Amar was the owner of the biggest sweet shop in town. Two days before Diwali, he called all his workers and said, “Day after tomorrow is Diwali and many customers have placed huge orders. So, we need to complete these orders and also make sweets for further sale. I’m sure we will be sold out before the festival begins.”
“Sir, we don’t have enough ingredients to deliver the orders,” said Govind, one of the workers.
“Hmm. But it’s too late to get more ingredients. Our suppliers will charge us much more than the usual rate,” said Amar.
He looked at his workers and said, “This should not be your concern. Dilute the milk by adding water to increase its quantity. Use all the old ingredients to make new sweets. Now get to work.”
“But sir, our sweets won’t taste as delicious as before and there’s a chance people will fall ill if, we use bad quality ingredients and dilute the milk,” said another worker.
“You all do as I say and don’t worry about quality. Just think of the profit we will earn and the big bonus I will give after Diwali,” said Amar, not listening to them.
Without saying anything more, the workers returned to the kitchen and began making the sweets. They worked overnight and filled the trays and boxes, completing old orders and making new sweets for sale. Once done, they left to go home.
As soon as they left, the king of sweets, Rasgulla, stood up in the tray. Dripping with water and milk, he stepped out and called for a meeting of all the sweets. Soan Papdi, Rasmalai, Rewari, Chandrakala, Batasha, Motichoor laddoo, Barfi, Gulab Jamun and Imarti hopped out of their trays and gathered around Rasgulla.
King Rasgulla said, “Tonight is going to be our last night here. Tomorrow we will be in different houses. Let’s celebrate before we are packed and sent off.”
Hearing him, all sweets rejoiced except Imarti.
“I know everyone is in a celebratory mood but our maker hasn’t used the best quality of ingredients to make us. I don’t feel healthy at all. Yet, he wants to sell us to small children who are unaware that we might not be good for them. I don’t look delicious also,” cried Imarti.
“This is true. I would have looked better if the milk and cream used to make me weren’t diluted. There’s another strange sticky ingredient in my body. I think it’s flour,” said Rasmalai, squiggling in the milk.
Rewari looked disturbed and said, “Amar puts too much sugar in me. I think I have got diabetes and will give diabetes to all those who eat me.” All the sweets laughed at Rewari’s statement.
“This is a serious situation. I feel sick, too. I think I’m going to get a heart attack any time and I’ve never felt so weak before,” cried Barfi.
Listening to all the sweets, King Rasgulla said, “This is a matter of great concern. If we are not healthy, then people eating us will get sick. They will not enjoy eating us and will throw us into the drain and in garbage dumps. That will be very insulting.”
“What should we do, King Rasgulla?” asked Motichoor laddoo.
“I think it’s time to revolt against this cheating. We should go to Amar right now and demand that he remakes us using only pure ingredients. Let’s go together and voice against this adulteration,” declared King Rasgulla.
“Yes, let’s revolt!” shouted Jalebi. All the sweets gathered and shouting slogans, walked towards Amar’s house at night.
“Unhealthy sweets, unhealthy people!”
“Don’t spoil our name for profit!”
“Pure is equal to sure!”
“Whoever makes adulterated sweets, will be doomed forever!”
“Long live pure sweets, down with Amar’s greed.”
Hearing these slogans, Amar woke up, sweating all over. “What a terrible nightmare! The sweets looked sick. What if someone comes to know that I used diluted ingredients? What if the sweets really revolt? What will happen to me!” he exclaimed.
The next morning, he gathered his workers and said, “Throw all the old adulterated sweets. We will only use pure ingredients to make our sweets. We have a responsibility towards the health and well-being of our customers.”
The workers were shocked to hear this but were happy at their boss’s decision. “What do you think made him change his mind?” whispered one worker to another.
“The sweets may have threatened him,” replied another worker and that made everyone laugh.
From that day onwards, Amar’s shop was known for making the best and purest sweets in town. And he was happy for making profits without cheating.
Neel’s exams were over and Diwali vacations had just begun. He and his friends would gather to play in the park everyday. After sunset, they all walked to Neel’s house to watch television together. They played video games for a while and finally bade goodbye to each other. The next day, they did the same and a week later, they were bored of this routine.
“We have so many holidays left! What else can we do?” asked Sahil, impatiently, one day.
“Let’s think of something fun. I’m bored of playing the same games,” agreed Neel.
Neel’s grandparents had just came back for lunch after closing their stationery shop and saw the children sitting quietly in the living room. “What’s the matter, Neel? Why are you and your friends looking so bored?” asked dadi.
“We have so many holidays before school begins. And we’re bored of watching television and playing video games.What else can we do in our free time? Dadi, do you have suggestions to make our holidays more exciting?” asked Neel.
“I may have a suggestion,” said dadaji.
“Please tell us,” said Rohan, his eyes sparkling
“Would you all like to learn to make lanterns? When we were kids, we used to make lanterns to decorate our homes for Diwali. I’ll teach you!” said dadaji.
“That’s a wonderful idea!” said Chinmay, his eyes twinkling like the lights of a lantern.
“And I shall teach you how to make greeting cards for Diwali,” said dadi.
“Dadi, can you also show us how to make diyas?” asked Dipti. “Of course! Let’s go back to our stationery shop and pick all the material we need to make these things,” said dadi.
After that, Neel’s friends would come every afternoon and make lanterns, greeting cards, and colourful diyas.
Neel’s grandparents helped them. Soon, Neel’s house was full of Diwali decorations and cards.
“What do we do with all these now?” asked Neel. “Take a lantern, greeting card and a diya for your homes. We can display the rest of the decorations at our stationery shop for sale. Till then, you all think of what you would like to do with the money we earn from selling them,” said dadi.
Neel’s friends excitedly helped dadi and dadaji display their diya decorations at the stationery shop. ‘Made with Love’ was their motto and in a few days, all items were sold out.
A day before Diwali, all of them went to Neel’s grandparents and said, “Tomorrow is Diwali. We would like to celebrate it with kids from the orphanage near our society. We will use the money to buy sweets, clothes and some crackers for them that we can burst together.”
“That’s a great idea! With this, we all will have a brighter Diwali!” said dadi.
Next day, Neel, his grandparents and all his friends went to the orphanage and spent a great and memorable Diwali together!
Halloween was round the corner, but instead of carving pumpkins and dressing up in their favourite costumes, and going house to house asking for chocolates, there was complete chaos at Sea View Housing Society where people had gathered in large numbers.
Police was patrolling the area. Inspector Piyush Bhosle, was being questioned by the media as he had discovered an alien today!
Inspector Piyush claimed that he had seen an alien in the jungle next to the Sea View Housing society.
The alien’s body was buried in the ground from the neck below and only his face was visible.
From a distance, Inspector Piyush said, it looked as if a helmet was covering the alien’s head and a mask covering its mouth and nose, which made him look fascinating.
The mask had something painted on it that Inspector Piyush said was not seen before. The police had closed the entire area and nobody was allowed to go close to the alien.
People were trying to get a glimpse of the alien from a distance and whispering among themselves. Inspector Piyush was being interviewd by a journalist from a local newspaper about this strange discovery.
Inspector Piyush answered his questions in a serious tone and explained about his investigation, “After last night’s thunder and lightning, a woman from Shyama Society noticed something unusual in the jungle and called me. I went to the spot she had said and to my surprise discovered an alien wearing a mask just like us.”
“It proves that the planet that the alien has come from has also been infected with the coronavirus or that the residents of that planet are aware of the crises on Earth. It is also possible that they know it can spread to their planet as well and hence they have taken the precaution of wearing a mask. Or
this alien brought the disease to our planet and is now caught.”
Inspector Piyush had informed his headquarters about the alien and a team of scientists were on their way to the town to verify it.
He was pleased about his achievement and had started dreaming of his name being published in the newspaper and getting a reward. After all, it was because of him that an alien had been caught.
To take the entire credit for the discovery he had sent the original witness away and also threatened her to keep her mouth shut.
Soon, the team of scientists arrived. Inspector Piyush took them to the site where the alien was buried. The team wore their protective gears before moving close to the alien. The police guns were all pointed towards the alien in the event of an attack.
One of the scientists lightly pushed the helmet with the help of a stick. The head of the alien rolled to the ground. The gathered crowd screamed with fear and started to run but the scientist was taken aback.
He took off his protective helmet and looked at Inspector Piyush with rage.
He bent down and picked up the alien head and angrily threw it at Inspector Piyush who screamed with fear and almost lost consciousness when he saw the alien head coming towards him.
The alien head hit Inspector Piyush on his head and he lost his balance.
His throat dried up as he looked closely at the alien head. He picked it up and was surprised to see it was a wooden head wearing a cloth mask.
First understanding and then being horrified at the blunder he had committed, he looked at the scientists and stuttered, “I am sorry, Sirs and Maams. Mrs Meena from Shyama Society said that she saw something odd and the moment I saw this head, I thought it was an alien. How would I have known what an alien looked like?”
In the mean-time, the news of the alien head had spread like wildfire.
A pair of siblings reached the spot with their dog to claim the wooden head with the mask. Ravi said, “Uncle, head is ours. We were preparing for the upcoming Halloween festival. I was supposed to be China, my sister India and this wooden head was coronavirus.”
“My sister had painted a flag on the mask but our dog Buzo sat on it so it looks eerie. We were playing at home with it and Buzo was not pleased by it. He grabbed the head in his mouth and ran away. Buzo returned after a long time and the head was missing when he came back. I want to thank you for finding our head. Can we please take it with us?”
Grinding his teeth, Inspector Piyush gave them the head.
As he saw them leaving with it, he could see his fortune leaving with them. He started preparing himself for the huge scolding that he was about to receive instead of the reward that he had imagined. This was his worst Halloween.
Ojas and his friends were wondering about their Dusshera celebrations this year. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, it had become difficult to even move out of their houses.
Physical distancing did not allow huge gatherings and so it was impossible to build the Ravan effigy, which they normally built and burnt every year on Dusshera.
“I cannot think of any way we can build the effigy this year? Do you guys have any suggestions?” Ojas asked his friends over a video call.
“We cannot just sit at home during the festival; we have always celebrated it with great pomp and show,” said Saavan.
“Saavan is right; we have to think of a way to celebrate the festival while following all precautions of wearing a mask and keeping a safe distance from each other,” Chandan added.
“But how will we make the Ravan effigy? It takes at least two to three days to do that. We can’t possibly meet and build it. We have to think of something else,” said Saavan.
“Let us all think about it and discuss in the evening,” Ojas suggested and disconnected the video call.
Ojas was still thinking about it when his grandfather saw him looking worried. He asked, “What is it, Ojas? What is bothering you?”
“Nothing Grandpa. I am just lost in my thoughts,” said Ojas.
“Oh Ojas! I know when you are lost in your thoughts and troubled,” Grandpa insisted.
“I was just wondering how we can celebrate Dusshera this year, Grandpa. The Dusshera fair has also been cancelled due to the coronavirus,” Ojas said sadly.
“Let’s think, Ojas. Festivals are meant to be happy events, not sad ones. Dusshera can be a very special and unique experience this year given the circumstances,” Grandpa consoled.
“Special? How so, Grandpa?” asked Ojas.
“By making people understand that the coronavirus is the evil of these times and we have to be ready to fight it and overcome it. We have to also prepare those who are not yet ready,” Grandpa explained.
“We are prepared, Grandpa. My friends and I make sure that we wash our hands regularly; we leave our houses only when it is absolutely necessary and we always wear a mask outside the house. Also, we use the sanitiser at all times,” Ojas said proudly.
“That is wonderful, but I believe a lot of people are still unable to understand the significance of these rules. You can still notice small children, adults and the elderly without face masks. You see educated people eating near food stalls without their masks and not maintaining a social distance.”
“People are still spitting on roads and some believe there is no virus at all. We can educate them and distribute face masks, soaps and sanitisers to these people. And also put up posters about how to prevent the spread of coronavirus,” Grandpa explained.
“That’s an excellent idea, Grandpa!
The money we would have spent on building an effigy of Ravan can be used to buy these products. Let me present this idea to my friends and make this a memorable Dusshera for all of us,” Ojas said excitedly.
“But, do make sure that you take good care of yourself and your friends. Here, take some money,” said Grandpa.
“Thanks a lot, Grandpa,” Ojas said.
Ojas was extremely happy with the idea and he called his friends and explained Grandpa’s idea to all of them.
“Let us withdraw some money out of our piggy banks and buy these essential products. Later we can go and distribute them to the residents. We can also educate them on how they can prevent getting infected by wearing a face mask and by washing their hands regularly,” Ojas further explained.
All his friends immediately agreed. They decided to meet on the day of Dusshera.
Ojas disconnected the call and counted the money in his piggy bank. His friends did the same.
They all bought face masks, soaps and sanitisers with the money they had collected.
They then put a small table outside their colony and spoke to various people about the benefits of using face masks and maintaining hygiene to prevent the spread of the virus.
They put up posters explaining the concept of maintaining a social distance and not spitting on the streets as well as of not eating in crowded places together.
Spreading happiness on the day of Dusshera was a beautiful experience for Ojas and his friends.
It made them confident that they would now be able to conquer the evil of the coronavirus together.
They walked back happily to their respective houses after the distribution.
Danny deer, Meeku rabbit, Gogo giraffe and Jumpy monkey were close friends.
This year, for the Dussehra Mela they had each got `50 from their parents and the four friends were excited about going to the fair. Today was the last day of the fair when Ram kills Ravan.
On the Ramlila ground, tall puppets of Ravan, Kumbhakarna and Meghnad were built on one side. On the other side of the ground, the stage was set where the Ramlila play was taking place. As soon as Ram took out an arrow and shot Ravan with it, all the three puppets were on fire.
After seeing them burn, the four friends went to visit the various stalls. The fair looked lively with decorated sweet, toy, and flower and pottery shops. There were many swings for children to ride on and there was a balloon shooting counter. There were huge cut-outs of heroes and heroines, which anyone could take a photograph with. There was a long queue for the same.
There were chat-pakodi, golgappa, lassi and peppery chowmein stalls, where everyone was eating delicious food.
Some small shopkeepers were selling their goods on the streets by displaying them on bedsheets.
At the fair, Meeku, Gogo and Jumpy were craving to eat the mouth-watering food items.
Meeku enjoyed hot gajar halwa, Gogo had golgappas and Jumpy who was fond of bananas, ate a lot of them.
However, Danny was not interested in food. His eyes were searching for something, but he could not find it.
Meeku, Gogo and Jumpy took a ride on the giant Ferris Wheel. Meeku then bought Ravan’s gleaming sword. Gogo bought Ram’s bow and arrow and Jumpy bought Hanuman’s mace.
“Hey, Danny! Why aren’t you buying anything? Do you intend to save all the money and take it back home?” said Meeku, holding the sword on his shoulder.
Gogo and Jumpy laughed at this. Gogo held the bow on his left hand and arrow in the right hand like Ram. He felt as if he was Ram. Holding the mace on his shoulder, Jumpy felt no less than Hanuman.
Danny could still not find anything for himself. Then he saw Blacky bear, selling clay flowerpots. Blacky was waiting for customers.
As Danny saw the flowerpots, he remembered the day when Environment Day was celebrated at school.
Forest Officer, Jeetu cheetah had visited school as Chief Guest, and had explained, “Dear children, trees give us oxygen to breathe. They provide us with fresh fruits and medicines to stay healthy. Trees are essential to life. But, the biggest enemy of the environment, like the demon king Ravan, is air pollution, which can be defeated only by planting more trees.”
As he remembered the Forest Officer’s words, Danny thought that the true meaning of Dusshera is to fight various evils in the form of Ravan. He thought of fighting the demon ‘air pollution’ by growing plants and trees.
He went to Blacky and asked, “Uncle, how much for a flowerpot?”
“Son, a flowerpot costs `30.”
After bargaining for a while, Danny bought two pots for `50.
The flowerpots were so heavy that Danny could not carry them in his hands. So he held both on his shoulders.
Seeing this, Meeku took out his gleaming sword from its sheath and said, “Danny, are flowerpots to be bought from a fair? Look at my sword. It can cut off the enemy’s neck in a single blow.”
Saying this, Meeku started brandishing his sword in the air. Danny stepped back in fear. But as Meeku twirled the fake sword vigorously, its fragile handle broke away, leaving the blade apart.
Meeku was disappointed. He had no other option but to put the broken sword back into its sheath.
Seeing this, Gogo said, “Meeku’s sword is fake. Look at my bow and arrow. These are real. One single arrow is enough to destroy the enemy!”
Gogo then pulled the bowstring to shoot the arrow. But as soon as he pulled the bowstring, it broke. Poor Gogo was embarrassed and started tying both ends of the broken string.
It was now Jumpy’s turn to show off. Twirling his mace, he said, “Danny, look at my mace. If I hit your flowerpots with it, they will break into pieces.”
Danny was scared as he knew Jumpy was very naughty. He held on to the flowerpots even more firmly.
Jumpy hit Danny’s flowerpots hard with his mace, but to everyone’s surprise, Danny’s flowerpots remained intact and the mace quashed!
It was disappointing for Jumpy to see his mace in such a state. He started fixing his dented mace. After this incident, Meeku, Gogo and Jumpy walked back home quietly. There was no point in boasting, as each one’s weapon had broken, whereas Danny was walking proudly with his flowerpots.
When Danny reached home, his mother asked, “Why did you bring these flowerpots? You had gone to the fair to eat and have fun.”
“Mummy, you prepare such delicious food that in its comparison, I found all the food dishes and drinks at the fair tasteless. This is why I did not eat anything. Now I am hungry. Is dinner ready?”
Danny’s mother hugged him and laid out the dinner.
The next day, Danny planted saplings in both the flowerpots and took utmost care of them. Within a few weeks, both the plants grew taller. One day Meeku, Gogo and Jumpy visited Danny’s house. He showed them the green plants in the flowerpots and they were amazed to see them. They could not stop themselves from taking selfies with the lush green plants.
Now Meeku, Gogo and Jumpy decided that they too will save their pocket money like Danny and buy flowerpots and grow plants in their homes. These plants would not only last longer but they will also help in keeping the environment clean and help in fighting the Ravan of ‘air pollution’.