Cinderella was supposed to be beautiful. She couldn’t be Cinderella. The teacher asked, “Who would like to audition for the role?” She felt her heart fall down. Even if she was brave enough to try out, the others would laugh at her audacity. A fat Cinderella could not exist.
“The chair will break!” A classmate yelled out as she sat down. Fifteen mean giggles followed. She didn’t look up as her vision clouded with tears. She could never get used to this. The others went back to their daily lives, not noticing her injured heart.
“I don’t want to go,” she told her mom for the fifth time. But her mother didn’t understand. “What’s the big deal?” She shrugged and left. Preeya wished she could tell her what the big deal was without bursting into tears. She had tried telling her friend at school. But her friend was a size six so she just didn’t get it. Trying on nice clothes and feeling uglier than usual in a trial room wasn’t any fun.
She wanted a boyfriend like the popular girls in class always had one. But who’d like her? “I’m so fat and ugly,” she told herself every time she dared to have a crush. Her sister told her to just go and say, “I like you.” But how could she? Sometimes she wondered if she hated herself. And sometimes she answered with a yes.
“The annual swimming competition will be next Monday,” announced the teacher. Rita’s heart started pounding. She needed to get sick by Monday. She couldn’t bear to see the other girls looking so nice when a swimsuit would make her look like a big hippo. But mother would be angry – five years of swimming lessons gone to waste, she would say. Rita wanted to run away.
Tapas couldn’t believe it. Moving from a big city to the little town of Golepur had been hard enough already. His mother reminded him, “Babu, we’ll come visit during Durga Puja.” But Tapas was not ready for this news; Golepur did not have a library!
His father believed that his school books were enough to keep him busy. “You can pay attention to your studies now,” he told Tapas. Mother was a bookworm so she understood. Patting his shoulders, she said, “We’ll find a way.”
So Tapas attended school and came home to warm food and a bath. Then he spent all evening doing his homework. Sometimes he felt annoyed because there was no new book waiting for him by his pillow. Every night, he read before bed time. It was a habit that he’d picked up from his mother since she first introduced him to the local library near their house in Kolkata.
Tapas looked at the stack of books on his table. He ran his fingers over the spines, each chapter memorised. He could describe every scene without opening a book. Still, he was bored and used to getting a new book every weekend.
“Mother, don’t the other kids like reading storybooks at all?” He hoped she would say yes. But she shook her head. “Babu, not everyone likes doing the same thing but I’m sure some of the kids here like to read.”
That evening, while Tapas read his lessons and solved his sums, his mother visited the neighbours. Indeed some of the boys and girls spent more time reading books than playing on their computers. She had an idea. So she visited one more person on her way back home – the head of the building committee.
“Hello. I am Mrs. Gita Bose from the 8th floor. May we discuss something?”
The gentleman said yes and they spoke about the neighbourhood children. “I know that we already have a separate area for them to play with a ball and run around, but what about exercising their minds?”
“How can we do that?” The committee head wondered.
“We can build a little library in the common room,” said Tapas’s mother.
She left after five minutes and a cup of tea. Meanwhile, Tapas was done with his studies for the day. He sat by her as they both read books. The phone rang. Mother ran to answer it. She smiled and said thank you. Then she came back to the sofa. “We’re going to make a library,” she announced.
Tapas jumped up. He was excited but confused. Mother told him that he and the other kids would donate all their books to start it. “And some of us adults will certainly have books for your library too,” she added.
So the next day, they carried three large boxes of books to the common room. Father came along. He and another neighbourhood uncle were preparing new bookshelves for the room. When they arrived, there were four more children and their parents. “We may have too many books!”
Father was joking because he knew Tapas would reply. And he did. “There is no such thing as too many books. Right guys?” The others nodded. Everybody got to work. They all munched on cookies as the parents made sure everything was in place. “Time to put the books in their places, kids,” said Rani’s mother.
Tapas and the others took turns filling the shelves with their treasured books. They chatted about their favourite books and authors. Payal loved historical stories as much as Tapas did! Ronnie disliked mystery books just like him. By the end of that day, Tapas had new friends and many books to share. They even created library cards for every neighbour, along with a register to keep track of the books.
“I’ll save up my pocket money and buy a computer for us,” said Tapas. “So will I,” said more voices. The library was already a success.
First published in TeleKids (An ABP Group publication)
She blinked twice. It didn’t seem real. “Come pet her,” her father said. The child moved ahead slowly. The look of wonder was intact. She touched the furry head. She tapped a tiny pink paw. They sat side by side on the floor. Father put the kitten on her lap. She curled up immediately and let out a blissful meow.