New Year was only a month away. Preparations were on in full swing for the New Year party celebrations.
The local market was full of activity and different shops and stalls were selling decorative items, delicious snacks and were open day and night.
Meeku mouse bought traditional hand-crafted cushions, Blacky bear bought some exquisite copper and brass jars filled with honey, and Teetu butterfly picked up some shiny and colourful bangles.
Meanwhile, Jumpy monkey looked very pleased bringing an expensive, embroidered carpet and scented candles.
Baddy fox was decorating his cottage with ornate lighting fixtures and mirrors.
King Shersingh was not too fond of grand celebrations and huge spending.
In the first week of December, Shersingh called for a meeting,
Shersingh said, “Dear friends! Thank you for coming on such short notice. I wanted to talk to all of you regarding the upcoming New Year celebrations. While it is great to see everyone so happy and festive, it concerns me that a lot of hard-earned money is being spent on buying harmful crackers, toys and items made from toxic plastic substances.”
“These things are dangerous to one’s health and also bad for the environment,” said Shersingh with a serious expression.
Cheeku rabbit was now puzzled. He asked, “In that case, what will we gift our friends and relatives? Most shops are selling these items.”
“You may present them fresh fruits, dry fruits, honey, flowers, and fresh saplings for their gardens,” Shersingh suggested.
“Sir, what about you? We were thinking of giving you a gift. What would you like for New Year?” asked Blacky.
“Hmm. I would prefer something environment-friendly. In fact, this is a great moment for everyone in Champakvan to come up with some really good eco-friendly ideas.”
Everyone was excited now. They all asked, “What do you want sir? Tell us!”
“I want a crystal jar full of dew, a pumpkin fitted in a surahi (a bottle-necked earthen pot), and a bright New Year night without using any electric bulbs, oil and candles. Whoever manages to accomplish this, I will declare that person to be the pride of Champakvan and also my environment minister!”
“Wow! This is unbelievable!” many animals exclaimed, surprised by the unique contest that Shersingh had announced and also the huge reward accompanying it.
“This is impossible,” said Jumpy monkey.
“I have never heard of such a thing before!” Cheeku said, scratching his head with his furry paws.
Meanwhile, Meeku mouse was excited. He was always coming up with new and unique solutions to different problems.
Days went past quickly and it was finally New Year’s Eve.
Everyone arrived in their best outfits, carrying flowers and bouquets, to Sher Singh’s palace lawns.
A grand spread of tea, coffee, muffins and other food items were laid out.
However, Meeku was nowhere to be seen. It was strange because everyone had been expecting a lot from him. The animals started whispering among themselves.
“What a shame! After so much promise, Meeku didn’t even come.”
“Meeku should have never taken upon himself such a difficult task. Now regretting, I am sure.”
It was soon night. According to Sher Singh’s orders for the contest, all artificial lights were switched off around midnight. It was pitch dark. Suddenly, the entire jungle became bright and lit.
There was Meeku mouse standing among them, with a beautiful crystal jar full of dew and an earthen mug with fresh and ripe pumpkin.
Everyone, including Shersingh, exclaimed in wonder.
“How did you manage all of this? This is a miracle!” said Shersingh.
Meeku said, “I will explain all of it step by step. It was a long process and involved a lot of mental work. So, for the first task, I took a thick layer of cotton and spread it on my terrace every night, for three weeks. In the morning, I squeezed and poured the dew from the cotton into the vase. Drop by drop, the crystal jar was filled with dew.”
Blacky bear had his doubts.
Blacky said “How do we know this water is dew? You could have simply filled it from the riverside. Show some proof!”
Meeku replied “I knew this would be asked so I got it certified from the laboratory of water testing, located in Madhuban jungle across the valley. You may confirm it with them if you like!”
“We believe you. The Madhuban jungle laboratory is well-known across the country. Now tell us about your second task!” said Shersingh, full of curiosity.
“For the second task, I placed this earthen vase near the climber of the pumpkin and put a very tender sapling inside the vase. Day by day, it became bigger and now the surahi is filled with the pumpkin,” explained Meeku.
“It didn’t take much, to be honest. Just a simple, logical puzzle,” said Meeku, humbly.
The crowd was quite impressed.
“And what about these bright lights all over? This looks like a natural glow! No electric light or candle is on right now,” said Shersingh.
“Yes, this was quite a difficult task. However, with a little brainstorming, I took phosphorus, a non-metallic element that occurs naturally in different phosphate rocks and appears luminous in the dark and applied it on thousands of small, dry twigs and requested my friends, the sparrows and the sunbirds, to carry these twigs to their nests on the occasion of New Year’s Eve.
I also requested the fireflies to come. Huge thanks to all of them. That is why this was possible!” said Meeku mouse.
“Three cheers for the birds and the fireflies and for Meeku!”, everyone applauded again.
Shersingh honoured Meeku in front of the entire jungle, pleased with his hard work, efforts and declared him as the new environment minister of Champakvan.
There were happiness and laughter everywhere.