Honey’s Beauty Salon – Part 2

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.”

The End

 

First published in TeleKids (An ABP Group publication)

 

Honey’s Beauty Salon – Part 1

Honey was the only person in her family who hated the summer holidays. Her mother was happy because she did not have to go to school to teach French classes. Her father was happy that all of them could play Snakes and Ladders together. And even Veeroo the dog was pleased. It would be nice to have everyone’s attention on him all day.

Honey believed that the long vacation was a waste of time. “Mother, can’t you tell the other teachers to ask for a shorter holiday?” She asked hopefully each year.

“Silly child! Your classmates are enjoying these five weeks. You should too,” her mother would reply with a laugh. But Honey was not convinced.

“Mother, most of them go on cool trips. Like Aditi is going to Goa and Jit’s parents are taking him all the way to Thailand. We never go anywhere,” she complained.

That evening, Honey’s mother went out. When she came back, she looked different. Her skin was glowing. Her hair was shining. It was tied up like a movie star’s hair. Even her mother’s feet looked unusual as the nails were painted dark red. Honey could not stop  staring.. Her mother was not acting different though. She came in and put her bag on the counter. Then she took out her phone to check for missed calls and messages. After replying to one, she looked up at Honey. The sight of her shocked, round eyes, made her laugh loudly. “What happened,” she asked. “Do I look nice?”

Honey giggled. “You look so beautiful, mother! Where did you go?”

“You remember where you got your haircut last time?” Her mother looked amused. Honey said yes. “Well, I went to the same place,” her mother explained.  “I have to attend a special lunch tomorrow,” she added.  Honey nodded. She wanted to grow up as soon as possible so that she could do such fun things. Haircuts were never this interesting.

So when her mother was out for her lunch invitation, Honey asked her father, “Daddy, may I wash and comb your hair today please?” Her father looked surprised. He asked her if his hair looked dirty. She said no. “I just want to practice,” she said.

“Practice for what, Honey?” He seemed confused.

“For my beauty salon,” she told him.

“Which beauty salon?” Her father was very serious.

“My own beauty salon, Daddy. The one that I will start soon.”

Her father patted her head and left her for a minute to get towels and his comb. Then Honey asked him to wait. She guided him to the bathroom sink after she had kept a chair in front of it. Shampoo and conditioner bottles, a hair serum and the comb were arranged in a line.  Honey’s practice customer sat down. She placed a big towel around him, wrapping up his arms somehow. He could not move his arms now. “This isn’t how they do it at other beauty salons,” Honey thought. Then she removed the towel and wrapped it around her father properly. She felt grown up.

In the next ten minutes, Honey put shampoo and conditioner in her father’s hair and washed it out too. “Am I doing it correctly, Daddy,” she asked him more than once. He nodded each time. Honey used her fingers to massage his head just like they did at the beauty salon that she had visited last time. When she was done, Honey wrapped another towel around her father’s head. She was trying to follow the few magazines that her mother read. They had lots of pictures of grown up girls getting their hair set and makeup done. There were also pictures of them exercising and eating fruits and vegetables. She liked those  pictures.

First published in TeleKids (An ABP Group publication)

Finding Boo – Part 2

“They gave up!” Anushka was scared now.

The storyteller scolded her, “You really need to learn how to sit still, child. You cannot hurry everything like this.” Anushka promised to stay quiet.

Grandmother began again, “The sisters started crying again so your grandfather could not bring them back for lunch. Then your mother had an idea.

“Baba, let’s go look near the bazaar. Maybe Boo went back to his original home,” she thought aloud.

“So, the three of them walked toward the local bazaar, drenched in sweat, hungry, but
determined to find Boo.”

“Just when they were nearing the bazaar, Moo shrieked joyfully. They were standing in front of a mother dog with her recently born puppies. The mother dog was taking turns to lick her paws and then lick her children. There were four puppies – all the same shade of brown as Boo. They were the same age as well. Your grandfather leaned down to pet them. The mother dog sniffed him with curiosity, moving her nostrils all over his hand. After she decided that he was safe, she wagged her tail.

Then Moo asked: Which one’s Boo?”

Anuskha’s mouth dropped open. When would they find Boo?

The story continued. “Your grandfather admitted that he didn’t know. Moo started crying again. Your mother was more confident. She held each puppy one by one, inspected each from head to tip of tail, and confirmed that the fourth one was Boo.”

Anushka could not help but let out a cheer. Finally! Grandma smiled and told her to wait because there was more. She was enjoying this. She went on:

“The three of them came home with Boo. When they reached home, we were waiting at the door. Everybody was excited and hugged Boo. But then your Leena aunty cried out that it wasn’t Boo after all.”

“Where is the big white spot on his belly?”

“Everybody turned to look at Moo and your poor mother. Your grandfather sat down quietly. I made everybody eat their lunch. It was 5:30PM. Everybody ate a bit, while the ‘wrong’ Boo was given a meal too.”

“And now for your happy ending, little Anu,” grinned her grandmother. Anushka sat up straight, pulling sleeping Chiki onto her lap. Her grandmother chewed on a biscuit, taking her time. She liked creating suspense. “Grandma, please!” Anushka could not take it anymore.

“Alright. So just as Moo and Leena were cleaning up the table and your grandfather was ready to take his nap, Boo wandered in! Everybody ran to him, crying tears of happiness this time.”

“When we were quiet, Moo had a question: What about the other Boo? What will we do with him?

Your grandfather took the wrong Boo back to his mother and brothers and sisters. Nobody forgot about him. Moo and your mother visited him every weekend, taking food for him and his family.”

Now Anushka had a question. “But where had the real Boo been all day?” Her grandmother’s belly shook as she started laughing.

“That is a mystery.”

The End

First published in TeleKids (An ABP Group publication)

Anil’s Big Lunch

“Anil, tomorrow we will be going to the village to meet your father’s cousins,” his mother told him the day he landed in India. “Ma, I am home after three years. Can we go later?” His mother said “no” because the train tickets were bought and his father would be upset.

The next morning, they set out with bottles of water and a tiffin carrier full of food. Anil started munching on the goodies he had missed abroad. “Save your appetite for lunch,” his mother warned. “They will be cooking a big meal for you. It’s been so long, after all.” Anil laughed, thinking that six puris and three sweets were hardly anything.

When they reached the village, his relatives jumped on him, making him feel like a movie star. “Come sit by me, Anil!” “No, I am the oldest. He will sit with me!” The women in the family made a big fuss about him, while the men started a game of cards. “Lunch will be served soon,” Anil’s mother told him. “Just remember to never say ‘no’ to anything they offer you,” she instructed. Anil already felt full from snacking on the train ride and thought he would have a light meal and sleep right after. But his mother interrupted his thoughts saying, “Remember, saying ‘no’ will make them think their food isn’t good. The women will feel bad about their cooking skills.” Anil nodded.

The meal began well with all the women standing around Anil, watching his every bite. He gave them a smile every two minutes. This seemed to send the message that he wanted more. More rice came. More fish came. More potatoes. More of everything came. Anil found himself panting. Still he looked at his mother and said “yes” to all that was being offered. After three helpings of everything, he felt quite ill and had to stop himself from throwing up. Even the women in the house looked worriedly at each other. Their food had almost finished. But imagine telling a guest that there was no more food to be served! They wanted to serve Anil the sweet dish, but he still had not said “no” to the other dishes.

Anil could barely look up. His mother sensed trouble. She asked for the sweet dish. The women were happy but jumped up in chorus, “Anil! You didn’t like our food? Was it too salty? Or too sweet?” Anil shook his head as hard as he could without throwing up. More food came. Some of the women struggled to make more food in the kitchen.

When Anil burped for the tenth time and had almost collapsed, he managed to ask for the sweets. The women put one sweet after the other on his plate, watching him chew and smile. After each sweet came the question, “Did you like it?” Anil nodded and panted. Finally, there were no more sweets left and Anil had to run outside to throw up.

He came back inside with a smile and said, “The food was very tasty.” That day when he left with his parents, the relatives talked about his huge appetite and how they had to go back to the kitchen to rustle up more food! The head of the family was glowing with pride. “My cooking must be the best,” she beamed.

Anil spent the return journey crying, promising to be rude next time.

First published in TeleKids (An ABP Group publication)

Pink Dresses – Part II

“What do you eat at school?” Shreya asked her. Rhea told them about the salad bar, little milk cartons and baked fish.
“Wow, that sounds like a restaurant,” said Sree with jealousy. She hated eating her boring home food every day. The school only had a muriwala and an ice cream cart.
The girls spent the rest of the afternoon talking, until Sree’s mother announced that Rhea’s aunt had come to take her home. “Don’t worry, I’ll come again tomorrow,” Rhea said and waved goodbye.
Rhea did come the next day, but she was too busy to look at her friends for more than a minute at a time. She had a mobile phone with her.
“Mom set up the Internet connection today,” she explained.
“I’m chatting with my friend. Her name is Sue.”
Shreya wanted to say that she was being rude. The old Rhea had always given them her full attention. In fact, Rhea had been the one who would stop them from staring at computer games and messenger. She would stand in front of the monitor with her arms crossed.
It wasn’t a fun afternoon. Rhea was too distracted. Sree was upset. Shreya was sleepy because she was so bored by the quietness. The three girls were known to talk nonstop. Even during lunch, they watched Rhea eat her pizza with a fork and knife and frown at the Indian toppings.
“Pizza in India isn’t as good as pizza over there. Who puts paneer tikka on a pizza?” Rhea complained with her new accent.
When they said goodbye to each other that day, Rhea didn’t hug them back. She looked uncomfortable. Sree couldn’t help but ask her what was wrong.
“Nothing is wrong. I just don’t think we need to hug every time we see each other. It’s weird,” Rhea said.
She waved goodbye with her eyes on her phone. Shreya and Sree felt like crying.
Time flew by and it was the day before Rhea was returning to the States. Sree’s parents invited Shreya, Rhea and all the parents over for dinner. Rhea came dressed in a pretty pink dress. There was no phone in her hand. She was carrying gifts for her friends. Shreya and Sree said thank you.
“Open them,” Rhea requested.
They did. Both packages contained pink dresses like the one Rhea was wearing.
“Wear them now, please,” said Rhea with hopeful eyes.
They were angry at their friend but listened to her. When the three of them were dressed identically, Rhea’s mother took a picture.
That evening, Sree and Shreya realised that their friend had changed but that was supposed to happen. People changed. When people moved to new places, they would change. They also realised that Rhea felt bad about not being the same anymore.
“I’m so sorry for being rude that day,” Rhea said with her eyes on her feet.
“I just feel like something has changed. It makes me feel terrible.”
Now her old friends felt bad about her feeling so bad. They decided to enjoy their last evening together.
“One thing is still the same,” said Shreya.
“What’s that?” The other two asked.
“We all still love pink!”

The End

First published in TeleKids (An ABP Group publication)

Pink Dresses – Part I

She’s coming back, finally!” Sree exclaimed.
Shreya frowned. “No, she isn’t. It’s just for two weeks,” she corrected her friend.
Sree stopped grinning but refused to be sad. “We haven’t seen her in one year,” she thought out loud.
The same question was stuck in both their minds: would Rhea be the same as before? Would she like them as much as she did before she moved to the States?
The next Sunday, Sree and Shreya waited eagerly at the airport gate. Shreya’s parents were with them. The girls kept looking at the huge board that showed which flights had arrived or were on their way. Thankfully, the flight arrived on time, or Sree would have bitten off all her nails!
“Stop biting your nails,” ordered Shreya.
Sree replied, “Can’t help it. It’s a habit.”
Her friend made a face and sipped on her mango drink. It was a hot day and she was in no mood to fight.
Suddenly, the big board said that Rhea’s flight had reached on time. The girls tried to get a view of the arriving passengers but there were too many tall adults blocking their view. They managed to squeeze themselves to the front of the waiting crowd.
“Girls, Rhea and aunty need to collect their suitcases first. It will take some time,” explained Shreya’s mother.
So they waited. Sree was about to bite her nails again when she heard a familiar voice shout, “Sree! Shreya! I’m here.”
Rhea ran through the crowd with her small suitcase rolling behind her. She hugged them both tightly, while her mother said hello to everybody. It had been two long flights, so Rhea and her mother looked tired.
“You must be hungry,” said Shreya.
“Yeah, I am. I can’t wait to have some luchi and alur dom,” said Rhea’s mom.
Rhea wrinkled her nose. She didn’t like Bengali food these days. She preferred the pasta and sandwiches that her friend’s parents served her when she visited their houses. Her mom knew that. She patted her head and said, “You must miss your grandmother’s cooking. Enjoy it while you can.”
They dropped the tired travellers home and went their separate ways. Shreya and Sree were upset because Rhea hadn’t talked much in the car. Plus, they had noticed something; Rhea had an American accent. She sounded different. They didn’t like it.
“Sree, did you notice how she speaks like a foreigner?” Shreya nodded.
The next day, the three friends met at Sree’s house. They were hoping to spend a lazy day, lying around the house, talking about their lives.
Rhea asked, “So what is new at school?”
The other girls looked at each other. They wondered for a minute. Then they realised that things were exactly the same as before. Nothing changed in their little school. Every year, they had the same classmates and the same group of teachers coming in for one period after the next. Even their tiffins were the same. Sandwiches one day. Roti and vegetables on another. Sometimes rolls filled with paneer or chicken. No new boys had joined. They still had the same annoying boys in class who teased Sree about her skinny long legs and Shreya about her round cheeks.
“Nothing new with us,” Sree finally answered.
Rhea looked surprised. She had expected some news about a new teacher or a new student or some new rules at least.
“How’s school in America?” Shreya asked curiously.
Rhea smiled. She looked so happy at the mention of her school. She told them about how she had tried out for the class volleyball team.
“They let us try out for any sport we want to play. There are 15 teams to choose from,” she told them. They were impressed.
First published in TeleKids (An ABP Group publication)

Teeth Trouble

“What is your New Year’s resolution, Sudeep?”
Sudeep stared back at his teacher in silence. Reshmi nudged him with her elbow. But he had no answer to the question. Finally, Miss Mukherjee broke the silence. “Sudeep, what are you promising yourself to do or not do in the New Year?”
Reshmi blurted out: Teacher, he has decided to stop eating chocolate from January 1st.
Sudeep jumped up at the word “chocolate”. He looked angrily at Reshmi. Then he grinned at his teacher and said, “No, Miss Mukherjee. I can never give up chocolate. And I don’t need to either because no matter how much I eat, I stay thin.”
Miss Mukherjee laughed. She repeated her question. “What is your New Year’s resolution?”
Sudeep scratched his head for a second before he replied. “My resolution is to stop making fun of Reshmi’s front teeth.”
Reshmi was shocked. Their teacher was happy. She said, “I’m glad to hear that, Sudeep. Good luck!”
The next week went on as usual — Sudeep teased Reshmi, calling her “rabbit” and drawing cartoons of her with huge teeth. Reshmi was used to it but some days it upset her very much.
One day she tried to get even with him by reminding him about his big stomach. “Sudeep, look at your tummy. It’s making you look like a pumpkin.” Sudeep looked down at his belly. He grinned, “It is smaller than your teeth!”
The winter holidays came. Sudeep forgot about Reshmi’s teeth for three weeks. When they returned to school, everybody waited eagerly to see if Sudeep would stick to his New Year’s resolution. Miss Mukherjee wished that he’d stop making Reshmi feel so bad so she was hopeful too.
Sudeep seemed to remember his promise. He was nice to Reshmi. In fact, he was sweet enough to share his lunch with her. He even sharpened her pencils for her. She was surprised. Miss Mukherjee noticed something though. Sudeep was speaking oddly. He was hardly opening his mouth. And even when he did, he covered it with his hand. When the class photograph was being taken, he smiled with his mouth closed. She watched him for a few days.
Then she had an idea. “Class, I’m going to teach you a song today.” She asked the students to sing the song together. As the room filled with voices, she noticed Sudeep’s wide open mouth. So this was why he wasn’t speaking properly or teasing Reshmi! Two teeth were missing from the top of his mouth.
Once the singing stopped, Miss Mukherjee called Sudeep over and asked what happened to his teeth. “Miss, they fell out. Mom said new teeth will come soon.” The teacher grinned. “Sudeep! This happens to everybody. So there’s no need to hide your mouth!”
Sudeep looked down at his feet in shame. “I have made Reshmi feel bad so many times. I’m sorry now,” he said softly. Miss Mukherjee patted his shoulder and said, “Go tell Reshmi you’re sorry. She will forgive you.”
Sudeep did say sorry. He also showed Reshmi the part of his mouth with missing teeth. “At least I have teeth there!” Reshmi giggled. Sudeep felt brave enough to smile.

(First published in Telekids – an ABP Group publication)