what she was going to give me. But now… now I don’t want to know. I just want to be given all these gifts on my birthday and feel truly lucky!”

“That is a great idea!” Neelu grinned.

And so Sushma carefully packed away the plastic bag with all her gifts under the load of dirty clothes she had pulled out.

And when a week later Sharmi Didi handed them to her, each one wrapped in the pretty red paper, Sushma was able to say, “But Didi, how did you know I wanted this?”

It was a special birthday filled with surprises. And Sushma enjoyed very one of them.

 

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

 

A Story A Day # 8 A Walk in the Park

 

Being competitive is fine, till the competition enters friendships. This story examines friends whose life is taken over by their need to do better than the other. 

Word of the day is –  Friends.  

 

A walk in the park

 

It had started as a walk in the park on the day when Prachi and her best friend Kiran had met, just as they did every evening, to go cycling. But Prachi’s cycle had a puncture that day.  And that’s when Prachi had her brainwave. “Let’s go into the park!” she had said.

The Park was a grand name for a piece of land with some shrubs, a few swings, benches for senior citizens, and a path meant for walking. The girls had looked at the screaming children on the wings, the women resting their feet on the benches  and decided to walk. “After all,” Kiran had reasoned, “it is good exercise!” And so, giggling, the two of them had started on their first walk around the park. At the end of one circle there hadn’t seemed any reason to stop walking, so they had continued. And by the time darkness cloaked the park, turning the shrubs into shadowy shapes, the girls had walked twenty times around the park.

“That was fun!” Prachi had said. “We should do it again!”

And Kiran had agreed. That was how their evening walks had started. Cycling had been fun but they hadn’t been able to talk to each other. Walking gave them with the perfect opportunity to chat about their day. Things might have continued in this way but one day Kiran didn’t turn up for her walk. Prachi waited for her for ten minutes and then she set out for the park. Without anybody to talk to, Prachi was able to walk much faster. By the time the park began to fill with shadows, she had walked around the park 24 times. “Four times more that I usually do!” Prachi congratulated herself. “Wait till I tell Kiran!”

But when she told Kiran about her achievements of the day before, the news seemed to irritate her friend. She said nothing however, and the two girls walked their usual twenty rounds. Kiran didn’t turn up the next day again. Prachi waited  for some time and then went to the park. When she got there she was astonished to see Kiran walking around the park. “I’ve already done five circles,” Krian called triumphantly. “Come on!” Prachi joined her but the two friends found little to say to each other that day. Both of them were busy with their thoughts and the silence stretched between them.

Prachi didn’t even bother to wait for Kiran the next day. She simply set out from her house the minute she was washed and changed out of her school uniform. By the time Kiran appeared, Prachi had walked six times around the park. She smiled at Kiran, triumphant at having bettered her friend’s score. That day the girls hardly spoke to each other; all their energies were concentrated on getting ahead.

After that it was out in the open – the competition between them to see who would walk more number of times around the park and do better than the other. Now Prachi raced home the minute she got off her bus. Kiran’s bus usually drove up ten to fifteen minutes after her bus and she meant to take full advantage of this fact. She changed out of her school clothes, washed hurriedly, grabbed a few biscuits to eat as she walked and then was out of the house, hoping to walk more circles than Kiran.  Thanks to the difference in their school and bus timings, Prachi thought, she was winning. Till the day Prachi walked into the park to see Krian just ahead of her. The two girls glared at each other, making no attempt to even say ‘hi’. And then they were both off, practically running to try and keep up with the other, their breaths coming fast, muscles aching as they pushed themselves to their limits.  “I am winning,” Prachi thought. “I am just a little ahead!”

And then all at once Kiran stopped walking. Surprise made Prachi stop and she stared at Kiran. “I can’t go on like this,” Kiran said. “It’s so stupid!” And even though she hadn’t specified what was stupid, Prachi knew at once. “Yes,” she sighed. “Yes, it is stupid!”

“We didn’t start walking to compete with each other,” Kiran said. “And now we are always competing with each other…”

“I know,” Prachi said. “Coming here earlier and earlier,”

“And trying to walk faster,” Kiran said.

They stood in silence, thinking over their silliness and feeling ashamed of themselves.

“And today,” Kiran said, “I didn’t even eat anything because my bus was so late and I wanted to be here before you!”

“I didn’t eat anything much too,” Prachi admitted. “I didn’t want to stop and eat the Poha Ai had made! It smelled wonderful, though,” she added.

“Ooh! Poha!” Kiran groaned. “What I wouldn’t give to eat a plate full of hot Poha!”

“Come home with me,” Prachi said, “And you can eat all the Poha you want! Though,” she added, “I am sure I can eat more than you!”

“Prachi!” Kiran said, “How can you even think that? Don’t you know I can beat anyone at eating Poha!” And arguing happily, the friends walked towards the Poha, for once not thinking about a walk in the park.

 

This story was published in Young Buzz, Sakal Times.