Little was said. Too much was felt. The words tore them apart, erasing the good years. Only photographs kept the evidence. Their love for each other was pushed to the back of their hearts. And life went on.
“I can’t share you with so many people,” she complained. “But they’re my friends,” she replied. They continued walking in silence. She tried again. “But I’m like your sister!” They had reached the end of the long road. “Let’s take one last selfie?” When the camera clicked, none of them were smiling. Still, she posted it on Facebook.
The three friends had a competition. Who could do the most skips without stopping? Arun could do 40 and Debolina skipped 35 times before the rope got stuck under her foot. Giri had been able to skip only 10 times before huffing and puffing to a stop.
“Giri! You are not able to skip or jump high these days. What is wrong?” His friends were worried. Mummy was outside. She watched them. “Giri has been eating too many sweets. His health is suffering,” she thought.
Giri knew what was wrong. He knew that he was having too much cake. In fact, he was eating too much of anything that he made in the kitchen. Last week, he had made three peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Papa was busy in the other room, so Giri ate his sandwich too.
That evening, Mummy said, “Giri, you are not able to run and play like before. You need to exercise and eat healthier meals.” “From tomorrow, you will not make any food or cake again since you eat everybody’s share.”
Giri started crying. But Mummy was right. He could feel that his t-shirt was tighter than before. He had never stopped at just 10 skips. The other day in school, he had stopped chasing Arun because he could not breathe properly. Giri was in trouble.
The next few days, Giri listened to his mother. He ate whatever she cooked for him. But he missed cakes, sandwiches and pizza. So he went for a walk. “I’ve been good for four days. Now I can give myself a treat,” he decided.
There was a small shop right outside the gate. It sold pastries and pizza. There were sweet biscuits too. Giri’s parents visited the shop only when guests came without warning. So Giri knew that the pizza at Sweet Jar tasted almost as good as his own. He knew that the pastries were too sweet but better than having no pastry at all. So, Giri went in and bought a pastry and a pizza with his pocket money. He stood inside the shop and ate his treats, hoping that nobody would tell his parents about his visit.
When Giri reached home, nobody knew. He was happy.
That Sunday, Debolina said she would come visit with her new books. Giri could not bake or make anything for her this time. “Mummy, can you make something nice for her?” Mummy said that she would make lunch for them. “No dessert?” Giri asked, disappointed. Mummy said they could have mangoes.
Just before Debolina came, Giri said that he would take a walk. “Walking is good exercise,” said his father. Giri went outside the gate again. He had just enough money to buy two pastries for his friend. “Maybe I could have one myself…” Giri wondered. “Mummy will be angry,” he thought. He bought two pastries. One was put in a box. The other one he ate. As he was finishing his pastry, Debolina passed by the store. She saw him and looked shocked. “Giri! You just ate something sweet. Aunty will be so angry.” Giri felt bad. He followed Debolina home.
As his mother opened the door for them, he blurted out, “I ate a pastry at the Sweet Jar.” He expected his parents to scold him, but they laughed. “One pastry is nothing to feel bad about, Giri.” We only wanted you to be careful about your health.” Debolina giggled. “Yes. Eat cake but not the whole cake,” she added. Now Giri laughed too. Somehow, eating that one pastry had made him feel much better than those times when he had eaten the whole cake or too many sandwiches.
That day, Debolina, Giri and his mother baked a cake. Everybody had a piece.
First published in TeleKids (An ABP Group publication)
Mary hated going to school. Every day, she hoped that the teachers would not ask her any questions in class. It wasn’t that she didn’t know the answers because she always did. It also wasn’t because she had a soft voice. The problem was her stammering. Whenever Mary tried to speak, her sentences turned out to be long because she took so long to sound out most of the words.
If the teacher asked her to read from a book, Mary dreaded the giggles from her classmates. She wanted to sound like everyone else but the speech counselor had said that things would take time. The other day, when Mary was asked to read one paragraph
from their English book, she heard herself and turned red with shame as she did every time. She wished she would stop stuttering.
“Pl-pl-place a c-c-comma be-be-tween each i-item in the the list,” she read out loud. There was one boy who sat behind her and imitated her. Mary did not fight with him. Nor did she tell the teacher. “Even I know that I’m strange,” she thought sadly, tears welling up in her eyes.
At home, her mother patted her head and told her to have patience. “You are going to speak with no problem soon,” she promised. But Mary was not ready to wait. She
was tired of having no friends except for Joya, who talked to her only because she felt sorry for her.
Many times at school, Mary had said, “Joya, please leave me alone. You don’t have to pretend to be nice to me.” Every time this happened, her friend would become upset.
“But who said that I pretend?” Joya’s eyes became round in confusion. She ran after Mary but couldn’t catch her before she hopped onto the school bus.
The next day at school, Mrs Chatterjee, the principal, announced, “Our annual talent competition will take place next Friday.” Joya immediately knew what she’d do. She
would play a song on her harmonica. Her father too played the harmonica. Mary’s classmates were excited.
Even the quietest boy, Neil, was already planning his performance. They started discussing their plans excitedly. “I will do a special dance,” said Ria. “I am
going to juggle three balls,” said Raja. Mary smiled silently. There was only one thing that she could do well.
She went home and started practising. She sang all the songs from The Sound of Music in front of her mother. Then she sang the folk songs that her grandmother had taught her during her last visit to Calcutta. Mary used a thin pencil box as her microphone. It made
her feel like a star, holding it while she closed her eyes and sang for hours. She sang and sang until she was ready.
On the day of the competition, Mary was nervous. She had never sung in front of her teachers and classmates.
“I wonder what they’ll think,” she thought, biting her nails. When Mary’s turn came, she
stood on the stage and felt like running away. She then closed her eyes and imagined herself floating around on a flying carpet. She raised her arms and began to sing her favourite song from Aladdin. Her eyes were not open so she did not see the shocked looks around her. When Mary sang her words came out perfectly!
Joya stood up to clap even before Mary was done with her song. The other students and teachers did the same. The minute the song ended, Joya and Mrs Chatterjee ran up to the stage to hug Mary, who had forgotten about her stuttering. “Did I sing well, Joya?” She was worried and her words were broken up into many syllables.
That day, Mary won first prize and many fans too.
First published in TeleKids (An ABP Group publication)
Disagreement was normal. “We certainly can’t agree on everything,” she said. Her soon-to-be ex-friend thought otherwise. She formed her lips into an ugly frown. Her eyes turned darker than coal. “If we think differently, how can we be best friends.” It wasn’t really a question. They continued sipping their mochas. The others in the cafe could hear the coffee’s path in each body. “I think we should talk later,” she said. The former friend disagreed.
“Mother, I can’t find it!” Lately, Tista couldn’t find anything in her room. Her
mother was tired of hearing her shout every day. Just like every other day,
Mother said, “Maybe you wouldn’t have so much trouble finding your
things if you cleaned your room once in a while.
As always, Tista continued her search with another shout or two, not replying to her mother.
It was true. Tista had not cleaned her room in a long time. The closet full of books had games and dolls in it. The cupboard for her school books had
nothing in it because the books were lying on the floor. Even Tista’s clothes were in disorder. None of them were folded properly and some were on the bed.
Today, Tista’s friend from school, Anurag, was coming over to play Snakes
and Ladders. ”Tista, please make your room look nice for your friend,”
Mother said. “I promise to clean every bit after he leaves, Mother,” Tista said.
When Anurag arrived in the afternoon, he was carrying a chocolate cake.
”My parents bake cakes every Sunday,” he explained. ”I hope you like it,
Aunty,” he said to Mother. Tista grabbed the cake and took it to her room.
Anurag followed. Father ran after them with plates and forks.
Tista and her friend played Snakes and Ladders.They also ate cake, leaving big crumbs on the game board and the floor.
“Mother, can we please have napkins?” Tista went to the kitchen and asked. “Yes, you may. But please do not forget to bring your plates to the kitchen before ants come for the cake,” she said.
But Tista did forget. When Anurag got up to take his plate to the kitchen, “It is alright,” she told him. “I will take mine later.” Anurag shrugged and went towards the kitchen.
They continued to play. Tista won three games and Anurag won four.
“Why is there a snake at 99!” Tista was annoyed.
“And such a long one too,” she complained. Anurag said they could play one more game. ”If you win, we will be even,” he said. Tista said yes and
Anurag left after he shared apples and sandwiches with his friend. Tista was bored.
“Dad, what do I do now?”
Father laughed. ”Anurag just left. You cannot be bored so soon!” he replied.
Tista frowned. She did not like Sundays. Being at school was fun. Her friends were with her all day.
Mother stayed quiet. She was writing on several small, square pieces of
paper. Tista returned to her room and found her plate full of red ants. The
ants were carrying a bit of cake from her plate to the wall near her bed. Tista felt ill. She picked up the plate and dropped it. It broke into three pieces.
“Mother,” she cried for help. Then she remembered that this was her fault. If she had taken the plate to the kitchen with Anurag, this would not have happened.
”Mother will be very angry,” she thought, picking up the broken plate. She looked around nervously. She hoped that her household help, Mona di,
would not see her. When she was sure that her parents were not nearby, Tista threw the plate into the trash basket.
That evening, Tista wanted to read a book. She searched and searched but couldn’t find her book. “Mother, I can’t find my favourite book,” she said.
Mother smiled and gave Tista good news. ”There’s a new game you and I could play,” she announced. Tista was excited but she wanted to know the name of the game. ”It doesn’t have a name,” said Mother. ”You can give it a name later,” she added. Tista was ready to begin.
To be continued…
First published in TeleKids (An ABP Group publication)
The fat eggplants rested by him. Most of the tomatoes and spinach had found homes that morning. It was too early to leave the bazaar but not too early to have his puffed rice. His hard worked, wrinkled hands, diced an onion to add some flavor to the humble snack. While he chewed and thought about life and beyond, his canine friend joined him. “Back from your long stroll, eh?” A little nod followed a happy bark and vigorous tail wag, before they shared the puffed rice and biscuits.