The Date

She ran her fingers through her hair. The long, artistic fingers played a tune against the strands. He was twenty minutes late and she was nervous. She hadn’t been on a date in years. “Just be yourself,” her friends had advised. “You’re beautiful,” her mother had said. But she felt like something was wrong with her. “Who dates at 40?” The question taunted her. Her thoughts were interrupted by a fifty-year-old gorgeous man who had specks of grey in his hair. His smile told her that her mother had been right.

On the way

“Should we turn to the right or the left?” She didn’t know. “Is it a house or a building of flats?” She had no idea. “Who else will be at the party?” She shrugged. He was getting exasperated. One more try. “How long have you known them?” She said she wasn’t sure. “Then why are we going to this thing?” She squeezed his hand. “Because you were bored at home.” He almost laughed.

The Boy Who Rhymed

Ronju was not a poet. He was not a writer really. But Ronju spoke in rhyme most of the time. If his mother asked him to get ready for school, he would say, “I am brushing my teeth, Mummy, or I’ll look funny.”
Whenever Father told Ronju to stop annoying their cat, Ronju would reply, “But our cat likes to wear your hat.”
Sometimes his friends became annoyed. They asked him to speak properly. “What is making you all so mad? Now I am feeling sad.”
Giri explained that normal people did not talk in rhyme. Chiki tried not to giggle. Ronju just had one thing to say. “Normal is too formal.”
Even the teachers at school and his drawing class were upset. What a strange little boy who did not realise he was being strange! They tried different ways to stop Ronju from behaving like a rhyming robot.
One day the principal, Mrs Das, called his parents. She said, “Ronju needs to learn to speak like the other children. If he does not change his ways, we will be forced to give him a punishment.”
Ronju was scolded that evening. His parents were shocked. “How can you act like this in school too!”
Before this visit to school, they had thought that Ronju spoke in rhyme only at home. It was a way to annoy them, they had thought.Ronju stayed quiet. He heard the harsh words without a protest. Later on, at dinner, he ate silently. When his mother put a second helping of potatoes on his plate, he didn’t say, “Potatoes are too round like the rocks on the ground.”
Usually, Ronju would say the spinach was as green as a sick fish’s fin. Today, he chewed it slowly. Now his parents were worried. Ronju was a talkative boy. He rarely stayed quiet. Sometimes his cousins jokingly called him a chatterbox.
The next day his father received a call from the principal’s office again. “He is completely quiet today. I see trouble because I expected at least a grumble,” she added. Then they both realised that she had rhymed her words!
They all met in the school once again. As before, Ronju joined them. The adults asked him to say something. He opened his mouth and then closed it again. Then he shook his head from left to right. “But why?” His parents and  the principal almost screamed in exasperation.
Ronju got up, wrote something on a piece of paper. Then he handed it to them. It said: Only if rhyme is fine.
The three adults said at the same time: Yes!
From that day, Ronju was allowed to talk as he wished to. His classmates began to rhyme their words too. Every morning, they greeted the teachers with, “Good morning, ma’am. We hope you wish us the same.” When somebody forgot to do her homework, she said, “I am sorry. You may blame me.”
At the end of the school year, they all wrote a book of poems for Mrs Das. It was all in rhyme.
First published in TeleKids (An ABP Group publication)

Durga Puja

The roll of the drums drowned out his sorrow. The strong odour of alcohol made his nose itch. His plate was empty minus a piece of roti. They were busy gobbling their food. He wore his usual torn shorts and four-year-old faded tee shirt. His right sandal was broken. They wore their new outfits, changing them day and night. His wife and child slept restlessly on the pavement, wishing their hunger would go away.