“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.
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.
When the year began,
You were breathing next to me.
When the month began,
You were holding my hand in yours .
When the week began,
You were talking about the future.
When the day began,
You were waiting for your last breath.
And when the moment arrived,
You were making us cry together.
It wasn’t easy being the oldest. She often wondered about her expiry date. Watching two much younger siblings transitioning to ashes had torn her heart. “Enjoy your life,” said her friends. She tried to follow their simple advice, living with her memories. From the little utensils that they’d play with, to the painful last days. Was it guilt for being alive? She longed to be with them again.
Her taste buds didn’t welcome chocolate these days. Fruity desserts made them happiest. Greedy bites of lemon tart were another new habit. “But he’s made chocolate cake today. You know you want it,” said her mother. Suddenly, the thought of his weak hands making her childhood favourite filled her mind. She was craving chocolate again.
When Honey was done, her father showed her how to dry his hair using their hair dryer. She watched him studiously. All of a sudden, they both leaped at the mirror – Honey’s father’s brown hair had turned red! Poor honey ran to see what was in the bottles. Yes, she had made a mistake. It was some kind of mehendi that her mother used once. Honey felt terrible. “You allowed me to practice on you and look at what I did,” she cried.
“It’s alright,” her father said. “I like this new look,” he joked. So Honey finished drying his hair without burning it just before her mother returned. She found them standing in front of the big mirror. “What have you both been up to?” Veeroo was there too. They both looked curious.
“Practice makes perfect.” That’s what the art teacher at school repeated every class. Honey knew that she needed to practice more before she opened her salon. So she invited her cousin Mohua to visit her for a facial and nail painting. “Don’t tell my mother,” she warned the older girl. Her father’s red hair had been a disaster, but he had kept Honey’s secret.
So the next time that her mother went out to visit her grandparents, Mohua came over. They went straight to the bathroom because Honey was scared of making a mess on her mother’s dresser. “Alright, time for your facial,” she announced.
Mohua was a quiet girl. She closed her eyes while her little cousin put a mixture of sandalwood powder and rosewater on her face. It was something that her mother had talked about on the phone with a friend. “Just add some rosewater to the powder for oily skin,” she had said.
“Are you almost done?” Mohua asked.
“Yes. Don’t open your eyes or talk. Wait till it dries,” Honey scolded.
Honey kept on touching the mask to see if it was dry. When it was dry enough, she wiped it off carefully with a wet small towel. Then she ran to her mother’s room to get the pink bottle that she used for her face every morning after her bath. It said Face Lotion on it. The second practice customer liked her suddenly brighter face. Veeroo, who had been watching the whole time, wagged his tail. Now it was time for the nail painting.
Honey went back to her mother’s room to get the purple nail polish. That was the nicest colour. She asked Mohua to put her feet up on a chair. Honey put polish on all the fingers one by one. She tried her best to stay within the lines, but she couldn’t. She was upset.
“I don’t think anybody will want to come to my beauty salon,” she said sadly. Her cousin asked her to stop feeling bad. “Come on. Keep on trying.” Honey tried again. She improved.
Mohua got up to put on her shoes and leave when they heard the doorbell. Her mother was back. Her father knew about the practice session, so he tried to keep her in the living room. Honey managed to help Mohua get out the door after they had put all her mother’s things where they belonged.
“Mother, how are Dadu and Dida doing?” Honey went into the room and asked.
Her mother stood up. Honey noticed that her toes were not painted anymore. Her fingers were plain as well. Plus, her hair was not shining and her face was sweaty. She handed a little pouch to Honey. It had a rainbow of nail paints inside it! Before Honey could ask her anything, , she said, “Let’s go upstairs. I want to be your first customer.”
First published in TeleKids (An ABP Group publication)