Izzy Proves her Innocence

Several animals and birds made their home on a huge banyan tree in the forest of Doodlevan. Amid the roots of the tree lived Lulu, the ant and Izzy, the spider.

They had been friends for a very long time and stuck with each other through the good and bad times.

Lulu had recently laid eggs. She was excited about having several kids.

One day, Lulu had to go to the market to get some food, so she requested Izzy to take care of her eggs.

“Relax! I’ll take care of them,” assured Izzy.

Izzy kept a close watch on the eggs. However, by afternoon she began feeling sleepy. She tried to stay awake but she eventually fell asleep. After a while when Lulu came back, she found her eggs missing!

She quickly woke Izzy up and asked, “Izzy! Where are my eggs?”

Izzy was shocked. “They were right here when I went to sleep!” she said puzzled.

Hearing the alarmed voices, their neighbour Buzz, the hornet—a wasp-like insect—also came over.

After learning what happened, he said, “I think that Izzy has eaten the eggs.”

Izzy became angry. “That’s not true! I would never eat my friend’s eggs,” she said.

But a seed of doubt had been planted in Lulu’s mind. While she was ready to leave this incident behind, Lulu didn’t trust Izzy as much as she did before.

After a few days, Lulu laid eggs again. She went to the market to buy food after asking Izzy to protect her eggs.

Izzy was alert this time. No one came near Lulu’s house for a very long time. After some time, Izzy pretended to fall asleep.

Looking at Izzy fall asleep, Buzz sneaked into Lulu’s house. Izzy immediately grabbed hold of him and the two got into a fight.

Buzz stung Izzy several times due to which she became weak and dizzy. She was unable to fight off Buzz. Buzz took advantage of Izzy’s weakness and ate all of Lulu’s eggs.

Just when he was about to leave, he noticed Lulu returning. Before Izzy could utter a word, Buzz said, “Lulu! See what Izzy has done! She has eaten all your eggs again. By the time I caught her, it was too late.”

Without giving Izzy an opportunity to explain herself, Lulu started yelling at her. “Izzy, leave this place right away. I don’t want you anywhere near me or my eggs anymore. You’re no longer my friend!”

Injured and heartbroken, Izzy silently walked out of the house. But she was still thinking of ways to save Lulu’s eggs as she knew Buzz would try to eat them again. She also wanted to prove her innocence to Lulu so that they could be friends again.

Meanwhile, Lulu had decided to never talk to Izzy again and became good friends with Buzz. After a few days when Lulu laid eggs again, she asked Buzz to take care of them while she went to the market.

Izzy, who had been keeping an eye on the two, saw this as an opportunity to prove her innocence and to catch Buzz red-handed.

As soon as Lulu left, Buzz entered her house to eat the eggs.

Izzy sneaked up to the house and quickly wove a web around the entrance to Lulu’s house. Before Buzz could eat the eggs, Izzy made a sound. Thinking that Lulu had returned, Buzz rushed to the entrance and instantly got trapped in Izzy’s web.

When Lulu returned, Izzy rushed to her and said, “Lulu, it’s Buzz who’s been eating your eggs. See, I’ve caught him red-handed.”

“You’re lying!” Buzz shouted. “You ate the eggs again and now you are pinning the blame on me!”

“If I am lying, then tell me what are you doing inside Lulu’s house and how you came to be trapped on the other side of this web?” asked Izzy.

Buzz twitched nervously without answering.

Desperate to prove her innocence, Izzy threatened, “Buzz, if you don’t tell us the truth, I’ll not let you leave; you’ll be stuck on the web forever.”

Buzz broke down and confessed to his crimes.

Lulu finally understood that it was Buzz who’d been eating her eggs all along and that Izzy was innocent.

“Thank you for saving my eggs, Izzy. And I’m sorry I didn’t trust you. I hope you can forgive me,” said Lulu, crying.

Izzy gladly forgave her and they were back to being good friends.

The Notorious Baba

Dina and Soni, the deers were the best of friends. They were neighbours too, since their homes were right next to each other. Soni was a tailor and Dina was a schoolteacher. She was happy to teach the young animals who studied in the forest school.

Soni was very superstitious. She believed in rituals and would spend all her free time performing rituals. She had been having some tough times lately. The heavy rains that lashed the forest every monsoon, had damaged the roof of her house and made it leak. The house was drenched, and Soni had to stay in Dina’s house, and pay the repairmen a huge amount of money to repair her roof.

When Soni finally went home, she found that her sewing machine had stopped working. She again had to pay a lot of money to repair it, and was out of work for many days. Soon after that, she had a fall while running to the market, and hurt one of her legs.

One day, Soni saw an old man with a long beard standing outside the house.

“This house has a spirit hovering above it,” the old man shouted. “It is a very evil one! It is causing trouble for the house owner.”

Soni was flabbergasted!

“I’ve had so much trouble of late,” Soni thought. “This old man must be right! He must be powerful baba and can probably see an evil spirit hovering above my house!”

Soni called out to the old man and asked, “How do you know this?”

The old man closed his eyes, and looked like he was lost in thought. He opened them a few minutes later. Soni gasped. The old man’s eyes were flaming red.

“I can see the evil spirit that’s troubling you right now,” the old man shouted. “He has broken your roof and has also made you fall down. I think he has meddled with your sewing machine too. He is very evil and wants to cause more trouble for you!”

Soni’s jaw dropped. Her eyes grew wide. She believed every word of what the old man was saying. “He definitely must be a great baba!” she thought.

“Baba,” Soni then said, “Please tell me how I can protect myself from this evil spirit who wants to harm me!”

“Well, I can help you if you like,” the old man said. “I can come back after two days and perform a ritual. It will take a few hours to complete. But be assured that it will drive the evil spirit far away from your house.”

Soni trusted the old man. “He will drive the evil spirit away and solve all my problems,” she thought.

“Baba, let’s perform this ritual,” she told the old man eagerly. “Please tell me what you will require.”

The old man gave Soni a list of things that she needed to buy. He then told her that he would come back to perform the ritual after two days.

As soon as the old man left, Soni ran to Dina ’s house. She told her about the old man and the ritual that he would perform to drive the evil spirit away. But to her great disappointment, Dina grew very upset and scolded Soni harshly.

“Soni, since when have you become so foolish?” Dina shouted. “How can you believe this old man, huh? He must be a conman who’s trying to cheat you! There are no such things as evil spirits! You’ve just been having some bad days! We all have them at some time or the other!”

Soni was not convinced. “How did he know about my troubles?” she asked.

Dina shook her head and replied, “Everyone in the forest knows about your leaking roof, your sewing machine, and your fall. It’s a small forest and news spreads easily. The old man must have heard about you from someone you both know. Please listen to me and stay away from him.”

But Soni didn’t listen to her friend. “Well, there’s no harm in performing a small ritual, is there?” she said and stormed out of Dina’s house.

Dina realised that it was useless to say anything more to her friend. She decided that she would secretly keep an eye on the old man when he went to Soni’s house next.

After two days, the old man knocked on Soni’s door. Soni was very happy to see him. She invited him in to perform the ritual.

“Eat this,” the old man told Soni and gave her some food to eat. “It is part of the ritual!”

Soni respectfully ate what she was given. She was convinced that the old man was her well-wisher, and that he would drive the evil spirit away from her house. She sat down as the old man began the ritual, and hoped that all her troubles would soon be over.

Suddenly, Soni felt as though the world around her was spinning. “Aaahh!” she cried. “Why am I feeling so giddy?”

“Don’t worry,” the old man said. “The evil spirit is leaving your house. That’s why you’re feeling uneasy.”

“Oh!” Soni said, believing the old man.

Little did Soni know, that the old man, was young Juno, the jackal in disguise. He was a notorious conman who wanted to steal the money and gold that Soni had in her house. Soni was feeling giddy because Juno had mixed a sedative in the food that he had given her to eat.

Soni found herself feeling drowsy, and in no time, she fell fast asleep. Juno laughed when he saw Soni sleeping. He quickly gathered all the money and gold he found in the house.

“I’ll leave before she wakes up,” he said, running towards the door. But the moment Juno opened the door, he found Inspector Benny, the bear standing in front of him.

Inspector Benny handcuffed Juno immediately. Dina then rushed into the house with Dr. Appu, the elephant, and ran towards her friend.

When Soni woke up, Dina told her what had happened. Soni cried and held her friend’s hand.

“You saved me, my dear friend,” Soni said gratefully. “Had you not alerted the police, Juno would have surely stolen all my gold and hard-earned money. But tell me, how did you suspect that he was a conman?”

Dina replied, “Well, I stood outside your house to watch what was happening. When I heard you say that you were feeling giddy, I realised that something was very wrong. And so, I ran to alert the police and call the doctor. Inspector Benny guessed that the old man was Juno in disguise, since he is notorious for playing such tricks.”

“I have learnt my lesson,” Soni said. “I won’t believe in evil spirits or babas. I’ll accept the bad days of life gracefully, for I know that they will be followed by good days!”

Dina smiled. She was glad that her friend wouldn’t fall for a conman’s tricks ever again.


The Minister’s Gifts

Many years ago, there lived a wealthy minister in China. He had a young daughter whose name was Fu Ya. Fu Ya was a beautiful and intelligent girl. She loved and respected her father very much. The minister loved his daughter too and always wanted the best for her.

When Fu Ya grew up, the minister started looking for an eligible groom for her to marry. The minister wanted his son-in-law to be an affluent man so that his daughter could lead the comfortable life she was used to, even after marriage. He shortlisted many wealthy young men and asked Fu Ya to select one of them.

But to his great disappointment, Fu Ya refused to marry any of the young men her father had selected. The reason was that Fu Ya wanted to marry a young man named Chin Lee.

Chin Lee was a bright and intelligent fellow. He was hard-working, friendly and pleasant natured too. But he belonged to a family that wasn’t very wealthy.

When Fu Ya told her father about Chin Lee, the minister grew unhappy.

“Fu Ya, my dear child,” he said. “You will not be happy if you marry a man who isn’t wealthy like us. He has a small house and he won’t be able to give you a comfortable life.”

Fu Ya tried to explain her point of view to her father. “Father,” she said respectfully. “Intelligence and hard work can help anyone grow rich. I know Chin Lee isn’t rich today. But I’m sure he will soon be with his intelligence and hard work.”

The minister wasn’t convinced. He thought differently but at the same time, didn’t want to see his only daughter unhappy.

The minister thought for a long time and then said, “Alright, Fu Ya. Let me see if Chin Lee is as bright and intelligent as you say. If he brings me the two gifts that I ask for, I will willingly give my consent to your marriage and accept him as my son-in-law.”

The Clever Chimpanzees

“What is it that you want Chin Lee to bring you?” Fu Ya asked in a soft voice.

The minister replied, “Go and tell Chin Lee that I want him to bring me two things as gifts: fire and air. But also tell him that I don’t want them as they are. I want them both to be brought to me wrapped inside the paper.”

Fu Ya was shocked. “Fire and air inside a paper? That sounds impossible!” she said. “Father, how can anyone wrap fire in the paper? The paper will surely burn! And how can anyone bring air in paper too?”

“Well, Fu Ya,” the minister said. “If Chin Lee is as bright and intelligent as you say, he will surely know what to do. If he doesn’t bring me these gifts, you will have to bid him farewell and marry a man of my choice.”

“Yes,” Fu Ya said and bowed obediently.

That evening, Fu Ya went to convey her father’s odd request to Chin Lee.

Chin Lee listened calmly. He thought for a long while and then said, “Don’t worry, Fu Ya. Go back to your father and ask him to give me a day’s time. I will bring him the gifts as soon as I can.”

The minister readily gave Chin Lee a day though he doubted his capabilities.

Chin Lee kept awake all night thinking about the minister’s strange request.

The next evening, the minister saw a young man walk into his house. He was carrying a lantern made of coloured paper. There was a small candle lit inside the lantern.

“I’m Chin Lee,” Chin Lee said and bowed respectfully. “I have brought what you asked for. Here’s fire inside paper, just as you asked for.”

The minister nodded and took the lantern from Chin Lee.

“What about the other gift I asked for?” he then asked.

Chin Lee promptly took a fan made of paper from his pocket. He spread it open and began fanning the minister with it.

More From Champak: The Wise King

“Here’s air in the paper!” he smiled and said. “Your other gift!”

The minister laughed and put his arm around Chin Lee. He was very happy. He realised that Chin Lee was the best suitor his daughter could ever have. He immediately called Fu Ya and gave her hand in Chin Lee’s.

“You have my consent for your marriage,” the minister then said.

Fu Ya and Chin Lee were married the following week.

Chin Lee worked hard and soon became a very wealthy man, which made the minister extremely happy.

The Clever Rats

Kitty, the cat was famished. Her stomach was growling. She hoped to come across a plump rat soon. She tiptoed into a house and crept inside the kitchen. Kitty wished that she would find a few rats scampering there. If there were no rats, she hoped that she would at least find some milk.

But to Kitty’s dismay, there weren’t any rats in the kitchen. And the milk was inside the refrigerator.

“Sheesh!” Kitty muttered. “Why do people use refrigerators? Refrigerators have doors that are hard to open. They deprive us cats of milk.”

Kitty felt disappointed and turned to go when a sound startled her. She turned to see if somebody from the house had spotted her. Instead, Kitty saw something that made her grin from ear to ear.

Two plump rats named Mak and Jay were drinking oil from an oil can. They were dipping their long tails, one at a time, in the oil can. They were then licking the oil off their tails.

Kitty’s joy knew no bounds. “These rats are clever!” she giggled. “They are drinking oil from the can, without even touching it. I’m lucky to have found them. I will catch hold of one of them for my dinner.”

Mak and Jay heard Kitty  giggling and looked up. They began trembling as soon as they saw her. They were sure that she wouldn’t let them escape.

But Mak didn’t want to give up so easily. He gathered all the courage he had and said, “Hey! Come and look inside this box! It contains some buttery chapattis. I think you’ll like them. They are quite delicious!”

“I am going to feast on one of you today. Nothing can change that. Not even buttery chapattis!” said Kitty.

“Er… Feast on one of us?” Jay was shaking like a leaf in the wind.

“Yes, I am going to eat one of you,” Kitty said and laughed. “And remember, there can only be one relation between us. That of a hunter and prey!”

“A hunter, huh?” Mak said, thinking quickly.

“Have you heard of King Venkatraman Singh of Reeva? He was a great hunter too. My grandmother has told me many stories about him. He was very strong. It seems that every time he threw a spear, it would split open the trunk of a tree.”

“I’ve heard that too,” Kitty said, showing off. “I know what a good hunter King Venkatraman Singh was. I know many stories about him.”

Kitty then tried to recollect what else she knew about King Venkatraman Singh. Mak and Jay noticed that she was distracted and tried to slip away. But Kitty was quite sharp.

“Hey!” she hissed angrily. “Stay where you are! I am going to eat one of you now!”

Mak decided that he would keep Kitty talking. He then said, “Did you know that the real hunting was done by King Venkatraman Singh’s favourite white lion? His name was Mohan. By the way, have you ever seen a white lion? I have heard that white lions are found in Reeva. Have you ever been there? I have always wanted to go to Reeva and see if it’s true.”

“No, I haven’t seen a white lion or been to Reeva,” Kitty said. “But I am quite sure that white lions exist. We cats are related to lions, you know? We are cousins. And if white lions exist I’ll definitely meet them when I go to Reeva…”

Kitty continued talking and didn’t notice Mak and Jay tiptoeing out of the kitchen. They ran away from her as fast as they could.

Dubdub’s Escape

Titu Turtle lived in the sea. One morning, she carefully dug a hole in the sand and laid four eggs in it. She then covered the hole gently with some sand and twigs.

“I am tired now,” Titu then said to herself. “I should go for a swim and refresh myself.”

Titu then dived into the sea and went for a long swim. After a few days, Titu’s eggs hatched, and four tiny baby turtles emerged from the egg shells. Titu was overjoyed to see her children.

“My babies!” she said happily. “I am so glad to see you! Welcome to the world!”

Soon, the peaceful and picturesque sight of the sea prompted the baby s to swim in it.

“Mama,” one of the baby turtles told Titu one day. “May we swim with you? The sea looks so inviting! The waves look like fun! We can’t wait to dive in and swim!”

“Yes, my dears,” Titu said with a smile. “Come with me!”

The baby turtles crawled and followed Titu into the sea.

Dubdub was the tiniest of them all. No one realised that he had been left behind. Dubdub slowly crawled towards the sea, hoping to catch up with his mother, and brothers and sisters.

It was then when he noticed a tiny crab that was walking sideways. The crab’s body seemed to be shining and looked quite transparent too.

Dubdub was astonished to see the crab. He hadn’t seen one before.

“How wonderful everything is! Life was boring inside the egg! There is so much for me to see in the world now!” he thought happily.

Then instead of going towards the sea, Dubdub crawled towards a cluster of shells and admired them. They were a bright pink in colour and Dubdub was quite fascinated to see them.

Little did Dubdub know that while he was marvelling at the sights around him, someone was watching him from the sky, with greedy eyes. It was none other than Eddy, the mighty eagle, who was looking for lunch.

Eddy was a big and dangerous bird. He had a sharp beak and huge talons that he used to tear his prey apart with. All the turtles including Titu feared Eddy. The turtles dived into the sea, every time they saw Eddy hovering in the sky.

Eddy flew closer to Dubdub. Though Dubdub was very young, he spotted Eddy and sensed that he was dangerous. He saw Eddy swooping towards him from the corner of his eye.

“Something doesn’t feel right about that bird,” Dubdub told himself. “For some reason, I feel afraid of him. He probably eats little turtles like me! I must be very careful!”

Dubdub then gathered all the courage he had and spoke to Eddy.

“Hello there!” Dubdub said cheerfully. “I was waiting for you.”

Eddy was surprised. “Waiting for me, huh?” he asked. “How come?”

“I’ve heard that you cannot walk on your talons,” Dubdub explained.

Eddy grew annoyed.

“Who told you that?” he shouted. “Of course, I can walk on my talons.”

“No, you cannot,” said Dubdub. “I have heard that you look like a clown, every time you try to walk on the sand!”

Eddy stomped his talons angrily and kicked some sand in the air.

“I definitely don’t look like a clown,” he argued.

“Well, I’ll decide for myself,” Dubdub said, looking towards the sea. “Why don’t you show me how you walk?”

“I’ll show you how well I walk!” Eddy said. He then began walking on his talons right in front of Dubdub.

“Not bad! Not bad at all!” Dubdub said. “But is it true that you can’t somersault like us turtles? Can you do this?” Dubdub  demonstrated a somersault.

“Yes, I can do that,” Eddy said huffily. He then tried doing somersaults but kept losing his balance.

“Hold on! I’m out of practice!” he told Dubdub and panted. “I’ll show you a perfect one in just a few minutes.”

“Don’t worry!” Dubdub said and slowly inched towards the sea. “Take your time! I’m waiting! I’m in no hurry!”

Dubdub then called out to Eddy and said, “Forget somersaulting on the sand now. How about somersaulting in the sky? Can you do that? Or can you only fly in the sky?”

“Somersault in the air?” Eddy said and laughed. “What a silly little turtle you are! Don’t you know that’s child’s play for me?”

“Can you show me how you do it? Please!” Dubdub said, sounding very excited.

“All right then!” Eddy said, putting his chest out. “Watch me go!”

Eddy then flew up the sky. He first flew left, then right, then higher up, and then started somersaulting in the air. He flapped his wings noisily to show off too. After some time, Eddy felt very hungry.

“I better eat that little turtle now,” Eddy said. “All this somersaulting has made me very hungry.”

Eddy swooped down to the sand. But to his great disappointment, Dubdub was nowhere in sight.

“Where are you, little turtle?” Eddy asked, looking around. “Are you hiding in the sand? Come out at once!”

Dubdub was hiding behind a rock in the sea. He peeped and saw Eddy looking for him. Dubdub giggled and shouted, “It was a great show Mr. Eagle! You really can somersault in the sky! But I don’t think you can dive or swim in the sea like me.”

Dubdub then dived into the water and swam to join his family.

Eddy felt very foolish.

“I have been outwitted by a baby turtle!” he grumbled.

He flew back to the sky and hoped that he would find something else to eat for his lunch.

Everyday Valentine

Sudha’s grandfather, whom she fondly called Dada, had recently retired from work. Being an engineer, he had worked with an automobile company for the last 35 years. His colleagues held a grand ceremony to felicitate Dada and bid him farewell.

Mummy told Sudha that retiring from work meant not going to office any more. It was like taking a long vacation from work. But Sudha was confused. “Sure, Dada doesn’t go to office every day now; but he still seems to be busy the whole day!”

When she asked Dada about this, he smiled and explained, “Retiring means ‘re-tyreing’ our worn-out wheels and starting a new journey in our life.”

Dada attended yoga classes every morning, and his instructor Ms. Dina said he was one of her best students!

Although Dada was 65, he did not like being called a “senior citizen.”  Dada was an expert at repairing household gadgets. In the last one month, he had repaired Papa’s phone charger, Mummy’s hairdryer, Didi’s keyboard, Deepa aunty’s electric kettle, Kaalu’s pocket radio, Ramesh uncle’s electric shaver—phew! That was a long list!

Dadi joked that Dada should set up a repair shop of his own. She also said that she would never retire. Homemakers had to remain homemakers all their life, she said.

“That is not fair! When I grow up, I will take Dadi for a long vacation at the beach,” Sudha decided. After all, Dadi did love the seaside. And Sudha loved Dadi’s cooking. North Indian, South Indian, Chinese, Thai, Italian, Mexican—whatever the cuisine, Dadi could whip up the tastiest fare. Sudha’s friends at school were always eager to peep into her lunchbox to see what mouth-watering snack awaited their tummies!

Of course, Dada and Dadi had their share of fights too. But they also patched up almost immediately after it.

“You should never carry your fights to the bed or the pillow will swallow your head!” Dadi would joke.

So after their fights, Dada and Dadi would sit hand in hand on the swing in the veranda and talk about the fun they had in their youth. Today, as Sudha crouched under the window, trying to eavesdrop on her grandparents, she remembered that she had to make a Valentine’s Day card as part of her class assignment.

Skipping back to her room, she saw Mummy and Papa huddled on the couch, sharing a laugh over a newspaper article. Through the window, she spotted Didi cuddling and feeding biscuits to Rancho, the neighbourhood mutt, whose tail wagged vigorously in excitement. Mali kaka was busy talking to his plants as he watered and weeded them with great care.

Sudha smiled, knowing exactly what she wanted to draw on her card. “When you are with someone you love, every day is Valentine’s Day!” she thought. As she sat down to work on her masterpiece, Rani, the house cat gave out a soft purr, wrapped herself around Sudha’s leg and drifted off to sleep.

Triveni’s Bicycle

It was Triveni’s birthday. She was eagerly looking forward to her birthday party which would be attended by all her friends and neighbours. That evening around 7 p.m., Triveni cut the cake, while everyone sang “Happy Birthday”.

Later, when the party was over and all the guests had left, Triveni went through her gifts.

“Wow! So many gifts!” said Triveni excitedly as she opened one.

“I have a surprise for you. Come outside and take a look,” said Triveni’s father.

“A surprise!” exclaimed Triveni and ran out excitedly.

She was greeted by the sight of a shiny new red bicycle parked outside.

“Wow! A bicycle! Thank you so much, papa,” said Triveni hugging him.

“Now you will have to learn how to ride it. How about I teach you from tomorrow?” asked her father.

Triveni nodded excitedly.

Next morning, Triveni went to the neighbourhood park with her father where he taught her how to ride the bicycle. From that day on, she practiced every day with his help.

One evening, Triveni was anxiously waiting for her father to come back from office. She wanted to show him that she now could ride without his help. When Triveni’s father finally came, she ran up to him and said, “Papa, let’s go to the park. I want to ride my bicycle.”

“Sorry, dear. I’ve had a hectic day and I am feeling very tired. I’ll surely come with you tomorrow,” he said.

Triveni was upset but she could see that her father was really tired. “I guess I will take my bicycle to the park on my own and practice,” she told herself.

While riding her bicycle at the park, a dog suddenly ran past causing her to lose her balance and ultimately crashing into a tree. 

Although she wasn’t hurt, the bicycle’s front wheel was damaged. And when she tried to push it, the wheel made a strange, creaking noise.

“Oh no! My bicycle is damaged! If papa comes to know, he’ll be angry that I damaged the new cycle!” panicked Triveni.  “I will hide it inside the garage and get it repaired tomorrow before he finds out,” she thought.

With much difficulty, Triveni managed to park her bicycle inside the garage. Though she tried her best to keep it from making a noise, it let out a squeak once in a while. She hoped her parents didn’t hear it. She then quietly sneaked inside the house, had dinner and went off to sleep.

In the middle of the night, Triveni and her parents were woken up by a strange sound outside their home.

“What is that?” asked her father puzzled.

“Papa, that’s the sound of my bicycle,” said Triveni.

They immediately rushed out to see some of their neighbours standing around a stranger. One of them was holding Triveni’s bicycle.

“Hey, that’s my bicycle! Why is it outside?” asked Triveni.

“This man here was walking away with it. We caught hold of him and we have informed the police too. They will be here soon,” said one of the neighbours.

“Thank you so much everyone. But why was the bicycle making so much noise?” asked Triveni’s father.

That’s when Triveni confessed to having crashed the bicycle into a tree and damaging it. She also told him how she hid the bicycle in the garage hoping to get it fixed before he could find out.

“It’s a good thing you didn’t get the bicycle repaired today,” said one of the neighbours. “This fellow has been stealing bicycles and many other things all over the neighbourhood for a month now, and none of us have been able to catch him. It is because of the noise your bicycle made that we were all alerted and able to catch him. It’s all thanks to you, Triveni!”

Triveni’s face beamed and she no longer felt bad about her bicycle.

Studying can be Fun

It was exam time in Spring Woods. Lucky, the donkey, Charlie, the rabbit, Duke, the mouse and Hank, the Hippo had got together to study. They had their heads buried in the books and were extremely stressed out about the exams.

After a while, the four friends decided to take a short break from studying.

“I hope I pass in Maths. The intersecting lines of geometry confuse me and solving equations gives me nightmares!” said Lucky sipping tea.

“I am terrified of the essay-writing section in English. Grammar, punctuation, antonyms and synonyms give me the jitters,” said Charlie munching biscuits.

“English is better than subjects like History, Geography and Civics. They are lengthy and boring!” said Duke making a face.

Suddenly, they heard someone sobbing. They all looked around to see who it was.

“Look! The Maths book is crying!” said Duke pointing to the study table.

They were all astonished.

“Quiet!” said Hank. “Looks like the books are having a discussion among themselves. Let’s listen,” he whispered.

Maths Book seemed sad. “All the children are scared of me. Don’t they know that I can be fun too?” it said wiping its tears.

“Actually everyone wants to excel in Maths. They are only scared because they don’t understand you well enough. In fact, they don’t understand that all subjects have their own merits,” said Science Book trying to console it.

All the other books nodded in agreement.

“Yes, the children just need to practice regularly to excel in the subject,” said Maths Book. “They need me to help them count, weigh and tender change correctly at the school canteen.”

“You are right. Children must prepare a study table and follow it. They must spend more time on subjects that they find difficult. This will make them less stressed before the exams,” suggested Hindi Book.

“And not everyone has to become doctors and engineers. Children can study me and become great writers, journalists and editors,” said English Book. “The same goes for you, Hindi Book.”

“What about me? Children always refer to me as boring,” said History Book sadly.

“Of course not! It’s by studying you that everyone gets an insight into the past and the old ways of life. You tell everyone about the kings, queens and warriors who ruled ancient kingdoms from which modern societies evolved. Studying the past is necessary to understand the present,” explained Geography Book.

“Thank you, dear Geography. Your importance cannot be ignored too. You teach us everything about Earth and its inhabitants. How else would we get to know about the various countries, its people, climates, vegetation and wildlife? You show us how beautiful the world is,” said History Book.

“Dear Civics Book, you help people understand the rules and laws of our country and how the government functions. You teach everyone about the importance of equality and freedom,” said Drawing Book.

“Thank you. You are also no less. The children have so much fun with you. You help them explore their creativity,” said Civics Book.

“Renowned painters like Leonardo da Vinci and M F Hussain earned global fame through their works of art. Even today, cartoonists and illustrators use me to poke fun and convey a message,” said Drawing Book with pride.

The four friends who had been overhearing the conversation were surprised by what they heard. They were happy to have learnt that these books were actually their friends.

“Thank you, dear books, for making us aware of your importance. We will be not be scared of you anymore,” said Charlie.

All the books were happy to hear it.

“But also make sure that you make time for playing and rest. They are equally important too,” said Science Book.

“Yes, we will,” they said.

The four friends were not worried about their exams. Instead, they had fun reading their books. When the result came, they realised that their books were right.

Dona Finds a Story

Dona, the duck wanted to participate in a story-writing competition but she didn’t know what to write on. She sat under a tree in the park with her pen and notepad, engrossed in her thoughts.

“Hi, Dona! You look deep in thought. What are you thinking about?” asked Molly, the elephant who was walking by.

“Hi, Molly! I am going to participate in a story-writing competition but I can’t figure out what to write on,” replied Dona.

“Oh! Why don’t you write something about me? I can lift heavy objects and have won several medals for weightlifting,” suggested Molly.

Just then, Bonnie, the bear happened to pass by and overheard the conversation. “Who’s going to read a story about you? Dona, you must write about me instead. I have been awarded the ‘Man of the Match’ title for several cricket tournaments. I have scored many centuries and taken wickets as well,” said Bonnie.

“I know exactly how many runs you have scored and wickets you have taken. It is not enough to make one write about you!” interrupted Harry, the horse. “You should base your story on me, Dona. I win the first prize in the annual race every year. I have a shelf full of medals to prove it,” he said haughtily.

The Girl Who Loved to Learn

Dona didn’t reply to any of them. They only seemed to add to her confusion. Soon, many animals started to gather around her, including Ray, the rhinoceros who tried to make his way to the front of the crowd.

“Get out of my way, Eddie!” he said shoving the donkey aside.  “You haven’t done anything spectacular for Dona to write a story about you.”

Everyone in the crowd started laughing. Eddie was hurt but he didn’t say a word. He quietly moved to a corner.

“If Dona writes a story, it will have to be about me! I have won all the wrestling competitions in the forest. I can take on anyone who dares to challenge me,” said a smug Ray.

One by one, everybody started bragging about themselves, which made Dona frustrated.

Meanwhile, Drake, the deer was on his way to the market to sell his vegetables. He was old and frail, and looked very tired. He pushed his cart with great difficulty. Suddenly, he turned red and started to breathe heavily.

None of the animals tried to help, instead they passed comments like “You should stay at home, old man!” and “Why don’t you eat some of your own vegetables to gain some strength?”

Too weak to continue any longer, Drake fell down and the cart slowly rolled away. Eddie who just noticed what was happening, rushed to stop the cart. He then helped Drake sit up and offered him some water to drink.

“Thank you, Eddie! You came at the right time to save me,” said Drake.

“Please don’t thank me, Drake. It is my duty to help you,” said Eddie, adding, “You shouldn’t be out in the sun the whole day. You must be more careful at your age.”

Dona who witnessed the entire incident went up to the two.

“How are you feeling, Drake?” asked Dona.

“I am feeling much better. Thank you,” said Drake.

Then Dona looked at Eddie and said, “Eddie, you are the best out of everyone here. What you just did is much better than the qualities everyone boasted about themselves. I have decided to write a story about you.”

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Eddie blushed on hearing this, while all the other animals felt ashamed of themselves. They had now learnt a valuable lesson.

Meeku Saves the Day

Late one evening, Blacky bear, Baddy fox, Jumpy monkey and Meeku mouse were returning back home in Jumpy’s car after a picnic.

“Drive carefully, Jumpy. It’s getting dark and the roads are quite bad too,” said Meeku.

“Don’t worry, Meeku. I am an excellent driver,” replied Jumpy coolly.

Just as he finished talking, the car started shaking.

“Jumpy! Do excellent drivers shake their cars like this?” said Baddy irritated.

“It’s not my fault. Seems like we have a flat tyre,” said Jumpy.

He brought the car to a halt to the side of the road. They all got out and saw that one of the wheels had a puncture.

“Oh no! How will we reach home now?” said Blacky worried.

“Don’t worry, Blacky. There is a spare tyre in the car’s boot. We’ll just replace the flat tyre with the spare one,” said Jumpy.

Jumpy fetched the spare tyre from the boot of the car, while Blacky removed the punctured one.

“Baddy, now fix the spare tyre so that we can resume our journey soon,” said Blacky.

“Why should I fix it? You removed the flat tyre, so you should be the one fixing the spare tyre,” said Baddy.

“That makes no sense!” said Blacky.

“It does! When we play cricket, whoever throws the ball into somebody’s house is the one who has to go and get it back, isn’t it? By that logic, whoever removed the tyre has to fix it,” said Baddy.

Blacky got angry. “You are just trying to come up with a reason to not do any work! You better fix the new tyre; if not, you have no idea what I will do to you!” threatened Blacky.

“You cannot do anything to me,” said Baddy.

“I’ll show you!” said an enraged Blacky.

As the two were arguing, Baddy’s legs brushed against the punctured tyre. The nuts on the tyre were loose and they rolled down a steep ditch. Jumpy and Meeku saw the nuts rolling, while the other two continued to fight unaware.

“Stop fighting both of you!” said Jumpy. “See what you have done. Without the nuts and bolts, how will we replace the spare tyre now?”

“This is all Blacky’s fault. If he had just changed the tyre without arguing, we would have been on our way now,” said Baddy.

“Why couldn’t you do it then without arguing?” Blacky snapped at Baddy.

The two began fighting again.

“Will you both calm down and think of a solution for the problem?” said Meeku.

“There’s no use, Meeku. Without the nuts and bolts, we cannot fix the tyre. And the closest mechanic shop is quite far away,” said Jumpy sadly.

“Don’t lose heart, Jumpy. Every problem has a solution. All we need to do is to look for it,” said Meeku.

“So says the smallest and weakest one among us!” mocked Baddy.

“But I do have a solution,” said Meeku.

“What is it?” asked Jumpy eagerly.

“Just as Baddy mentioned, I am small and weak. You three can lower me down the ditch with a rope so that I can pick up the bolts and nuts, and pull me back up after that. We can then fix the tyre and be on our way. But for this, we will have to work together,” said Meeku looking at Blacky and Baddy.

“This is a great idea! I also have a rope in the boot of the car. We can tie that around you,” said Jumpy, running to fetch the rope.

They tied it around Meeku and lowered him down the steep ditch. After he picked up all the nuts and bolts, the other three pulled him up.

Baddy then helped Blacky fix the spare tyre.

“Thank you, Meeku. Because of your idea, we will be able to reach home now,” said Blacky.

Baddy agreed with him. “You are right, Blacky. Even though I mocked him, he remained calm and came up with a solution—he is indeed bigger than all of us!” he said and apologised to Meeku.

The four friends then got back into the car and resumed their journey home.

Wait, Mr. Alien!

When the phone rang, both Monu and Renu ran to attend it, but Renu reached it first. “Hello! Dad, have you reached Tokyo? Yes, I’ll tell mom,” she spoke to her father who was travelling to Japan for work.

“I want to talk to him. Give me the phone!” Monu tried to snatch the phone from Renu.

“Take it, you little brat!” said Renu with irritation.

“Hello! Dad? Please buy me lots of science-fiction comics and also the new Alien Wars video game,” said Monu. He then put down the phone with a satisfied smile.

Renu frowned. “Dad has gone to Japan on work; not for your science-fiction shopping,” she told Monu.

“Don’t worry, I’ve asked Dad to buy you a doll,” replied Monu with a wink and ran to his room. Renu ran after him, shouting, “How dare you…you know I don’t like dolls!”

This was the usual banter between 11-year-old Monu and his sister Renu, who was five years older to him.

The Aliens Are Coming!

Later that evening, when their mother returned from work, Renu told her about their father’s phone call.

“Dad has reached Tokyo safely,” Renu told her mother. “And Monu is reading a science-fiction comic again,” she said, pointing to her brother who was reading a magazine oblivious to his surroundings.

“Monu, you should also pay attention to school work; you need to be regular with it or you will find it difficult,” explained Mom.

“Mom, these comics are based on Science; I learn a lot from them,” Monu replied.

The following day was a Saturday. Mom unexpectedly received a call from her office and had to go.

“I have an important meeting. I’ll be back by evening. Please take care of your brother till then,” Mom told Renu.

“But Mom, I’ve got my school play rehearsal today,” said Renu. “And Monu is old enough to take care of himself.”

“I don’t want you to leave him alone at home. Please cancel your rehearsal and stay back with him,” said Mom and left for the meeting.

Renu paced back and forth. Suddenly, her eyes lit up. She dialled a number on her mobile phone.

“Hello! Vasu, listen…” she whispered on the phone. Monu became alert. He tried to listen but Renu closed the door to her room.

After some time, Renu came out and told Monu, “I am going to my rehearsal. A friend will come over shortly to take care of you. Lock the door after me.”

“Hmm! Seems like my evil sister is up to something,” thought Monu. He forgot to close the door.

Meanwhile, in the next street, Chappu, the thief had snatched a woman’s purse and was now being chased by a policeman. As he was running, he saw the door to Monu’s house wide open. “I better hide in there till the policeman goes away,” he thought to himself.

“Hey! Who are you and what are you doing here?” asked Monu upon seeing Chappu.

The thief was taken by surprise.

“Hmmm… He must be Renu’s friend Vasu. Very well then, I’ll show him what I can do,” thought Monu with a stifled grin. “Hello! You must be Mr. Alien from planet Xoxo,” he said to Chappu.

“Why is that boy talking weirdly?” wondered Chappu. “Since the policeman is still outside, I better play along,” he thought.

“Yes, I am Mr. Alien,” said Chappu.

Monu tried hard not to laugh.

“Of course, you are. Please sit down. I’ll get you something to drink,” said Monu and went into the kitchen.

“What luck! It looks like this boy is alone at home. I’ll wait here till the policeman goes away and then escape with a few valuables from this house too,” decided Chappu, suddenly feeling happy.

Monu returned and offered him a green drink. As soon as Chappu took a sip, he spat it. “What is this? It’s horrible!” he said.

“That’s the favourite drink of people from your planet— the juice of bitter gourd,” Monu replied innocently. “Come on, now don’t be shy; drink it up,” saying this, Monu made Chappu finish the entire glass.

Then Monu brought out his mathematics book and started asking questions which Chappu failed to answer.

“Hmmm… I think you are not adjusted to Earth’s environment yet. You need some exercise,” saying that, Monu took Chappu up to his room and made him clean it. Since the policemen were still patrolling the streets, Chappu went along with Monu’s whims and cleaned up the room. By the end of it, Chappu was very tired.

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“If I stay here any longer, this boy will make me do the dishes and wash the clothes too,” he thought.

“I think you are fully active now,” Monu said to him. “Time for some science questions…let me get my book.”

Chappy moaned in horror. Fortunately for him, just then, the doorbell rang and Monu went to answer it.

Seizing the opportunity, Chappu pocketed some watches and other valuables and looked for a window to escape from. At that time, Monu was talking to a girl at the door. “How can your name be Vasu? You are a girl!” he said puzzled

“My name is Vasudha—Vasu for short, and I’ve been requested by your sister to babysit you till she returns,” said the girl.

“Oh! Then I wonder who that other person is!” said Monu running to his room.

By then, Chappu had jumped out of a window and was running through the street.

“Hey! Mr. Alien, please wait. I am sorry! Please come back,” Monu ran after him.

When Chappu saw Monu, he started running faster. Chappu spotted the policeman at the end of the street and ran towards him.

“Sir, please save me from this boy. Please arrest me and take me with you!” Chappu pleaded with the policeman.

Monu reached them, panting heavily. “Why are you handcuffing him?” Monu asked the policeman.

“Because he is a notorious thief and thanks to you we have caught him,” replied policeman said.

“A thief?!” Monu was shocked.

“Yes. And I think these belong to you,” said the policeman, handing over the things that Chappu had stolen from Monu’s house. “Come to the police station tomorrow and collect your cash prize.”

By the time, Mom and Renu also reached the spot as they had returned home and Vasu had told them that Monu was out.

“Didn’t I tell you not to leave him alone?” Mom scolded Renu. “A thief tried to break into our house. What would have happened had the policeman not reached on time?”

Monu tried to act cool. “It’s okay, Mom. You have a grown up son now. See how cleverly I handled the thief!”

While Mom was talking to the policeman, Renu dragged him alone and said, “Vasu told me that you chased after the man shouting ‘Wait, Mr. Alien’. Shall I tell Mom? Because, I think I have a clear idea as to what exactly happened.”

Monu’s face turned white. “Please, don’t tell Mom anything. I’ll share my prize money with you,” pleaded Monu.

“And you have to promise me that you’ll stop obsessing over science-fiction. Just read the books and enjoy; don’t get addicted to them,” Renu advised him.

“Oh! Don’t worry about that. Sci-fi is over. I am now ‘Monu, the detective’. I’ll read only detective books from now on,” said Monu.

Renu rolled her eyes and said, “This boy is impossible!”

The Prettiest Garden

In order to encourage the inhabitants of Champakvan to plant more trees and spread awareness about the environment, King Shersingh announced a competition wherein whoever had the best garden would be awarded a prize. It was announced that in a month’s time, Shersingh would personally visit each citizen’s garden and judge it.

All the animals became excited about the competition and started planting several trees and shrubs with beautiful flowers in their homes.

“It’s useless, Jumpy! All your hard work is going to be for nothing,” said Baddy fox upon seeing Jumpy monkey plant trees in his garden.

“What do you mean?” asked Jumpy.

“I mean that I have the most beautiful garden in this entire forest. It has some of the prettiest flowers you would have ever seen! So, I am going to win the competition hands down,” said Baddy proudly.

Jumpy merely ignored Baddy’s remark and continued tending to his plants.

“Oh, look there! That simpleton Damru donkey is walking by with his leaky bucket again,” laughed Baddy. “Almost half the water he carries in it is wasted along the way.”

“I don’t understand why he doesn’t buy a new bucket to carry water instead. What a miser!” commented Jumpy.

The two of them started making fun of Damru but Damru paid no heed to their comments and continued on his way.

After a month, on the day of the competition, Shersingh walked around the forest and visited each house and looked at their garden.

“Your garden is very beautiful, Baddy. I am impressed,” said Shersingh appreciating Baddy’s garden. Baddy was overjoyed and was sure that he was going to be adjudged the winner.

“You are right, Your Highness! But there is another garden which is also beautiful and has lots of different varieties of flowers,” said Minister Blacky bear. “I request you to take a look at that one as well. It’s on the South path leading to the river.”

“The South path? But no one uses that path to go to the river,” said Shersingh surprised.

“That’s true, Your Highness. But on that very path, there are many plants with plenty of beautiful flowers of different colours,” said Blacky.

Shersingh wanted to see the flowers for himself and walked towards the path followed by Blacky and the other animals.

There, Shersingh was mesmerised by the sight—several varieties of colourful flowers lined the path. It was the most beautiful patch of the garden he had seen so far.

A Walk in the Garden

“This is undoubtedly the prettiest flower bed in the forest! If someone had planted these, I would surely have declared them as the winner,” said Shersingh.

“Your Highness, I don’t know if someone has planted these, but someone surely has watered them. This part of the forest couldn’t have gotten water on its own. I would advise that whoever has watered these plants should be announced as the winner,” said Blacky.

“You are absolutely right, Blacky. The aim of the competition is to promote a love for nature and encourage citizens to plant more trees. And someone seems to have done just that, even if it’s not in their own garden,” said King Shersingh.

Just then, Damru walked towards them with a leaky bucket from which water was leaking and falling over the plants along the path.

“Your Highness, there he is! I think he’s the one who waters these plants,” said Blacky.

“But he’s not watering the plants! His bucket is leaking and the water is falling on the plants because of it,” said Baddy in protest. He was afraid that he may not get the prize.

“We’ll find out about that,” said King Shersingh and went up to Damru. “Damru, don’t you know that your bucket is leaking? By the time you reach home there won’t be any water left,” said Shersingh.

“Your Highness, I only need half a bucket of water, and by the time I reach home, the bucket still stays half full,” said Damru.

“But why waste so much water? And why do you bother using this long route to go to the river? There is a much shorter path which everyone else uses,” said Blacky.

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“The thing is, I love gardens but I don’t have space at my home to plant new trees. A few months ago, I accidentally found this spot and decided to plant some saplings here,” explained Damru.

“But the leaking bucket…” Blacky began to ask.

“Actually, I am quite busy these days, and I don’t get time to water these plants. That’s why I carry this leaky bucket to the river so that on my way back, the plants get watered automatically,” said Damru.

Baddy and Jumpy were astonished that Damru, who they thought to be foolish, turned out to be very smart.

Shersingh was impressed by Damru’s efforts and declared him the winner of the competition. Everyone congratulated Damru, including Baddy and Jumpy, who also apologised for making fun of him.

A Festive Punishment

Only a few days were left until Dussehra. The entire forest of Sundarvan was being decorated in time for the festivities. The fair had begun and all the animals were happily shopping and preparing for the festival.

Every year, the Sundarvan Drama Company put up plays on Dussehra. Zizo, the zebra was the director for this year’s play, and was selecting the cast. After she was done, Mongo, the mongoose came in hurriedly saying, “Zizo, I too want to take part in the play. Please give me a good role.”

“I have already selected the cast for this year’s play, Mongo. If you had come a little earlier, you may have had a chance too. Let me see if I can fit you somewhere,” said Zizo.

“But you give me a good role every year. You know I am a good actor!” persisted Mongo.

“There’s no doubt about that, Mongo. But to give you a role now would be unfair to the others who came on time for the audition,” reasoned Zizo.

Mongo was angry. He stormed out without saying a word.

Zizo then turned to the other actors and said, “Okay, listen up! Dussehra is in a few days and we have to practise and put up a good show. Read up your scripts today and learn your parts; we shall start our rehearsals from tomorrow.”

The next day, Chucky, the squirrel, Robby, the rabbit, Reena, the crow and the other actors arrived at Zizo’s house for the rehearsal.

Hiro, the horse was in-charge of the actors’ costumes and make-up. He handed over masks to help the actors get into their characters. For the next few days, they all rehearsed diligently.

On the morning of Dussehra, the cast and crew reached the ground where the play was set to take place.  The stage had been set up and decorated with painted backdrops of mountains, palaces, forests, waterfalls and trees arranged behind the stage in the order required for each scene.

A makeshift green room was built near the stage where the actors could change and get ready for the play.

“Hiro, please see to it that all actors look like the characters they are playing,” said Zizo.

“Don’t worry, Zizo. Our audience will believe that the characters are real,” said Hiro confidently.

In the evening, the crowd started coming in. Being a much-anticipated event, there was a large gathering. King Leo and Queen Leona were also expected to attend.

Hiro was finishing up the actors’ make-up, when suddenly, there was a power failure.

“What a time for a power failure!” exclaimed Hiro.

In the dark, the actors could hear Zizo saying, “Don’t worry! We have a generator. The power supply will be restored soon. Just stay where you are.”

Within a few minutes, the power was back. Everyone heaved a sigh of relief. Hiro quickly finished applying make-up on the actors.

With only a few minutes left for the curtains to go up, Zizo asked her actors to go to the stage. However, Chucky and Robby seemed distraught. They were looking for something.

“What are you looking for, Chucky? The play is about to start. Go to the stage,” said Zizo.

“I can’t find my crown. It was here only a moment ago,” said Chucky.

“What? You can’t find your crown?” said Zizo shocked.

Just then, Tommy, the dog said, “I can’t find my cape.”

“And I can’t find my shield,” joined Reena.

“Oh no! What do we do now? How did so many props go missing?” asked Zizo.

“We can’t let our actors go on stage without their props,” said Hiro worried.

“We don’t even have enough time to go to the market and get new ones,” said Tommy.

No one could figure out what to do. The audience was waiting for the play to start any moment now. Even the King and Queen had arrived.

While they were racking their brains, trying to find a solution, Bob, the bear entered the green room, dragging Mongo along. Bob was in charge of security.

Bob was also holding a cape, crown and a few other missing props.

“Where did you get these? We have been looking for them,” said Zizo surprised.

“When the power went off, I was on my way to check the main switchboard when I noticed someone rush out of the green room. In the dark, I couldn’t make out who it was. But I had a feeling that something was not right so, I started following the figure. It was Mongo! I searched his bag and found some props and costumes. He confessed that he had stolen them. So I brought him to you. He was the one who had switched off the main power source as well,” explained Bob.

“Why did you do this, Mongo?” asked Zizo angrily.

“I was angry because I did not get a role in the play and wanted to take revenge. I plotted to steal your props to ruin your play,” said Mongo.

By then, King Leo had come to the green room to find out the reason for the delay.  When he heard what Mongo had done, he said, “You should be punished for your actions, Mongo. But since today is a day of celebration, I have a different kind of punishment for you—you shall clean up the entire ground after the fair ends! I don’t want to find even a small piece of waste paper lying around.”

Mongo moaned at the punishment.

Zizo and the actors thanked Bob for catching Mongo. And they all went on to stage the play which turned out to be a grand success.

Sohan’s New Dream

Balu was a poor farmer who lived with his wife Radha and son Sohan in a village. Both Radha and Balu loved their son a lot. They worked hard to provide for Sohan. Everybody in the village teased Balu because he did not allow his son to work in the fields and would ensure that he spent all his time studying.

“There goes Balu with the future IAS officer!” the villagers would joke whenever Balu and Sohan walked by.

But that was not what worried Balu. Sohan was not interested in studies. He would only sit down with his books when his father was around and then run off to play with his friends.

Balu worried about his son’s lack of interest in studies. One day, he went to Sohan’s school to talk to the teacher. “Madam, Sohan does not seem to enjoy his studies. What can we do? Would you give him extra attention?” Balu requested her.

“Sonu hardly comes to school. I thought you had stopped him from attending school,” said the teacher surprised.

On hearing this, Balu became very sad. That evening, when Sohan came back home after playing, he saw his father upset. Balu gently tried to make his son understand the importance of going to school and gaining education.

Sohan did not like seeing his father sad, so he decided to go to school regularly.

Even after a few weeks of going to school, Sohan did not find school interesting.

A few days later, Ramdin, their neighbour, fell sick. Ramdin’s wife, Saya came running to Balu’s house and said, “Can you please fetch the village healer? Only he will be able to cure my husband.”

“Saya, we need to call a doctor, not the healer. Remember what the government health worker advised us last month? Only a doctor can diagnose the illness correctly and give medicines,” said Radha.

Sohan was surprised to hear this. “How can a doctor find out what is ailing Ramdin uncle?” wondered Sohan.

Meanwhile, Balu, accompanied by another neighbour, went to the town immediately and came back with the doctor. After being treated by the doctor, Ramdin felt better.

The next day, Balu and Sohan paid a visit to Ramdin’s house. The doctor was also there to check up on Ramdin.

“Hello, Ramdin. We dropped by to see how you are doing. We were quite worried about you,” said Balu.

“I am feeling much better, thanks to Doctor Madam who treated me,” said Ramdin, smiling gratefully at the doctor.

Sohan kept staring at the doctor, curiously observing all that she was doing. The doctor too noticed Sohan looking at her.

“Hello!” said the doctor smiling at Sohan.

“Doctor aunty, can I ask you a question? How did you know how to treat Ramdin uncle?” asked Sohan.

“I am a doctor. I should know how to treat my patient, right?” replied the doctor.

“But who taught you what medicine to give?” asked Sohan.

“I studied all about that in a medical college. There, we were taught how to diagonise an illness, its treatment, and how to prevent some diseases,” said the doctor.

“Does one need to study in a medical college to become a doctor? Can anyone become a doctor?” asked Sohan with a newly-kindled interest.

“Yes, you need to study in a medical college to become a doctor. And anyone can become a doctor if they study hard and get good marks right from school,” said the doctor. “When you become a doctor, you will be able to help so many people in your village.”

That night, Sohan kept thinking about what Doctor aunty had said.

“What happened, son? Why haven’t you gone to sleep as yet?” Radha asked worried. “Is something bothering you?”

“Ma, I talked to Ramdin uncle’s doctor today. She told me many things about how to become a doctor. I too want to become a doctor, Ma,” said Sohan.

Radha smiled and said, “Why not? That is why your father has been asking you to study well. We are lucky that the doctor who came today has offered to come to our village regularly, but there are so many people out there who do not receive proper medical care. You will be able to help them all if you become a doctor,” said Sohan’s mother.

“Ma, from now on, I will study well and aim to become a doctor!” said Sohan confidently.

From that day on, Sohan’s attitude towards school changed for the better. He looked forward to going to school every day and he put his best effort to study.

After a few years, Sohan grew up to become the first doctor in his village.

A Clean Start

Friends Kiran, Renu, Meera and Naveen were excited. They had all been assigned the same dorm room at the school N.C.C camp organised in a forest area outside the city.

As they were unpacking their bags in the room, they realised that there were five beds.

“I wonder who else is sharing the room with us,” said Meera.

Just then, they heard a voice at the door. “Hello, friends! Here I am!” Pranav greeted them with a wide smile.

The four friends were a little shocked. Pranav was infamous at school for being ignorant, yet arrogant. Now, they were stuck with him at camp.

“Eh…Hello, Pranav! Welcome!t” Kiran managed to utter.

“Oh, really?” said Pranav, dragging his bad inside and unpacking it.

On the first day, Sapan sir, the N.C.C. sergeant ordered all the cadets to pick up the garbage and clean the area around their respective dorms. Everyone started working in their groups, picking up and collecting the garbage in plastic bags. Only Pranav refused to take part in the activity.

Sapan sir noticed that Pranav’s group had not completed the task. He advised all five of them about the rules of the camp and the importance of keeping the surroundings clean.

After Sapan sir left, Pranav continued behaving irresponsibly by throwing wrappers and packets of foods outside the dorm room which his friends had just cleaned. The next day there was a heap of garbage right in front of their door as the other cadets also began dumping their garbage there.

That afternoon, before heading to the picnic, Pranav hung his clothes to dry on a wire outside the dorm. Later, at the picnic, Pranav littered all over the place. Renu angrily pointed to a board that read ‘DO NOT LITTER’. But Pranav paid no heed.

When they all returned to the camp later in the evening, Pranav found his clothes among the pile of garbage. The wind had blown his clothes there. He picked up his clothes and suddenly remembered that he had put the keys of his suitcase inside the pocket of his pants. He immediately checked his pants but the keys were not there.

“What shall I do now? The keys may have fallen in the garbage pile,” he thought. “But how will I find the keys in this dirt?”

Pranav regretted throwing the garbage near the dorm. He felt like crying. His roommates Kiran, Renu, Meera and Naveen offered to help him look for the keys. Sapan sir came to know about Pranav’s lots keys and said, “Pranav is responsible for the garbage. So Pranav shall do the cleaning and searching.”

Pranav started picking up the garbage carefully as he did not want his keys to get mixed up in the garbage and get lost. Pranav not only had to pick up his own garbage but the garbage that the other cadets had thrown as well. Pranav’s misery upset his roommates.

“Pranav, did you check the pockets of your pants carefully?” asked Kiran.

“Yes, I did! But will you please check it once more?” requested Pranav.

Kiran checked the pockets again. The keys were not to be found. Then he asked,

“Pranav, what else were you wearing this morning?”

“This shirt,” he replied, shaking it.

To his surprise, a bunch of keys fell from his shirt pocket on to the ground with a resounding clunk.

“Oh, there are my keys!” Pranav exclaimed in joy. Exhaustion and worry were gone from his face now.

“Thank you, Kiran, for helping find my keys. Not only did I get punished today, I have also learnt my lesson. I will not litter and keep my surrounding clean,” said Pranav, as tears of regret welled up in his eyes.

“Don’t worry, Pranav. We’re happy that you have realised your mistake. Let’s now celebrate with another picnic,” said Naveen, trying to cheer him up.

“And this time, I will carry a bag with me to throw all the waste inside,” said Pranav smiling.

The four friends cheered.

Musu’s Smart Escape

Musu, the little mouse lived with his mother inside the hollow of a mango tree. His mother worried about him a lot as he was quite gullible and careless. So, she constantly had to keep an eye on him.

One day, Musu’s mother had to go out to run an important errand. Before leaving, she told Musu, “Son, I’m going out for a while. Don’t go out of the house till I’m back. And do not open the door to any stranger. There are wild cats around. They are always looking for an opportunity to prey on us.”

“I will be careful, Mom,” assured Musu.

As soon as his mother left, Musu locked the door from inside. He laid down on his bed and started reading a story book.

Only a few minutes had passed when he heard a voice outside the door: “Free sweets for everyone! Free sweets!”

Musu ran towards the door but then he remembered his mother’s warning and stopped.

A while later, Musu heard the voice again: “Free sweets for everyone! Come and get your free sweets!”

This time, Musu could not resist going out and getting the free sweets. Overcome by greed, he opened the door. He peeped outside but could not see anyone.

“Whoever was giving away free sweets must have gone on ahead,” thought Musu, stepping out of the house.

Suddenly, Bobo, the scary, black cat, who was hiding behind a tree, jumped right in front of him. Musu panicked.

“You foolish mouse! There are no free sweets. Instead I get you as my free dinner,” said Bobo, eyeing Musu greedily.

Musu regretted not listening to his mother. Tears welled up in his eyes. He wouldn’t be able to outrun Bobo. Just as Bobo was about to strike him down with her paws, Billu, the cat arrived at the scene. His mouth started watering at the sight of Musu.

“This is my neighbourhood. Only I have the right to this mouse, not you,” Billu told Bobo.

“I lured this mouse out of his home. So, rightfully, he’s mine!” snapped Bobo.

Both Bobo and Billu started arguing.

“As if one cat wasn’t bad enough, now, I have to escape from two cats!” thought Musu, trembling in fear.

Musu remembered his mother’s words. “When faced with a difficult situation, keep calm and think rationally,” she had told him.

So, Musu thought calmly and came up with an idea.

“Stop fighting, you two! I have come up with a way to settle this,” said Musu, interrupting the cats’ quarrel.

“What is it?” asked Bobo.

“Let’s toss a coin and decide. If it’s head, I will be Bobo’s prey. If it’s tail, then I am Billu’s,” said Musu.

The two cats agreed.

Musu took out a coin from his pocket and said, “I am going to toss the coin now. You have to accept whatever the outcome will be.”

“Alright, toss it quickly! I can’t wait,” said Billu, flashing her claws.

Musu deliberately tossed the coin so high that it got stuck in the branch of a tree.

“Oh no! The coin’s stuck in the tree. I’ll climb up and get it,” said Musu.

“Do you think we are stupid? What if you run away? We will come with you too,” said Bobo.

“You are right, Bobo! This mouse is trying to fool us. We shouldn’t let him go alone,” agreed Billu.

Thus, the three of them climbed up the tree and Musu managed to retrieve the coin.

“Come, let’s go down and toss it again,” said Bobo.

“If we go down and toss it, it might get stuck in the tree again,” said Musu.

“What do we do then? How will we decide without a toss?” asked Bobo.

“Let me drop the coin from here. Then we can go down and see the result,” said Musu.

Musu deliberately threw the coin a little further away from the tree. Billu and Bobo immediately ran after the coin to see who won. That was exactly what Musu was waiting for. He quickly climbed down the tree and ran towards his house.

After reaching for the coin, the cats realised that Musu was running towards his house.  They tried to catch him, but it was too late. Musu had already reached his house and quickly shut the door behind him.

Musu heaved a sigh of relief. He was amused at how he managed to fool the two cats. Bobo and Billu were disappointed that they let their prey get away from right under their noses.

Naughty Monty

One day, Toto, the tortoise saw Monty, the monkey walking slowly.

“What’s the matter, Monty? Why are you walking like a tortoise?” asked Toto. “If the tiger comes by, you will be an easy prey. Quickly run and climb a tree!

“I hurt my legs while playing this morning, so I can’t walk fast,” replied Monty sadly.

“In that case, sit on my back. I’ll drop you wherever you have to go,” offered Toto.

Monty brightened up at the idea. “Thank you, Toto. Please drop me near the mango tree on the banks of the river. It has low branches so I will be able to climb it easily,” said Monty, climbing onto Toto’s back.

Toto dropped Monty near the mango tree and told him, “Do let me know whenever you need to go somewhere. I will be happy to take you there on my back.”

Then on, whenever Monty wanted to go anywhere, he would call for Toto who would promptly shuttle Monty from one place to another on his back. This went on for several days.

Chintu’s Astuteness

One day, Toto said to Monty, “Now that your legs are fine again, you should walk on your own. Otherwise, you’ll forget how to walk!”

“Just because you helped me out for a few of days, you have started lecturing me now? I don’t have to listen to your advice!” said Monty angrily. He kicked Toto so hard that he fell on his back.

“What have you done? Put me back on my feet or I won’t be able to move!” said Toto, struggling.

“I will help you only if you promise to continue carrying me from one place to place,” said Monty sternly.

“I am the one who helped you out in the first place, and now you are bullying me! Just put me back on my feet,” said Toto, waving his legs in the air.

“In that case, you can lie upside down until you agree to what I said,” threatened Monty.

Just then, Egor, the elephant happened to pass by. “Hey, what’s happening here? Why are you laying like that, Toto? That too, in the middle of the path! What if I or some animal steps on you by mistake?” he said.

“I am not lying upside down on purpose. Monty pushed me,” said Toto.

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“Why?” Egor asked puzzled.

When Toto narrated the whole story to him, Egor was enraged. He caught Monty with his trunk and hung him upside down. “How do you feel now, Monty?” asked Egor.

“Please put me down! It’s very uncomfortable!” pleaded Monty.

“You did the same to Toto. You threatened to let him lie like that until he agrees to you.  Now, I am going to let you hang upside down till you realise your mistake,” said Egor.

“I realise now. Toto, I am sorry for bullying you. I will not behave that way again,” said Monty.

Egor put Monty down and helped Toto get on his feet, and went on his way. Toto and Monty continued to remain friends.

Clouds to the Rescue

Early one morning, when the animals of Lush Meadows were just getting ready for the day, two woodcutters stealthily made their way through the forest.

Mike, the rabbit was the first to spot them. “Look! Those two humans with axes are eyeing our trees,” he alerted his friends.

“Woodcutters! They must have come to cut down the trees in our forest. Our homes will be destroyed. What do we do?” asked Bella, the squirrel.

“Let’s ask King Leo, the lion. He is sure to have some idea,” said Tina, the rabbit.

And so, Mike, Tina, and Bella, along with Ellie, the elephant, and Mini, the bird set off for King Leo’s cave.

“Sir! We are in trouble. Please help us,” Tina called out from outside King Leo’s cave.

“What’s the matter?” asked King Leo, coming out. “All of you look so worried. If you’ve come to me so early in the morning, it must be something serious.”

“Sir, two woodcutters have entered our forest. They are eyeing the trees that have borne most fruits. We have built our nests in those trees. If they cut those trees, we will be homeless. You must help us!” said Mini worried.

“It is indeed a serious matter. Let’s ask Neel, the cloud and his friends for help,” said King Leo.

The animals brightened up at the idea. Neel surely had the power to help them, they thought. They immediately reached out to him.

“Neel, can you help us? Two woodcutters have entered the forest. If they cut our trees, we will be homeless,” said Ellie.

“Look who’s here!” said Neel amused. “Only the other day, all of you were making fun of our shapes. And now you want our help? Sorry, but we don’t want to help you.” Neel’s friends nodded in agreement.

“Please forgive us. We are sorry. We shouldn’t have made fun of you,” said the animals, feeling bad for making fun of the clouds.

Seeing Neel and his friends unresponsive, the animals began to walk back, worried about their homes.

“Wait, friends!” they heard Neel call out to them. “This forest belongs to us as well. While I was angry that you made fun of my friends and me, we cannot turn our backs on you when you are in trouble. So, tell us. How can we help you?” asked Neel.

Arrogant Cloud

“Thank you for not deserting us in our time of need, Neel. Please make it rain so heavily that the woodcutters get frightened and are forced to leave the forest,” requested Bella.

“Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it,” said Neel.

He and his friends moved swiftly to drink up as much water as they could from the lake until they became dark and heavy. They then floated over to where the woodcutters were and rained over them heavily, followed by thunder and lightning.

“What’s this? How is it raining at this time of the year?” the woodcutters were taken by surprise. “We won’t be able to go back to our village in this rain. Let’s take shelter under this tree for the time being,” said one woodcutter to the other.

They sat under the tree for a long time. They plucked a few fruits from the tree and started eating them.

“Imagine what would have happened if this tree was not there to give us protection from the rain. We would have got drenched and fallen sick,” said the first woodcutter.

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“You are right, my friend. We had come to cut down these trees, but those same trees have protected us. They also provide us with oxygen to breathe, and fresh fruits to eat. We have learnt a lesson today: If you cut the branch you are sitting on, it is you who is going to fall down,” said the other. “Anyway, it has stopped raining. Come, let’s go back home.”

The two woodcutters left Lush Meadows and started walking towards their village. All the animals of the forest came out in the open and started celebrating. They thanked the clouds who had helped save their precious forest. They apologised to Neel and his friends for making fun of them earlier.

“We must remember something—there is nothing shameful about accepting one’s mistake and apologising. And there is nothing better than forgiving those who repent their mistake and giving them a second chance,” said King Leo, addressing everyone.

A Sweet Trouble

Bobby, the bear cub was browsing the website Honey.com on his father’s laptop. It was a famous online store that sold honey on the Internet. The website had mouth-watering image of a beehive dripping with honey.

To the left of the screen, the different flavours of honey were listed: strawberry, cherry, mango, pineapple, mint, rose and mixed fruit.

“Yesterday, I had strawberry honey, so today let me try the cherry-flavoured one,” Bobby decided. He clicked a button and ordered a big bottle.

Bobby was alone at home as his parents were travelling. They had left their Debit card behind by mistake which Bobby now used to make the online purchases. He knew the card’s security number as he had helped his mother with her online transactions.

By afternoon, Bobby received the honey from Honey.com through a courier. As soon as Bobby opened the lid of the bottle, the smell of fresh honey made his mouth water.

“Wow! It smells heavenly,” said Bobby.

After drinking half the bottle of honey, his stomach became full but not his taste buds and finished the entire bottle. Rubbing his tummy contently, Bobby slowly drifted to sleep.

The next day, Bobby ordered mango-flavoured honey and the day after, the rose-flavoured one. This continued for a few days—he would order honey, feast on it, and then doze off. He had not stepped out his house the entire week. He put on weight and was feeling sluggish. But this did not bother him.

One day, after downing an entire bottle of honey, Bobby’s stomach started hurting. He wanted to go out and get help but he could not move. He began crying as the pain was unbearable and nobody was at home to help him.

Just then, Bobby’s neighbour, Gabby giraffe happened to pass by and heard Bobby crying. Gabby became worried and rang the doorbell to check on Bobby.  When no one answered the door, he peeped through the window and saw Bobby lying on his bed, clutching his stomach.

“What happened, Bobby? Why are you crying?” asked Gabby worried.

“Uncle Gabby, my stomach is paining a lot. Can you please take me to the doctor?” asked Bobby moaning in pain.

“Of course! Quickly open the door,” said Gabby.

“I can’t, Uncle. I can’t even move out of my bed,” said Bobby.

Gabby quickly called up Dr. Moo, the sheep and asked her to come over. Gabby also asked Haya, the elephant to help break open the door to Bobby’s house.

Haya used her strong trunk and smashed open the door. Soon, Dr. Moo arrived.

“He seems to have consumed a lot of honey which is causing the stomach ache,” said Dr. Moo after checking Bobby. “Where did you get so much honey from, Bobby?”

“I…er…my parents bought me the honey,” said Bobby.

“I see….” said Dr. Moo.

“How will you cure his stomach ache, Dr. Moo?” asked Gabby.

“That’s simple. I will drill a hole in his stomach, insert a big pipe, and pump all the honey out,” said Dr. Moo.

On hearing this, Bobby became scared and started crying.

“Please, don’t make a hole in my stomach, Dr. Moo. That will hurt a lot,” pleaded Bobby.

“Then tell me the truth. From where did you get so much honey? If you answer me honestly, I will not make a hole,” said Dr. Moo. She knew that Bobby’s parents had gone out of town.

Bobby explained that he ordered honey online using his parents’ debit card.

“Bobby, first of all, it was wrong of you to buy anything without your parents’ consent and that too using their card,” said Dr. Moo.

Bobby hung his head in shame.

“Secondly, if you have too much of anything, it will hurt you. You have eaten a lot of honey and that is why your stomach is hurting,” explained Dr. Moo.

“I am sorry, Dr. Moo. I was greedy and irresponsible. I will not repeat my mistake again,” said Bobby earnestly.

“Good. And don’t worry, I will not drill a hole in your stomach. I will just give you some tablets and you will be alright,” said Dr. Moo smiling.

Bobby was relieved to hear this. He smiled sheepishly.

A Dance for Granny

Sanju was unhappy. Her grandmother had come to stay with her family, and Sanju had to give up her study room for her grandmother to use.

Sanju was upset because it was not just her study room, it was where she spent most of her time listening to music, playing, dancing or relaxing with a book. A lot of her precious stuff was in that room. Now, what was she going to do? Why had Uncle Rajesh left Granny with them?

Granny lived with Uncle Rajesh in their ancestral home. Sanju had met Granny only a few times as her parents hardly found time to pay them a visit.

To Sanju, Granny was an old person, who was ill and confined to a wheelchair. “What would she know about the current generation?” thought Sanju. Whenever Granny tried to talk to her, Sanju would promptly make her escape.

As days passed, Granny kept to herself in the room and spent most of the day listening to music in her old tape recorder. Sanju did not make any effort to talk to her, despite her parents’ insistence, and went to her room only if she wanted to get any of her things.


A Unique Birthday Gift

One day, Sanju was watching her favourite cartoon show, when the music from Granny’s room distracted her. It was a classical song that she was familiar with, as her dance teacher had just taught her a routine set to that song. The song was being played again and again.

“Ma, why is Granny playing that song again and again?” Sanju whined to her mother.

Ma shut her laptop and went to Granny’s room along with Sanju. She knocked but there was no answer. Ma slowly opened the door.

Inside, Granny was sitting in the armchair with her eyes closed. She was smiling and her eyelids flickered as if she was dreaming. Her fingers tapped on the armrest rhythmically.

“What is she doing, Ma?” asked Sanju.

“She is dancing,” said Ma, smiling at Sanju.

Sanju stared blankly.

“Come with me. Let me show you something,” said Ma.

Ma closed the door behind her and led Sanju to her room. She took out a bag from the cupboard and handed it over to Sanju.

“Take a look,” said Ma.

Inside the bag, there were several trophies and certificates from various dance competitions. All of them had Granny’s name on them!

“Granny was a dancer?” asked Sanju disbelievingly.

“Yes, she was a great dancer! But she stopped dancing after we were born. I found this among her belongings,” said Ma.

Sanju rummaged through the bag. At the bottom, she found an old video cassette.

“What’s in it?” asked Sanju curiously.

“Let us find out,” said Ma.

Ma brought down their old video player from the attic. She dusted it thoroughly, connected it, and played the cassette.  It was a video of Granny dancing.

“I can’t believe Granny was so young and beautiful once! And look how well she dances!” exclaimed Sanju.

“Actually, she looks somewhat like you in her dance costume!” said Ma.

Sanju smiled. She was proud of her Granny.

“So, poor Granny imagines herself to be dancing every day,” said Sanju thinking loudly.

“Yes, that seems to make her happy,” said Ma.

Suddenly, Sanju brightened up. “Ma, I have an idea! How about we surprise Granny tomorrow?” she asked.

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“How do you plan to do that?” asked Ma.

Sanju whispered her plan into Ma’s ears and the two chuckled.

The next morning, Ma wheeled in Granny to the living room which was beautifully decorated. Pa and Sanju were standing near the table, on which Granny noticed a cake.

“What is going on? What is this cake for?” asked Granny puzzled.

“It’s for you Granny! To the best dancer I know!” said Sanju, hugging her.

Granny was surprised.

“But before you cut the cake, here is a special performance by Sanju,” announced Ma.

Granny’s favourite song started playing, and Sanju danced to it.

Granny was overwhelmed with emotion. She laughed and cried, and applauded loudly when Sanju finished the dance.

Granny pulled Sanju into a tight hug and kissed her forehead.

“I love you, Granny,” said Sanju.

“I love you too, my child. This is the best gift ever,” said Granny, wiping away tears of joy.

Colourful Confusion

It was a sunny day Meeku mouse stepped out of his house with his eye-catching colourful umbrella.

“Wow! Meeku, your umbrella is beautiful! Where did you get it from?” asked Blacky bear, looking at Meeku’s umbrella.

“I bought it in the city,” said Meeku proudly.

“Meeku, you should have bought one for me too! You know I love umbrellas,” said Jumpy monkey from the tree.

“I would have surely bought one for you, but the shop had only one in this variety,” replied Meeku.

“That’s okay, Meeku. The next time when you go to the city, please get me an umbrella just like this one,” requested Jumpy.

“Certainly! Next time I go to the city, I will definitely get you one,” reassured Meeku.

That day on, whenever Jumpy saw Meeku, he always asked about the umbrella.

“Did you go to the city?” asked Jumpy.

“Jumpy, this is the fifth time in four days that you are asking me this question! I have not had an opportunity to go to the city yet. If I had gone, wouldn’t I have got you the umbrella?” said Meeku with irritation.


Jumpy was offended. “Meeku, do you think that I can’t get one myself? I don’t need your help anymore!” said Jumpy angrily and walked away.

Jumpy was not seen in the jungle for the next two days.

On the third day, Blacky spotted Jumpy leaving his house.

“Jumpy! Where were the last two days? Do you know what’s been going on in the jungle?” asked Blacky.

“What happened?” asked Jumpy.

“Meeku’s umbrella has been missing since the last three days; looks like someone has stolen it,” said Blacky.

“Oh no! Who could it have been?” wondered Jumpy.

“Now tell me, where were you the last couple of days?” asked Blacky.

“I had gone to the city,” replied Jumpy.

“The city? Then you must have surely bought the umbrella! Do show it to me!” said Blacky.

“Surely, Blacky, but at I have some urgent work now. I will show it to you later,” said Jumpy hurriedly.

“Okay. I will come back later then,” said Blacky.

That afternoon, it was quite hot, so Jumpy went out carrying his umbrella. He met Jumbo, Blacky and Meeku along the way.

“Hi Jumpy! That’s a nice umbrella; it’s not as colourful as Meeku’s though. I thought you wanted one just like that,” said Jumbo elephant.

“I know, but the shopkeeper didn’t have one. He only had this black umbrella, so I thought since I had gone all the way to buy one, I might as well buy this,” explained Jumpy.

As they were talking, Titu butterfly flew over them carrying a bucket full of water.

“Careful, Titu! The water may spill over my umbrella!” said Jumpy nervously.

“But Jumpy, it’s an umbrella and it is supposed to be waterproof!” said Jumbo.

That’s when Jumpy realised he had blurted out.

“Yes, of course, but mine’s special and it’s new. I don’t want to wear it out so soon. Anyway, I have to go home now,” said Jumpy hurriedly.

Jumbo felt that Jumpy was behaving oddly. And as Jumpy turned to leave, Jumbo spotted some black paint on his tail. Jumbo realised what was going on. He got some water from Titu and sprayed it on Jumpy’s umbrella. To everyone’s surprise, the black colour was washed away, revealing a colourful umbrella. Jumpy was embarrassed.

“Hey! That looks exactly like my rainbow umbrella!” said a shocked Meeku.

“Yes, but it is not yours! I bought it from the city today,” said Jumpy holding on to his umbrella tight.

“Then why did you paint it black?” asked Meeku suspiciously.

“That is because as soon as I got to know that Meeku’s umbrella was missing, I thought everyone would assume that I was the one who stole it as my umbrella looks exactly like his,” explained Jumpy.

“In that case, prove that this is your umbrella. You must have the receipt as proof of purchase,” said Meeku.

“Actually, I was so excited that finally I was able to buy the umbrella that I forgot to collect the receipt,” replied Jumpy.

Meeku was not convinced. “You don’t have the receipt and you changed the colour of the umbrella—these clearly prove that you have stolen my umbrella!” shouted Meeku.

“No, I did not. Believe me!” said Jumpy.

As they were arguing, they heard someone call out to Meeku: “There you are, Meeku! I have been looking everywhere for you!”

Meeku turned around to see Cheeku rabbit walking towards them holding Meeku’s umbrella.

“Cheeku, is that my umbrella? Where did you find it?” asked Meeku surprised.

“Yes, it is. When I came over to your house two days ago, it was very hot, so you lent me your umbrella to carry back home with me. After that I had to go out of town urgently, so I couldn’t return it to you earlier,” replied Cheeku.

“Oh yes! I had completely forgotten about this,” said Meeku. He then apologised to Jumpy. “Please forgive me. I didn’t trust you and assumed you had stolen my umbrella,” said Meeku ashamed.

“That’s okay, Meeku. I now realise how my behaviour could have raised suspicion. I shouldn’t have tried to hide the truth,” said Jumpy.

“Both of you have learnt your lesson. Now, I have learnt mine—never step out without an umbrella in this heat!” said Jumbo, sweating profusely. Everyone laughed and gathered under the two colourful umbrellas.

All are Equal

Ayush’s mother returned from the market after buying vegetables. The next day was Aayush’s birthday and many of his friends had been invited home for dinner. His mother planned to make Aayush’s favourite dishes: vegetable pulav, aloomutter, palak-paneer and carrot.

Aayush’s mother took out the vegetables from the basket and laid them out on the table. She was about to put them in the fridge when she realised that it was time to pick up Aayush from the school. So, she left them as they were and left for Aayush’s school.

Seeing no one was around, the vegetables began chatting among themselves.

“I am the best among all of you,” said the potato proudly. “Everyone likes me. I can be boiled, fried, roasted or mashed to make several tasty dishes like vada pav, samosa, sandwich and pakoras!”

“Oh, that’s nothing! I am an essential ingredient in most dishes,” retorted the onion. “You just can’t make the dishes planned for the birthday dinner tomorrow without me. Moreover, people relish onion pakoras during rains; actually, they love to eat me any time!”

We Won’t Fight

On hearing this, the carrot declared, “I am the best! Besides being added in the pulav tomorrow, I am also the star ingredient of Aayush’s favourite carrot halwa, which will also be served tomorrow! You don’t need potatoes and onions for it. I am so good for health that many even eat me raw.”

“I too am used in so many dishes besides the pulav,” said the peas. “Aaloo mutter, mutter paneer, mutter pooris, mutter patties…the list goes on!”

The cauliflower was not to be left behind. It said, “They use me to make most of the dishes you are used in as well. I am also used to make tasty gobi parathas, soups and salads.”

Then the tomato spoke up. “I am used in many preparations too. Several tasty gravies and sauces are made out of me. I am used in all types of cuisine,” it said.

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“You all may be used in different kinds of dishes, but I am the healthiest of you lot,” said the spinach. “I contain all the nutrients necessary to maintain good health. In fact, doctors recommend eating leafy vegetables as much as possible. That is why I am the best.”

While the vegetables were quarrelling among themselves to prove that each was better than the rest, the coriander listened to them quietly. Finally, it spoke up. “I have heard all of your arguments and you are all right. Each of you has some benefits, but that does not mean one is greater than the other. We are all an essential part of the human diet,” it said.

“There are many preparations in which all of you are used like the pulav that is going to be made tomorrow. In the end, I will be added on top to garnish the dish. That does not decrease my worth. When we are all added together in the correct measure, people relish us,” the coriander added.

The coriander’s words made all the other vegetables realise that all of them are indeed equal. All the vegetables became friends and apologised to each other.

Just then, Aayush and his mother returned from school. As soon as Aayush saw the vegetables on the table, he became happy. Tomorrow, his mother was going to make his favourite dishes using all of these vegetables. The vegetables too shared Aayush’s excitement.

Pando’s Kindness

Pando was a kind-hearted panda. He would go out of his way to help the other animals in the forest in any way he could. Once, he spent an entire day helping Nini, the sparrow search for her chick who had gone missing.

Many animals liked Pando for his helpful nature, but there were some who would take advantage of him. Ray, the rhino was one of them. He was constantly looking for an opportunity to fool Pando.

One day, Ray got to know that Pando was looking to rent out his house urgently, so he came up with a plan. Ray met Pando the next day.

“Hello, Pando! How are you?” enquired Ray.

“Hello, Ray! I am fine. What brings you here?” asked Pando.

“I wanted to talk to you about the house that you plan to rent out. My friends and I have been asked to vacate the house in which we are currently staying as the landlord has planned to sell it  So, if you can rent out yours to us, I will pay you whatever rent you ask for,” said Ray.

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“Of course, Ray. I have been looking for tenants urgently too,” said Pando.

“Good, that works out for both of us then. But I have one condition. If you ask me to leave before three months, you have to pay me three months’ rent as compensation, and if I leave the house, I will pay you the same amount,” said Ray.

Pando saw nothing amiss in the condition, so he immediately agreed. Soon, Ray and his friends Bongo, the bull and Harry, the horse, moved into Pando’s house.

Within a few days, Pando started getting complaints from other the animals. regarding Ray and his friends.

“What kind of animals have you rented out your house to? They play music all night. The house smells, and they throw garbage into the river,” Skippy, the squirrel complained to Pando.

Pando decided to talk to Ray about this.

“Ray, why are you and your friends creating such a ruckus? All your neighbours are complaining about you,” said Pando.

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“So what? We pay rent to live in this house, so we are free to do as we please. But if you want us to leave, we can do that. Just give us three months’ rent as compensation and we’ll be on our way,” said Ray, reminding Pando of the condition they had agreed upon.

It was then that Pando realised that Ray had laid a trap with that condition. Pando walked back home disappointed. As he was thinking how to handle the situation, he met Honi, the honeybee on the way.

“What’s the matter, Pando? You seem upset,” said Honi.

“Yes, I’m quite upset. Ray has put me in a fix,” said Pando sadly. He then explained everything to Honi.

After listening to his story, Honi said, “Ray has tried to take advantage of your kindness, but I have a plan.”

She whispered something into Pando’s ear and he immediately brightened up.

Next morning, when Ray was on his way out, he saw a large beehive right outside his house.

“Where did this beehive come from?” he wondered.

“You look surprised, Ray. Didn’t Pando tell you that this spot belongs to us. We have been building our hives here for years,” said Honi.

“You pests! This is my house! Go away from here!” said Ray.

“You can shout all you want, but we are not going anywhere,” said Honi coolly.

That evening, Harry played music over the radio loudly. All the honeybees came into the house and started to dance over his head. Harry became scared at the sight of a swarm of bees. He hid under the bed and didn’t come out for a long time.

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The next day, Bongo opened a bar of chocolate and was about to eat it, when he was suddenly surrounded by bees.

“Don’t you know that you should share food?” said Honi.

“Get away from me! This is my chocolate,” said Bongo angrily.

“You better share it with us, or else we’ll sting you!” said Honi.

As the honeybees closed in on him, out of fear Bongo dropped the chocolate and shut himself inside the bathroom.

Later that day, Harry and Bongo told Ray about the incidents with the bees. “We’re sorry, Ray. But we can’t live in this house anymore. You have to complain about them to Pando and do something about the menace,” they told him.

Ray went to Pando straightaway and said, “Pando, there are honeybees staying in our house. They keep threatening to attack us. It is difficult to live there anymore.”

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“These honeybees have been building their hives there for many years now. They give me honey as rent. But if you feel uncomfortable, you may pay me three months’ rent and vacate the house,” said Pando.

Ray realised that Pando had outsmarted him. He paid Pando the money and vacated the house along with his friends. He did not try his tricks with Pando again.

Everything is Possible

Meeku, the mouse was taking a walk when he saw an apple fall from a tree.

“An apple! Let me take it home. I’ll wash and eat it,” thought Meeku.

As he walked away, Billu, the cat reached there.

“You better hand over that apple over to me,” said Billu.

“No. I found it first,” said Meeku.

“Look! I want to eat fruits today. Otherwise, I would have eaten you first and then the apple,” threatened Billu.

“How can I trust him? He may gobble the apple and then eat me too,” thought Meeku and ran from that there.

Billu followed Meeku. Meeku reached a bridge and saw Bhiku, the wolf coming from the other side. Meeku froze. By then Billu also closed in on him.

“How will you save yourself now?” asked Billu, as he walked towards Meeku.

“Wait! Take the mouse if you want, but leave the apple for me. I have put on weight and the doctor has advised me to eat only fruits,” said Bhiku.

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“My doctor has told me to have fruits because of my increased weight too. And I will spare this mouse as well. He has made me run so much that I am very hungry now,” said a panting Billu.

“Take the mouse if you want and leave the apple for me. You ran a long distance and so you must have lost weight. Now you don’t need to eat the apple,” said Bhiku.

“If that is the case, then I’ll take the apple and release this mouse. You chase him and lose weight,” said Billu.

“Stop arguing, Billu. It wouldn’t be good if I got angry!” warned Bhiku.

“Don’t try to dominate me. I’m not afraid of a foolish wolf like you,” replied Billu.

“How dare you call me foolish! Now, this mouse as well as the apple are mine,” said Bhiku, pulling Meeku towards him.

“You can’t do that. I had seen the mouse first, and so I will take the mouse and the apple with me,” said Billu, pulling Meeku towards himself.

Billu and Bhiku then began fighting over Meeku.

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“Why don’t you decide between yourself whom I should go with,” Meeku questioned while flinching with pain.

“Don’t interrupt!” shouted Billu.

“Both of you are pulling me and expect me to keep quiet!” cried Meeku. But Billu and Bhiku ignored him and continued fighting.

Fighting will yield no result. Talk and find a solution” said Meeku.

“Meeku, we are know that you will play a trick on us to escape, but we won’t let that happen,” said Billu.

“I’m not trying to trick you. I just don’t want you to fight with each other,” replied Meeku.

“Really? Then how would you solve our problem?” asked Bhiku.

“Why don’t you toss a coin and decide?” suggested Meeku.

“That is a good idea,” agreed Bhiku. “Let’s do it then” said Billu.

“I’ll opt for heads,” said Bhiku. “I’ll go for tails,” replied Billu.

“And what if we get neither heads nor tails?” asked Meeku.

“What do you mean?” asked Billu and Bhiku in confusion.

“What would happen if the coin lands perpendicular to the ground that neither heads nor tails are up?” asked Meeku.

“How can that be possible?” they asked.

“Let’s just suppose that it happens. Then what shall we do?” asked Meeku.

“Then we will let you go,” said Bhiku and Billu in jest.

“Let’s go to the bank of the river and toss a coin,” said Meeku.

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“Why can’t we do it here?” asked Billu.

“If we toss here, my coin may fall into the river and I do not have another coin to toss again,” explained Meeku.

“In that case, let’s go to the bank,” said Billu.

All three walked down the bridge and came to the bank of the river.

“I’ll toss the coin in the air. If it’s heads, then Bhiku will win and if its tails, Billu will win,” said Meeku and tossed the coin.

Bhiku ran to see if it was heads or tails.

“Wait!” said Billu. “I don’t trust you. You may turn the coin in order to win.” He let go of Meeku’s hand and ran behind Bhiku.

When the two found the coin, they saw it standing perpendicular to the ground due to the moist and soft soil.

“Meeku was right! Everything is possible,” said Bhiku. Billu nodded in agreement.

“Look! Meeku is running away!” screamed Bhiku.

“Let him go. If we caught hold of him, we would have to argue again as to who would get the apple and who would get him,” said Billu.

“You are right,” said Bhiku.

The two returned home disappointed.