Bobby’s Big Cheeks

Every Sunday afternoon, Smita Aunty made laddus for her family and of course, her little neighbour Bobby. The little balls of sweetness made Bobby very happy. He would come over to Smita Aunty’’s and enjoy his share of laddus along with lassi. Each time he left after saying thank you, the sweet neighbour would hand him a tiffin box full of more laddus which he would share with his parents. Sometimes, if Bobby was in a good mood, he would offer one to his best friend, Asim. At other times, he would polish the box clean himself, giving his parents the expected single helping.

The trouble started when a boy called Amar moved into the house next door. Amar loved laddus too. Smita Aunty started to invite him also over every Sunday. Bobby was not upset until he saw the plate between himself and Amar; they could only have three each if each boy shared
equal helpings. Bobby was used to having four or five when he visited. He hoped that Amar would eat only one or two. He watched and watched while Amar happily chewed his laddus.

“”Oh no! This greedy boy just ate four laddus,”” realised Bobby with anger. To make things worse, Smita Aunty gave them both laddus to take home and Bobby found two less than the usual number in his box.

““Ma, Smita Aunty let Amar eat more laddus than me,”” he complained at home.

His mother scolded, ““Don’’t be so greedy,” Bobby. Learn to share.””

The next Sunday, Bobby was ready with a plan. As soon as Smita Aunty served the laddus on the table, he tried to distract Amar.

“Look,”” he pointed outside the window. “”Isn’’t that a giant crow!””

When Amar turned his head to look, Bobby quickly stuffed one laddu in each of his cheeks. Before he could chew, Amar turned back and Smita Aunty had pulled over a chair to join them. She wiped the sweat from her forehead and smiled at them.

“Goodness, Bobby! You have become quite chubby, my boy,”” she said, staring at his full cheeks.

Bobby just nodded to avoid giving himself away. Amar was busy looking for the huge crow again. The moment Smita Aunty left the table to answer
her phone, Bobby swallowed the laddus and gulped down a glass of water.

The following Sunday was worse. When they entered the house, Smita Aunty announced that she had decided to make fewer laddus for them.

“Bobby is gaining too much weight,”” she explained. “”Health is important,”” she added with concern.

Bobby felt like crying. That day, he ate his fair share but later convinced Amar to give him his box of laddus.

““My cousin is visiting from the States,”” he lied to the other boy. Amar was kind, so he gave Bobby the laddus. At home, Bobby hid the two tiffin boxes under his bed. When everybody went to sleep, he took them out.

“Yummy,”” he said to himself. Then he ate all seven from his box. He thought of going to bed. But he thought and thought about the laddus that were waiting in Amar’’s box.

““I should finish those before Mother and Father find them,”” he thought.

Bobby reached for them. When he was feeling ill and about to stuff the last two into his mouth, his father came to the door.

“Why are you still awake?””

Bobby stared back at him, his cheeks stuffed with the laddus. He wanted to chew or at least swallow, but couldn’’t. His father noticed the tiffin boxes near his bed and asked where they had come from.

Bobby could not reply. His father reached for Amar’’s box which had half a laddu remaining in it. Bobby leaped up with a shout, losing his prized laddus and leaving his father laughing loudly.

THE END

First published in TeleKids (An ABP Group publication)

Aditi’s Great Escape

“Tomorrow is Holi!”” Aditi’’s friends Priyanka and Neil shouted excitedly after school finished for the day.

Aditi frowned. Neil knew that his friend disliked Holi as much as he hated eating spinach. Last year, they had covered Aditi in green and red, while she had screamed. The next three days, she didn’’t talk to them. When they asked her why she was so angry, her answer was, “”All those colours
make me look funny.”” This made everybody laugh, including Aditi’’s father. ““But Holi cannot be celebrated without colour!”” Aditi still looked worried.

This year, her friends were ready with her two favourite colours — pink and blue. The soft powders looked so pretty. How could Aditi not like them?

Neil and Priyanka came over early in the morning, with sweets and Holi colours. Aditi’’s parents had kept two small buckets ready, along with some water guns (pichkaris). Everybody was wearing old clothes except
for Aditi’’s sister, Raka, who liked to wear a new white frock every Holi. “The colours look so bright on it,”” she explained.

They started by politely rubbing some powder on each other’s cheeks. Aditi was not in the garden. She was hiding somewhere in the house with
the family dog, Gulti. Gulti wasn’’t scared of the Holi celebrations but she always gave Aditi company. “”Gulti is mostly black, so she knows that the
Holi colours will not show on her,”” joked Aditi’’s mother.

Soon, Priyanka became bored and started filling buckets with water and colour. Then she and Neil filled the water guns with the liquid, ready to get everybody wet.

They suddenly remembered Aditi. “”Let’’s go look for her,”” suggested Raka. “”Yes, go before you get all wet,”” said her mother. ““I don’’t want the whole
house to get soaked.””

The children entered the house and searched the kitchen and dining room first because Aditi was never far from food. She wasn’’t there. They looked in the bedrooms. She wasn’’t there. They did not see Gulti either. Deciding to give up their search, they headed back outside. Play resumed until lunch time, when Aditi’’s mother asked all of them to take baths. ““Scrub yourselves,”” she instructed. Neil grinned. “”Aunty, but then people will think I didn’’t play Holi,” he said. Raka handed him a big scrubbing brush.

When everybody was looking normal, except for their light pink and blue skin, lunch was served. They shouted loudly for Aditi to come down from wherever she was. A few minutes later,Gulti came down the stairs. She walked past them into the garden. Then they saw her run back into the
house and up the stairs. Aditi’’s mother asked them to start eating. ““Aditi will come out soon,”” she added.

After they were full but ready for the sweet dish, Aditi’’s mother let out a gasp, “”My carpet is blue!”” They all ran over to see. Indeed, the carpet covering the staircase had blue patches on it. Raka pointed out that they were paw-shaped. They all spoke at once: Gulti! Priyanka, Neil and Raka ran up to find Gulti. Her paws needed to be wiped before everything turned blue. ““Look, I see more paw prints,”” Priyanka showed them. “”Let’s follow them.””

They followed the marks to the roof, where they found Gulti. She didn’’t greet them because her nose was inside a small packet. “”Oh no! Gulti
found some leftover colour,”” Neil realised. Just then, they heard somebody sniffling behind the water tank. It was Aditi. Her arms and legs had blue colour on them, just like the carpet.

““I never should have let Gulti know my hiding place.”” By this time, her parents had joined them. Her father patted the dog and said, “”Well, at least you played Holi with somebody.”” They all laughed —- even Aditi.

THE END

First published in TeleKids (An ABP Group publication)

Double Trouble

Kishore and Kunal were two brothers. They had just moved to Calcutta
with their parents. They liked their little house in the small lane near a big park. They also liked their new school, where the sports teacher encouraged them to practise cricket daily.

Every day after the final school bell rang, Kishore, Kunal and their classmates would go to the park. They watched each other’’s batting style, bowling pace and boundaries hit. On most days, Kunal played well and Kishore accompanied him home with a frown.

“Stop being silly. It is just a game,”” Kunal said. Kishore stayed quiet. He
never admitted to his brother that he wanted to be a cricketer.

On Saturdays and Sundays, the boys did not meet their classmates, but played cricket at home. There was a small garden behind their new house. Overlooking it was the neighbour, Uncle Gupta’’s, balcony.

Uncle Gupta rarely sat in his balcony, choosing to stay inside and write
poems all day. Nobody in the neighbourhood had seen him for months. His household help took care of the groceries and everything else. “”Mr Gupta has trouble with his eyes,”” she said.

One Sunday evening, the brothers returned from a visit to their aunt’’s
house, wearing identical shorts and T-shirts. They liked to dress the same way to confuse people. — Kishore and Kunal were identical twins.

Their faces, their heights, their weights, their complexions — even their voices — were identical. Born just five minutes apart, Kunal often jokingly
called his brother Dada. The teachers and other students at their new
school still could not tell who was Kunal and who was Kishore.

They were asked to wear name tags on their school uniforms. “”They will never be able to tell us apart,”” the brothers told each other with giggles,
agreeing that they would probably have to wear the name tags their entire school life.

““Ma, how do you know which twin is which,” they asked their mother. Mother always smiled, ““I’’m your mother, after all.””

This particular Sunday evening, Kunal and Kishore were ready to play at
least one hour of cricket in the garden. Their homework was complete and Father wanted some peace and quiet while he finished some work. The twins started with a few slow, low balls.

Kunal became bored. “”Kishore! This is not cricket. Play properly,”” he complained. Kishore was more careful. He said no. “”We will break a window or something else,”” he said. Kunal dropped the bat and said he would rather go inside and play a board game then. His twin disliked
staying inside. He agreed to bowl faster. As he bowled more in his usual
style, his brother became excited and started trying to hit boundaries.

Unfortunately, the boundary was just the other side of the garden. Kunal didn’’t need to hit the ball very hard. After five boundaries, the sixth one travelled straight to Uncle Gupta’’s window, right into his house.

The boys heard a scream. Kishore ran inside to avoid trouble. Kunal stayed. He saw their neighbour for the first time. “”You horrible boy! Not only did you break my window, but you ruined my poem,”” he shouted with a red face. ““Do you know how difficult it is to write a good poem?”” he asked.

““I will come to see your parents,”” he said and stormed off. Ten minutes
later, Uncle Gupta was at the door. Kunal and Kishore were ready. They
opened the door before he could ring the doorbell.

Uncle Gupta stared at them with wide eyes, his mouth hanging open. “”Oh
no, now I’’m seeing double,” ” he shouted and threw his glasses off. He rubbed his eyes. Kunal and Kishore spoke together, ““We are sorry, Uncle.” ““Oh, no! Now I am hearing double as well!””

Uncle Gupta started pulling his ears in every direction. The twins watched their neighbour run back to his house, rubbing his eyes with one hand, and pulling his ears with the other.

THE END

First published in TeleKids (An ABP Group publication)

A New Doll for Megha – Part III

When Kobu saw her gift, she clapped happily. Megha was happy too. Laddu was happy as well. Kobu put on the teeshirt immediately, twirling round and round. Megha wished she had the sparkle eyes doll so she could twirl around too.

“It’s been a long time. Mother and Father should get me the doll,” she thought with a frown.

Kobu stopped dancing and asked “What is wrong?” Megha told her about the sparkle eyes doll. She said her birthday had been ruined. Kobu listened silently, while Laddu licked his paws. Kobu’s mother was sitting by her, sewing a torn dress. She did this to earn money for food.

“Yesterday, I had a warm roti,” Kobu told Megha. “My mother worked very hard,” she added proudly.

Megha’s mouth opened wide. “One warm roti!”

At home, her cook maid a stack of rotis every evening. Now she felt bad. She felt very bad. “I shouldn’t have talked about the doll,” she scolded herself. She said bye and left.

Later that day at home, Megha felt worse. She shouldn’t have behaved so badly about the sparkle eyed doll. Mother and Father had given her a very nice doll instead. Megha went to the living room where her parents were watching television. She put herself on Father’s lap. “I’m so sorry!” She cried loudly, while her mother stroked her hair and waited for the tears to stop.

“Why are you sorry?” Her parents looked confused.

“You gave me such a pretty doll but I still wanted the sparkle eyes one,” sniffled Megha. “And poor Kobu doesn’t even get rotis every day but she never complains!”

Mother said she could take warm rotis to Kobu, Laddu, and her family every day. Megha hugged her tightly. “I love my doll. I don’t want the sparkle eyes doll anymore,” she announced.

When Megha arrived outside the park gate, the rotis were still warm. She handed them to Kobu’s mother, who smiled a big thank you. Kobu grabbed a roti and started chewing while Megha watched. She said she would come visit later. “We are going to visit my grandparents tomorrow. I will see you day after tomorrow,” Megha told Kobu. Kobu gulped down her roti and said, “Wait!”

Megha waited. Kobu brought something out from her mother’s small pile of belongings. A second later, Megha found a beautiful doll in her hands! The doll was wearing a blue ghagra and red blouse. It had a red and golden veil on its head.

“Look at its eyes,” said Kobu. Megha looked and saw two big, shiny black beads staring at her. “Ma made it from her scraps of cloth,” said her friend.

“This is even better than the sparkle eyes doll!” shouted Megha.

Megha and Kobu and Laddu spent the afternoon playing with the doll. Megha had the best doll in the world!

THE END

First published in TeleKids (An ABP Group publication)

A New Doll for Megha – Part II

She saw a homeless family sitting together, watching the little girl play with a brown dog. Megha watched as the girl and the dog danced around, paws and hands together. She watched the girl share half her biscuit with the dog. She even joined in the laughter when the dog, who was being called Laddu, rolled over onto his back and wiggled his body from side to side. “He’s even cuter than Lucifer,” she thought.

Suddenly, Laddu ran over to meet Megha. The girl came too. While Laddu sniffed Megha, she asked the other girl her name. “I’m Kobu,” she said. “I live here.” She pointed at the homeless family sitting a few inches away. Megha was shocked. She had never talked to a homeless person before. She quickly left after waving goodbye.

Two days later, Megha went to the park again with Mother and Father. “Where’s Laddu?” She wondered and wondered.  There were still no cats, only the birds. She was still sad that her parents did not get the sparkly eyes doll on her birthday, but the thought of Laddu and the laughing girl, filled her with happiness.

A few minutes later, Megha visited Laddu and Kobu. Kobu was sharing a sweet with Laddu. “He likes sweets?” Kobu smiled. “It’s my birthday today so he has to,” she said.

“Oh! Happy birthday!” Kobu offered Megha her half of the sweet, while Laddu gulped down the other half. “Thank you,” Megha said and went back to Mother and Father. On the way home, she told her parents about Kobu and Laddu. She told them it was Kobu’s birthday and that she was given some sweet too.

“Megha, what gift will you give your new friend?” asked Mother sweetly.

Father said, “You could give her whole family blankets for the winter.”

Mother said no. “It is Kobu’s birthday. She must get a special gift,” she answered.

“But what?” Megha thought and thought all day. Finally, she decided to buy a T-shirt for Kobu. “Her frock has holes, Mother,” she said sadly.

First published in TeleKids (An ABP publication)

A New Doll for Megha – Part I

The birthday party had ended one hour ago. Megha was miserable. “All I asked for was the sparkly eyes doll and some books,” she said angrily to her parents. “

“Megha, the sparkly eyes doll wasn’’t at the store. They said we’’d have to wait until next week,” explained her father for the third time.

Megha’’s mother came and sat by her, carrying the new doll in her lap. “”Look, Megha. This doesn’’t sparkle, but it has beautiful long hair that you can comb every day,”” she said.

Megha looked at the doll and said she didn’’t like it. Her parents looked at each other and shook their heads sadly. Megha stomped off to her room, three new story books in her arms.

The next morning, Mother, Father and Megha went to the park. It was sunny so many people had gathered in the small area. Most of the neighbours were busy drinking tea or nimbu pani from the trolley pushed around by a friendly boy called Shombu. Shombu loved being the centre of attention and the neighbourhood ladies jumped at the chance to gather information about each other from him. “So you really saw Mrs Raut without her fake teeth!” Shombu replied, “Yes, aunty. She was singing toothless too!”

Megha did not enjoy being at the park. The other children were mean to her. Sree called her spoilt. Ashim laughed at her too curly hair, knowing
how much it bothered her that she couldn’’t tie a nice ponytail like the other girls. So,when Megha went to the park, she carried a book with her.

Today, Mother and Father had woken her up too late. They had hurried to the park soon after breakfast, making Megha forget her book. She even forgot to comb her messy, tangled hair.

““Megha! You didn’t even try to comb your hair,”” said her mother. “”I thought you always combed it,”” Megha replied.

Mother opened her mouth to say something but stopped herself when she saw Sree’’s mother coming.

Megha decided to walk around and look for cats. She loved cats ever since the day she watched Cinderella. “Everybody thinks Lucifer is a mean
cat. I think he’s cute,” she told her parents.

One walk around the park left Megha bored. The noisy crows and little sparrows could never be as interesting as a big, naughty cat.

Just as she was about to lose hope and settle down on a bench, she noticed a child laughing and jumping, right outside the park gates. Megha
walked over to see what was so funny.

First published in TeleKids (An ABP Group publication)

Starring Rini Ray – Part III

Rini went to her room and heard thunder outside. It reminded her of the song These are  a  few  of my favourite things, that was sung during a rainy night in the Sound of Music. She ran into her brothers’’ room and started singing before they could say anything. When her song ended,
she found two pairs of admiring eyes watching her. “”You will get to be Maria,”” they both said at the same time. Rini hugged them tightly.

The next day at school, Rini was nervous. Some classes were cancelled for the audition. The younger children were allowed to come and watch, so Avik and Raj would be there too. Rini was singing all the Sound of Music songs in her head all day. During history class, she accidentally let
a line slip out of her mouth, making her classmates laugh. The teacher was not happy. Rini almost hid under her desk. Vivek shook his head at her.

At the audition, Rini saw her teachers sitting in one row, facing the small stage in the school auditorium. “”We will start with auditions for the role of the VonTrapp children,”” announced Mr Sen. Rini became more nervous.
She would have to wait for a long time for her turn. It was difficult to stay in her seat and watch the others while she tried to sing the songs in her head. Just when she mixed up the lines from two songs, somebody came and whispered in her ear. “”Stop singing in your head.”” It was Avik. He went
back to his seat. Rini listened to her little brother. She stared at the others on stage until Mr Sen announced, “”Those who wish to try out for the role of Maria, please go on stage.”” Rini walked to the stage behind four others,
no longer scared. She was ready.

When it was Rini’’s turn, Mr Sen asked her to sing and enact the Favourite Things song. ““I sang that last night,”” thought Rini. She closed her eyes for a second, and started singing aloud. Her head stopped hurting —from so much singing that had gone on inside it all day. She danced around the stage as if the other characters from the scene were there with her. Rini did not realise that she was done until she heard the clapping. She looked out into the audience and saw a hundred pairs of eyes looking back at her with appreciation. Amidst the sea of faces, she found her little brothers clapping the loudest and jumping up and down like bouncy springs. Mr Sen interrupted her thoughts. “”We’’ve found our Maria,”” he declared. Rini was ready to sing on stage.

THE END

First published in TeleKids (An ABP Group publication)