Stories For Thing

ChumChum and birthdays


“ChumChum, tomorrow is my birthday.” Said Mama. “What are you giving me for a present?”

ChumChum stopped colouring her giraffe pink and gawked at Mama “Mama, it is your birthday, so you should give me a present.” She sagely shook her head as Mama giggled, and went back to her colouring.

ChumChum realized she did not know what a birthday was. She only knew that on her last birthday Mama baked her a cake, and called all her cousins and friends for a party. ChumChum loved parties. With her friends and cousins, she played with new toys and blew balloons and laughed and laughed when Dada put on a red nose and a paper hat. Of all her presents, she loved the small trumpet Mama and Dada had given her.

“Mama, what is a birthday?”

Mama pushed her lower lip out. Mama tapped her cheek with the index finger. Mama looked at the ceiling. Mama scratched her head. ChumChum liked to see Mama think. She did just what Mama did when ChumChum was thinking along with Mama.

Mama picked ChumChum up, sat her lap and said, “When you were not yet born, and were still in my tummy, you were a little bit ChumChum. Then you were born, and you were ChumChum. So we like to celebrate that day and call it your birthday. Every year on your birthday day, you become little more ChumChum. There is so much to celebrate because every year a little more ChumChum gets added to our little ChumChum.”

ChumChum chewing on her finger as she listened to Mama.

“So Mama, you become more Mama for me on your birthday?”

“Yes, I do.” Mama kissed ChumChum and gave her a big smile.

ChumChum rushed to her room, and brought five candies with her which she gave to Mama.

“What is this ChumChum?” Mama asked.

“You have been my Mama for all the birthdays I had. I had four birthdays. So you are four more Mamas added to the Mama you were when I was born. And one extra candy because it is your birthday!”

Mama smiled and gave ChumChum the tightest hug ever, so tight that ChumChum whooshed.

By Ninja Duckie

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The Party In Her Mind


It was bright and early one Monday morning when KeeKee’s eyes popped right open as soon as sunlight hit her face.

She sprang right up in bed, which was very unusual behaviour (you see KeeKee loved her dreams and she did not like to cut them short just because the sun’s rays were going knock-knock-knock on her eyelids). But today was a really important day. It was her birthday.

KeeKee knew birthdays were special. They helped her grow bigger. Without birthdays, KeeKee would still be a baby – now, who would want that? So it couldn’t be just any other day. KeeKee yawned and stretched and called out, “Mamaaaaa! I’m all awake nowwwwwww!!!!”

Mama and Dada came bounding in, with big grins on their faces. They gave her their own special hugs and kisses. They said, “Happy birthday KeeKee. My! How big you are now!” But KeeKee kept looking behind their backs. Where were the presents? The bigsmall boxes full of toys and books and chocolates and things?

Mama noticed and pulled KeeKee close to her: “Oh my baby, you’ve already got your gifts. Your own special hugs and kisses from Mama and Dada. Now get ready for school.” But KeeKee was so sad. No gifts, no party, no birthday cake. Only school. How terrible it is to have a birthday on a Monday.

On the bus, everything was as usual. Kids having paper-ball fights and some greedy boys already eating their tiffin. Only her best friend remembered to wish her happy birthday. In morning assembly, Principal ma’am said the prayers and made school announcements. Then she wrapped it all up as if there was nothing more to talk about. In class, KeeKee had to remind her teacher to get everyone to wish her in unison: “Happy Birthday KeeKee.”

This would not do at all. And so KeeKee decided that if no one would make her day special, she would do it for herself. So what if it was a Monday? She’d have a party in her mind.

Sitting at her desk in class, the room began to transform most magically. It became a beautiful garden, just perfect for a picnic. The blackboard became a huge rainbow-coloured banner with her name on it. The little desks and chairs turned into little picnic mats: some with trucks, some with balloons, some with fishes and some with giraffes on them. All the books on all the desks, turned into wrapped presents. And oh! When KeeKee looked at her teacher’s desk, it had changed into the biggest chocolate cake she had ever seen!! Just. For. Her.

Oh the time KeeKee had at her party! Receiving presents and hugs and wishes. Giving out cake and return-gifts. Playing with her best friends, showing off her new dress and then getting dirt all over it! Dada had even asked a clown to perform at her party. How funny he was! KeeKee began to laugh loudly.

“KeeKee? What is so funny?” said the teacher.

Uh-oh. Busted!

Just as KeeKee’s party in her mind began to wind down, the school bell rang. All the kids rushed out of the classroom. KeeKee was in no rush. What a party she’d just been too! Now she was ready to go home, crawl into bed and make the best of nap time.

As Mama walked her home from the bus stop, KeeKee told her all about her special day. Mama listened with a big grin on her face, especially when she heard about the presents. “Wow KeeKee, you’ve had quite the day! But you know, birthdays aren’t just special for the person who was born on that day.”

“What do you mean, Mama?”

“Birthdays are also important to those who love you the most!”

And saying that, Mama swung open the front door to their house. In walked KeeKee and suddenly all the lights came on and a huge bunch of people jumped up:

All her friends and family were there. With lovely smiles just for her. And gifts. Lots and lots of gifts! As KeeKee lost herself inside this crowd of birthday wishers, she thought happily to herself: I’m so lucky. I got two parties instead of one. Monday birthdays are the best!

By Gone Native

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It was a balmy spring Sunday afternoon; the sun was playing a merry game of hide-n-seek with a bunch of portly, clear-skinned clouds and a lazy wind caressed the largely empty streets of the city. Even the sea seemed to have been lulled into a gentle slumber, with only the occasional wave clapping onto the rocky-sandy surface of its shore. After a rather heavy lunch, having chosen to ignore sleep’s comely arms and flirt with the pleasant charms of the outdoors instead, I found myself meandering along this picturesque but somewhat sheltered stretch of the seaside. Despite a few adventurous gulls, some bored street vendors and a thinly scattered mix of tourists and locals – probably out to enjoy the weather just as I was- it was quite a serene, unhurried setting. I was just about to light my second post-lunch cigarette – battling the frisky winds to get a match aflame- when I noticed the little girl sitting on the large rock.

She couldn’t have been more than four, chocolate-skinned with a tangled mass of dark, curly hair doing a tango with the wind. She had on a pretty yellow dress with a small, red bag slung over her shoulders and a pair of floppy, red sandals to complete the ensemble. I couldn’t see much of her face because it was buried inside a large sea-shell, almost the size of her head – while they were far from uncommon here; I hadn’t seen one that big very often. One hand was holding it up and the other was absent-mindedly petting an enthusiastic stray pup clamoring for attention at her feet, tail going about sixty wags a minute.

At first I wondered what she was doing here all by herself; she certainly wasn’t a street kid. But then I noticed a Couple who seemed like her parents, lounging on the sand not too far away from her. They were probably all from out of town because the parents seemed completely fixated by the vastness and unbridled glory of the sea, tearing their eyes away from it every few minutes only to have a quick glance at the girl or to remind her to stay right where she was and not wander away. The girl herself seemed too engrossed with the shell at the moment to either pay attention to their reminders or to even consider wandering.

Something about how a child her age could stay so single-mindedly focused on that ordinary seeming shell for so long – especially when there was a whole seashore waiting to be explored – intrigued me and I strolled close to her, wearing what I hoped was a sufficiently benign and avuncular smile to not alarm the parents. They gave me a quick once-over but then apparently decided I was okay.

When I paused right next to her, it was the pup that noticed me first. It relinquished her petting hand to come say hello to my ankles, yipping away as it did. Perhaps it was the yipping or the sudden absence of the pup under her fingers that broke whatever spell the little girl was under; because as I bent to stroke the demanding puppy, she finally looked up from the shell and at me. She had eyes as dark as a moonless night and her face seemed flushed with excitement.

Either she was sociable by nature or seeing the pup take to me had marked me acceptable in her book because she immediately returned my smile with a sparkling one of her own. I straightened, waved softly and said, ‘’ Hi, there.’’ She waved a ‘’Hi,’’ of her own back.  ‘’So, what’s so exciting in that shell?’’ I asked, coming straight to what had been intriguing me.

She looked fondly back at the shell once more before replying in a slightly hushed tone, as if confiding a secret in me. ‘’I founded a whole World inside there.’’

That certainly wasn’t the answer I had been expecting so I gently probed further. ‘’Oh, a whole world? What kind of a world is it?’’

‘’it’s a happy world,’’ she began earnestly, scrunching her nose as she tried putting into words all that she thought she had seen. ‘’ It has a big orange Sun that has eyes; big friendly eyes and a big friendly smile. But it doesn’t talk to anyone; it just looks over them and keeps them safe. And the ground is covered with long yellow grass, and the grass is so soft you can sleep on it. There are tall, pink and red flowers also, they sing to you when the wind is blowing; not like dance songs but songs that make you smile and close your eyes. And there are lots of trees; colored red and green, not like the dirty brown we have here. And hanging on these trees are gumballs, jelly-beans and lollies; and no one minds if you pick them and eat. Oh, and right on top on the highest branches are these big, round, many colored fruits. If you’re sick and you eat them, they take the sick away.  And there’s big, big waters all around also, but there are no fish in the waters, all the fishes fly with the birdies in the sky. But there are stories in the waters, each time you drink from them, it gives you a different story; a happy-ending one, it also teaches you stuffs.  And in the faraway, there are tall…really tall mountains made of snow that looks like jelly; on the top live ice dragons, but they won’t hurt you unless you go looking for them. And all the peoples live together and work together and on holidays, play together and there is no guvinment because they look after each other and the sun and the waters and the trees look after them and like that, they’re always happy.’’ She finished in a rush and stopped to take a huge gulp of air, after that breathless rendition.

I realized that even I’d been holding my breath while listening to her, rapt; not just by the unexpectedly rich and fantastical details of her description but also because she related it with the conviction of someone who’d actually seen this place, as opposed to a spur-of-the-moment yarn.

‘’You actually saw ALL that in there?’’ I finally asked, after both of us had caught our collective breath.

‘’Not at first. I only saw little bits at first but then I looked really hard and carefully, and saw all the rest.’’ she replied with a proud smile.

‘’Could I have a look at this world too?’’ I asked tentatively.

She seemed to consider it for a few seconds but then shrugged and handed me the shell, her attention straying to the pup, which was now gleefully attempting some manner of cartwheels at her feet.

I put the shell to my face and stared into it, a tiny irrational part of me actually expecting to see her ‘world’ in there. But all I saw in there were many layers of darkness; accompanied by the scent of the sea. I tried looking harder, but then realizing how stupid I was being, I looked away, at the girl. ‘’I opened my eyes as wide as I could and looked really hard, but I couldn’t see what you saw.’’ I said, trying to look suitably crestfallen.

She turned to me, slapped her tiny forehead with a tiny hand and said, ‘’you have to look with your eyes closed to see it, silly.’’

By Le Mot Jest

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ChumChum woke up


ChumChum woke up and yawned. She stretched her arms wide and almost hit Dada with her tiny left fist. Oops, she thought.

Where are we? She looked around her. How could she have forgotten!? They were on the AEROPLANE-BIRD!

Dada smiled at her and opened his palm. There it was, her share of chocolate that the sweet lady was giving everyone. What a nice lady she is, Chumchum thought, to give everyone chocolates. Dada and mama and her and the other people sitting in the aeroplane-bird.

Mama gave her, her little backpack, “We’re almost there ChumChum.”

The aeroplane-bird landed with a ‘whooosh’, a ‘thud’ and then sped across the runway like a speed-racer and then slowed down.

When the doors opened, they got off the aerplane-bird, and walked along a long, long passage with other people and their suitcases on wheels. ChumChum had fun looking at suitcases big and small, and black and blue and green and red, and old and new. So many of them.

As they walked out of the airport, ChumChum saw them standing there – her Nana and Big Dada waiting for them. Big Dada was holding the red balloons he had promised her on the phone yesterday.

ChumChum ran to Nana and gave her the widest grin she had saved only for Nana. Big Dada picked her up, planted a long kiss on her forehead and asked “So ChumChum, where is hide and who is seek?”

ChumChum laughed and laughed, Oh Dada don’t you know. Hide I left with you, yesterday* when we met. And Seek is with Nana. I asked her to hide him for our next game”.

ChumChum saw Nana give her a big wink. They were going to have so much fun on the swing.

By Ninja Duckie

Psst… For ChumChum, the past is yesterday, the future tomorrow.

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Kuchu and the Wobble Gang


“Yelp, yelp.” It was Sunday morning, and Kuchu was trying to sleep a bit more. But the constant yelping was not helping. So Kuchu reluctantly lifted his head from the blanket and could see slightly messed up ball of fur outside the window. Kuchu being Kuchu, there was nothing that could contain his curiosity. So he got up and put on his glasses – and discovered that the huddle of fur was actually four puppies sleeping, or trying to sleep over each other, while yelping away to glory. “Where could their mumma be?” Kuchu thought.

It had rained the night before, but this Sunday morning sunny with an extra dose of honey. Going outside – Kuchu noticed that the puppies were hardly a few days old and the huddle was their defense mechanism, against any rabid stray or any evil creature that might want to have too close a look at them. But as Kuchu approached them, one of them, wobbled across and started sniffing his blue slippers. Encouraged by this, his siblings also joined him with tails wagging. Kuchu forgot all about sleeping and got into playmate mode with the Wobble Gang – as he named them.

An hour passed like this. Kuchu’s mother had given up hope for him turning up for breakfast. But there was still hope for lunch, she thought. And in a few minutes, a whitish brown canine appeared in the garden, and started giving threatening looks to Kuchu. “So she’s here finally” sighed our poor Kuchu as he let them go from his lap and on to where they truly belonged. And as he started walking back, he turned round once, and he was sure he could see the slipper sniffer wink at him once. He smiled and entered home.

By The Humerus

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The lake shimmered in red in the light of the rising sun. The boys were thrashing about in it. The water-fowl swimming on the lake, trying to catch their early morning breakfast squawked angrily at the boys. The mountains near the lake loomed menacingly in the first light of dawn. The early morning sun was peeping behind the mountains to see what the commotion was.

“Watch out. Here I come”, screamed Senthil and canon-balled into the water. The water-fowl had enough of it and took off into the skies.

“Aaaargh, you have splashed water over my new clothes”, shouted Shyam and jumped into the water to beat up his brother.

“Who told you to bring new clothes and keep it on the banks of the lake. Its your fault only”, said Senthil, and swam away from his younger brother.

Senthil was too fast for Shyam to catch. He gave up and came out of the lake. He picked up his wet clothes and started walking towards home. The tears from his eyes mixed with the water dripping from his hair. His father had promised to take them to his grandmother’s place and he wanted to show her the new shirt and shorts they had bought for him.

He kicked a stone on the dusty path. He hated his brother. He always kept making life difficult for him. Why did God make brothers?

He picked up the stone and lazily threw it as far as he could. The stone soared out of his hands and landed in a bush. He heard a yelp, followed by a growl. A shaggy-haired dog came out of the bush looked with bloodshot eyes at Shyam. The dog bared its teeth and gave another growl.

Shyam turned around and ran as fast as his 10 year old legs would carry. The dog, emboldened, gave him the chase. He reached a barbed wire fence which a farmer had put up to keep cattle away. He tried jumping over it, but tripped and fell. The sharp edges on the fence tore through his flesh and he started bleeding. The dog was catching up with him. He picked himself up and started running again. The fence only managed to slow he dog, which crawled underneath it and renewed the chase.

His heart was beating rapidly in his chest. His legs were starting to tire. He was almost near the lake. He saw Senthil going back home, whistling and swinging a stick.

“Brother, help!”, he shouted.

Senthil turned around and saw his brother running towards him chased by a canine. He pulled his brother behind him and swung the stick in his hand in a perfect arc. The stick hit the dog in its back. The dog, yelped and ran away in the other direction.

He then turned to his brother who was holding on to him tightly. The wounds from the fence were bleeding. He took his brother to the water and washed his wounds and tied a towel around his leg.

“Thanks brother”, Shyam whispered, and hugged his brother.

“No problem and I am sorry that I drenched your new clothes”, said Senthil.

Shyam smiled weakly.

“Come lets go home. Father must be waiting for us”

They started walking home. Shyam wiped a tear from his eye and thanked God for making brothers.

The sun looked down at the two brothers, walking hand in hand on a dusty road, smiled and hid behind a cloud.

By Epinephrine

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The Scary Tiger



I am a tiger.

I have big teeth like daggers, long, sharp claws, huge and powerful paws, and a tail like a whip.

I am a fearsome beast.

So why is nobody afraid of me?

All the other tigers say they have scared hundreds of people. They tell stories about going into a house full of humans and running around, snarling and growling. Everyone hides in a cupboard or jumps out the window or crawls under the table, screaming with terror.

Raja is the top tiger in our pack, and he tells the most exciting stories. Once, he said, he went into a famous movie star’s home – past the security guards and everything – and scared the movie star’s whole family, even though the movie star had seen lots of tigers before. The movie star’s son, a boy named Abbas, ran into his room and jumped into bed with the covers all up around his face, even though it was still daytime. Raja the big scary tiger left the movie star’s house with a smug smile on his face. “A job well done,” he said.

Raja makes it sound so easy. But it doesn’t work like that for me.

I don’t know why. I am not as big as Raja but I am still pretty big. My teeth aren’t as shiny as Raja’s but they are still pretty shiny. My claws aren’t as sharp as Raja’s but they are still pretty sharp. And my paws aren’t as powerful as Raja’s but they are still pretty powerful. (One part of me that is even better than Raja is my fur, which has so many lovely stripes nobody can count them all.)

But last time I tried to scare some humans in their house, they all just smiled and carried on eating their dinner. I growled and snarled and snapped and gnashed but they just kept on eating.

One of the grown-up humans said, “Isn’t that a beautiful tiger, children?”

And the smaller humans all said, “Yes, she’s very beautiful.”

But I didn’t want them to think I was beautiful. I wanted them to think I was scary. I ran out of the house and back to Raja and all the other tigers but I was too embarrassed to tell them what had happened.

Raja boasted that he was going to scare the family of a famous cricket player that night. “Not even the best player in the world can face me!” he boasted.

I feel like an idiot. I wonder, are my teeth and claws not as sharp as I think they are? All I have are these silly stripes, and they aren’t much use for scaring humans.

Right, then. Tonight I’m going to find out why Raja and the other tigers are so scary. I’m going to go to that movie star’s home and ask his son Abbas what Raja did that scared him so much. Then maybe I can be scary too.

I creep along outside the wall of the movie star’s home. The guards don’t notice me because I am very quiet. I check up and down the street to make sure no one is looking, then I leap gracefully on top of the wall and down onto the other side.

I am so quiet, I don’t even make a sound.

I slink along silently through the movie star’s garden, which is full of big trees and pretty flowers. I want to stop and look at the flowers but then I remember why I’m here, so I carry on up to the house.

There’s another security guard patrolling around the outside of the house. I wait until he’s by the front door then I run round the side of the house, searching for a room that looks like a little boy’s. One room has big posters of rock bands. I keep searching. One room has photographs of the movie star on the set of his movies. I keep searching. One room has a poster of a rocket ship, a lot of picture books on a bookshelf, and a small bed by the window. This is the one. The window is open and I climb in carefully.

Abbas is there, sleeping. I gently step down onto his bed and it creaks loudly. Abbas wakes up. He looks straight at me for a few seconds and I think he’s going to scream, but instead he smiles and says, “Hello.”

I am a bit shocked. “Hello,” I say back to him.

“What are you doing here?” asks Abbas. “I’ve never had a tiger on my bed before.”

“And I’ve never been on a human’s bed before,” I reply. “I want to know why you don’t find me scary. All the other tigers tell stories about how scary they are and how humans run away from them and hide and scream, but humans never do that for me and I can’t understand it.”

Abbas stops smiling. He thinks for a moment. Then he simply says, “I don’t find tigers scary.”

“What?” I say, even more shocked than before.

“Tigers aren’t scary!” says Abbas, smiling again. “I think tigers are beautiful. There’s only ever been one in this house before, but we gave him some food and a cuddle and he left again soon after. Nobody was scared.”

“That’s Raja,” I say. I couldn’t believe what Abbas was saying “You fed Raja and gave him a cuddle?”

“Yes!” says Abbas. “He was very nice. He wasn’t as beautiful as you, though.”

I try not to smile when Abbas says this but I can’t help it. My mouth spreads wide and I show my big, sharp, shiny teeth by accident. Abbas isn’t scared, though.

“And look at you, sitting here on my bed,” says Abbas. “You aren’t being scary, and I’m not scared of you. Instead, you’re being friendly, and you’re my friend.”

“You’re my friend, too,” I say back. “I think all the other tigers have been lying to me. They tell me they go to houses like this one and scare all the humans inside. Raja told me he came to this house and you got so scared that you went to bed in the middle of the day.”

Abbas laughs and shakes his head. “That’s funny,” he says. “Yes, I think all the other tigers have been lying to you.”

Suddenly, I feel sad. Very sad, in fact. Why would all the tigers lie to me? Abbas sees that I am sad and asks what’s wrong.

“I don’t think the other tigers like me very much if they’ve been lying to me all this time,” I say.

“Nonsense,” says Abbas. He reaches out and strokes the fur on my back. It feels nice and I feel a bit better. “They are lying to you because they want to impress you.”

“I don’t understand,” I say.

“Sometimes, people try to make themselves sounds bigger or more important than they really are. It seems tigers do the same thing,” says Abbas. “They lie about coming into people’s houses and scaring all the humans because it makes them sound big and important. And now you think they are big and important, even though they’re really just tigers like you.”

“I see,” I reply. It’s all starting to make sense.

“So you are not very scary, I’m afraid,” says Abbas. “But you are friendly, and beautiful. Perhaps you should just be happy with that.”

This really makes me smile. “Thank you very much for helping me,” I say to Abbas.

“You’re welcome!” he replies. “Come and play with me during the day sometime.”

“I will,” I reply. And I hop out the window and slink quietly through the garden, past the trees and flowers, until I reach the wall, and I jump silently on top of it and over the other side back into the street.

I go back to all the other tigers. As usual, Raja is telling another story about scaring a house full of humans. He has every tiger’s attention as he spins a tale of terror.

I think back to what Abbas told me about how he fed Raja and gave him a cuddle. As Raja talks about scaring another terrified little boy tonight, I know that Raja probably just got food and a cuddle. This makes me smile.

By Barnaby ‘Kiwichettan’ HM

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ChumChum and the Aeroplane



Now, ChumChum had seen a plane only in her picture books or high up in the sky from her bedroom window. It seemed so very small up there in the sky. If she closed her left eye, she could almost catch one in her fingers. How did this one get so big? Was there a magic potion that would make it shrink when it flew?

ChumChum wondered how the aeroplane flew. She has learned in school that birds fly. Was an aeroplane a bird then? Was she going to sit on a bird with Mama and Dada and fly off to meet Grandma? She giggled at the thought of sitting on the back of a bird while it flew.

“What ChumChum?” asked Dada, when he saw her standing there sucking her thumb, looking lost and happy and giggly.

“Dada, do we sit inside the aeroplane-bird or on its back? Will there be a seat belt like in the car? May I keep Shark with me or will all these people get scared?” asked ChumChum all at once.

Dada laughed “We’ll be inside the aeroplane Miss and…”

“AEROPLANE-BIRD Dada. Only birds can fly!”

“Yes, yes. Aeroplane-bird. We’ll be sitting inside it. There are seat belts just like in the car and Mr Shark can stay with you. Do you want a window seat ChumChum?”

ChumChum squeaked with glee “YES! Mr. Shark, did you hear. We’ll sit at the window and look out and fly through the sky to Grandma”.

“I’m so happy” ChumChum cried as she set off on her newest adventure.

By Ninja Duckie

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Vinka’s new friend

Once upon a time, in a land far far away, there lived a little boy named Vinka. The place Vinka lived in was full of tall green trees that held the juiciest of fruits and huge velvety mountains that were home to the friendliest of birds and animals. Every morning the sun would rise slowly from behind those mountains and spread soft sunlight all around. Tree by tree, fruit by fruit, bird by bird and animal by animal, everyone would be soaked in its cozy warmth. The animals would come to the water front to get a quick drink while the birds would fly from tree to tree and sing many happy tunes. Soon the entire place would be drenched in golden curtains and butterflies would come out to dance. The place was truly a paradise.

But despite being surrounded by such beauty Vinka was a sad boy.

He was an only child to his parents so they showered him with all their attention. They constantly pampered him with all kinds of sweets and other delicacies. They took him to various fun places like the large park where jugglers came and showed off their tricks and magicians arrived grandly on sparkly flying sticks. They took little Vinka on various nature trails where they showed him birds that had wings but could not fly and monkeys that flew from tree to tree without any wings at all! They would show him flowers that were huge but lived on really short plants and fruits that were so tiny yet grew on the tallest trees!

But nothing, it appeared, could make little Vinka genuinely happy.

You see, Vinka was born with nose and ears that weren’t like the rest of the kids he knew. His nose was a bit longer than the ones he had seen and drooped a little towards his mouth. This made his nose look a little like an elephant’s trunk! His ears weren’t tiny and soft like the rest either. They were slightly large, a little rough to touch and stuck out from the sides of his head. The other kids would endlessly tease poor Vinka with the notorious chant “Vinka Vinka never sneeze! Your ears are banana leaves!” every time he made an attempt to befriend them.

All this hurt little Vinka very much and so he would run to his mother erupting into tears. He would hug her tight and ask her “Why ma? Why am I so ugly? Why am I not like the others? Why shouldn’t I ever sneeze? Why are my ears like banana leaves?”

His mother would comfort him with every pleasant word she knew. She would sing him his favorite songs, cook him his favorite dishes and tell him that everything would be alright. But deep down Vinka was convinced – nothing would be alright. He was somehow different and ugly and nothing could be done to fix that. He would have to stay unhappy for the rest of his life. His tears were the only friends he had. They were the only friends he could afford.

With things looking like this, one sunny day Vinka’s grand uncle, Uncle Dwaipa, stopped by.

Now, if there was one person in the whole wide world who could make little unhappy Vinka laugh and dance in joy, even if it was for just a little while, it was Uncle Dwaipa. He would bring along various curious items such as the wooden bear that could sing and dance at the same time! Or the mechanical clock that would tell Vinka the time of the day along with his name! Once, Uncle Dwaipa even brought Vinka a large colorful blanket. He called it the “Secret Mask of Happiness”. It had strange shaped holes and odd looking patterns in it. Whenever Vinka wrapped himself in it the world outside would look strange and odd too! Trees would look upside down. Birds would appear as if they were flying in the ocean. Why, even the kids who tormented little Vinka would appear with no heads or legs! Just floating torsos! His little spot of joy in a life filled with disappointments was Uncle Dwaipa’s blanket. He would wrap himself with it every time he wanted to have a little laugh at the world that was laughing at him.

But that day when Uncle Dwaipa visited, Vinka was in a terrible mood. The moment Uncle Dwaipa walked into the house he knew something was very wrong. Sure, he had walked in before when Vinka would be weeping or some other commotion would be taking place. But never before had there been such a deafening silence in the house. Uncle Dwaipa immediately rushed to Vinka’s room to find him sitting in the corner covered head to toe with the “Secret Mask of Happiness”.

“He has been like this for a few days now!” Vinka’s helpless parents complained to Uncle Dwaipa. “He eats very little, doesn’t want to go out. He even doesn’t sleep properly! He just sits there like that most of the time…” his poor mother said breaking off into sobs. “Please help him!” his father added with sad eyes. “We have tried everything. We have no one else to turn to…” “Let me have a moment with him” said Uncle Dwaipa in his deep baritone after a brief pause. Vinka’s parents left the room slowly. Uncle Dwaipa walked up to Vinka and sat on a large wooden stool right next to him.

“Hello Vinka!” he said and tried to remove the blanket.

“No!” Vinka shouted struggling back. “I don’t want to talk to you! Go away!”

This was very serious matter indeed, Uncle Dwaipa observed. Never before had Vinka reacted like this. All the distractions that he had devised for little Vinka now seemed to have served their purpose. No more mechanical toys, no more magic blankets, no more mind boggling tricks would do. Uncle Dwaipa knew exactly what he had to do next. It was time.

“Very well” he said untying his large bag. “Then I guess you do not want to meet your new friend.”

Vinka’s curiosity was tickled just a wee bit but he shook his head vigorously from within the blanket.

“Ah alright then” Uncle Dwaipa continued. “I guess I will play with your new friend myself. It is such a pity you will never know how brilliant your new friend is!”

Saying thus, Uncle Dwaipa began humming a cheery tune and pulled out something from his bag that seemed quite heavy. Vinka did not react. He continued blinking in the dark of his magic blanket.

“Ah let us see here then” Uncle Dwaipa said placing Vinka’s new friend on the lap.

No sooner had the new friend been produced than Vinka’s nose picked up an unfamiliar fragrance. It wasn’t anything like he had ever smelt before. It was like a mixed concoction of old trees, young leaves and fresh honey. Or was it like the mixture of roots, barks and mud? The sounds it made too were nothing like Vinka had ever heard before. They were like a mix of dry leaves, coarse sand and gentle breeze. Or was it like the mix of shifting feet, water ripples and rain?

Vinka couldn’t tell!

His slightly oversized nose and ears were now starting to itch. He had to find out what it was Uncle Dwaipa had brought.

“Ohoho! This is a good one. Yes it is indeed” Uncle Dwaipa guffawed. “Just look at his big crooked teeth! And he is trying to eat this little man! How stupid! The man has a sword hidden in his shirt!” roared Uncle Dwaipa slapping his thigh and letting out a storm of laughter.

Outside the room Vinka’a parents looked at each other with questioning eyes.

“O no! Don’t do that you silly ape!” Uncle Dwaipa continued, the rustling sound accompanying his monolog. “That blind crocodile will eat you because it is not really blind! It is all a drama you clueless beast!”

From the corner of his eye Uncle Dwaipa could notice a blanket wrapped figure stirring in increasing curiosity. He could sense the rising levels of impatience emanating from that blanket. It wouldn’t be long now.

“Five and five isn’t eight you silly bird! Did you not learn mathematics? How much is five and five? Everyone knows that! Even our Vinka does! Don’t you?” asked Uncle Dwaipa now turning towards Vinka.

“It is ten!” screamed the little boy finally flinging off the blanket and jumping onto Uncle Dwaipa’s side.

What he saw next was the most beautiful thing he had ever laid eyes upon his whole life. Uncle Dwaipa held in his lap a large box like object which contained hundreds of rectangle-shaped, smooth-surfaced, thin slices of bark. The top edge of all these slices had tiny holes in them through which slim strands of threads ran and held them all together. This mechanism made it possible to turn the slices back and forth! And on each of those smooth barks he saw such colorful illustrations! There was the blue of the sky, the red of the berries, the green of the grasshopper, the yellow of the flowers – it was like a rainbow of shapes. It was, Vinka thought at first glance, even better than the magic blanket. This new friend did not change his vision of things that weren’t different in reality. On the contrary it remained as it was and allowed Vinka to choose what he wanted to see. This was better than magic!

As Uncle Dwaipa slowly turned over each slice of bark more colors and more drawings became visible. Vinka now saw creatures in them that he had never seen before. A boy with three heads and four arms! A girl with large angry eyes, her red tongue sticking out in thirst and ten arms! A creature that had the head of a horse and the body of a man! Another creature had no body at all! Just a flying head that could look around and spit out fire whenever it yawned!

Vinka quickly elbowed out the large frame of Uncle Dwaipa and buried his face into the barks. His slightly long nose and slightly large ears were alert now. He would giggle when a large bellied king was chased by a very short man holding an even smaller wooden umbrella in his hand. He would cackle when a boar-faced beast with two long white horns was shown running away with the entire earth in its hands! He couldn’t stop laughing when he saw hundreds of tiny sweaty men trying to wake up an incredibly large and extremely sleepy giant!

“Who are these people Uncle Dwaipa?” Vinka asked amid bouts of laughter.

“They? O, why they are all part of a very long and the most adventurous story!” said Uncle Dwaipa taking the little boy in his arms.

“Which story Uncle Dwaipa? Tell me tell me! Please tell me!” implored an impatient Vinka.

“Not today my dear child” said Uncle Dwaipa in an assuring tone. “Today I want you to play with this new friend of yours. Look at these people, these creatures and see how different and odd and crazy they are. How strange yet how interesting they look! The next time I come you should be ready to tell me one story using them. But remember you can only tell me one story so make sure it is a good one! Can you do that?”

Vinka thought about it for a minute. This was an interesting challenge. All these days his mother would tell him stories. But he would never be able to change them the way he wanted to. Now he was being given a chance to make up his own using such a wide range of absolutely hilarious characters! He liked the idea immensely.

“Yes! Yes!” he screamed. Despite his small stature Vinka grabbed the collection of barks from Uncle Dwaipa and keenly began looking at the drawings one by one, clapping to himself in pure joy. Uncle Dwaipa got up and walked out of the room leaving Vinka with his new friend. Outside the room his parents stood waiting with eager and puzzled eyes.

“Do not worry” Uncle Dwaipa told them. “Vinka may no longer want to go out and play. He may no longer wish to see magicians perform tricks. He may no longer want to befriend other kids. But that is alright. I have introduced him to the only friend he will ever need. But know this – from this point forward Vinka will never be sad again.”

Vinka’s parents looked a little relieved but questions still remained. Just as they were about to ask something they heard Vinka’s echoing laughter from the room. They had never heard Vinka laugh with such pleasure. They realized Uncle Dwaipa had created some magic, as always. So they didn’t say a word. They just looked at each other and smiled, happy that Vinka had finally found what he was looking for.

Uncle Dwaipa continued to visit little Vinka for several years after that day. Each time he would bring along a new better looking friend of the same kind. With each visit he would sit and listen patiently to the fascinating stories Vinka had made up using his imagination. He had given the creatures he had seen various names and added some amazingly interesting incidents to each one of them. He would stand and enact various scenes from his stories as Uncle Dwaipa and the parents would sit and watch their little boy with tears of joy.

Then one day, many years later, Vinka got another visit from his grand uncle. This time Uncle Dwaipa didn’t bring along any new friends. Instead he brought with him several blank slices of smooth-surfaced bark, a few big bottles of black ink and several beautifully carved sandalwood pens.

This time Uncle Dwaipa wanted Vinka to write something.

PS:Given that Ganesha Chaturthi celebrations are agog all around I wanted to use the premise of Ganesha being the scribe for the Indian epic Mahabharata at the behest of the sage Veda Vyasa (or Krishna Dwaipayana, as he was originally called). This piece is based on that idea where Vyasa (Uncle Dwaipa here) essentially trains Ganesha (Vinka here) for such a gigantic project by first introducing him to his own imagination. 

By ShaKri

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Two Tigers roamed the Land of Thing

Two tigers roamed the Land of Thing
(two very scary tigers)
These tigers prowled the Fields of Floor
And scratched upon the Cliffs of Door
And as they did, they meowed… err… ROARRED
These very scary tigers.

Two tigers roamed the Land of Thing
(two very hungry tigers)
They crouched, their tails going forth and back,
Ready to spring in for the attack!
Luckily daddy filled bowls with snacks
For the very hungry tigers.

Two tigers roamed the Land of Thing
(two very silly tigers)
They leapt to catch the torch… err… moon,
tumbled down Sofa Cushion Dune,
rolled in the Island of Sunny Afternoon,
these very silly tigers.

A princess lived in the Land of Thing
(a very clever princess)
She watched the tigers roam her land,
She fed them with her royal hand,
She got her mama to clean out their sand,
This very clever princess.

Two tigers sat down near Princess Thing
(two very sleepy tigers)
With their little paws, they gave her a tap,
She pulled them on to her royal lap
And they settled down for a loooong cat nap,
Those funny, furry tigers.

By Genesia Alves

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