Leena Gets a Pet

“Everybody has one!” Leena was crying to her parents while they ate dinner. Her father chewed his food. Mummy tried to say no for the hundredth time. Leena’s little brother, Dev, played with his peas.

“Leena, having a pet is like having another member of the family,” she said. “Your father and I both work outside all day and you are not ready to take care of one,” she added.

Papa asked Leena to eat her dinner. Leena swallowed everything. She had a plan. She would have a pet by the morning. “I will have somebody who will love to take walks with me and Dev,” she decided.

The next day, Leena woke up early. She hadn’t slept all night, thinking about her new pet and how she would take care of it. She went straight to the kitchen, feeling happy at the sight of the bright fruits and vegetables. Her eyes and hands found her new pet – a purple, chubby, big brinjal. “So cute,” Leena said out loud.

She carefully carried the brinjal to her room, hugging it tightly against her chest. In the room, she took out a string from one of her salwars and tied it around her pet. “See, Brinjal,” she said. “Now you have a leash.”

Mummy called Leena to come for breakfast. Dev was already there. It was Saturday so Papa was home too. “Coming Mummy,” she replied, patting Brinjal on his head. She was ready to introduce him to his new family.

When Leena reached the table, Brinjal was following on the leash. Her father saw it and looked surprised. “What are you doing with a brinjal on a string?” He asked with a laugh. Mummy came to see Brinjal. She began to laugh as well. Dev giggled because they laughed.

Leena was upset. Why were they laughing at her sweet little pet? She picked Brinjal up from the floor and put it on her lap. She rubbed it lightly so Brinjal would feel less bad about her parents’ laughter. “It is not a string, Papa,” she said. “And nor is Brinjal a Brinjal anymore. He is my pet,” Leena announced.

Papa started to say something but Mummy interrupted. “Oh! Then you and Brinjal should eat now.” Leena ate but didn’t know where Brinjal’s mouth was. She let him sniff the food.

After breakfast, Leena painted a picture of her pet. Brinjal sat and watched her. “Don’t worry. You’ll look nice in the painting,” she told him. She did not notice her brother staring at Brinjal.

Later that day, Ina visited Leena. She brought along her cat, Pushu. “You will like playing with Pushu,” said Ina. He likes to roll around and play with a dancing string. “See this.”

Ina took out a long string. She moved it around. Pushu rolled around the floor, catching the string in his tiny paws. He even said “meow” each time he could grab it. Leena was impressed.

It was time to introduce Brinjal to her friend and Pushu. “This is Brinjal. My new pet,” explained Leena. Ina’s eyes became round. This was the first time she had met this kind of pet.

“Pushu can play with Brinjal now,” said Leena, making Brinjal sit in front of the cat. The cat forgot his string. The two friends watched him stare at Brinjal.

“Pushu has never seen a brinjal before. He must be wondering what Brinjal is,” Ina told Leena.

Leena was sad to hear this. She told her friend that Brinjal was not just any brinjal. “Please be nice when you talk about my pet.”

Brinjal continued to sit silently while Pushu sniffed his head and touched his cheeks with his paws. Ina and Leena left the room for cookies.

When they came back, Brinjal was gone. “Pushu, where did you put Brinjal?” Leena was upset. Ina told her that cats do not like brinjals. Leena did not know what to say. Ina was being very rude.

Soon, Ina and Pushu went home. Brinjal was still missing. Leena looked under her bed. She searched her closet. She even checked her pillow cases.

“Mummy, I have looked everywhere,” sobbed Leena. Papa had an idea. “Let us check the roof. Brinjal may have been bored inside the house,” he said.

They all went to the roof. The crows said hello. They had no news of Brinjal it seemed. Suddenly, Leena remembered that she had not seen her brother in some time. “Where is Dev, Mummy?” Her mother said that he was taking a nap. Leena was angry. She wanted everybody’s help to look for Brinjal.

Leena went to visit her sleeping brother in their parents’ bedroom. “Dev, wake….” She didn’t finish her sentence. Brinjal was sleeping next to her brother!

Leena was happy to see how much Dev loved Brinjal. She placed the blanket on them. Brinjal’s round head peeped out. “Sleep well, Brinjal.” She kissed him lightly on his forehead.

Winter Breakfast

The smell of hot chocolate travelled through the kitchen. Her little hands were clad in fuzzy old gloves. The French toast sat untouched on the table. “Daddy, where’s my hot chocolate?” He laughed and asked her to be patient. “But I’m hungry,” she complained. “Eat your eggs,” she was told. The canine child sitting by her chair helped her finish them.

Kitty Wins

She came home and found him waiting. A few bites of fish later, they settled onto the bed. As she reached out to place the laptop on her lap, he managed to fit himself in her arms. “Do you forget that I have to work?” She pretended to be exasperated but her laugh gave it away. She placed the laptop on her knee, ready to get down to business. The cuddly boy did not like all the movement. He got up, nudged the annoying device off her knee, and fell asleep across her lap.

Advice for Writers

I’ve been spending some hours every week reading blogs and websites of other writers. Some of them are more experienced than myself. Others are less acquainted with the field of freelance writing. Still, I’ve picked up lots of inspiration and useful tips from writers of both categories. Since I started reading these at the end of last year, I began to apply my new found knowledge to my career as soon as the new calendar was pinned to my wall. I admit that I knew most of these things before, but I just needed the motivation to get my act going. I know that every writer is a different human being so every tip can’t be the best for you, but some things are common to all of us – like the need to send queries. I hardly wrote any features in 2014. My focus was more on short stories and my two non fiction books (1 published, another to be published this year). This year, I resolve to have a ton of features published. Thanks to the author blogs and websites, I’m on my way to this goal.

Here are some significant pieces of advice that I picked up and now follow:

1) Keep on sending queries: Last year, I was too lazy to send out queries. It seemed easier to write my books and short stories in peace. Now I try to send out at least one query a day. The approach has won me multiple editors’ approvals for feature articles that will be published in top Indian magazines soon.

2) Negotiate: I haven’t had to do this yet, but won’t hesitate to do it next time it’s needed. Too many experienced freelance writers agree to write for low rates such as 50 paise per word. Too many companies are used to them agreeing to absurd rates so they have excuses of a low budget. One of the biggest media houses in India couldn’t even offer me Rs.1 per word.

If you’re doing an assignment on a very tight deadline (say, due the next day), you should try to negotiate too.

3) Keep a bank of story ideas: You get story ideas from reading magazines, books and websites or from happenings around you. Jot them all down. Keep on adding them to a spreadsheet. Then you can have lots of story ideas to send out queries on a daily/weekly basis. And don’t erase a story idea because it is rejected. Some other editor may like it.

Try applying these tips to your career. It’ll help!