Hassan Cooks Halwa

The chinar trees were dotted with snow, glistening like crystals. The whooshing winds signalled winter was here. It was a Sunday and usually, the children would have been running, chasing each other through the maze of the narrow streets of Srinagar. But Sundays had been deserted for more than three months in this city.

Hassan came and plopped himself on the soft carpet. The school was shut and Hassan missed his friends.

He looks at the clock and wonders if it’s time for lunch. He can hear marching sounds coming from the street. These sounds startled him but before he could react, he heard the sound of pots and pans coming from the kitchen.

He grins and pats his belly and tiptoes to peep in.

Though there had been rationing of potatoes for the last month and a half, because markets had been shut, yet Ammi had been able to cook his favourite dum aloo, this Sunday.

When he peers in, Hassan is surprised to see Abba not Ammi in the kitchen.

“Hassan, have you finished the lesson for the day?” asks Abba as he turns around with a ladle full of dum aloo in his hand. Abba and Ammi have been taking turns at homeschooling Hassan.

“Yes, Abba. But, where’s Ammi?” he asked.

Abba used to ferry tourists on the Dal Lake in his beautiful shikara during the summers and used the boat to transport flowers during the winters. But there had been no tourists for the past three months, forcing him to lock the shikara and help Ammi to weave shawls.

“Where is Ammi and why are you cooking?” Hassan asked suspiciously. While he has seen Abba cook before, he always associated cooking with Ammi.

“It’s my cooking Sunday, beta. Ammi has gone to find some work. Shall I set the table for lunch?” Abba asks and smiles.

“Yes Abba. But what’s for dessert?” Hassan looks at Abba and asks, impatient to hear his answer.

“Ammi didn’t have time to cook dessert and I didn’t cook one,” Abba says, sadly.

Hassan could feel his heart drooping like an autumn flower. Sundays were always about dum aloo and halwa.

Abba pats Hassan’s head, “Do you think we can make some halwa, together?”

“Yes, Abba,” he said, his face lighting up.

“Okay. Which halwa would you like me to make? How about apple halwa?” said Abba and pointed to the huge sack of apples lying in the corner of the kitchen.

Amir chacha had gifted them two sacks of apples a few days ago and Abba had accepted one. Hassan was used to fresh apples from the market in the autumn and winter seasons, but markets had been shut and he was glad to receive the gift.

He remembered the expression on chacha’s face when he had come home. Walking on roads was forbidden, crowds were forbidden, schools and colleges were closed, playing on the roads were not allowed and Hassan barely remembered the ring of a mobile phone.

And then there was a curfew at odd times. He hadn’t experienced silence like this, ever before.

“Abba, why did Amir chacha give us a sack full of apples?” he asked.

“Amir chacha is trying to distribute all his apples because the markets have been shut and he doesn’t want the apples to rot. He sells apples to earn money.”

“But why are the markets shut every day, Abba?” Hassan asks the same question for the nth time.

Abba turns around and looks at Hassan, his eyes bleak, “There have been some huge changes in our lives. It will all be back to normal soon, beta. Let’s make some apple halwa.”

“What changes, Abba?” Hassan asks again.

Abba sighs and responds, “There has been a major constitutional change
in our state, the state of Jammu and Kashmir.”

“What constitutional change, Abba?” Hassan tries to remember if he was taught the meaning of the Constitution at school.

“There was an Article 370, which was specially made for our state of Jammu and Kashmir that has been revoked.”

“What’s revoke, Abba?”

“The meaning of revoke is to cancel, Hassan.”

“Why was the Article cancelled, Abba?”

“Because the Indian government felt that was the right thing to do.”

“What does this ‘revoking’ change mean?”

“Hassan, in simple words, there was a law, which provided Jammu and Kashmir with a special status and a separate set of laws. That has been cancelled.”

“Does that mean we are not special anymore?” Hassan’s asked with his eyes open wide.

Abba says nothing.

“Abba, I miss school. I miss my friends,” says Hassan, his eyes welling up and
he sniffles.

Abba envelops Hassan in a tight hug and wipes his eyes. “Shall we make some halwa, beta?

“How can I help?” Hassan nods vigorously as he wipes his face on his sleeves.

Abba picks up some apples and slices them. “Can you get me some sugar?”

Hassan looks at the colourful jars and sees sugar and lifts his arm and pulls down the small tin.

“Now, we let the apples boil and soften and then add some ghee,” Abba picks some orange strands from a small metal tin.

“What’s that, Abba?” Hassan asks as he pulls the ghee bottle from the counter.
“This is saffron. It’s not only tasty but also very good for digestion. So are apples, they are very healthy,” Abba replies.

“I will have two bowls of halwa today.” Hassan grins back at Abba.

Abba ladles ghee into the pot of stewing apple. The kitchen smells of fresh sweetness and Hassan takes a deep breath. Abba adds sugar and stirs again.

Stirring, stirring, stirring. Hassan looks at the way Abba moves the ladle around. Abba cuts some pistachios and almonds and sprinkles them along with the saffron on the top of the cooked halwa. He scoops up some and gives it to Hassan. Hasan tastes the freshness of saffron, the crunch of pistachios and the sweet deliciousness and feels he is in food paradise.

“Do you like it, Hassan?” Abba asks as he lays out the table for lunch.

“I love it, Abba.” Hassan hugs Abba around his waist and looks up at him.

There’s laughter and chatter as they eat lunch. Later, taking a big bowl of halwa, Hassan holds Abba’s hand and walks up to Amir chacha’s house. Ringing the bell, Hassan waits impatiently.

Amir chacha opens the door and smiles looking at Hassan.

“Chacha, we made halwa from the apples you gave.” Hassan jumps up and down with excitement as he gifts the bowl to Amir chacha who invites them in.

As Hassan walks into the courtyard and looks at the piles of apple bundles lying in an adjacent room, sacks bursting at the seams.

“Chacha, there are so many apples. What are you going to do with them?” Hassan bursts out, unexpectedly.

Amir chacha attempts to cover the look of dejection on his face. “I don’t know, beta. I really don’t know.” Abba places his hand on chacha’s shoulder.

Hassan and Abba return home. With two bowls of halwa, they sit down as the crows’ caw. Hassan bites into the almonds with a loud crunch.

“Do you know about the goodness of pistachios and almonds?” Abba asks Hassan. Hassan shakes his head.

“Almonds are full of vitamins and pistachios have minerals.”

“What do vitamins and minerals do, Abba?”

“They will make you a strong boy, Hassan.”

Hassan grins and gives a generous scoop of his halwa to a beady-eyed crow.

“Do we need vitamins and minerals to become a good person, Abba?”

Abba looks adoringly at little Hassan.

“You just need a good and kind heart for that, Hassan.”

“Abba, I just made up a poem. Would you like to listen?” Hassan bursts into a song before Abba could say anything.

Halwa, yummy and hot, Apples, stewed and soft, Almonds, sprinkle a bunch, Pistas, for that crunch, Saffron’s orange to greet, Halwa, oh so sweet!

The house echoes with their sound while dusk slowly sets in and all is silent again. The sound of marching feet faintly fills up the void.

Angel Of Forest!

One day in Chandanvan forest, many four-legged animals gathered together. They were unhappy. Seeing them unhappy, Mittu parrot who was sitting on the tree, asked, “What happened friends, why do all of you look so sad today?”

“Mittu, nature has been unfair to us,” replied Teju horse.

“How has nature been unfair? It has given us a good life, good health and energy. What else could we want?” asked Mittu.

Before Teju could say something, Golu elephant interrupted, “Injustice has been done with us!”

“What kind of injustice?” asked Mittu.

“Nature has blessed human beings with two legs and has taught them to walk upright. They look so beautiful and stately. They can wear different kinds of clothes. But we have to walk on four legs. If we too had two legs, we could walk straight and wear fashionable clothes.”

“But, in spite of having four legs, we all still look so good,” Mittu tried to explain.

“You are only saying this to make us feel better. We don’t look good at all, walking on four legs,” said a disappointed Golu.

The animals started complaining amongst themselves. They were all looking for a solution.

Suddenly, an angel appeared and asked them, “How can I help you all? There seems to be some problem.”

Lambu giraffe asked excitedly, “Can you teach us how to walk on two legs? We want to walk on two legs.”

“Of course! That’s a very simple wish. I can easily make you all walk on two legs,” said the angel.

Saying this, she turned her wand around and chanted something. Then, she asked all the animals to close their eyes for two minutes. After two minutes when they opened their eyes, they were excited to see that they were standing on two legs.

“Thank you, angel! Today our wish has been fulfilled. We are very happy now!” they said excitedly.

“I am leaving now. If you need anything in the future, you can call me by saying ‘Hey forest angel, please come and fulfil my wish and I will appear in front of you,” said the angel and she left.

Teju, Lambu, Bholu, Golu and Ballu were overjoyed, walking on two legs.

After walking for a while, Golu started panting. Mittu came to sit on his back and asked him, “Why are you panting?”

The truth was that, Golu was panting because his two legs could not bear the weight of his body. Without his other two legs, he felt heavier and could not take Mittu for a ride on his back.

“Since morning, I’ve been feeling very tired because I haven’t got a chance to rest. Once I lie down, I will be fine.” lied Golu, as he sat on the ground panting.

Lambu was in a similar situation. As he was tall, walking on two legs increased his height, and his head kept banging against the trees. This was hurting his head. He too sat down in one place to take a rest.

Billu ox was very happy walking. However, his happiness was short-lived.

“You are good for nothing now! At least you could help the farmer earlier to plough the field. Modern machines like the tractors have taken your place,” said Teetu bird, seeing Bittu walk on two legs.

Ballu donkey also started to think about what Teetu had said as he too was in a similar situation. Because he was walking on two legs, no one could use him to carry things on his back.

“If I am not of any use, then what’s the point of being beautiful!” he thought to himself.

Ballu could not hold himself any longer and cried, “Hey forest angel, please come here and fulfil my wish.”

As soon as he spoke, the angel appeared before him.

“What’s the matter Ballu? Is there something that you want me to do?” asked the forest angel.

Ballu said, “Dear angel, please make me walk on four legs like before.” Listening to him, Lambu, Golu and Teju requested for the same, “Yes, make us walk back on four legs.”

The angel asked, “Why, what happened? All of you wanted to look nice. Then, why are you suddenly changing your wish?”

“We have realized that we are of no use if we walk on two legs. We don’t want to live like this. We want our lives to have meaning.” they cried together

The angel smiled when she heard the animals speak. She turned her wand and chanted, and asked the animals to close their eyes. When they opened their eyes, they saw that they were back to standing on four legs.

“We have become like before! Now, all of us have a purpose,” said the animals cheerfully.

They understood that being useful was more important than being beautiful.

Sabarmati Ashram!

Dhruv’s Grandpa was a retired army officer and a patriot. He always told Dhruv stories of bravery of the Indian Army and of India’s freedom fighters. Mahatma Gandhi was Grandpa’s favourite and he would narrate stories on Gandhi’s life and work to Dhruv.

This year, on October 2, which is Gandhi Jayanti, or Mahatma’s birthday, Grandpa, Grandma, and Dhruv decided to visit Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad.

Grandpa and Grandma had visited the ashram many times before, but this was Dhruv’s first time.

“Please tell me about this ashram, Grandpa,” said Dhruv.

“Sabarmati Ashram was initially known as Satyagraha Ashram. Mahatma Gandhi established it in 1915 at Kochrab, Ahmedabad. In 1917, it was shifted to the banks of Sabarmati River and since then, it is known as Sabarmati Ashram.”

“It’s so quiet and peaceful here. There are so many trees around,” said Dhruv.
“Let me tell you about the history of Sabarmati Ashram,” offered Grandma.

“Yes, nani, please do tell me.”

“When it was founded, Sabarmati Ashram had living rooms made of canvas and the kitchen made of tin sheets. By the end of 1917, there were 40 residents living here.

Life at the ashram was based on Gandhiji’s principles of truth, non-violence, self-control, justice, and equality.

Spinning khadi and other village activities were encouraged to improve their economic status. Parts of Gandhiji’s spinning wheel were also built here.

Sabarmati Ashram was an inspiration for the Indian public and leaders. Many movements relating to India’s independence started here at the ashram.

It is from here, that he wrote a letter to the Viceroy of India on March 2, 1930, informing him about the start of the Civil Disobedience Movement.

On March 12, 1930, Mahatma Gandhi set out for the historical Dandi March with 80 others to protest against the tax imposed on salt. He did not return here until India was independent.”

“Yes, I did read about the Dandi March in school. But I did not know so much about the history of Sabarmati Ashram. Thank you, nani!” said Dhruv.

They walked ahead a little, and Grandpa said, “We will now see some important spots. I’ll tell you all about them.”

“Great, Grandpa!”

“That’s the National Memorial. It was established after the death of Gandhiji to preserve his memory.”

Grandma pointed to the left and said, “And that’s Hriday Kunj. It’s a small house located in the centre of the ashram. Kakasaheb Kalekar, an activist, social reformer and follower of the philosophy and methods of Mahatma Gandhi had named it.

Gandhiji and his wife, Kasturba lived in Hriday Kunj for about 12 years. It still has Gandhiji’s desk, his khadi kurta, and his letters.

Another attraction of the ashram is Kasturba’s kitchen. The stoves, utensils, and cabinets used in Kasturba’s kitchen are still kept there.”

“Oh, I see!” said Dhruv.

They walked a little ahead and Grandpa pointed out, “And that’s the Vinoba-Meera Kutir. This is the place where Acharya Vinoba Bhave spent some months of his life from 1918 to 1921. Also, Madeleine Slade, a British woman who was influenced by Gandhiji’s ideals and his beloved disciple, lived here from 1925 to 1933. Gandhiji named her Mirabehn. The cottage was named after these two personalities.”

“That’s interesting!” said Dhruv and they walked towards the prayer ground.

Grandma said, “All members of the ashram assemble at this prayer ground every morning and evening to pray. This prayer ground has witnessed many crucial decisions made by the Mahatma.”

Dhruv stood silently on the prayer ground.

Walking ahead, Grandpa pointed at a hut and said, “That’s the Nandini guesthouse. It’s located a short distance away from the main gate of the ashram. Many well-known freedom fighters of the country lived here when they came to meet Gandhiji. They include Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, Dr Rajendra Prasad, a lawyer and comrade of Gandhi’s, who also became the first President of our country, C Rajagopalachari, an independent activist, lawyer, writer and historian, Charles Freer Andrews, Mahatma’s friend, educator and social reformer, and Bengali poet and writer Rabindranath Tagore, who was also Gandhi’s close friend.”

“Whoa! So many great people have lived here,” said Dhruv.

“Grandma! What’s that?” asked Dhruv.

“That’s Udyog Mandir! Gandhiji had pledged to make India independent by being self-reliant through the khadi industry. He worked using his hands as symbols of self-reliance and self-respect.

At the Udyog Mandir, he started spinning the charkha to make strings for khadi clothes. Gandhiji’s followers from all over the country would come here and stay at the ashram and get trained in using the charkha and in making khadi clothes.

The Udyog Mandir was established in 1918, during the strike by the employees of the textile mill in Ahmedabad.”

“So Gandhiji taught the swadeshi principle by making khadi?” asked Dhruv.

“That’s right!” said Grandpa.

“There’s a Gandhi Memorial Museum here. On May 10, 1963, Jawaharlal Nehru inaugurated the museum near Hriday Kunj. Gandhiji’s letters, photographs, and other documents are kept there.

The collection includes 400 articles written by Gandhiji in magazines like Young India, Navjeevan, and Harijan. Also, there are photographs covering Gandhiji’s life from birth until his death, copies of Gandhiji’s speeches during his travels in India and abroad.

This museum also houses a library that contains 4,000 books of Sabarmati Ashram and a collection of 3,000 books by Mahadev Desai. There is an index of 30,000 letters written by Mahatma Gandhi. The original copies of some of these letters are preserved while the others are preserved in microfilms. Let’s go visit the museum.”

Dhruv really enjoyed the museum.

After completing the tour of all the important places around Sabarmati Ashram, Dhruv said, “I will remember Sabarmati Ashram more than the other places we have been to. I have learned so much today! Can we please visit such places in the future?”

“Of course,” smiled his grandparents.

The Right Path

In 1910, an ashram was established in Phoenix, a town in South Africa. The ashram housed a school for children of all ages. One of the teachers in the ashram had an unusual way of teaching. He believed that education should affect the heart along with the mind.

One day, the teacher gave a questionnaire to all his students. The bright students quickly wrote the answers and returned the questionnaire.

When all the students had submitted their answers, the teacher began correcting them. After correcting all the sheets, he picked up one and announced Sanjay’s name.

When Sanjay came forward, the teacher patted his back and said, “Well done! It seems to me that you have worked very hard.” Then, he showed the answer sheet to the full class. Sanjay had scored 5 out of 10 marks.

Seeing this, Rahul and Vikas, two of the smartest students, who knew they must have scored more than him, were bewildered. “Why is sir praising Sanjay? He scored much less than us,” said Rahul.

Vikas nodded in agreement. He couldn’t understand why Sanjay was being praised for scoring less marks. He asked, “Sir, we don’t understand that instead of praising us, you are praising a student who has got lesser marks than us.”

The teacher smiled at Vikas’ question and said, “I didn’t praise Sanjay for the marks he scored. I praised him for his hard work. He did better than the last time, which is proof of his hard work. I’m hoping this motivates him to work harder in future.”

“And as for praising you, I did not do so because with continuous success and praise, any person can become proud and arrogant. Arrogance is an obstacle to progress. I do not wish that you all stop working hard due to brief moments of success. Stay on the right path and you will be successful,” the teacher explained.

The students understood what their teacher said and this was an important
life lesson.

This teacher was, none other than, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, whom we lovingly call ‘Bapu’.

Unity Is Strength

Champakvan forest was quiet and peaceful. The animals and birds lived happily. They shared and helped each other in times of need.

A few days ago, a group of hunters came inside the forest and started hunting birds and animals, using guns. The animals were scared and cried over the loss of their friends. The fear of being hunted down troubled them the most.

They all decided to go and meet the king of the forest, Shersingh. King Shersingh heard them patiently and said, “I too am worried about your safety. But these hunters are armed with guns. Even I am afraid of guns. We will have to find a way to fight these hunters,” said Shersingh.

Honey hippo who was listening quietly said, “Your Majesty, I have a plan that can drive the hunters away from the forest.”

“What is you plan Honey?” asked Shersingh “Your Majesty, we must all stand together and fight these hunters. We must show – Unity is Strength,’’ said Honey.

“But even if we stand united, we can’t fight them. They have guns to shoot us,” said Lamboo giraffe.

“I know. We must plan cleverly before we act. My thick skin makes it difficult for the bullet difficult to pierce through it. I will go towards the hunters and distract them by walking towards them and the rest of you can attack from behind,” said Honey.

“If I get hurt, Dr Damru needs to be there to quickly remove the bullet from my body,” said Honey.

“You are putting your life at risk. Let us hope we don’t fail you,” said king Shersingh.

As planned, the next day, the crow took up the duty of a spy. He found out the camping spot of the hunters and passed the message to king Shersingh. All the animals hid in different places as planned by Honey.

Lamboo giraffe hid behind a tree, Fatty elephant hid behind a cluster of tall trees and Jumpy hid behind the bunch of bushy leaves. Cheeku rabbit took cover inside a bush. His Majesty, King Shersingh concealed himself behind a big mound.

The hunters were walking with guns in their hands. They looked alert and ready to shoot at the slightest sound.

As planned, Honey came before the hunters, then turned back and started running in the direction of his friend’s hiding places.

The hunters chased Honey, but Honey quickly gave them an escape and hid between the tall grasses.

One of the hunters reached the mound, where king Shersingh was hiding. As he climbed onto the mound to take a better look, his gaze fell on Shersingh. A chill ran down his spine. He dropped the gun and fell down rolling over the mound. The hunter managed to run away. Seeing the plight of the hunter, King Shersingh could not control his laughter.

The other hunters too were shaken when they saw their friend running. Taking charge of the situation, all the animals came out of their hiding places and attacked the hunters. In the chaos that followed, the hunters dropped their guns and ran away. The animals chased them out of the forest.

When the animals returned back to the forest, they saw the guns lying there on the ground. Jumpy collected all the guns and started imitating the hunters. He held a gun in his hands and by mistake pulled the trigger. The animals were in for a shock when they heard the sound of the gun shot. King Shersingh hid himself in a pit.

All the animals started laughing when they found out the reason behind the gun shot. Lamboo said, “We too have guns to fight now and need not be afraid of anyone.”

But Shersingh was lost in his thoughts. He thought about what could have happened if Jumpy had shot anyone.

He said, “We don’t need these guns that take the lives of others. I don’t want any of us to be killed by a gun shot. Let’s not create a situation where someone thinks they are more powerful because they have a gun. It’s better to dump them in the lake.”

Everyone agreed with Shersingh and they collected and threw the guns deep into the lake.

Minti’s Initiative

As soon as Minti mynah came out of her nest, she saw Bizy hawk circling the sky. Seeing him, she flew away in the other direction. After she had flown a short distance, she felt someone was following her. It had to be Bizy, she knew.

Minti suddenly changed her course. Instead of going towards the village, she went in the opposite direction. She increased her speed. She did not lose courage and flew with full might. Bizy chased her for quite some time but when Minti started flying over a barren and deserted region, he stopped chasing her. Bizy knew that it was difficult for him to fly in the open sky on barren land. So, he turned back.

Minti kept on flying. She did not turn her head to see if Bizy was still chasing her. After some time, her strength gave up and she fell down.

For a long time, she laid there motionless. When she came to her senses, she found herself on a barren hill. There were no trees there, not even a plant. All one could see were a few stumps of dry grass. Her throat was parched and she was feeling very thirsty. With great difficulty she pulled herself up. Her wings ached and she was not in the condition to fly. Somehow she managed to drag herself under the shade of a rock.

After resting for a while, she felt better. She said to herself, “Which place is this?”

“This is the Dry hill.” a voice spoke.

She looked around but could not see anyone. “Who is that?” she asked.

“I am the Dry hill,” came the reply. “A living creature has come here after a very long time. Tell me, how can I help you?”

“Just give me some water. I am very thirsty,” said Minti.

“There is no water on this hill,” said the hill.

“Oh, you are really very dry!” said Minti.

“I know. But I wasn’t always like this,” said the Dry hill sadly.

“Really!” exclaimed Minti.

“I am telling you the truth. There were beautiful trees here and greenery everywhere. Birds sang on the trees and water flowed in the rivers,” said the hill.

“Looking at you, no one can believe that!” said Minti.

“Not only you, there’s no one else who believes this. My present condition is due to my beauty,” said the hill.

“How come?” asked Minti.

“Many people from different places came here and settled. Slowly, this place became overpopulated. People started cutting trees for space and other needs. Large scale tree cutting led to a reduction in rainfall,” said the hill.

“What happened then?” asked Minti.

“As long as there was greenery, people stayed. But with no water and trees, I became dry and everyone left. My land became barren. And now, there are no trees and no bushes. There’s only a little dry grass here and there,” said the hill sadly.

“I feel sad for you. You witnessed your destruction with your own eyes. I came here to save my life. I did not know where I was going,” said Minty.

“Who were you saving your life from?” asked the hill.

“A hawk was chasing me. I came to this place because I knew that Bizy hawk would not follow me here.”

“Why?” asked the hill.

“Because, there are no trees here and he would not be able to fly with such a big mynah for too long. He would need to sit down on a tree. So, he stopped chasing me. If there was a tree here, then I wouldn’t be alive today,” explained Minti.

“Well, at least after all these years I have been of use to someone!” said the hill.

“Don’t say that. You can be of use to anyone even today,” said Minti.

“I was saved because of you and for this, I will certainly do something for you,” said Minti.

“After summer is over, I will come here with my friends,” she said.

“And then, what will happen?” asked the hill.

“Just wait and see. This is my promise to you,” saying this, Minti gathered her strength and left the place, bidding goodbye to the dry hill.

After some distance she saw a river and had a good drink.

Dry Hill was very pleased after his talk with Minti.

There were still two months left before summer got over. He remembered Minti and her promise every day. Sometimes, a doubt would come to his mind if she would keep her promise and come back. But he could just wait and see.

Summer ended and it started raining. Dry Hill felt relief from the heat. Then one day, he saw a hoard of mynahs flying towards him. He was overjoyed to see them.

“Hello, do you recognize me?” asked Minti, as soon as she came on the hill.

“Of course! I have been thinking about you all this time,” said the hill.

“I was waiting for the rains. I came here as soon as the rains started,” said Minti.

And she and her friends scattered many seeds that they had brought with them, on the hill.

“What are you doing?” asked Dry Hill.

“We have come here to scatter seeds. They will sprout with the rains and one day, become big trees.”

“Will this really happen?” asked the hill.

“Yes! With rains, the seeds can get a chance to germinate. We will come again and bring more seeds. One day you will see that you have become green again and that you no longer are a dry hill. Lots of creatures will come and live here.” promised Minti.

Whenever Minti could manage, she visited Dry Hill and every time she brought seeds with her.

That year, the rains were good and many seeds sprouted. Then, they started growing. Minti had scattered different varieties of seeds. Some became bushes and shrubs. Others started growing as trees.

Minti visited Dry Hill regularly and saw it becoming green. The dry hill slowly changed to a lush green hill. Small creatures came there and later, bigger ones followed them. Her efforts had given new life to Dry Hill.

One day Minti came there with her children. “These are my children. I will not live long enough to see these plants become big trees. I got my children here to meet you. It will take some time for a forest to grow here. When it does, my children and their children will live here. Promise me, that you will take care of them,” said Minti.

“I promise that I will take care of them,” the hill said in a choking voice.

A small mynah had changed a dry hill to a green forest.

A Lesson Learnt!

Keggy kangaroo ran a grocery store in Champakvan. He was a greedy and shrewd shopkeeper.

He would cheat his customers by charging higher prices for everyday items and would also weigh them incorrectly.

Since there was no other grocery store in the forest, everyone was forced to buy their supplies from Keggy’s store.

One day, Meeku mouse came to the store to buy some rice.

“Two kilos of rice, please.”

When Keggy started weighing the rice, Meeku said, “Keggy, please weigh it properly. Something is wrong with your scales as last time you gave me less quantity of rice.”

Keggy was furious. “Meeku, the scales are just fine! If you don’t trust me, go buy rice from another store,” he yelled.

Meeku quietly took the rice and left as he did not have any other option.

Next day, Blacky bear went to Keggy’s store with his children. It was his son’s birthday. He gave a list of items to Keggy and said, “Please give me these, quickly!”

Keggy put everything in a bag and said, “Blacky, your total bill is `1000.”

“One thousand? But I had calculated the bill to be `800,” Blacky replied.

“The prices of some of the items have gone up. So, it’s `1000 now,” said Keggy.

“How is that possible? The prices were less until yesterday. How can they suddenly increase today?” asked Blacky.

“I don’t know all that. If you want to buy from here, then do so, otherwise, go elsewhere,” said Keggy, arrogantly.

Jumpy monkey was also present at the store. “Keggy, how can the prices go up in one day?” he asked.

Keggy glared at Jumpy and said, “I don’t need to explain anything to anyone. Buy your stuff and leave.”

Finally, Blacky had no option, but to pay `1000.

Two days later, a monkey came to Keggy’s shop. He looked like an outsider with his sunglasses, hat, suit, and boots. A backpack hung from his shoulder.

“Yes? What do you want?” asked Keggy.

“My name’s Peter. I’ve come from abroad. I’ll be staying in this forest for a month. So I need a month’s worth of groceries,” said the monkey, handing over a list to him.

Keggy packed everything and said, “Your bill is `5000.”

Peter took the packets and said, “I’ve spent all my money to come here from abroad and I have no money to spare. But I do have a statue, which I can offer you in exchange for the groceries.”

He then took out a gleaming statue from his bag and handed it to Keggy.

Keggy’s eyes widened when he realised that the statue was made of pure gold.

“This gold statue is worth lakhs! I’ll take it at once!” he thought.

“It’s all right if you don’t have the money,” said Keggy, “I’ll keep this statue and you can take the groceries.”

“Thanks a lot! Here, let me keep the statue safely inside this bag for you.”

Peter put the statue inside the bag and gave it to Keggy. He then took the groceries and went.

Keggy was excited after receiving the statue. He decided to go to the city and sell it.

The next morning, he went straight to the goldsmith, Hatim horse’s shop in the city.

“I have a gold statue worth lakhs and I want to sell it.”

“Show it to me,” said Hatim.

Keggy took the statue out of the bag and showed it to him.

“Keggy, this is a fake statue. It doesn’t even cost `50,” said Hatim, examining the statue.

The ground beneath Keggy’s feet shattered. “A foreigner monkey came yesterday to my shop and bought groceries worth `5000. He didn’t have money so he gave me this gold statue. But I had examined it carefully when he showed it to me—and it was pure gold!”

“These con men are very crafty. He must have shown you a real gold statue but then he must have exchanged it with a fake one, before handing it to you. You have been cheated,” Hatim explained.

“I will not spare him!” said Keggy, furiously.

Keggy went to Shersingh lion, the Prime Minister of the forest. “Sir, I have been cheated by a foreigner monkey named Peter. He bought groceries worth `5000 from my store and in exchange gave me a fake gold statue.”

Shersingh called for Peter and the other animals of the forest.

Peter arrived soon. Seeing him, Keggy shouted, “Thief! He’s the one who gave me a fake statue and cheated me!”

“Sir, I did not cheat Keggy!” said Peter defensively, “After taking the groceries, I asked him if he would accept the statue as payment. I never said that it was made of gold. Keggy agreed to take the statue on his own. I did not force him.”

“Yes, but I had examined the statue and found that it was made of gold and so I agreed to accept it,” Keggy argued.

After hearing both of them, Shersingh said, “It is Keggy’s mistake that he accepted the statue in his greed. Peter didn’t make any promise that it was a gold statue. He only showed him the statue. So, Peter is not at fault.”

Keggy did not have anything to say. He sat down and started crying.

Seeing this, Peter removed his wig, sunglasses, and hat, and everyone was shocked. “Hey look! It’s Jumpy!” they said.

“I disguised myself as Peter to teach Keggy a lesson. I was sure that a gold statue would make Keggy greedy. I wanted to show him that just the way he cheats his customers, it’s possible for someone else to cheat him too. I showed him a real gold statue first, then later while giving it to him, I replaced it with a fake one. If Keggy promises never to cheat his customers in the future, I will give him his `5000,” said Jumpy.

Keggy realised his mistake and apologised to everyone.

“I’ve realised my mistake and I promise to never cheat my customers again. I’ll weigh and charge for the goods honestly,” Keggy promised

I Can!

“I don’t think I can do it,” Dodo donkey brayed loudly. Milo monkey woke up from his evening nap and complained, “Oh, Dodo, you woke me up!”

“How can you be concerned about your sleep, when I can’t do what others can do?” Dodo cried.

Still sleepy and annoyed, Milo asked, “Now, what happened?”

“I can’t walk long distances while carrying heavy loads on my back,” Dodo said,
“I am sure, my bones will break if I do.”

“Can you do anything in your life?” asked Milo, exasperated.

Dodo kept quiet. “You must have some confidence in yourself, Dodo,” said Flora flamingo, who was sitting nearby.

Flora was famous for her bright pink feathers, thin long legs and her S-shaped neck. Flora gave two lotuses to Dodo and asked, “Do you think you can give one lotus to Milo?”

“Yes, I can,” said Dodo, and gave one lotus to Milo.

“Hurray… Hurray… Finally, I heard Dodo say ‘I Can’,” clapped Flora. Both Milo and she laughed, and congratulated Dodo, who also smiled.

“Why are you not confident, Dodo?” asked Flora.

Making a sad face, Dodo replied, “Everyone makes jokes on us, as if donkeys are of no use. Also, people often use the term ‘donkey’ or an ‘ass’ to insult others, to say they are slow or stupid and crack a joke on them.”

Flora flapped her pretty wings and thought for a while.

“Come on, let’s go for an evening stroll,” she suggested, and the three of them started walking towards the lake.

On the way, they met Ansy ant and her friends who were carrying food home.

“Dodo, do you see the load on Ansy’s back? Ants can carry weight that is 10 to 50 times their own body weight.” Dodo watched Ansy and friends, with awe. “Such tiny creatures can do such a wonderful job!” he thought.

“Croak… Croak…” Suddenly Futtu frog came along. “I am practicing for the long jump event in the next Annual Sports Meet,” said Futtu.

“That’s really amazing. Best wishes, Futtu” said Flora.

“A frog can jump almost 44 times its body length,” explained Flora.

Though, Dodo had seen frogs jump earlier, he noticed Futtu’s jumping talent only today.

“Such a small creature can do such a wonderful job!” thought Dodo again. “But, they are talented by birth and I am born a fool,” Dodo still believed.

“You must realise your strength and appreciate yourself,” said Flora. “Because if you believe in other’s negative comments about you, you will always doubt yourself and remain in fear.”

“Dodo you don’t even live with other donkeys,” said Milo.

He then pointed his fingers to the hill and continued, “Donkeys are strong and carry logs and grass. Do you know how long they need to walk and carry the load?”

“I know, yet nobody appreciates them. They are still called fools,” Dodo replied glumly. “I simply cannot bear the pain of being called a fool. So I just walk around and eat and drink whatever I find.”

“Do you know that donkeys are incredible animals who have excellent memory and tremendous physical strength? Believe that about yourself and work hard with a positive mind. Always say ‘I Can’.”

Dodo brayed suddenly, “Incredible animals!” he repeated.

“That’s the problem. Most of us criticise others without knowing their facts,” Flora explained.

“Studies have shown that donkeys can remember a place they have been to or recognise other donkeys who they met, even after 25 years. A donkey will not do something if it considers it to be unsafe. It can live more than 40 years and in various types of places.”

Dodo was quite stunned to hear about his own talents.

Holding his large ear, Flora said, “Donkeys have large ears that help them hear across distances in deserts. In case they sense something wrong while traveling, they will simply not move ahead and will start digging in their heels.”

“Am I really so strong and special?” Dodo wondered. “I just can’t believe it. I have heard something good about me for the first time.”

Flora sat on Dodo’s back and pecked him gently, “Never compare yourself with others or try to copy them. Instead, find your own strengths and talents and believe in yourself. Always say ‘I Can’ so ‘You Can.”

Milo too jumped on Dodo’s back and screamed, “Yes, we can!”

Dodo brayed, “Yes, I can…” and started running, jumping and dancing cheerfully with Flora and Milo on his back.

Dodo thanked Flora. This was a turning point in Dodo’s life. He realised his own strengths and talents that made him smart, strong and confident!

Discovering Talent

Rahul and Ryan lived with their parents in a small town. Rahul, the elder brother, studied in class 4 in a reputed school in the city. Seven-year-old Ryan studied in a special school.

Ryan could not speak or hear. But one could not make out he had any disabilities just by looking at him. His parents Tina and Pawan did not let Ryan feel any less of himself. Everyone communicated with Ryan with the help of hand gestures, a special sign language.

Ryan went to a school for children with special needs from an early age and started learning sign language. There he learnt to read and write using their own way.

Rahul and Ryan never skipped school and were always excited to meet their friends.

Then, suddenly, due to the coronavirus pandemic, all the schools were shut and children had to stay at home due to the lockdown and could no longer meet their friends.

Rahul spent his time playing games on his mobile phone and chatting with his friends. But Ryan was more upset for not being able to go to school.

Ma did not give him a mobile phone to play games, but would talk to him using sign language. But she realised it was getting very difficult for Ryan to stay at home all day.

But she was unable to explain in detail about the pandemic to him. She made him understand that schools were shut due to an infectious disease, and no one was allowed to step out of their homes.

The two brothers would play together for a while in the evenings. However, Rahul would soon get bored and found it hard to play with Ryan since he was unable to communicate with him like other children who could hear and talk.

Rahul spoke to his friends over the phone and often complained, “Mom, I’m getting bored at home! What can I do?”

“Do whatever you like! You anyway play games on the phone and chat with your friends all day.”

“But talking on the phone is one thing, but talking in person is the real deal!”

“Until such a time that this pandemic is over, everyone has to live this way. Why don’t you learn a new hobby during this time, like painting or craft?”

“But I want to play on the playground.”

“I know! But you can play as much as you like with Ryan inside the courtyard of the house. During times like these, none of your friends can come to play with you, neither can you go out.”

“Yes, you’re right!” said Rahul.

Rahul loved playing cricket. But there was not enough space in their house to play cricket inside it. And Ryan was too young to play cricket with him. He could only fetch the ball when his brother hit it too hard and sent it far away.

Rahul could still manage his time, but it was getting difficult for Ryan. He tried drawing, but he would hardly draw two or three criss-cross lines and then would get bored. He could not do it for too long.

Tina tried her best to keep Ryan happy, but could not do it all the time as she also had to do the household chores.

Ryan followed his mother around all day, observing her doing the housework. In the kitchen, Tina would give him some work like peeling vegetables, or washing them. He would sometimes arrange the plates on the dining table and be overjoyed after doing it.

One day, Tina cut some cucumbers, radishes and carrots, placed them in a bowl and gave it to Ryan and signaled him to keep it on the dining table.

Ryan carried the bowl to the dining table. He looked at the salad carefully, then he picked up the pieces one by one and started arranging them on a plate. He decorated the salad on a plate beautifully.

Tina came out of the kitchen after a while and saw Ryan carefully decorating the plate with the vegetables of three different colours. She smiled and put a hand on his head affectionately and praised him with a hand gesture. Ryan too was very happy.

In the evening, Tina cut some more cucumbers, radishes, carrots and onions, and gave it to Ryan. He picked up a plate and again started decorating it on the dining table.

After some time, his father came out to the dining room after finishing his work. He saw the plate of salad and asked, “Who decorated this?”
“Ryan did it,” praised Tina.

Pawan too was pleased to see Ryan’s creativity.

“We should enrol Ryan in a cooking class, Tina. I’m sure he’ll be great at it,” said Pawan.

He kissed Ryan’s cheek affectionately and hugged him.

Tina started adding more ingredients to the salad every day. She would cut everything and give it to Ryan and he would decorate them in different styles. She did not give him a knife yet because he was still very young to cut the vegetables.

Soon other family members and relatives came to know of Ryan’s skill. Tina recorded videos of Ryan decorating the salad and sent it to them. She made a social media account for Ryan and posted videos on it. Ryan was thrilled to read other people’s comments and suggestions. He had found a way to keep himself happy during the lockdown.

Pawan and Tina encouraged Ryan with his creative endeavours. Though he could not speak, his talents definitely spoke for him.

Umbrella To Save Us!

Jeena jackal was one of the richest animals of Bandipur forest. She owned many factories where most animals of the forest worked and earned a living from.

No one in the forest objected to her building more factories as that meant more animals would get jobs.

She had a say in everything that happened in the forest. And to build factories, she kept cutting more and more trees within the forest.

The old Banyan tree was disturbed to see this. He requested Gogo gorilla to call a meeting of all the animals to discuss the matter.

The animals respected the Banyan tree and immediately agreed.

Next evening, the Banyan tree shared his concern about the building of new factories by cutting trees in the forest, as that was leading to a rise in the air pollution levels and was causing breathing problems for all animals.

“We have to control the increasing pollution levels before it is too late and it becomes dangerous and harmful for all of us,” he said.

The Banyan tree reminded everyone that Jeena had promised to plant trees in the open spaces in the forest when she had cut trees to build the factories. Thus far she hadn’t planted a single tree.

His words had a huge impact on all.

After listening to the Banyan tree, Rancho monkey, who was sitting on a tree nearby, said, “We are going to celebrate Ozone Day in our school and have been asked to bring a sapling on that day.”

“Ozone? What is that?” asked Gingy goat, curiously.

“Ozone layer is like a huge umbrella around the Earth that saves us from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun,” Rancho explained.

“That is right, Rancho! If we did not have an ozone layer, then life on Earth would not exist. The increasing smoke and pollution from the factories are causing a hole in this ozone layer, which is harmful to animals and plants on Earth.”

Romi squirrel asked, “How is it harming us, Grandpa Banyan?”

“The increase in the size of the hole in the ozone layer is creating an imbalance in the temperature of the Earth. It is making the winters colder and the summers hotter. The glaciers and the frozen caps in south and north pole are melting slowly and sea levels are rising. These imbalances are very dangerous for life on Earth,” explained the Banyan tree.

Roro rabbit also added, “And our teacher also told us that carbon-monoxide from the ACs and the refrigerators is harming the ozone layer.”

Doctor Giraffe, who was sitting there added, “That is correct and that is why it is important that we reduce the usage of ACs and other such things in our daily life.”

Nina sparrow chirped in, “Oh! That explains why we are facing skin problems when we fly higher.”

“Yes, Nina. This umbrella prevents the harmful ultraviolet rays from reaching the Earth. But since the hole in this layer is increasing, these rays are penetrating our atmosphere and reaching us. This is causing skin problems and if we do not pay attention to it now it can create further dangerous problems like skin cancer,” said Doctor Giraffe.

“So, how can we stop this hole from becoming bigger,” asked Deepu donkey.

“We can prevent this hole from becoming bigger by controlling air pollution, not using chemicals that are harmful to the ozone layer and not cutting trees. We have to plant as many trees as we can instead of cutting them. If we fail to do this then the results will be hazardous,” said the Banyan tree.

Gogo was listening to all this and decided the animals had to find a solution to save the Earth. He asked everyone to reach Jeena’s new factory the next day.

Next morning, the animals reached the factory when Jeena was instructing her workers to cut more trees.

“Jeena, have you taken the permission from the forest department to cut these trees?”

“Y…e…sss, Gogo,” said Jeena Jackal.

“Good, let me see the papers,” said Gogo.

Jeena was taken aback by this, but she regained control of herself. Placing a hand on Gogo’s shoulder, she said, “I will build another factory here, which will give jobs to more of your animals.”

This made Gogo furious and he said, “First you want to build a factory without proper papers. Last time when you built a factory and cut trees, you had promised to plant the same number of trees, but you did not plant a single tree. It is because of your mistakes that the rest of us have to pay such a heavy price.”

Jeena jackal laughed guiltily and said, “Oh! If it is only about planting the trees I promise to do so it if you allow me to cut these trees now.”

“It seems you will not give up that easily,” said Gogo and he whistled. Rancho monkey immediately brought Ellie elephant to the site. Ellie was a Police Officer. Her arrival made Jeena nervous. Ellie checked all the documents of the factory and sealed the factory as they were not complete.

“We should not punish Jeena. The mistake is ours too, that we allowed her to go on without understanding how cutting trees is so harmful to all of us. We should make her realise her mistake by asking her to plant more trees in the forest,” said the Banyan tree.

“I agree with grandpa, it is only by planting more trees that we can save this umbrella that saves us,” added Rancho monkey.

Everyone agreed with the Banyan tree and planted more trees with Jeena in the forest. She too understood her mistake and only built factories that were safe for the environment.

Where’s The Rain?

All the animals at Shantivan were eagerly waiting for the monsoons. Everyone had made plans for the season and shared them with each other.

“Raindrops make me happy! When it rains, I will dance to my hearts content,” said Peeko peahen.

“This scorching heat is making my flesh burn. When the monsoon arrives, I will bathe all day long,” growled Bholu bear.

“Even I cannot wait any longer. How exciting will it be if it rains tomorrow!” Charlie monkey exclaimed.

A week had passed and not even a drop of rain was in sight. Peeko anxiously gazed at the sky, wondering where the rain had gone.

She saw Charlie hanging from a branch and said, “The monsoon season should have been here by now. When will I get a chance to dance?”

Charlie comforted her, “Maybe, the monsoons are late. But don’t worry, it will rain soon.”

A few more days passed and still there was no sign of the rain. Peeko couldn’t take it and thought Harry horse would have an answer.

“Oh Harry, when will the monsoon arrive?” asked Peeko. “Peeko, have some patience. The arrival of monsoon is certain,” neighed Harry.

Peeko walked ahead and saw Bholu bear staring at the sky. Peeko asked Bholu the same question.

“I can’t explain. There are some dark clouds in the sky. But I don’t understand why it’s not raining,” replied Bholu.

Peeko looked up at the sky. The dark clouds were visible.

“Let’s ask Kitey eagle. Perhaps, she will know where the rain has gone,” Peeko said as she saw Kitey fly closer to the clouds.

Peeko called out to her, “Kitey! Kitey!”

“What happened, Peeko? Why are you calling me?” Kitey asked as she landed near Peeko.

“Kitey, there are so many dark clouds in the sky. Then why is it not raining?”
asked Peeko.

“Let me check,” Kitey replied.

Kitey flew up into the sky and returned soon. She explained, “Peeko, the dark clouds that you’re seeing in the sky are not rain clouds.”

“What do you mean? We all know that dark clouds are rain clouds,” interrupted Bholu.

“Yes, Bholu. But these aren’t rain clouds. They are clouds of smoke that have gathered here because of pollution in the environment. The poisonous smoke looks like clouds and has spread like a blanket all over Shantivan. Until this smoke clears, it will not rain,” said Kitey.

Peeko and Bholu were terrified. They began to think of a solution.

“Bholu, we must clear out these polluted clouds. Otherwise, we will never receive rain and our rivers and ponds will dry out,” said Peeko.

“Peeko, how do you intend to clear out these clouds? I think it’s impossible,”
said Kitey.

“It might be a difficult task but I will try. In fact, if we all work together, we will be able to reduce pollution,” said Peeko, confidently.

“What can we do, Peeko? How can we reduce pollution?” asked Bholu.

“The biggest reasons for pollution are the increased number of vehicles, burning of garbage and cutting of trees. We need to make the animals of Shantivan aware of these causes so that they stop polluting the air,” replied Peeko.

They immediately got to work and made posters and pamphlets that listed the causes of pollution.

To make the posters attractive, Peeko added pictures of plants, trees, mountains, barren land and rivers. Kitey helped to distribute the pamphlets.

Peeko and Kitey also hung the posters on the branches of roadside trees. Bright and colourful posters caught the attention of many animals.

Bholu and Peeko went around Shantivan and made announcements of the benefits of being eco-friendly. They appealed to the animals to use bicycles instead of cars and motorcycles to reduce pollution and welcome rain.

Kitey spread the word that if more trees were planted, pollution would lessen. She also monitored illegal activities like cutting trees.

All the animals of Shantivan took up these eco-friendly initiatives. With the help of Peeko, they planted trees and stopped using cars to work. Soon enough, their hard work showed results. The dark clouds of smoke began to clear and the clouds of rain made their way.

The rain clouds rumbled and soon began to pour. Peeko could finally dance! It was the best dance the animals of Shantivan had ever seen. All the animals joined Peeko and danced with joy

Our Jungle?

There was chaos and confusion in Champakvan.

“Don’t crowd around him. Leave him alone. Look, he’s frightened,” said
Jumpy monkey, asking everyone to move to the side.

“He is a stranger. He is not from our jungle. We should send him away,” said Vivi wolf.

“Vivi is right. He could be a spy from another jungle,” agreed Baddy fox.

“We shouldn’t give shelter to refugees. Outsiders shouldn’t be allowed in our jungle,” added Jugoo jackal.

“Friends, let him rest and let his wounds heal. Then, we can find out who he
is and why he has come here,” said Cheeku rabbit.

All the animals stepped back. After a while, Blacky bear came in running and said, “This is a panda. He fell from a tree into the river and ended up here. I don’t think he’s a threat to Champakvan. We should be kind and helpful towards him.”

“Who told you this?” asked Baddy.

Hopping forward, Harry squirrel replied, “I saw him fall into the river. He struggled to get out. Before I could tell Blacky, he came here. I think we should feed him. He looks tired and hungry.”

“We cannot just share our food with him,” retorted Baddy.

“Why not? We don’t have a shortage of food and we should try and do everything to save a fellow being,” said Blacky.

“Harry and Blacky are right. Panda is helpless. We should save him first,” added Cheeku. Baddy, Vivi and Jugoo walked away. Harry, Cheeku, Jumpy and Blacky began cleaning panda’s wounds and dried his wet fur.

“He is shivering. I think because he was in the water for so long, he is also finding it difficult to breathe,” said Jumpy.

“You are right. Let’s take him to my den. We can keep him safe there. I do not trust Vivi, Baddy and Jugoo. They might try to harm him,” said Blacky.

Charmy eagle, sitting on the tree, said, “I too will help. I will sit near the entrance of the den and let you know if anyone is coming.”

Many animals visited the den to see panda and one day, after he had recovered, they asked him his name.

He said his name was Poh and he was from China.

Next day, Baddy said to Blacky, “Now that panda has recovered, ask him to leave Champakvan. Otherwise, it will not be good.”

“Is this your jungle? And his name is Poh. Don’t call him panda. If Poh wishes to leave, then he will go. Till then, we’re his friends and we will take care of him,” said Jumpy.

“Till when will you keep him coddled inside the den? He doesn’t belong here. The day I get my claws on him, he won’t be spared,” threatened Baddy.

Poh had grown stronger, he played in the den and started climbing the tall trees around the den. Blacky showed him where he could get bamboo, Poh’s favourite food.

One day, Baddy saw Poh step out of the den and walk towards the hill. He called Jugoo and they followed him silently. “Today, we will finish Poh. The moment he climbs down the tree, I will grab him. His caretakers are busy bathing in the river,” hissed Baddy.

Suddenly, they heard Poh scream, “Move aside, move aside, a huge rock is falling from the hill.”

Baddy and Jugoo ran out of their hiding places, just missing the huge rock by a second. Otherwise, they would have been crushed under it. Charmy came flying towards Baddy and Jugoo and said, “You should be ashamed. Poh, who you were planning to kill, saved your lives. If he hadn’t warned, you both would have been crushed to death.”

Baddy and Jugoo wondered how Poh knew they were on the hill behind him. As if reading their minds, Poh said, “I could see you both following me, but didn’t want to say anything.”

“We did leave Poh alone on purpose. After all, till when could we protect him. In the end, he has to learn the laws and dangers of the jungle,” Blacky said.

“The Earth belongs to all of us. Thinking that this is ‘my jungle’ or ‘your jungle’ is incorrect. This is ‘our jungle’,” added Charmy.

Baddy and Jugoo walked away after thanking Poh who climbed up the tree to complete his meal!

United We Stand

Putru owl lived in Champakvan forest. One night, he set out to look for food and saw a tent on the outskirts of the forest. A jeep was parked beside it.

“These weren’t here before!” muttered Putru. Before sunrise, he woke everyone and told them about the jeep and the tent.

Blacky bear had interacted with humans before when he was in a circus and had then escaped to the forest. He quietly went to the tent and peeked inside to see guns, axes and a few men sleeping inside. He immediately understood why they had come.

“They are here to cut down trees of the forest,” said Blacky.

Everyone was shocked. If the trees were cut down, there would be no forest for them to live in.

“You used to say that humans are clever creatures. Do they not know that cutting down trees will bring harm to them as well? Trees make up the forests, give us our homes, and bring rainfall. Trees hold the soil together and also clean the air,” said Cheeku rabbit.

“That’s not all. Trees provide food, medicines and many other things,” said Jumpy monkey.

“But today, humans are being short-sighted. They want to cut down the trees for wood to make homes, furniture and paper,” said Blacky.

“We won’t let them cut the trees!” said Jumbo elephant, angrily. “But they have guns. They can kill us!” said Blacky.

“We must be brave but careful. Let us make a plan to save our forest,” said Jumpy.

“Yes, we must do something quickly! Once they wake up, they may start cutting the trees!” said Jumbo.

Meanwhile, Cheeku had come up with a plan. “If we take those guns and axes, the humans will not be able to bring any harm to us or to the trees,” voiced Cheeku.

They all agreed with his plan and started acting accordingly. Meeku called the mice family to use their razor-sharp teeth to make holes in the tent. Jumpy and Monty entered the tent through the holes and took the guns and the axes, and gave them to Blacky who was standing outside.

Jumbo picked the axes and guns with his trunk and dropped them into the river. “Our trees are safe now. We must scare the humans so that they don’t come here again,” said Cheeku.

All the animals surrounded the tent and started making scary noises. The men sleeping inside woke up with a start.

“Animals have surrounded us. Quick, get the guns!” shouted their chief.

“But there are no guns here! Did we leave them in the jeep?” asked another. “I brought them inside the tent myself!” said the third.

“The axes are gone too! What’s going on?” said their chief.

Jumbo pulled the tent from the ground and now the frightened men were surrounded by animals.

Upon receiving a signal from Jumpy, all the animals started moving towards them.

The men didn’t wait anymore. They ran into their jeep and drove away, promising never to return to the forest.

Blacky said, “We stood with each other bravely and defeated those who were stronger than us. We prevented our forest from getting destroyed. I am proud of us all.”

“If anyone ever comes back here with bad intentions, we will drive them away again, together,” said Jumpy.

All the animals then celebrated their victory that day.

The Boy Who Hopes

The cold breeze envelops the sleepy valley of Srinagar. The pine trees with mountain peaks in the background look picture perfect. Hassan sits at his window, staring at the stillness.

The calendar flutters on the wall and Hassan looks at the date. It’s August 15. This is going to be the second year that Hassan hasn’t stepped out to celebrate Independence Day at school. In fact, he can’t remember the last time he stepped outside. Everywhere he turns, he hears the words lockdown and coronavirus.

Over the past year, he has also learnt that lockdowns in Kashmir aren’t new. When the lockdown was announced all over India because of the virus, Kashmir had already been under one for months.

Sneaking out to meet Ali and Imran was strictly not allowed by Abba and Ammi. Ammi’s phone had rung only once or twice over the past couple of months and then there was silence again. The internet connection started and stopped without any notice.

He thinks of the last time he had halwa, yummy delicious halwa. Everything was rationed. This Ramzan, he didn’t get any new clothes, but Hassan understands that clothes are not important. Things were changing; he was growing up.

“Hassan, I am headed to Rukhsar aunty’s home.” Ammi’s warm voice reaches him from the kitchen.

Ammi, I want to go with you.” Hassan pleads. He hasn’t been to the bazaar or anywhere in a long time.

Ammi looks at Hassan and lets out a deep sigh. She, too, only went to the market, following rules and ensuring everyone’s safety, but looking at Hassan’s face she said, “Okay, go put on your mask and wear the full-sleeved shirt.”

Hassan throws his arms around his lovely Ammi who is frail, thinner than before.

Hassan skips along Dal Lake as he looks around. During summers, Dal Lake usually had the world-renowned floating market, with shikaras floating on the lake carrying flowers, vegetables and people. This year, Dal Lake is deserted. He wonders if this was how Srinagar would always be.

Hassan breathes in the cool mountain air and feels his lungs opening. “Ammi, why are we going to Rukhsar aunty’s?” he asked.

“She offered to give us some vegetables from her garden, Hassan,” replied Ammi.

Hassan looks around and spots a makeshift stall full of bright, red and juicy tomatoes. He tugs at Ammi’s sleeves. Ammi shakes her head and leads him on.

Hassan looks at Ammi and questions, “Why have Abba and you been eating less?”

Ammi swallows a lump in her throat and turns to Hassan. “We don’t have work right now, beta. We are just saving some money.”

“Will you always have to eat less, Ammi? Is it this virus? Will you never be able to go back to work? Will the bazaar never open again?” Hassan asks questions that have kept him wondering for days now.


“The times are a little different, Hassan.” Ammi lovingly touches his face.

“Why are times always different for us?” Hassan almost screams.

He looks around and sees the shops with their shutters down. The tour and ticketing shop run by Uncle Akhil is shut. The photo studio run by his friend Imran’s Abba, where he and his friends went to get their school identity card photograph clicked, is empty. The big building, which had people with heads bent on computers looked haunted by ghosts.

He looks at the small number of people rushing to their destinations, silently. Once upon a time, each one on the street had a mobile and would be talking loudly. Was that just a year ago? Everything feels like a distant memory and that scares Hassan.

“Why don’t we still have proper phone connections, Ammi? Will it always be like this? Will we always stay disconnected? When can I go back to school and write my exams, Ammi?” Hassan’s young voice is pained with his questions.

Hassan can see Ammi’s eyes flood up from behind the mask. Taking a deep breath, she braves the cold wind and turns to Hassan.

“Hassan, we live on hope, on umeed. That’s the only thing that keeps us going. We will continue to believe that one day Kashmir will be back to normalcy and so will this world.”

Hassan hugs his mother tight and both make their way to Rukhsar’s house. The only sound that accompanies the shuffle of their footsteps is the distant sound of the army patrol and the whistle of the wind.

Aunty Rukhsar is Ammi’s close friend. They used to work together with carpet weaving artisans.

“Alia, Hassan. I was waiting for you.” Rukhsar looks at them with eyes full of love but maintains distance. Hassan feels that warm hugs were also exchanged a lifetime ago.

“Here you go. I hope they are enough to get you through the season.” Rukhsar hands over a big bag of green vegetables to Ammi. Hassan sees Cabbages, haak, and green peppers in the overstuffed bag. With quick goodbyes and nods, Ammi and Hassan walk back home.

“What will we have for dinner today, Ammi?” Hassan asks as soon as they step inside their house.

Ammi smiles and adds, “Haak, we will have a yummy, filling and nutritious meal today.”

Once home, Hassan changes into his kurta and pyjamas and puts on a thin woollen pullover. He steps into the warm kitchen where Ammi is picking out the green leaves.

Ammi, what’s special about haak?” Hassan asks, seeing Ammi clean delicate and tender leaves and stalks.

“Haak is a food of respect, most of the leaves used would be thrown out otherwise, but for this dish, we use all of them. It’s called a poor man’s meal. The ones we are using today is Kaatchie Dal Haak.”

Hassan watches as Ammi heats mustard oil in the pan. The sputtering and simmering remind Hassan of firecrackers.

“Are we poor, Ammi?” Hassan asks quietly. He knew the past one year had been the toughest in his ten years.

“Why do you ask, Hassan?”

“We are eating a poor man’s meal, Ammi.”

Ammi smiles at Hassan and adds asafoetida and dried, long red chillies into the pan.

“Hassan, the times are tough and while abbu and I do not have jobs, at the moment, we are still doing better than so many other people around us. So, can we call ourselves poor?”

Hassan thinks of the stories he has been hearing over the months about people dying, both because of the virus and otherwise.

Ammi switches off the flame, adds water, then switches it back on and adds the haak to the boiling mix. The kitchen is filled with a tangy fragrance. Hassan feels his eyes smarting but enjoys the feeling.

Ammi crushes some green chillies and adds them, covering the simmering greens and letting them cook slowly.

“Aatichooo!” Hassan sneezes in response. Both of them burst into laughter.

Ammi switches off the stove and adds some salt. Hassan’s mouth waters. Laughing, Ammi ladles out a huge bowl of rice and puts haak right in the middle.

Handing it over to Hassan, she waits as Hassan tastes the simple Kashmiri haak and rice.

Ammi, this tastes magical,” Hassan grins as he gulps the entire bowl.

Ammi laughs, “See Hassan, we got something nutritious and simple out of what we would have been throwing into the dustbin.”

Ammi, I want to go back to school and lead a normal life. I want to go back to playing with my friends. I want to go back to a year ago.”

Ammi stands speechless as Hassan spells out his wishes and looks out of the window at the starkness of the city, holding his bowl of rice close. He can smell despair and sorrow.

Four seasons have passed but in his little heart, he still hopes for better news. That he will go back to learning lessons, playing games and most of all, living normally like other children of his age are. Hassan hopes that he will again get a chance to celebrate August 15 at school in Kashmir.

Fear Of Coronavirus!

All the animals of Champakvan were scared of at the speed with which the corona pandemic was spreading.

One morning, when Meeku mouse went to the market to buy some vegetables, he saw that everyone in the market was following social distancing while shopping and that they all wore masks.

Meeku always bought his vegetables from Blacky bear’s shop. He stood in the queue like everybody else. When it was his turn he handed over the list and his bag to Blacky and said, “Blacky, here is my list, please weigh the vegetables for me.”

“Right away,” said Blacky.

Blacky was weighing the vegetables when suddenly Meeku coughed.

Blacky stopped immediately and asked, “Meeku, you are coughing! Are you sure you’re not infected by coronavirus?”

“No, I am absolutely fine. Something just irritated my throat and so I coughed,” said Meeku, embarrassed as everyone was looking at him accusingly.

“How is that possible? I am sure it is coronavirus and you are hiding it. I cannot give you vegetables. You go to the hospital immediately and get yourself checked,” said Blacky, rudely.

Jumpy monkey and Damru donkey who were buying vegetables from the next shop moved away quickly. “Run, Meeku is infected by coronavirus. We will get infected too if we stay here,” Jumpy screamed.

“Yes, you are right. It is not safe to stay here,” shouted Damru, trotting away.

Soon, the entire market knew about Meeku coughing and all the shopkeepers started shutting their shops and ran.

Meeku was not able to understand what was happening around him. He tried to stop everybody. “Don’t run away from me, please stay,” he pleaded. “Could they be right, am I really infected?” he thought to himself. He became very upset and sat there and started to cry.

Dola deer was also visiting the market at the same time to buy vegetables. When she heard the noise and saw Jumpy, Damru and Blacky running away, she stopped them and asked, “Why are you all running? What is the problem?”

“Dola, Meeku is infected with coronavirus and if we stay here we will get infected too,” said Jumpy, out of breath.

“If you want to save yourselves you better run too,” Damru added.

Dola tried to calm them and asked, “First you all stop running and tell me who told you that Meeku has coronavirus?”

“I saw Meeku coughing,” said Blacky.
“Yes, we also saw him coughing,” Jumpy and Damru said in a chorus.

“Coughing does not necessarily mean that one is infected by coronavirus and treating Meeku like this based on your suspicion is not right after all he is also a member of our family,” Dola explained.

“Dola, we don’t know all that but we are very scared that we may get infected too,” said Jumpy fearfully.

Dola consoled him and said, “Don’t be scared, Jumpy. Only a doctor can say if Meeku is infected or not. Let us take him to the hospital.”

They all agreed with Dola and took Meeku to the hospital.

Doctor Jumbo elephant screened them all as they reached the hospital. He asked them to sit on the chairs placed at a distance and asked them, “What is it? Why do you all look so scared?”

“Doctor, Meeku has been infected with coronavirus. Please admit him in your hospital,” said Jumpy.

“But how do you know that he has been infected?” asked Doctor Jumbo.

“Meeku was coughing that’s how we know,” Jumpy replied.

Dola then explained the situation to Doctor Jumbo, “Actually Doctor, everybody doubts that Meeku was coughing because he is infected and that is why we have brought him here to know for sure.”

“You did the right thing by bringing him here. Let me check for his symptoms,” and Doctor Jumbo took Meeku inside for a check-up.

After taking a swab test and a full examination Doctor Jumbo came out and said, “The swab test report will take a few days to come. But I have physically examined Meeku and he is not infected by coronavirus. There is no need to hospitalise him.”

“Then why was he coughing? I have heard that Corona patients cough,” asked Blacky.

“Coughing alone does not mean that one is infected. High fever, breathlessness, headaches, diarrhoea, loss of taste and smell are some of the other symptoms of this disease. Meeku always uses a mask and he regularly sanitizes his hands. Also, he has not been in contact with any corona patients in the last few days. He does not have any symptoms,” said the doctor.

“Why was Meeku coughing then?” Damru wanted to know.

“Meeku drank cold water before leaving for the market as it was really hot and he had ice cream last night and that’s why he was coughing. I have given him medicines for his sore throat,” he explained.

Jumpy, Blacky and Damru were all embarrassed after finding out the truth from the doctor.

They all apologised to Meeku, “We accused you without any reason and took you to be a coronavirus patient. We ran away from you and treated you badly, please forgive us.”

Jumpy turned to Dola and said, “Had it not been for you we would have never got him to the hospital and known the truth.”

“Don’t be scared of coronavirus, just be alert. It can happen to anybody but a little precaution can prevent us from this disease. Wearing a mask while going out, washing our hands regularly, maintaining social distancing, covering our nose and mouth while coughing or sneezing are some of the things that can prevent us from this disease. Also, contact a doctor in a nearby hospital if you notice any symptoms. Most importantly, do not treat a coronavirus patient badly, try to help them instead,” advised Doctor Jumbo.

Meeku thanked doctor Jumbo and said, “I am thankful to you for giving us so much information about coronavirus. For a moment even I was scared but now I am no longer scared.” He also thanked Dola for her help.

Vehicles Of Gods

The spread of literacy in Vijayvan had not been good for Pandit Bholaram monkey’s business.

He was no longer called upon to read palms to predict the future, nor to perform rituals for good health, success in studies or before entering a new home. The animals of Vijayvan knew these practices were only so that Panditji could make money and did not guarantee the things they promised. 

He shared this with his friend Bunty monkey who came to meet him.

“Business has been dull, my friend. A week has passed since I have had any customer,” said Bholaram sadly.

“Yes! Everyone has become wiser since the opening of the new library,” agreed Bunty.

“Please sit, Bunty. Let me get some tea for you,” said Pandit Bholaram.

Bunty monkey sat, looked around the room and found a book. He started reading it. The book was called ‘Gods and their Favourite Rides’. The book depicted the favourite vehicles of Gods with colourful images. He flips through the entire book by the time Bholaram comes back with tea. He suddenly thought of something.

“There is another forest, a little far from here, called Devvan. The residents of Devvan are uneducated and very superstitious. Your business can thrive there,” said Bunty, taking tea from Bholaram.

Bholaram looked curiously at Bunty.

“An idea has come to my mind after reading this book!” said Bunty and narrated his plan to Bholaram, who also got excited after hearing it.

“Now, since I came up with the idea, I should be a 50% partner in your earnings. You take half and give the other half of what you earn to me,” said Bunty and Bholaram agreed. 

The duo then left for Devvan. They took a house on rent there and hung a board that said: ‘Pandit Bholaram’s Obstacle Removal Centre’.

The word soon spread that a renowned ‘Pandit’ had come to Devvan and was relieving animals of their pains and problems. A huge crowd started to gather at the centre.

Motu owl heard this and came to visit Pandit Bholaram. Touching Bholaram’s feet, Motu said, “These days my earnings are not sufficient. Please suggest a way to increase them.”

“What are you saying, Motu? Such a thing is not possible! You are the carrier of Goddess Lakshmi herself! How can you suffer? This cannot happen to you!” Pandit Bholaram exclaimed before Motu could finish his sentence.

“Who is Goddess Lakshmi?” Motu enquired.

“You don’t know about Goddess Lakshmi? She is the Goddess of wealth who grants money to all. She rides on your back whenever she has to go somewhere,” explained Bholaram.

This was all very confusing for Motu. Pandit Bholaram, then, looked at his partner Bunty monkey for support. Bunty took out the book and turned some pages. He showed an image to Motu and said, “Look, this is you and this is Goddess Lakshmi riding on you for her visit to a poor man to shower her blessings.”

“Oh yes! That is me for sure! I never knew this,” said Motu, surprised.

“Worship Goddess Lakshmi and you will have so much money, you will never have to worry again,” Bunty added.

This made Motu owl extremely happy. He gave Pandit Bholaram fees for this knowledge and left from there.

Bholaram said, “Why has Lord Ganesha’s vehicle take the pain of coming here? I would have visited your house if only you had asked me.”

Bholaram’s words did not mean anything to Chuchu and he started talking about his problem, “I am having a difficult time these days. My wife and kids do not listen to me,” he said.

“This is definitely the dark ages. Lord Ganesha’s ride is having a difficult time! It is definitely not a good time,” Bholaram dramatised.

“I do not understand what you are saying about Lord Ganesha and me being his ride. Please tell me when my luck will change,” asked Chuchu impatiently.

Bunty monkey showed Chuchu a picture from his book and explained, “Look, Lord Ganesha is riding on your back, on his task to remove problems for those who worship him.”

Chuchu was surprised to see that he was carrying Lord Ganesha on his back. This made him realize how great he was!

“Keep Lord Ganesha happy by worshipping him and soon everything will be back to normal,” suggested Bunty.

Chuchu gave money to Pandit Bholaram and left from there.

“Namaste, Pandit ji!” greeted Kalu crow, who visited Bholaram next. “I never get a successful result in any work I do. It seems as if there is an adverse influence of Lord Saturn on me.”

“Lord Saturn can never affect you adversely! You are his ride! He can never let this happen to you!” Bholaram faked surprise.

Like always, Bunty took out his book and showed Kalu an image of Kalu carrying Lord Saturn. 

“Look it is you who is carrying Lord Saturn! The Lord does not have wings to fly and he would be helpless without you. You should go and pray to him and you will be taken care of,” said Bunty.

They suggested Ballu ox to pray to Lord Shiva, Meenu peacock to pray to Kartikey’s, Hansraj swan to pray Goddess Saraswati’s and Golu eagle to pray to Lord Vishnu, as these gods rode on them and advised them to worship their respective Gods and said, “Your luck is going to change very soon. After all, these Gods have to help their rides.”

Now, Chuchu mouse, Motu owl, Kalu crow, Ballu ox, Golu Eagle to Meenu peacock, and others started worshipping their respective Gods. They believed that they would soon become wealthy if they succeeded in pleasing their Gods. 

After several days of praying when none of them got the desired results they went back to Bholaram and complained, “Pandit ji, we have been worshipping our Gods day and night but we have not been rewarded.”

The gathering of a huge crowd made Bholaram nervous. But the clever Bunty immediately came up with an idea and said, “Don’t worry, my friends!  If you haven’t succeeded in the simple method of prayer, then, we will switch to a different and more complicated method. About five kilometres from here, there is a river. On its banks is a tree. You should go there and start a hunger strike. Your strike will make the Gods helpless and their work will come to a standstill. They will not be able to travel from one place to another,” claimed Bunty. 

All the animals followed Bunty’s advice and went to the river bank and sat under the huge banyan tree in a hunger strike. Two days passed but no God or Goddesses came to their rescue.

Rocky rabbit of Vijayvan was visiting Devvan. He was riding on Grandpa elephant’s back. Grandpa elephant was tired as he had been walking continuously and wanted to rest, so they stopped near the banyan tree.

“Rocky, let us rest here for some time and have our food too,” said Grandpa elephant.

Rocky got down from Grandpa elephant’s back. Looking at the crowd gathered there Grandpa elephant said, “What is this? It seems like the whole of Devvan is gathered here!”

“Can’t you see, we are all on a hunger strike? We will not eat or drink anything until God appears to help us,” Kalu crow replied.

“I am Lord Ganesha’s vehicle. Let me see how Lord Ganesha moves out of his house without me,” Chuchu said proudly.

“I carry Goddess Lakshmi around. The Goddess flaunts herself when she sits on me. Let me see how she manages without me,” Motu owl added.

Grandpa elephant and Rocky rabbit understood that animals had been fooled. He noticed that the animals had become very weak from hunger. They were not able to speak properly. Grandpa elephant picked the food kept on his back with his trunk and brought it down. The sweets and the fruits made the animals hungrier. He invited them to eat the food.

“No, we are on a hunger strike,” they said together.

“But you all are the vehicles of the Gods and you are on a hunger strike! How will they come to you if they do not have their rides with them?” asked Rocky.

The animals looked at each other and said, “That makes sense! If we are not with them, how will they come to us?”

But Ballu was suspicious and said, “I think this is a way to disrupt our strike.”

Rocky knew the animals would not survive if they were not fed immediately. He thought hard and came up with an idea. 

He pointed towards Grandpa elephant and said, “He is Eravat-Lord Indra’s vehicle. Your prayers have made Lord Indra happy and he has sent this food with him. But if you all do not wish to eat, we will inform King Indra that.”

Before Rocky could complete his sentence, the animals jumped at the food and polished it off. They felt stronger after eating the food.

“We were not aware that we are vehicles of various Gods till Pandit Bholaram and Bunty monkey told us that we are important as we are the vehicles of Gods,” said Motu owl. On hearing Bholaram and Bunty’s names, both Grandpa Elephant and Rocky rabbit were surprised.

“Chuchu, please help me pick up this empty box of sweets and throw it,” said Grandpa Elephant after a little thought.

Chuchu mouse came and tried to pick up the box but he couldn’t move it.

“Try harder! You claim to carry Lord Ganesha across the universe on your back, so this should not be difficult for you,” said Grandpa elephant.

Chuchu mouse was embarrassed.

Rocky then asked Motu owl, “Can you throw this box outside?”

“Where is the box?” asked Motu looking around but he could not see the box. 

“It’s day time. I cannot see anything when there is sunlight. Let the sun set and it become dark…” he said, trailing his sentence.

“What if Goddess Lakshmi has to go somewhere during the day?” asked Rocky. Motu had no answer.

“Pandit Bholaram has fooled you! You are not the vehicles of Gods and no one will help you succeed if you give money to such pandits. Success can only be achieved with hard work,” explained Grandpa elephant.

Meanwhile in the jungle, Pandit Bholaram and Bunty were busy packing their stuff and getting ready to run away.

Grandpa elephant took all the animals to Pandit Bholaram and Bunty’s house where they saw the duo dividing the money they had earned amongst themselves.

On seeing Grandpa elephant, Bholaram and Bunty understood that they had been caught and returned the money they had charged from the animals.

Grandpa elephant and Rocky rabbit then left for Vijayvan. On his way back Grandpa elephant thought, “We need to open a school and library here, so that the residents of Devvan cannot be fooled easily and keep books that will help them think for themselves.”

The Ghost of Penupuram

Nikhil and Neelu could meet their cousins Alekhya and Anirudh only once a year at their family home during the winter vacations. They would really look forward to meeting them!

Nikhil’s family would come down from Mumbai and Alekhya’s would arrive
from Hyderabad. They would meet every winter in Penupuram, a village deep in the interiors of Andhra Pradesh.

The holidays were a glorious period of about twenty days for the kids. There were no studies, no homework, no special classes, no assignments. They would just eat, sleep, and play in their grandfather’s mango orchard. In the evenings, they would listen to the stories narrated by Tatagaru (Grandpa) while munching on snacks made by Bamma (Grandma).

One evening Tatagaru said, “Children, today I am going to tell you the story of the ghost of Penupuram.”

“That’s awesome Tatagaru,” the children said together.

“This happened in the 1970s,” said Tatagaru.

“Oh Tatagaru, we were not even born then,” said Anirudh.

“Even your parents were not born, children,” said Tatagaru, laughing.

“My dad was born in 1978,” said Nikhil proudly.

”And my father was born in 1979,” said Alekhya, not wanting to be left behind.

“Okay. Keep quiet now and let Tatagaru start his story,” Neelu said impatiently.

“Well children, I was about fifteen years then. In those days we did not have buses or taxis to go to the nearest town. We either had to go on a bullock cart or a bicycle.

One night my father fell ill. My mother was very worried. My brother and sister had gone to a nearby village to attend a wedding. I was unwell, so I could not go.

Mother started crying. It was ten o’clock at night. All our neighbours had gone to sleep. The nearest town, Tenali, was about an hour away, on a bicycle.

With a severe cold, I decided to cycle to Tenali, to get our family doctor.

My mother went to my friend Bheem’s house to request him to give me company because I was not well.

Bheem was a very close friend of mine, who lived two houses away. He would boast about fighting robbers single-handedly, killing venomous snakes, controlling bulls and many other feats which many people would not even think about doing. I had a feeling that he was a big braggart but I could never prove that he had not done what he said.

My mother believed all his stories, so maybe that’s why she wanted him to accompany me on the dark country road.

Bheem came over to my house. He had been awake but did not seem very eager to give me company on the pitch-dark road. When he saw my father struggling to breathe, without saying anything, he agreed to ride the cycle and I sat behind him.

We started out on our journey. There were no street lights. Bheem started showing off again.

“Nothing scares me. I can fight any wild animal,” said Bheem. But as we rode along, his confidence seemed to fade. We were talking and joking to prove to each other that we were not afraid, but in reality, we were very trembling with fear.

Halfway through, we reached a dried up well. Bheem told me that people had strange experiences like hearing the sound of payal and dancing steps. He declared loudly that he was not afraid of ghosts but suddenly became quiet.

I also started feeling a little uneasy because suddenly we heard a tinkling sound. It was not the sound of payal which would also be scary in such a place. It was the loud sound of ghungroos! The sound was now coming closer to us.
Bheem stopped the cycle.

“Wha… what happened?” I asked nervously.

“I don’t know. The cycle is not moving… and I can’t see anything,” said Bheem. He was shaking like a leaf. I could feel his body rattling. We left the bicycle and ran. The tinkling sound followed us.”

Neelu moved closer to Tatagaru. She grabbed Tatagaru’s hand was getting scared. Anirudh started teasing her.

“It is only a story, silly,” said Anirudh.

“But it happened to Tatagaru and his friend,” said Neelu, clinging on to Tatagaru’s arm.

Grandfather did not smile but continued.Children fiction

“We ran at lightning speed. We were running blindly on the dark road. Suddenly Bheem screamed, “Aaaaaaaaargh … Someone pushed me aaaaaaaaagh!” I was so scared I did not know what to do. We kept running in the general direction of the town. And then, something hit me on my back. I scream­ the loudest I had done in my life, and fell forward. The sound of bells was still coming from behind us. After that we don’t remember what happened to us.

When we opened our eyes, we were in Dr. Rao’s house. A lady was massaging our foreheads and backs. Somebody offered us hot milk. We drank without any hesitation.


After a few minutes, the doctor said “Yes, young men. Now tell me the entire story.”

We narrated the entire story. We were still feeling very nervous. The doctor asked Bheem, “So young man, whose ghost was it?”

“I do not know sir, but people say it is the ghost of a young woman who died recently,” said Bheem.

“Look here,” the doctor said. “I have been living here for the past 45 years and I have not seen any ghosts. As far as I know, no young woman has died. I am a doctor so I should know.”

“Then those bells?” I asked, still nervous.

Dr. Rao took us to the verandah. “There is your ghost,” he said pointing to a playful bull-calf tied to a tree. He was covered with bells and beads and was grazing on some dry grass which Dr. Rao’s servants had put for him.children fiction

Dr. Rao continued ”At about eleven o’clock, I heard some sounds. I came out and saw the two of you lying on my doorstep talking that a ghost was chasing you and wanted to kill you. So, we got you inside and you know the rest of the story,” he said smiling.

Dr. Rao said, “Boys, there are no such things as ghosts and ghouls. People just imagine them. All such experiences can be explained. This poor calf was probably separated from its herd. Tomorrow we will know who his owner is.

Actually, this is not the first time that cattle is lost in that area. When these animals see human beings, they run behind them.”

More From Champak: The Sugarcane Ghost

Dr. Rao drove us back in his jeep. On the way, we found our bicycle. One of its tyres got punctured. We now understood why it had stopped last night! Dr. Rao helped us put it in the jeep.

My father soon became better. The doctor said it was just an allergy. Mother thanked him with tears in her eyes. The doctor was an old family friend. He asked us not to worry. But a great change came over Bheem. From that day onwards, he never talked about his brave adventures.”

Tataguru took a deep breath as he finished the story.

“Oh Tatagaru, what a great story!” clapped the children.

The Expedition to RoboPlanet

The animals of Champakvan woke up one morning to find a notice on the front page of the newspaper, in big bold letters “Have you ever wished you could go on an exciting trip? We’re giving you a once in a lifetime opportunity. To avail it, be there at the Champakvan Auditorium at 5 pm today.”

That evening at five, there was not a single empty seat at the Champakvan Auditorium.

Everybody was eager to find out what this once in a lifetime opportunity was.

The crowd settled down as Baddy, the fox walked across the stage and stood at the mic.

“Animals of Champakvan, human beings have always been a step ahead of us animals since time immemorial. But, as their population increases, humans are running out of space and resources. As a solution to this, they intend to start a new life on Mars. While only plans have been made, a select few humans will be sent to Mars via rocketship in the coming years.

What if I told you that today, animals are ahead of humans?” said Baddy.

The audience was abuzz with excitement as they spoke amongst themselves. “Dr. Crocky, the crocodile, will explain things in more detail,” said Baddy and stepped off the stage.

“Dear animals,” said Crocky. “If we would like to ensure a safe future for our future generations, we must move too. Fortunately for us, we have not only picked the planet we will relocate to, we have also built the spaceship that will take us to our future home.

“We have been studying the planet Robo for almost 15 years. The planet is very much like earth there are a lot of forests with enough space for us to establish a new home. The weather is always mild there, along with a lot of trees or forest land, there will also be no humans,” said Dr. Crocky.

“How do we get there, Doc?” asked Titu, the butterfly

“That’s one thing you don’t have to worry about,” said Dr. Crocky. “That’s why we have Baddy, the fox with us. We have created a rocket which can take up to 10 animals or more than that depending on the weight the spacecraft can carry. Those animals can stay on there, and the rocket will come back to take the next batch of animals.”

“But won’t this scheme cost a lot,” said Blacky, the bear.

“No, it won’t,” replied Crocky, “the registration fee costs only 1000 rupees, and the rest is being handled by us.” Upon hearing this, the animals got excited and 600 of them registered their names on spot.

“The animals who have registered will be sent to planet Robo, but first all the smaller animals will be sent as they are lightweight and good to go for the first time. The members of our ‘Mission Robo’ team will also go with them to settle them down,” said Crocky.

In some time, the list of animals was released. The list included Meeku, the mouse, and 19 other small animals, like lambs, rabbits and sheep.

“These animals should come to the Champakvan ground tomorrow where our rocket will be parked, they will be sent to planet Robo in the rocket,” said Baddy.

When Meeku, the mouse broke the news to his friends, they were very happy for him.


But his friend Cheeku, the rabbit, felt that something fishy was going on. When he asked Meeku questions about the mission, Meeku grew annoyed. “You’re just jealous that I got the opportunity to go a new planet and you didn’t,” he said and stormed off.

The next day, a huge crowd had gathered at the forest grounds. Off in the distance the animals could see a rocket.


Meeku and the others were asked to board the rocket and Baddy began the countdown from ten to one. When he finished the countdown, smoke came out of the rocket and a blinding light shone over the animals watching. They were all blinded temporarily and when the lights were switched off, the rocket was gone.

“Where did the rocket go?” the animals asked each other.

“The rocket has been sent to outer space. It will reach planet Robo in four days. Once it lands, I’ll give you an update. Until then, I wish you good luck and good night,” said Baddy and left.

Since Meeku had left, Cheeku had been feeling bad. A few days had passed when Cheeku’s friend Blacky came over.

“That Meeku is so careless,” said Blacky. “I found this cap of his before anybody else. It was just lying there in the forest.”


The colour drained from Cheeku’s face as he looked at the cap. “Meeku was wearing this cap when he boarded the rocket to planet Robo. What is it doing here at Champakvan?” he asked.

The only person who could give him answers now was Baddy and Cheeku went straight to his office and demanded to speak to Meeku.

“Meeku’s undergoing training. I just spoke to him a few minutes ago and he said that everybody was fine. He even asked me to give you his regards,” said Baddy and smiled from ear to ear.

Cheeky immediately saw through Baddy’s smile and realised he was lying. He went to the king of the jungle, Shersingh and complained, but the king said, “I’m sorry Cheeku. Unless you can prove that something is amiss, Baddy and the planet Robo mission team are all innocent.”

Cheeku realised that the only solution was to expose Baddy and Crocky. With the help of his friends Blacky, Jumbo, the elephant and Titu, the butterfly, they kept a keen eye on Baddy and his office.

A few days later, Cheeku and his friends met to discuss what they found.

“Every night, Baddy and Crocky go to the cave by the riverside and don’t come out till dawn.

Something fishy’s definitely going on in there,” said Blacky.

“I found out that the rocket never took off,” said Titu. “My friend, Ealey, the Eagle was in the sky as the rocket was about to launch. He said that there was no rocket flying in the sky that night.”

“My friends just told me that there was a hole under the rocket’s launch pad. They told me that a team of moles had been digging a tunnel from there leading to the riverside for over a month,” said Jumbo.

The four of them went straight to Shersingh and told him everything. Shersingh considered the evidence and was convinced. He ordered his guards to surround the cave’s entrance and asked Baddy and Crocky to surrender. Seeing the guards, they surrendered on the spot and confessed.

“The entire mission was a lie. We only did it to catch animals easily,” said Baddy.

“Once the animals were put in the rocket ship, we knocked them out with chloroform. Instead of sending the rocket up, we sent it down and to the cave. The animals have been our prisoner all this time,” said Crocky.

The king ordered the guards to go into the cave and release the animals. When Meeku came out of the cave, Cheeku was relieved to see his friend safe and sound.


Meeku hugged Cheeku and apologised. He promised to always think twice before making a decision.


It was the coldest day of winter. Throughout the day, the sun remained hidden behind a thick layer of fog. Icy-cold winter breeze whistled through the leaves of the trees. Most of the birds and animals had not come out of their homes.

Kalulu, the rabbit, lay inside his burrow, enjoying its warmth.

Suddenly, his ears stood erect.

“Kalulu! Kalulu,” a squeaky voice was calling out to him.

He came outside and saw Moro Goro, the squirrel.

“Kalulu,” said Moro Goro, “Wild Goat is dying. She wants to see you right away.”

At once, Kalulu hopped off towards the overhanging ledge. Wild Goat lived underneath the ledge.

The Best Mother’s Day Gift

Wild Goat was groaning. She was suffering. Her entire body was covered with deep cuts and gashes. Blood was oozing out of them. Her week-old kid was standing beside her.

Seeing the rabbit she tried to get up. She said, “Kalulu, I am hurt because of Fisi, the hyena. He wanted to grab my kid. After a big fight, I was able to drive him away at the cost of my life. Please save my kid from the hyena’s cruel…”

She died before completing her sentence. The kid was very small. He could not understand what was happening around him

Kalulu was worried. He always shared everyone’s troubles and tried to solve them. He looked at the unfortunate kid who was blinking at him with innocent eyes. As he was hungry, the little one began to search for his dead mother’s teats with his mouth.

Kalulu thought, “Something has to be done at the earliest. The kid was sure to die of hunger if it did not get its milk. With the hyena around, its life would never be free from danger.” Suddenly, he remembered Mother Bear. She lived in a Dark Cave on the mountain-slope. The other day, when Kalulu was passing by, he had stopped when he had heard a sound. It was Mother Bear, sobbing.

More From Champak: The Naughty Duckling

After stepping into the cave he had asked, “Why are you so sad?”

The mother bear had replied, “O Kalulu,” my heart is broken. This morning, when I had gone to the stream to drink water, hunters took away my two-day-old baby. I feel like killing myself. What’s there to live for?”

Kalulu had murmured a few words of sympathy and left.

Remembering this incident, he told the kid, “Follow me.” They proceeded towards Dark Cave.

As he stood by the mouth of the cave, he called out, “Mother Bear, I’ve brought something for you to live for. In this jungle, a mother has lost her baby and a baby has lost its mother. One mother is dead but another is alive.”

Mother Bear shook her huge body and stood on her hind legs. Swinging her forelimbs, she walked towards the mouth of the cave.bear-hug-supper

Kalulu stood aside. Mother Bear and the kid were face to face. She bent down and picked up the kid with her forelimbs. She hugged it. The kid lost no time in finding her teat and pressed it between its mouth.

Kalulu saw tears of joy in her eyes.

“Now I’m going to take care of the hyena,” said Kalulu.

He hopped away, leaving the mother and her kid to themselves.

Fisi was walking along a narrow path. He knew that he had badly wounded Wild Goat who was going to be his supper. Her kid would be the extra ‘sweet dish’ or dessert.

“You seem to be in a hurry.”

As he heard these words, the hyena stopped.

The voice had come from a nearby burrow. It was a familiar voice…Kalulu’s!

“At the moment, I am in no hurry to sharpen my teeth on you,” said the hyena with a cruel grin. “I’m going to enjoy a different supper.”

“Your supper has already moved from beneath the ledge,” said Kalulu. “Both, the mother goat and the kid, have taken shelter in Dark Cave. Yes, the mother is seriously wounded, yet she can still be dangerous. You’ve had the taste of her horns, I believe?”

“I’m so disappointed,” murmured the hyena.

“You don’t have to be,” said the rabbit. “I can give you a clever plan. It would help you to get your ‘supper’ without any difficulty.”

Fisi, in disbelief, questioned, “Aren’t you my old enemy? Haven’t I suffered at your hands several times? How can you be helpful?”

“Your problem is that you haven’t learnt to trust those who are your true friends,” said Kalulu. “I agree. We’ve been enemies in the past. Let’s forget the past and be friends forever. My plan, which I’m going to share with you, will be a proof of my friendship.”

“What’s it?” questioned the hyena.

The rabbit said, “My dear friend, listen to my words carefully. The main trouble with you is that your presence can be felt from a distance. You look ugly and are smelly. You need to use a bit of cunning to confuse your supper.”

“I don’t understand you?” growled Fisi, grinding his teeth.

“I have no doubt that you’re an idiot who can’t understand simple matters,” said Kalulu. “Your awful face alerts everyone. Why not use a trick? When you enter the cave, move backwards, with your tail facing the cave and your face in the opposite direction. By the time the mother goat and the kid recognise you, it would be too late for them…ha…ha…”

“What a wonderful trick!” exclaimed Fisi. “Kalulu, I’m so pleased with you that I’ll eat you last…ha…ha. It will be your reward for being helpful to me. This is how we hyenas return goodness.”

Meanwhile at the cave, Mother Bear hugged the kid. After a satisfying meal, the little one was fast asleep.

Some movement at the mouth of the cave startled her. She turned her face towards it.

“What is this? A hyena, with the tail in front!” She thought.bear-hug-supper

The next moment, the hyena howled in great pain.

“What a horrid monster is this? It is boring holes into my skin.”

He helplessly wriggled and kicked. However, he could not free himself from the horrible monster. Little did he know that in this world there are only a few things that are tighter than a bear-hug?

A few minutes later, the hyena lay outside the cave, half dead after tasting his ‘bear-hug’ supper.

Courageous Brother

Didi, Didi, look at what I have.” eight year old Rohit entered Sarita Didi’s room. He showed her a trophy that he held in his hands.

“Wow, this looks beautiful. Why have you got this shining trophy, Rohit?” Sarita asked her brother.

“Didi, at the scout camp, I was chosen as the best roller skater. They gave me a cheque for Rs. 500 and a trophy.”

“Congratulations, Rohit. I am proud of you,” said Sarita.

She had tears of happiness in her eyes.

Since childhood, Sarita had been affected by polio. She couldn’t walk. She had to use a wheelchair to move around.

Despite her condition, Sarita didn’t lose heart. She was good at painting. In fact, she had just completed a painting for a competition.

After he saw her painting Rohit said, “I am sure that your painting is going to win the first prize.”

Sarita replied, “It will get a prize only if you will submit it at the Town Hall by 5 O’clock today.”

“Didi, don’t worry. I will go and submit it immediately,” said Rohit.

He covered the painting with a newspaper and left.

He had walked a little farther distance, when he heard a voice shouting, “Thief… thief.”

Rohit saw a masked man holding a black bag in his hand. The man ran ahead of him.

An old man, who was limping behind him said, “Somebody catch him, this thief is stealing my bag.”

Rohit stopped to help the old man.

“Baba, has he taken off with your bag?” Rohit asked.

The old man replied, “Son, that bag has 5 lakhs rupees in it. I was going to deposit the money in the bank. I don’t know how he snatched the bag from my hands.”

The old man started crying.

Rohit was thinking. He wanted to help the old man. Just then, he noticed a boy of his age in the nearby park. He was practicing with his roller skates. Rohit ran towards him and requested him to lend him his skates for a while.

The boy agreed to do so. Rohit immediately put on the skates on his feet and borrowed the old man’s walking stick. He then skated in the direction that the thief’ had taken.courageous-brother

Skating at a high speed, Rohit followed the thief. Onlookers were surprised to see a small child chase a thief. They moved aside to give him way.

Even in his dreams, the thief could not have imagined that someone would catch him. As soon as Rohit reached close, he pushed the old man’s stick on the thief’s leg.


The thief fell flat on the road. The bag slipped out from his hands and fell at a distance.courageous-brother

Rohit quickly picked up the bag. He alerted a few passersby. A few people came running towards the thief. They tied him up with a rope so that he couldn’t flee.

Meanwhile, somebody had called the police. The police arrived shortly.

The police inspector said, “He is the most infamous criminal in the city. We have wanted to nab him for a while.”

He added, “Well done, son. You will be rewarded for your courage and presence of mind.”

Rohit was happy. After submitting the painting at the Town Hall, he returned home to his sister. He narrated the incident. Sarita hugged her courageous brother.

Story of Bread

Mayuri Peahen was a reporter at Jungle Times. When she reached her office, editor Jerry Pigeon told her, “The next edition of Jungle Times is a ‘food special. The magazine is going to be finalised tomorrow. Two pages are still empty. Prepare a nice article to fill them.”

Mayuri thought for a while. Unfortunately, no idea clicked in her mind. She couldn’t think of a topic to write on. Soon, it was lunchtime. She hadn’t brought a packed lunch. So, she left the office to get something to eat. She felt a sudden urge to eat bread.

She went to a bakery and asked for bread. The bakery owner Yaku Billy Goat asked, “Which type of bread you want, brown or white?”

“Bread has colours?” Mayuri questioned.

“Bread generally has two colours. However, there is a wide variety of bread,” replied Yaku. “Okay, what is the difference between white and brown bread?” Mayuri asked with curiosity.

“White bread is made from refined flour while brown bread is made using whole wheat,” explained Yaku. Mayuri thought, “This bakery owner knows a lot about bread. I can get a lot of information from him. Then I will be able to write an article on bread for the magazine.”

Mayuri said, “Uncle, I am a reporter at Jungle Times. Could you please give me more information about bread? I can use it to write an article.”

He replied, “Why not? Not only bread, I know a lot about every item sold in a bakery.”

“For the time being, please tell me about bread,” said Mayuri.

She took out her pen and diary. She started taking notes.

The bakery owner began, “Normally two types of bread are made and eaten. White bread is made from refined flour and brown bread is made from whole wheat flour.”

Mayuri interrupted him saying, “You have already told me this. Tell me, when was bread made for the first time?”

He said, “Most probably, bread was made for the first time at least twelve thousand years ago. Some historians say that some types of bread were made thirty thousand years ago.”

“Wow. Tell me more…” Mayuri prompted. He continued, “At that time, the dough was made from flour obtained from different grains. It was roasted on flat stones placed over the fire. In the 18th century, bread was made in the home and the hearth.”

She asked, “Is bread similar all over the world?”

He replied, “No, bread has different shapes and sizes.”

“Okay, tell me more,” said Mayuri.

He said, “In America, bread is often made from maize flour. In Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia, it is generally made from rice flour. Germany adds sesame seeds, pistachios and cashew nuts to its bread. Iran and Mongolia make thick, round bread.”

She asked, “Are there other kinds of bread apart from these?”

He continued, “Yes, Africa produces bread made in hot oil. China makes bread that is slightly sour in taste and is steamed.

Germany makes salted bread. Israel makes bread that is both sweet and sour in taste. In India, white and brown bread are consumed the most.”

“Is bread eaten in different ways, in different countries?” Mayuri asked.story-of-bread

“Seventy per cent of the countries of the world enjoy eating bread. Fifty per cent of the bread made is used to make sandwiches. Apart from this, it is also used in patties, burgers, hot dogs and as a cereal with vegetables,” Yaku replied.

She asked, “Is there any country that makes all types of bread?”

“Switzerland is a country where the bread of all countries are made and sold. Britain makes more than two hundred varieties of bread, all of which taste good.”

“This is my final question. Does bread have any nutrition?” asked Mayuri.

“Bread has protein, carbohydrates, calcium, iron and vitamins that are essential for the body. Bread made from refined flour doesn’t have fibre. It contains a lesser amount of vitamins and minerals. So, it is better to eat brown bread.”

Mayuri kept her pen and diary back in her bag. She thanked Yaku for giving her so much information about bread. She went back to the office. She began to write an article on bread.

King Potato

A tiny potato emerged out from the soil. It beamed with happiness.

It thought, “Wow, what a world! I have heard a lot about the world. Fortunately, I can now see it. I am going to have fun.”

While it was looking around, it spotted a green coloured round thing, clinging on to a climber. It asked, “Hey, who are you?”

“I am a young tomato.”

“You came out before me?” the potato questioned.

The tomato replied, “I have always been out since I was born.”

The little potato felt bad. However, it soon forgot everything. It was a jolly thing. It got back to its original fun-filled mood.

It thought, “I will see the entire world.”

While it was still thinking, it saw a long, green thing hanging from a straight standing plant.

“Who are you?” it asked.

“I am chilli.”

“You also came out before me!”

The chilli replied, “I have always been out, soaking in the sunlight, breathing in fresh air.”

The potato’s face fell. There were other plants in the garden, on which tiny fruits were swaying in happiness.

The potato asked the little pea, “Have you always been out as well?”

The pea was naughty. It sensed the potato’s restlessness.King Potato

It said, “Is this a question to ask? Not only I, but everyone out here hasn’t been buried under the ground. We breathe in fresh air. All of us sleep under the moonlit sky. We wake up with the golden rays of the sun. It’s fun swaying in the breeze.”

“Hmm, this means that I am the only one who has to stay underground. How unlucky we potatoes are! Look at the others. They are all so shiny and beautiful. They live in fresh air. I look so filthy and ugly! Nobody will even notice me.”

The potato felt sad. After talking to the other vegetables, it kept quiet.

A few days later, it was kept in a basket.

It was taken to the vegetable market. All the other vegetables also went along.

“Look, the king of vegetables has been kept near me!” the brinjal exclaimed excitedly.

The potato asked, “Where? Who is it? Please tell me.”

The potato was curious. The brinjal became silent for a while.

He asked the brinjal, “Why are you looking at me like that? Am I that ugly?”

With some hesitation, the brinjal replied, “You are the king, the king of vegetables.”

“Why are you making fun of me? I am an ugly vegetable, who lives underground. How can I be the king?” the potato questioned.

The brinjal replied, “You really are the king. You have all the qualities needed to be a king. Most vegetable preparations are made with you. When there is no other vegetable you alone are sufficient. People can have a satisfying meal by just eating you.”

The pumpkin was lying close by. It said, “You are healthy. How can you not be king? You have Carbohydrates, Vitamin C, Iron, Calcium, Phosphorus, Riboflavin, Carotene and Niacin.

You are enriched with so many nutrients. You are available in every season, every day. We may be here today but gone tomorrow. You are available throughout the year.”

The little potato was pleasantly surprised. It was finding it difficult to believe that it was the king of vegetables!

It thought, “Inner qualities and usefulness are more important than outer appearances. I might be ugly on the surface but my other qualities make me stand apart from others, so much so that I am their king!”King Potato

The little potato now understood its self-worth. It regretted its earlier thinking. It felt satisfied, not because it was the king, but because it knew the reason why it was the king.

Mittu, the pet dog

Deepti was very sad. She had lost Mittu, her pet dog. The previous evening, she had gone for her piano classes. She had taken Mittu with her. Mittu was playing in the garden of the piano teacher’s house. When the class was over, Deepti went to the garden to fetch Mittu. However, Mittu was nowhere to be found. She had yelled, cried and shouted out Mittu’s name at least a thousand times. Mittu never replied. She had walked home. She sadly told her Mom that Mittu was missing.

Mom reassured Deepti, “Don’t worry my dear, Mittu is very clever. He will soon come home. Now, eat your snacks and start on your homework.”

Deepti concentrated on her studies. After having dinner, she went to sleep.

A week passed. There was no sign of Mittu. Deepti’s Dad said, “We will soon buy a new puppy. You can play with him.”

Deepti missed playing with her dog. Every day, Mittu used to accompany Deepti up to the school bus. Her friends always played with Mittu. Whenever Deepti’s friends did not come to play with them, Mittu used to play hide and seek with Deepti. It was fun playing with Mittu. Mittu used to sleep under Deepti’s bed. Deepti felt that she could not love any other dog. She only wanted Mittu. Day by day, she became quieter and sadder.

One day, Deepti’s dad took her to an exhibition. He wanted her to enjoy herself. The exhibition was very big and had lots of games. Deepti’s dad got her a new teddy bear.

He said, “Deepti, now you can play with this teddy whenever you feel bored.”

Deepti said, “Thank you, daddy. This is only a toy. My Mittu was real.”

A little later, there was an announcement

“Welcome to the grand exhibition. Here comes our next item, “The Dog Show.’ See cute dogs perform different tricks, stunts and dances”.

Deepti told her Dad and Mom, “Please come with me. I want to see the dog show.”

They went to the centre of the exhibition ground. They took their seats and watched the show. Many dog owners proudly brought their dogs to the stage and ordered them to sit, jump and dance. The dogs obeyed their masters. As the shows went on, Deepti watched with great enthusiasm. Suddenly, she got up from her chair and jumped up and down.

She cried loudly, “Mittu, this is my Mittu.”

Hearing her cry, a cute dog jumped from the stage and started running towards her. It was her Mittu! Deepti was so happy that she cried and hugged Mittu. Mittu also licked Deepti. He showed his affection by barking happily. Deepti’s dad and mom were so relieved. Finally, they could see that their daughter was happy.

Meanwhile, someone from the stage came down and said, “Do you know Tommy? One day I saw him running in the middle of the road. There was a lot of traffic. I thought that this dog would get hurt. So, I took it with me.”

Deepti said, “Yes, it is my pet dog, Mittu. I lost him. Thank you for saving my dog’s life and taking care of him.”Mittu,-the-pet-dog

The gentleman said, “Oh, it is my pleasure. Mittu is very cute and smart. I had real fun with him. Anyway, since it is yours, you can now take him.”

Mittu barked loudly. He was also saying thank you to the gentleman. Deepti and Mittu happily walked away.

Graffiti’s Intellect

Bhikhu the Bear had come to Champakvan. He was a famous astrologer. The animals of Champakvan were highly impressed by his talks.

Mickey the Rabbit extended his palm and asked, “Please read my palm and tell me as to when will my days turn sunny? I think I am possessed by some evil spirits. Nothing goes right with me. Caty Aunty kidnaps my young ones when we are out for work. Please suggest a way out.”

Bhikhu said, “I will have to perform some rituals to ward off the evil spirits and that will cost some money.”

“We are ready to spend any amount for it,” said Mickey.

Foxy the Fox came to Bhikhu and asked, “Baba, I have heard that you can double money and gold. Is it true?”

Bhikhu raised his head with pride and said, “A powerful being like me can do anything.”

Foxy got excited and gave away all her valuables and money to Bhikhu.

Bhikhu became famous in Champakvan. The animals treated him like a king. They used to get lot of fruits for him. Bhikhu had involved Bhaggu the Horse in his plan. They both enjoyed all the attention from Champakvan.

Bhikhu kept telling the animals that he was performing the rituals daily. He told them that they should come to him two days prior to Diwali and take their valuables and money that will have doubled by then.

As instructed by Bhikhu, Mickey and Foxy went to Bhikhu’s house to collect their valuables. They were astonished to see that Bhikhu and Bhaggu were nowhere to be seen. They became panicky and started to weep.

Old Graffiti Giraffe Uncle had come to Champakyan. He saw Mickey crying and asked him for the reason. Mickey narrated the entire episode.

Graffiti asked, “Did Bhaggu limp while walking? Did he have chickpeas laden on his back? Does any of the two have wounds on his body?”

Some animals informed that a wounded Bhikhu was seen rushing out of his house with a huge bag in the morning. Everyone there was shocked as to how Graffiti Uncle knew so much about Bhaggu and Bhikhu. They pleaded him to take them to Bhikhu and Bhaggu.

Graffiti said, “I have no idea of their whereabouts.”

The animals took Graffiti to the police station. Inspector Shersingh started interrogating him about the case. He said, “You have given quite a lot of information about the two tricksters. Then why are you apprehensive to tell us about their hiding spot?”

Graffiti said, “When I was coming to Champakvan, I saw footprints of an animal. Only three limbs had left prints and so could guess that the animal was hobbling. There were some chickpeas scattered on the way and that made me conclude that the animal was carrying chickpeas on his back. Also, I saw some drops of blood on the way, and that is why I guessed that the animal must have been wounded.”

Shersingh said, “You are indeed very intelligent. Now you all must follow those footprints and nab the frauds.” |

The animals of Champakvan, along with Graffiti, followed the footprints.

They reached a place and Graffiti said, “Wait.

They both must be around this place.”

“How can you be so sure?” asked Mickey.

Graffiti replied, “Look around. There is no grass here. It seems someone has just finished grazing. And also there is a river nearby for drinking water.”

Just then, Bhikhu came out of the river and Mickey nabbed him. Foxy saw Bhaggu nearby and jumped on his back. Bhaggu tried to escape but in vain.short stories for kids

Bhaggu and Bhikhu were taken to the police station. The police seized all the money and valuables from them and returned the same to Mickey and Foxy.

Shersingh felicitated Graffiti Uncle and said, “You have accomplished a lot of things just by using your intelligence. You are an inspiration to all the citizens of Champakvan.”


Autumn had passed, winter was approaching. All the birds began to fly south. Only one little bird was left behind. It had a broken wing.

“Farewell! We’ll meet in spring,” said the birds. The little bird sighed. It said, “Oh dear! Oh dear! I need a home for the winter. If I can reach those trees, perhaps, they will help me.”

It was very cold with the frost and snow falling steadily.

The first tree that the bird saw was a Birch. It took a deep breath and pleasantly asked, “Oh, dear beautiful Birch, my wing is broken. May I take shelter in your branches?”

“For how long do you wish to stay?” The Birch asked the bird.

“Just until spring,” answered the bird.

“Oh dear! That’s too long. Sorry!” The Birch replied.

“Birch, it’s all right,” replied the bird. “Perhaps, the mighty Oak will help me!”

When the bird reached the Oak, it took a deep breath and politely asked, “Oh, dear mighty Oak, my wing is broken. May I take shelter in your branches until my friends return?”

“Oh dear! Dear me no!” The Oak sighed. “You’re a restless bird; you’ll move around and disturb me throughout the winter!

“Oak, it’s all right,” replied the bird. “Perhaps, the kind Willow will help me.”

When the bird reached the Willow, it took a deep breath and politely said, “Oh, dear kind Willow, my wing is broken. May I take shelter in your branches until my friends return in spring?”

“Oh dear! Oh dear!” The Willow said. “I don’t know you. However, I’m sure you’ll find a few trees somewhere in this forest! that’ll take in strange birds!”

The poor bird was just about to give up looking for shelter. It heard a gentle voice calling, “Little bird, where are you going?”evergreen empathy

“Oh dear! Oh dear! I really don’t know!” said the bird, truthfully. “I’m very sad and cold.”

“Come, climb up to one of my branches,” said the soft voice. “I’m the Spruce tree. You can live on my warmest branch all winter, if you choose to.”

The bird said, “Oh dear, oh, dear, how can I thank you enough?”

“It’s time at least one tree helped you, I will keep the cold wind away from you,” said the Pine tree.

Yet, another voice called out and said, “I can also help you.”

“Oh dear, oh, dear, who is that?” The bird asked.

The tree answered, “It is I, the Juniper. I can give you berries all winter long. Birds like you, love my berries.”

“Oh dear, oh, dear, of course we do!” The bird exclaimed in a happy tone.

The Spruce gave the lonely little bird a home. The Pine protected it from the cold North Wind. The Juniper gave it berries to eat. These trees spread some evergreen empathy towards the little bird. That’s why the leaves of the Spruce, Pine and Juniper are always green.

Forgetul Grandma

Grandma lived in a big house. She lived alone. Her children and grandchildren lived abroad. Forgetful by nature, she would often keep something somewhere and forget about it. Then, she would keep searching the entire house. She would be restless till she found what she was looking for. She loved children. She would often call them by wrong names.

The children found this funny. They would laugh. Grandma was very fond of watching movies. One day, she decided to go for a movie. She wore a nice fur coat. She locked the door. She began thinking as to where should she keep the key so that she could find it easily. She knew she was forgetful. She didn’t want to lose the key.

She thought, “I should keep the key in a flower-pot. However, there are so many pots here, so how will I remember in which pot I have kept the key? I can keep the key in the pot in a corner, but then there are pots in every corner. What should I do?” Grandma couldn’t make up her mind.

“I should keep the pot with the key in the car. Then I will just have to remember car and pot.” Grandma thought that this was a good idea. She heaved a sigh of relief.

Grandma kept the pot in the car and began her journey. Unfortunately, she forgot where she was going. She figured that she must have come out for some shopping. She turned left, towards the main market.

It was Sunday. The market was very crowded. Many cars were parked. Grandma thought that there were so many cars here that she would find it hard to remember where she had parked her car. Now she was in a dilemma.

Grandma thought, “It would be better if I keep the car at home and come back in a taxi.”

Grandma returned home.

By now, Grandma was tired.

“How about having a hot cup of coffee first?” she thought.

Grandma loved having coffee, while watching flowers through her kitchen window.

She reached the door.

“Where have I kept the key?’ she thought for a while.

Finally, she remembered the idea of putting the key in a flower-pot. She looked inside all the pots. The key wasn’t in any of them.

Grandma was worried.

“Oh no, what has happened to me? If I remember one thing, then I forget the other!”

In frustration, Grandma banged her hand on the car. This act reminded her that she had kept the pot with the key inside the car! Happily, she took out the pot from the car and searched. The key was nowhere to be found. “Oh my, this forgetfulness is not leaving me. Now, where shall I find my key?” Grandma muttered. Absentmindedly, her hand went inside her coat’s pocket.

“Hey, I kept the key inside my pocket and here I am, searching for it everywhere else!”kids story

Grandma was relieved. While keeping the pot in the car, Grandma had kept the key in her coat pocket. She had forgotten to put the key inside the pot!

Grandma was very happy to have found the key. She went inside to have a cup of coffee. However, she soon forgot her original plan, to go out of the house to watch a movie.

Baba Bhootnath

Idam PudamSudam” Jumpy was repeatedly chanting this when Blacky the Bear came there. He asked, “What strange thing are you saying?”

Jumpy replied, “This is a very effective chant Baba Bhootnath gave it to me and said that if I chant this 100 times, I will score very well in the school exams. He has also given me a talisman to wear around my neck.” Jumpy then showed the talisman around his neck.

Blacky had failed in the previous exam. He thought that if he seeks help from Baba, he would also score good marks. So he requested Jumpy to take him to Baba Bhootnath.

The next day, Jumpy and Blacky went to meet Baba Bhootnath. Baba Bhootnath was sitting under a Banyan tree. He was wearing a Dhoti and had applied ash on his entire body. He was sitting with his legs crossed. His eyes were closed and he was chanting something. He had already seen Jumpy and Blacky coming towards him. He asked them, “How come both of you are here?”

Blacky was stunned at this question because he wondered how Baba could anticipate that they were coming towards him with his eyes closed. Blacky really thought that Baba was a great magician.

Baba gave a talisman to Blacky in return of Rs. 100 and said that if he wore the talisman around his neck and chanted “IdamPudamSudam” 100 times a day, he would pass his exams with good marks. Blacky thanked him and returned home. He became free of tension and chanted “IdamPudamSudam” 101 times a day.

Many other classmates of Blacky also went to Baba to buy the talisman. Some shelled out from their pocket money, while some others borrowed money from friends. Cheeku the Rabbit did not believe in having blind faith or superstitions. He felt sorry that so many school students were wasting money on a talisman which they believed could fetch them good marks in the exams. His teacher and his parents had explained to him that he could score well in the exams only through hard work. He knew for sure that there was no shortcut to success. Studying hard would only help in achieving good marks.

Cheeku was surprised when he learned that even some parents had gone to Baba to buy the talisman for their children.

Cheeku wanted to make everyone realise that belief in such superstitions results in nothing. He also wanted to expose the fake Baba’s truth to everyone. So he started thinking of ideas. In no time, a very good and efficient idea struck his mind and he went to his friend Fatty the Elephant. Fatty agreed to help him with his plan.

As per the plan, Cheeku and Fatty went to Baba Bhootnath. Cheeku said, “Baba, I have an enemy. Do something so that he gets destroyed.”

Baba Bhootnath had only one solution to all the problems. And that was the talisman and the chant. Baba had to do something different as Cheeku had approached him with a different problem. Baba thus doubled the prize of his talisman and said to Cheeku, “Your problem is different, and so the talisman for you will cost Rs. 200. Also, you shall have to chant ‘Cyclones in plenty, destroy my enemy’ 202 times. Then a cyclone will strike and your enemy will be destroyed.”

Cheeku handed over 200 Rupees to Baba and took the talisman.

Cheeku said, “Baba, I will start chanting right away. I request Fatty and you to count the chants and stop me after I chant 202 times.”

Cheeku started chanting. Baba was worried now. He had thought that Cheeku would leave after taking the talisman but that was not the case. Cheeku was chanting right in front of him.

Baba had no choice but to sit there. He then thought of a plan. He thought that when Cheeku would finish chanting, he would send him to see his enemy. And as soon as Cheeku would leave, he would escape too.

No sooner did Cheeku finish chanting, than Baba said, “Go and see your enemy. He must have been destroyed by now.”

Cheeku said, “No Baba, my enemy is still alive. What you said did not happen. Your talisman and your chant are a sham. My enemy is right in front of me. I wanted to destroy you because you are my enemy.”

“What are you saying?” asked Baba.

Cheeku said, “You are a liar and a cheat and such a person is not only my enemy but the entire society’s enemy. People like you fool everyone and cheat them. You have no virtue to be called a saint.  Return my money right away.”

Baba threatened Cheeku, ”You talk a lot. Leave from here or I shall turn you into ashes.”
“Oh liar Baba!” said Fatty, “Stop threatening. You are not competent enough to do anything. Let me show you what I can do.”kids story

Fatty lifted Baba in his trunk and threw him on the nearby bush. Baba landed with a thud. By then all the animals of Champakvan had gathered there.

Baba got up and started running away from the crowd to save his life. But unfortunately, he was caught by the animals. They handed him over to the police.

Baba Bhootnath’s fraud had been exposed. All the animals were ashamed of themselves. They appreciated and thanked Cheeku and Fatty for confronting them with the truth. They also swore that they would never fall prey to such false claims and superstitions.

Miraculous Plants in Champakvan

Mimmo was a smart goat of Champakvan. One sunny afternoon when she was returning home from the market, she saw a huge crowd near a tree.

She went there and learnt that there was an old saint sitting there. He was telling about a miraculous plant that makes one wealthy and prosperous.

Mimmo asked Blacky the Bear who was standing beside her, “What is all this?”

Blacky pointed at some plants kept near the saint and said, “He seems to be a great saint. He claims that if we grow these plants in our house and later on return them to him, we can get a lot of wealth from a holy cave.”

Mimmo looked at the plants and laughed. She then turned to Blacky and said, “I don’t find anything unusual or special in these plants. They barely have some leaves and no flowers at all.”

The saint heard Mimmo’s words and said angrily, “Foolish Mimmo, you have humiliated me.”

“How do you know my name?” asked Mimmo.

The saint replied, “Child, I am omniscient. I know Jhingu, the prawn; Chinti, the ant; Kuki, the Cuckoo and Jumbo, the elephant also. I can keep a watch on all the animals of the entire world by merely sitting here.”

The saint correctly guessed the names of all the animals present there. Mimmo was impressed by this. She bowed to him and apologised for her mistake. The saint forgave her and gave plants to everyone present there.

Juju the Giraffe said to Mimmo, “See how great he is! Had he been a fraud, he wouldn’t have distributed these plants for free.”

The saint distributed plants to everyone and told them to take good care of the plants. He also said that he would return to Champakvan after a few months. The saint then returned to his holy cave in the Amazon forests.

Mimmo happily returned home and placed the plant in her small garden. After a few months, the plants grew well and bore a lot of flowers and fruits. Now the animals were eagerly waiting for the saint to come.

One morning when Mimmo was watering the plants, she saw her best friend, Caty the Cat. Two years ago, Caty had gone abroad to study. Mimmo was extremely delighted to see Caty after such a long time.

“Mimmo, you and gardening? I am impressed,” said Caty.

Mimmo told Caty about the saint and the magical plants. Caty was shocked to see Mimmo believing all this. She explained to Mimmo that all this isn’t true in this modern world. She then pulled out a book from her bag and started matching Mimmo’s plant with the ones in her book.

“These seem to be opium plants I guess?” said Caty.

Mimmo said, “Whatever it is! It doesn’t make any difference. The saint said that this is a magical plant.”

“Don’t be foolish, Mimmo,” said Caty, “Opium is also known as “Afeem’.

Planting this is illegal. The fruits of these plants are used to make drugs which are very dangerous to health.”

Mimmo stood dumbstruck for a few seconds. Then Caty and Mimmo went to each and every house of Champakvan and told the truth to everyone.

Blacky informed inspector Panther about the entire episode. Inspector Panther and King Shersingh immediately returned from Amazon where they had gone for a holiday.

They also told the animals that there is no holy cave or saint in Amazon. Inspector Panther assumed that the saint was living in Champakvan itself and that is why he knew the name of all the animals.

Just then, the saint appeared there with a truck. He saw the inspector and started turning his truck around.

Inspector Panther leapt at the truck and pulled the saint out of it. During this brawl, the saint’s false beard came off and everyone was shocked to see that it was Jojo, the fox who was dressed as a saint.kids story

Jojo was caught red handed. He said that these plants were given to him by his brother, Gogo. He had said that they would earn lakhs of rupees by selling these plants in the foreign markets.

“Oh, so that was the reason you came dressed as a saint and tried to fool us? Thanks to Caty and her knowledge of botanical science, we came to know about these dangerous plants. Had we given the plants to Jojo, who knows how many animals would have fallen prey to addiction,” said Mimmo.

King Shersingh also praised and thanked Caty for her timely support. He requested the animals to not encourage such acts that have no scientific proof.

Jojo and his brother were arrested and put behind the bars. The animals of Champakvan started growing papaya, mango, and apple trees. They exported the fruits and started earning profits in plenty. King Shersingh calls these trees as magical and wealth providing trees of Champakvan..

Bhediyanand Gets Exposed

All the animals in Champakvan were queuing up since morning to get a glimpse of Swami Bhediyanand.

Cheeku the Rabbit saw that his mother was asking for 1000 Rupees from his father and telling him that she would visit Swami Bhediyanand’s Satsang along with her Sister Meow and Cheeku.

When Cheeku reached the satsang venue, he saw that many animals had gathered in a huge stall. Swami Bhediyanand was sitting with his disciples on a stage, attired in saffron-coloured clothes. Binny the Goat got up from her place and holding the mike closer, said in a choked voice, “Maharaj, my husband is not doing well in his business since the past few days. Please help us.”

Swami Bhediyanand lifted his hand up and said, “Everything will be okay in one week.”

Cheeku was surprised to hear this. He wondered how Binny’s situation could change in one week! All the animals were touching Swami Bhediyanand’s feet and offering him money. Cheeku too, along with his mother, reached close to Swami Bhediyanand and touched his feet to seek blessings from him.

Cheeku couldn’t concentrate on any work after reaching home. He recalled that Binny the Goat lived near his friend Smarty the Tortoise’s house. He contemplated something and went to his mother, “Mom, please give me your mobile phone. I am going to my friend Smarty’s house to play.”

“Okay, Son, take the phone, but don’t be too late. Come home on time,” Mother directed.

“Okay, bye,” Taking leave, Cheeku got out of the house. He spoke to Smarty about the happenings at the satsang and told him about his plan.

As Cheeku threw the ball, Smarty hit it with full force so that it entered straight in Binny’s house. Cheeku entered the house through the gate and said, “Excuse me, Aunty, my ball has come inside your house.”kids story

“Come and take it,” Binny said.

Cheeku saw that Lallu the Wolf was present in Binny’s house at that time, conversing with her.

Cheeku switched on the recorder of his mobile phone and hid it in a flower pot.

He played cricket for half an hour and then again put the ball in Binny’s house. Then he went inside the house again on the pretext of taking the ball and took his mobile phone too from there.

After bidding goodbye to Smarty, Cheeku reached home and heard the phone recording. His suspicion turned out to be true. Lallu was instructing Binny regarding what she had to say on the mike. He even paid her money for the acting, which she had done before.

Cheeku immediately told his parents about it, who in turn informed Inspector Cheetah Singh. Bhediyanand was handcuffed the next day in the satsang. Cheeku’s picture was published on the front page of Champak Times.


The Bagh Bahadur Museum was a big and famous museum in Champakvan. It was very well known all over the world too. Tourists from far and wide flocked to see the antiques and valuable artifacts that were on display.

Amongst the most famous displays of The Bagh Bahadur Museum, were the mummies of the last twenty kings of Champakvan. They were King Sher Singh’s ancestors and had been embalmed and kept here for many years.

These mummies made quite an unusual sight and the tourists who saw them were both fascinated and frightened.

Baddy Wolf and Laddy Wolf were two wolves who lived in Champakvan. The two of them were thieves who specialised in stealing antiques and valuable artifacts.

They were very dangerous and cunning too. The wolves made their living by selling the stolen objects to collectors in foreign countries.

Baddy Wolf and Laddy Wolf had set their cunning little eyes on The Bagh Bahadur Museum for a very long time. They wanted to steal the mummies and were working on plans to sneak them out of the museum.

One night, Baddy Wolf sat down to make a map of The Bagh Bahadur Museum. He was drawing lines when Laddy Wolf came up to him and asked, “Baddy Wolf, what are you drawing so late at night? Are you working on a plan to steal something big and priceless?”

“You are right, my friend,” Baddy Wolf nibbled on a pencil and said. “I am making a map of The Bagh Bahadur Museum. The map will help us plan how we will steal the mummies. Once we manage that, our dream of growing rich will come true!”

“That is fantastic!” Laddy Wolf said, rubbing his hands with glee. “You have finally started work on our ‘Operation Museum.’ But how will we steal the mummies? There are tourists visiting the museum all day and night.”

“Don’t worry about that, Laddy. We will make sure the tourists run away from the museum and clear our paths,” Baddy Wolf said and laughed.

“Tell me how! I am your partner after all,” Laddy Wolf said excitedly. He was eager to hear the plan.

“Listen then,” Baddy Wolf said confidently. “I am making a map of the museum. I have also chalked out the entire plan of stealing the mummies. We will first dig a tunnel to enter the museum.

This tunnel will directly take us to the museum’s toilet area. Once we are inside, I will wrap you in white bandages that will make you look just like a mummy. You will have to act like a ghost and scare the tourists away.”

Laddy Wolf jumped excitedly. “How wicked you are, Baddy Wolf!” he said, looking thrilled. “The tourists will be scared and flee the museum. We will steal the mummies then and make our way out through the tunnel.”

“That’s right,” Baddy Wolf said and yawned. “Now go and make some tea for me. I want to finish drawing this map tonight.”

Baddy Wolf stayed up that night and after many hours of hard work, he completed the map.

The next day, Baddy Wolf and Laddy Wolf took the map with them and walked to the pond behind The Bagh Bahadur Museum.

Baddy Wolf began digging the tunnel with a shovel. Laddy Wolf took the mud and threw it into the pond so that nobody would suspect that a tunnel was being dug.

The distance between the pond and The Bagh Bahadur Museum was long. It took the two wolves a whole month to finish digging the tunnel.

The tunnel was dug exactly according to Baddy Wolf’s plan. It opened directly below the museum’s toilet.

After that, the two wolves spent some time making a door in the floor of the toilet that they could slide it open and enter.

Baddy Wolf and Laddy Wolf were very confident now. They were ready to put their plan in action.

The next night, Baddy Wolf wrapped Laddy Wolf in white bandages and sent him inside the museum.

Laddy Wolf looked just like the mummies on display. He started walking all over the museum, making eerie sounds. The birds and animals who were visiting saw him and panicked.

“Eek!” they shouted. “There’s a walking mummy in the museum! A ghost!”

Everyone ran out, looking petrified.

Soon, the news of the walking mummy spread like wild fire. Everyone in Champakvan was terrified. The tourists stayed away from the museum too.

Baddy Wolf and Laddy Wolf laughed. Everything was going as per their plan.

Now all they had to do was steal the mummies.

One night, they crept inside the museum and stole one of the mummies out.

When they reached their house, Baddy Wolf said, “Laddy, we should hide this mummy at a very safe place. No one should find it. After we do that, we will steal one mummy from the museum every day.

We will contact the foreign agent after we have a few mummies and sell them for a lot of money.” So, the two wolves started stealing the mummies every night. It took them just eleven days, to steal eleven mummies.

Everyone in Champakvan was shocked when they heard the news of the mummies disappearing from the museum. And everyone had a different story to tell. Some said that the mummies had come alive and were running away from the museum.

Others believed that it was the work of a sly thief. King Sher Singh was pacing to and fro inside his palace. He was very worried about the matter. After all, the stolen mummies were those of his ancestors.

He sent for Cheeku Rabbit. He too had heard of the disappearing mummies. “Maharaj, I’m shocked,” Cheeku Rabbit said. “I’ve heard that the mummies are disappearing from The Bagh Bahadur Museum. Is that true?”

“Yes, Cheeku,” King Sher Singh said with a sigh. “Eleven mummies have disappeared so far. I have asked the police to patrol the museum gates. The security has been tightened too.

But sadly, the mummies are still being stolen. There are rumours of a walking mummy in the museum. The police and security guards have heard it and are scared too. Cheeku, you are very smart. I’d like you to work as a detective and catch the thief.”

“Don’t worry, Maharaj,” Cheeku Rabbit said politely. “I will do my best.” Cheeku Rabbit then left for The Bagh Bahadur Museum. He began investigating and looked for clues all over. Soon, Cheeku reached the toilet. He checked the walls, the ceiling and finally the floor. “Aha,” Cheeku muttered. “I think someone has tampered with the toilet floor. I should tap it with a stick and see.”

Cheeku found a stick and carefully tapped it all over the toilet floor. At one particular spot, the tapping sound sounded odd and hollow.

“Aha! Cheeku shouted happily. “There is something below this floor!” Cheeku bent down and found the sliding door that led to the tunnel.

“This is clearly the work of clever thieves, not ghosts. They have stolen the mummies by entering the museum through this tunnel,” Cheeku said to himself. “I will search the entire area thoroughly. The tunnel must surely have another opening somewhere in the forest.”

Cheeku Rabbit then left the museum and began exploring the entire area. Soon, he found the pond behind the museum. He saw that the water in the pond was unusually muddy. A pile of freshly dug mud was lying nearby too.

“Hmm,” Cheeku Rabbit thought. “The tunnel must have another opening here. The thieves must be using it to enter and leave the museum.” Cheeku Rabbit looked around and found the tunnel’s opening in no time.

“Baddy Wolf and Laddy Wolf are only two thieves in Champakvan who are interested in stealing antiques and museum artifacts. Besides, they are the only thieves who can think so sharply and come up with such a cunning plan.”

Cheeku Rabbit then went to King Sher Singh and told him what he had found. King Sher Singh was furious.

“I will get Baddy Wolf and Laddy Wolf arrested at once!” he roared.

“Maharaj, please don’t do that,” Cheeku Rabbit suggested. “It would be better if we catch them red-handed so that we know where they have hidden the stolen mummies.”

“Alright, Cheeku,” King Sher Singh said.

“We will do as you say. I am giving you the authority to catch the thieves.” Cheeku Rabbit then went to the police station and met Inspector Gendamal. He was the police officer in charge of the case. They started working on a plan to catch the thieves.

That very night, Cheeku Rabbit and Inspector Gendamal took a few constables and hid behind the bushes near the pond. They waited there patiently.

Just as the clock struck midnight, Baddy Wolf and Laddy Wolf came along. They tiptoed towards the tunnel.

“Aha!” Cheeku Rabbit whispered. “So, I was right! It is them!”

Baddy Wolf and Laddy Wolf had no idea that Cheeku Rabbit and Inspector Gendamal were watching them. They walked into the tunnel and made their way to the museum confidently.

As soon as Baddy Wolf and Laddy Wolf returned carrying a mummy with them, Cheeku Rabbit alerted Inspector Gendamal and his constables. The two wolves walked deep into the forest.

Cheeku Rabbit and Inspector Gendamal followed them quietly. Baddy Wolf and Laddy Wolf soon reached an abandoned house. They were hiding the mummies in it.

“Hooray! ‘Operation Museum’is a success! We have stolen another mummy from the museum again today!” Laddy Wolf joyfully said once they had entered the house. “We have twelve mummies now. We should sell them to the foreign agent as soon as we can. If the police get suspicious, then our dream of becoming rich will never be fulfilled.”

“You are right. We shouldn’t be very greedy,” Baddy Wolf said. “I have spoken to the foreign agent. He is coming to Champakvan tomorrow night to buy the mummies.We’ll give him the ones we have. We’ll go on a long holiday after we get our money and return only after the matter has been forgotten.”

Suddenly, the house door creaked opened. The two wolves were startled. No one came to the abandoned house. “Cancel your holiday bookings, if you have any,” Inspector Gendamal shouted. “Your game is over. You cannot go anywhere.”

Cheeku Rabbit followed inside. “You have dared to steal Champakvan’s priceless treasures. King Sher Singh is furious. He is going to punish you for stealing his ancestors’ mummies,” Cheeku Rabbit told the two thieves sternly.

Baddy Wolf and Laddy Wolf tried to escape. But Inspector Gendamal was too quick for them. He pounced on them and had them arrested.

Baddy Wolf and Laddy Wolf confessed to their crimes. The police retrieved the stolen mummies and took them back to the museum.

The following night, Inspector Gendamal arrested the foreign agent who had come to buy the stolen mummies. He too was thrown behind bars and punished.

King Sher Singh was delighted that his ancestors’ mummies were back in the museum. He hosted a party in honour of Cheeku Rabbit for solving the mystery and felicitated him with a medal. Cheeku Rabbit was very proud of himself.