Puchke Turns Detective

This story was written in honor of Puchke, my friend’s feline sibling, who passed away two months ago.

The sun was shining outside and Puchke was busy in his room. He was catching up on his sleep because the previous night had been spent giving his sister Ritu company while she worked on her laptop. Puchke loved snuggling in her lap – pushing the laptop away from its designated spot.

In another room at the Mukherjee house, Gullu sat in deep thought. He wondered why Puchke was sleeping when they could have been running around on the roof. He barked at the closed door. “Puchke, it’s past 11 o’ clock! Wake up,” he shouted and woofed. But there was no reply.

Gullu was bored. Ritu was out. Their parents were out too. The house was too quiet. Of course, there was Chorkee in the other room. But he and Gullu didn’t really get along. Last time Gullu had raised a friendly paw for a handshake, Chorkee had responded with a quick slap. “What was that for?” Gullu had asked him. “Stop trying to be so friendly, dog,” said Chorkee, returning his attention to the new cockroach coming out from the bathroom drain.

Pudy, the oldest cat in the family, did not like to play or talk to anybody but their parents. “We speak about important things, Puchke,” he would say. “Like what?” Puchke was confused. “You know, about things like the benefits of eating brown rice and salmon,” Pudy gave an example. “I like my rice and fish too. But who needs to talk about it?” Puchke thought it was a waste of time. In fact, he thought that any talking was a waste of time. He would rather sleep or sit on top of the bird cage and worry about nothing. So yes, Pudy did not interact with the other kids in the family.

Today, Gullu was in the mood to play games and have a conversation or two about how annoying their new sibling was. Brother Crow had joined them recently after their father had found him sitting innocently on the pavement. The silly boy didn’t want to fly around. He loved his cage. But he also made a habit of cawing at Gullu if he wanted to sniff the cage or just say hi. Plus, mother fed him with her own hands. “That’s not right,” thought Gullu. “I’m the first born. Not that annoying crow.”

His thoughts were interrupted when mother came home. She rubbed his head and exclaimed, “Time for your chew stick, Gullu!” Gullu jumped up and down, knocking over some books and the TV remote. Mother reached into the cupboard to take one out. She gasped. “Where are your chew sticks?” She was sure that there were at least five that morning. So she searched and searched the cupboard while Gullu paced the room worriedly. He howled once to show her how worried he was too. That disturbed Puchke’s sleep, who woke up and started meowing at the door.

Mother and Gullu went to Puchke. They told him that Gullu’s chew sticks were missing. Puchke yawned. “Are you sure that he didn’t eat them all already,” he wondered. Gullu protested with a loud no. He was not that kind of dog, he said. “But mother, none of us chew those horrible sticks,” Puchke reasoned. Mother nodded. But then where did they disappear too?

Puchke decided to investigate. He got up and stretched. Then he scratched his chin. “Wait, I need food first,” he said. So Gullu watched him eat his fish and rice while mother went to the kitchen. Once Puchke was done eating, he sipped some water from his water dish and licked his lips. “Ah, good food. Now my brain can work,” he explained to Gullu. “Alright, let’s go to the scene of the crime.”

Gullu and Puchke walked over to the cupboard. Chorkee was taking his third nap of the day in his room. Puchke found Chorkee too immature because all he wanted to do is catch flies, birds and cockroaches. “I’m too grown up for that,” he had told him once.

That evening, Puchke and Gullu told their father about the missing chew sticks. Father asked if Ritu had taken them to give to her friends on the street but she said no. Puchke found no clues in the cupboard or around it. He had to solve this case. Like the last time when mother had no idea who was leaving mice on her pillow and it turned out to be Chorkee. Puchke had caught him and clicked a photo too. He never worked without evidence.

Still, chew sticks was a different thing. They didn’t have another dog in the house. And their parents and sister ate fish and rice like them. Yes, they did eat other things occasionally, but chew sticks, never.

Puchke couldn’t sleep that night. Gullu snored away with his bushy tail resting on Puchke’s head. “Gullu, wake up,” said Puchke at 1am. Gullu opened one eye. “I hear something,” Puchke put a paw on his mouth to tell Gullu to be silent. They heard somebody chewing loudly. The two furry brothers ran to see who it was. It was father. He was eating chips and watching a cricket match. “Oh, father. It’s you,” Puchke said with disappointment. “Yes, it is. You boys should be sleeping,” he replied. So they went back to their room.

In the morning, Puchke had an idea. “Mother, please go buy a packet of chew sticks today.” Mother brought one home that afternoon and put it in the usual cupboard. Puchke grinned. Now they could catch the thief red handed.

At 4 o’ clock sharp, when everybody was taking a nap, Puchke was curled up in a ball next to Gullu. He couldn’t sleep. He waited for the sound of the cupboard door opening, but no sound came. When he couldn’t wait any longer, he went out to see if his suspicion had been right. As he had expected, the new packet of chew sticks was gone!

Puchke went back to Gullu. “Gullu! Get up! Your new chew sticks are gone,” he shouted. Gullu leaped up from the bed. He was upset. Was Brother Crow stealing his chew sticks when he was out for his daily flying session around the house? “I never liked that crow,” he muttered to himself.

Puchke asked mother to get another packet of chew sticks. This time he would not fail. Mother listened and brought yet another packet and placed it inside the cupboard. That night, Puchke and Gullu said goodnight to everybody and headed to their room but as soon as the others closed their doors, Puchke came and hid under the sofa that faced the cupboard. He was ready.

It was hard to stay awake after eating all that rice, but Puchke was determined. He had just fallen asleep when the cupboard door opened. Puchke pounced on the thief. As he jumped through the air, he screamed, “Meeeeooooooooooooooooow!” The thief shouted out a similar shrill sound. Everybody woke up. Ritu turned on the lights. Pudy looked on with disapproval. He felt embarrassed. The chew sticks were all over the ground and there were two cats rolling around all over them, in a fast moving ball. The thief had been caught. He was Chorkee.

There was peace that night as the mystery had been solved and Chorkee had said sorry to Gullu. Gullu was kind. “Chorkus, you could have just asked me about sharing them,” he told him. Chorkee looked down at his paws. Puchke boxed his ears lightly. “Be good, Chorkee,” he said.puchkeandgullu

The First Date

She usually took 15 minutes to get ready. That night, she spent 35. It was her first date in years. She wondered what he’d think of her outfit. Was it too simple? She hoped that he would prefer the minimal make up look. Would he? When she stepped into the restaurant, he was staring nervously at the door and running his fingers through his hair. She felt better knowing that she wasn’t the only one who was nervous. In fact, it all felt like high school again.

Learning from her mistake

It wasn’t as if she had expected any loving words. It wasn’t that she hadn’t known that he’d treat her like garbage. She knew it all. Still, she let him into her life, time and time again. When he said he loved her, she pretended to believe him. If he didn’t treat her like a priority, she played the fool and made excuses on his behalf. Thankfully, one fine day it struck her. No wise person spends half her life on a person who cannot define ‘respect’. And she was intelligent in every other way.

Vrinda’s Gift – Part II

The next day, Vrinda wanted to take her precious gift to school. Her mother said no. “You can come home and use it again,” she told her. But Vrinda wanted to show her friends the camera. “I want to take pictures of Meghna and Nandini,” she explained.
Her father suggested that she invite her friends over to visit. Vrinda agreed.
So that Saturday, Meghna and Nandini came over with their mothers. Vrinda’s mother made Chinese food for them. She also made a chocolate cake. When her friends came over, Vrinda immediately clicked pictures of them. Then she asked them to sit by Chiki and took pictures again. “Say cheese!”
The mothers got busy talking about school and the gloomy monsoon weather. Nandini thought the camera was better than her mother’s phone camera. “Your pictures are so bright,” she exclaimed.
Meghna said they should go to the garden and take pictures of flowers. The rain had stopped for a bit, so they did just that. They found some curious crows who posed gladly for pictures.
Then it was time to eat. Vrinda and the others sat around the dining table, while their mothers served them. When Nandini was about to put her fork in the food, Vrinda shouted out: Wait!
Everybody looked confused.
Then they found out why Vrinda had said that. She wanted to take pictures of the food. Nandini was annoyed. She was hungry. Still, she waited while her friend clicked picture after picture from different angles. Meghna thought Vrinda was too crazy about her gift.
“You haven’t opened all your gifts,” she pointed out. Vrinda replied by taking a picture of her. “Hey! My mouth was wide open in that picture because I was talking,” frowned Meghna.
Finally, Vrinda’s mother told her to put the camera away and let everybody eat in peace.
After their meal, Vrinda took her friends to her grandma’s room. Grandma loved telling stories. She hugged them all and started telling them the story about the time she had cooked lunch for 50 people. “Did you take pictures?” Vrinda asked her with the hope that she would say yes.
“There were hardly any cameras in those days, child,” her grandma replied.
Then she continued her story as Vrinda’s mind wandered. “Life without cameras…” She hugged her camera close. Then she had an idea. But she would need her parents’ help.
That evening, she told her parents that she wanted to make a collage of photos for her grandma.
“We can put pictures of her and pictures of all of us with her over the years,” Vrinda explained.
“Daddy has taken many pictures. I have taken a few too,” she added.
Her parents thought it was a great idea. They agreed to put together the collage. They sent grandma to Ruby Aunty’s house. “Aunty is missing you,” Vrinda told her.
The moment she left the house, they got into action. They took out albums and selected photographs. Then they pasted them onto a big piece of cardboard. Vrinda decorated it with glitter. Vrinda was excited. Grandma would love it.
When grandma saw the collage in her room, she shrieked with delight. “Who did this?” She was almost jumping with joy.
“Vrinda,” said her father. Grandma hugged Vrinda tightly and mommy took a picture with her camera.

First published in TeleKids (An ABP Group publication)

Vrinda’s Gift – Part I

“Happy birthday, Vrinda,” her family shouted out together.
Even sweet old grandma stood up on her unsteady legs to clap while Vrinda blew out the candles on her strawberry cake. The room was full of people and there was a stack of gifts on the coffee table. Vrinda’s parents had already given her their gift in the morning.
“Mommy! How did you know that I wanted this dress?”
Her mother had laughed. “I saw you looking at it while I was getting a sari last time we went to the mall.” Vrinda remembered that day. She had tried to get the dress down from its hanger but could not reach high enough. If only she had been as tall as the grown-ups. The new dress made Vrinda very happy. She would wear it that evening for her birthday party.
The party ended too fast for her. They had barely finished playing Pass the Parcel when Ruby Aunty said that she had to leave. Vrinda’s cousins, Ravi and Sree, said bye even though they didn’t want to and left with their parents. Tomorrow was a school day. They needed to pack their bags and sleep early.
Grandma stayed with Vrinda and her parents, so she did not have to leave. But Rama Aunty said that it was too late. “It is raining outside. The drive home will be difficult. There will be lots of traffic,” she complained.
So she said goodbye, picked up little cousin Meeta, and left too. Vrinda was sad that the party was over. But she was also excited because now she could open the dozen wrapped packages waiting for her attention.
“Daddy, can I open the gifts now?” She tried to sound patient.
Her father patted the seat next to him and mummy joined them. Grandma had fallen asleep.
“Here you go. You can open Grandma’s gift first since she is the oldest,” suggested daddy.
So Vrinda did just that. Her eyes twinkled with delight as she held the pink bangles in her hands. Vrinda loved pink!
“I must go thank Grandma!” She got up to go to her room but her parents stopped her.
“Thank her tomorrow. Don’t wake her up. She’s had a long and exciting day,” they gently reminded her.
Vrinda sat down.
The next gift was from Ruby Aunty. It was a rectangular box but didn’t seem like a book. Vrinda guessed that it was a computer game. She was wrong. Her aunt, who was a photographer, had given her a camera!
“Look Vrinda!” Her mother said, “A real camera. You can take pictures of all of us, including Chiki.” Chiki sat on the sofa next to them and purred as if to show her happiness.
Vrinda had never thought of owning a camera. She sometimes used her parents’ phones to take pictures of Chiki and her friends, but a camera just for her was a big surprise. She ran her fingers along the edges, admiring the purple colour. She forgot about opening the other gifts as she began clicking photographs of Chiki and her parents. She ran over to take a picture of her sleeping grandmother too. She even took pictures of the paintings on the living room wall. Soon, it was time for bed. Vrinda fell asleep with her new camera next to her.
First published in TeleKids (An ABP Group publication)

A Late Night

It was getting late. The new book was waiting by her pillow, just thirty pages read. Two soft blankets were spread out in anticipation. The ball of fur on top of them was purring softly. He was tired of waiting for her. “This was my first party in ages,” she apologised as she changed into her pyjamas. He ignored her. The book stayed closed to show disapproval. But when she slid herself under the covers, the feline child readjusted himself between her ankles and the book opened itself in her hands.