Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Thakurmar Jhuli - The Brahmin and his Wife

Once upon a time,  there lived a Brahmin and his wife. They did not have ang children. The Brahmin was very lazy and foolish. But his wife was very intelligent and hard working.  She did all the housework and the Brahmin would just eat and sleep. 

The Brahmin's wife hated his laziness. She always scolded and shouted at her husband and told him that he should work and get some money to run the household. 

One day the Brahmin's wife was pounding rice. The Brahmin was very happy and he asked her "My dear wife, will you make rice pancakes (pitha)  today ? It has been ages that I have eaten Pitha ... " he closed his eyes and started dreaming about eating his favourite dish. 

His wife was very angry. 

"You will eat Pitha , huh ? You lazy fellow ! Do you have any idea  that there is no rice and dal in the kitchen ?  Only thinking about eating and sleeping !! Get out ! Get out from the house ! " She shouted. 

The Brahmin was very upset. He was looking forward to eat the pancakes but when his wife asked him to leave the house, he pitied himself.  He thought "It is better to live in the jungle than listening to such words from my wife ..."

As soon as the thought came to his mind, the Brahmin left the house. He walked and walked till he entered a jungle.  After walking for some more time, he met a hermit.  He started crying and told everything to the hermit. The hermit felt sorry for the Brahmin and gave him shelter in his hut.  The Brahmin helped the hermit and kept his hut clean and tidy. The hermit started teaching the Brahmin. Within an few months,  the Brahmin became knowledgeable and learned. 

The Brahmin thought 

Now that I am wise, 
My wife is in for a surprise ,
I will return home now 
and will show her my might - I vow !

He took his books, umbrella and a stick and left for his home.  

After walking for several hours in the scorching heat, the Brahmin reached his village.  He thought of visiting the King.  Then he thought "Let me go home and meet my wife first. Let her see how wise I have become ". He smiled. 

I was dark when he reached his house. The Brahmin's wife was in the kitchen.  He stood outside the kitchen and listened. He could hear the sound of frying palm sweetmeat. He listened and counted the sounds patiently. 

"Hmm, wife has made 25 sweetmeats ... Let me surprise her !"

He went to the door and called 

Come here, wifey dear !
I have come back -
And now wisdom I do not lack !

Hearing the Brahmin's voice, his wife ran out of the kitchen and opened the door. She looked at him. Oma, who is this ? She could not recognize her husband. He held books in his hands, shaven head just like a pandit and chandan tilak marks all over his body !

She started crying . 

"Where were you for so many days ?  I was so worried.  And you did not even miss me ... !"

The Brahmin closed his eyes and said "I have changed now ! I am not a fool like I was earlier.  I have acquired wisdom. Look at all these books ! I have very little time . I will leave very soon ."

His wife started howling "What ? You have come just now and want to leave ?"

The Brahmin smiled and said - 

If you want me to stay , 
25 sweetmeats you will have to pay !

His wife was amazed ! How did he know that she has fried 25 palm sweetmeats?

Yes, he really has become a wise Pandit ! 

She was very happy . She gave the sweetmeats to the Brahmin and he ate all of them with relish. 

The next morning , the Brahmin's wife donned a beautiful sari, put flowers on her hair, a big red bindi on her forehead and went about visiting her neighbours and other acquaintances in the village. She relished while telling them about the Brahmin , narrated the story about the sweetmeats and boasted about her husband's wisdom.

The villagers were astounded. People from far and near came to visit the Brahmin. They were surprised to see him. He was a changed man. He was reading o many books and nodding his head. 

"Yes ! He has really become a very learned Pundit !" , they said. 

Everyday someone or the other came to visit the Brahmin. He would read their palm, solve their problems and told them how to get peace and prosperity. The villagers paid him in cash and kind. The Brahmin's wife cooked him delicious food everyday and they lived happily. 

One day, there was a strange incident. 

Bishtu, the washer man,  lost his donkey. He searched for the donkey everywhere but could not find him.  Then he thought of taking help from the wise Brahmin. 

Bishtu told the Brahmin  "Sir, please tell me where is my donkey ! If I cannot find him, I will not be able to earn . My family and I will die of hunger !. Please, please , please help me ."

The Brahmin was in a fix. He did not know what to say. He did not have a clue about the donkey. Till now, whatever he had predicted was all from his common sense. 

Bishtu started crying- "I will not leave until you find my donkey" , and he sat near the door. 

The Brahmin told him "I will start my puja now. I will tell about the donkey after that ." 

But the Brahmin was very worried. He did not know what to do.  He took his umbrella and left the house from the kitchen door , hiding from Bishtu. He went about the village and looked everywhere , trying to find the donkey, but in vain. 

He walked and searched and by evening he was dead tired. He came home and told Bishtu  - 

Listen, my dear Bishtu, 
Your donkey problem I am looking into . 
Lord Shani is angry, but do not rue, 
Go home and I will find him for you !

Bishtu was scared to learn that Lord Shani is angry with him.  He bowed and left for the day. 

But now the Brahmin was really very worried.   In the morning Bishtu will come and ask for the donkey . What will he tell him ?  Thinking about all these, the Brahmin fell asleep. 

Suddenly , in the middle of the night, the Brahmin heard a strange sound.  He shook his wife. 

"Wife, did you hear that ? "
"Yes - it must be a thief - we have to catch him ."

The Brahmin was scared. He said "You go and look for him... I am hiding under the bed ."

His wife laughed. "You are a learned man now. Is that how you should talk ? Let us go together to catch the thief. People will respect you more when they learn about this."

Both of them chanted God's name and went outside. They saw something in the dark corner. 

"Catch him , catch him !" - the wife said.  As soon as the Brahmin caught it, the made an ugly hee-haw sound . 

His wife took the lantern near them and exclaimed "Oh, my God ! This is not a thief. It is a donkey !"

The  Brahmin was so afraid that he fainted. His wife shouted for help and the neighbours came running.

"What happened ? Why are you shouting at this unearthly hour ? "

Suddenly an idea clicked in her mind. 

She said "Actually my husband has been meditating for a long time to know where was Bishtu's donkey.  He was so tired that he passed out and I was nervous. But I am happy that he could find his Donkey. !"

Everybody was amazed. They looked at the donkey , folded their hands and bowed their heads to the Brahmin and his wife. 

Everybody said "He is such a great man . We are so lucky that he stays in this village." 

After the villagers went back, the Brahmin's wife sprinkled some water on her husband's face and he came to his senses. 

 "Thief ... thief " , he cried. 

His wife said 

My dear, it is Bishtu's donkey, not a thief, 
Get up, celebrate ! There is no time for grief !

They looked at the donkey, hugged each other and laughed .

The next day, even before the Brahmin and his wife woke up, the news about Bishtu's Donkey had spread like wildfire.  Bishtu came running and feel at the Brahmin's feet. He cried and said "You are God for me ! I will worship you till the last day of my life !  My dear friends, if you ever lose anything or have any problem, just come to him and he will solve it for you ! "  

Everybody praised the Brahmin and his powers, so much so that this news reached the King.

The King was facing a big problem. His only daughter, the beautiful princess had lost her diamond necklace. The king called many astrologers, pundits and wise old men to find the necklace, but everybody failed to do so. The princess was so miserable that she became ill. The king was very worried. 

As soon as the King heard about the Brahmin , he ordered him to come to the palace and find the necklace. 

"If you can find the necklace, you will be rewarded . But if you fail to find it, you will be imprisoned.  For ever !"  The King bellowed.

The Brahmin was frightened and his heart started thudding.He thought "What will I do now ? How will I find the diamond necklace ? It seems I will have to spend the rest of my life alone , in the dark prison ...". His eyes welled up with tears. 

"O King ! Please king me two days to find the necklace !" He pleaded. 
The King agreed. 

The Brahmin was very perturbed. He could neither eat not sleep. He was sick with worry and anxiety. He kept on chanting Goddess Durga's name and praying "Mother Durga  ! Please help me ... help me find the necklace... I do not want to stay in the jail !"

Next day early morning, the Brahmin went to the river to take a bath. He kept on chanting  "Mother... O mother Durga ...Is this what you had in mind ? "

Precisely at that moment, the princess's maid, Durga,  was taking a bath in the river. She had heard about the Brahmin and his powers.  When she heard the Brahmin say Mother... O mother Durga ...Is this what you had in mind ?", she was very nervous. She started weeping and fell on his feet. 

"O Brahmin ! I know you are God and know everything. Nothing is hidden from you. I have stolen the necklace. If the King learns that I have stolen it, he will either imprison me for life or ask me to leave the country. You, sir, are the only person who can save me ... save me , O my Lord !" She wept. 

The Brahmin was very surprised. 

"Who are you ? What are you saying ? I don't know you ! Leave my feet !"

The maid cried - " No, no ! Have mercy on me ! You know that I have stolen the princess's necklace.  Please save me ! Do not tell the King that I have stolen it !"

The Brahmin now understood that Goddess Durga had indeed saved him. 

He closed his eyes and told the maid "Hmm... Ok... Let me see how I can save you... Do one thing. You  put the necklace in a box and bury it under the biggest Mango tree in the Palace garden. Then let me see what I can do ..."

"I will do whatever you say ! Please save me ... " Durga, the maid, wiped her eyes and went home to do as the Brahmin had said. 

That evening, the Brahmin took his umbrella and books and went to meet the king. The king was in his courtroom with his ministers. As soon as the Brahmin entered, there was a big uproar and commotion . Everybody was very curious to know what the Brahmin had to say. 

The Brahmin smiled at everybody and then slowly settled on on a seat. He arranged his books around him , closed his eyes and started muttering mantras. Everybody stared at him in awe.  

After sometime, the Brahmin slowly opened his eyes, raised a finder towards the sky and said 

O king ! I have found the place 
where the thief had hidden the necklace !
Do not lose time, I implore thee - 
Ask your people to dig under the big Mango Tree. 

"Go and do as he says, " the king ordered. The soldiers to the garden and dug under the mango tree . And lo and behold ! There was a small box hidden there!

They brought the box to the king and he opened it. 

His eyes shone ! Yes ! It was the necklace. The diamond necklace of the princess. He was very happy. He came down from his throne and hugged the Brahmin. 

"O Brahmin, you really are great ! Today onwards you will be my prime purohit! I will be honoured if you grace my court ."

The Brahmin did not know what to say. He could not believe his lucky stars. He had never imagined that he will get so much fame and glory. 

His wife was overjoyed. She kept maids to do the household work. She now donned beautiful Banarasi dresses and saries. The Brahmin got a bed made of gold for her and covered her with expensive gold and diamond jewelry.

The Brahmani made delicious food and served her husband. 

"Oh my, my ! The Brahmin - my husband is the wisest person in the whole world, " she smiled and told everybody !

And thus, the Brahmin and his wife lived happily ever after 


Wednesday, 30 January 2019

The Magic Band

The Magic Band

Kali took out the English reader book from her school bag and pretended to read.  Her seat was in the last row of the classroom, in the corner, near the door opening to the long corridor.  It was lunchtime, fifteen minutes to go for the classes to resume.

A group of 15 to 18 girls huddled together near the first row, surrounding Rashmi. They were admiring the clip which Rashmi’s uncle had brought from America.  Rashmi magnanimously opened her clip and the girls took it in their hands turn by turn , touching the smooth surface, admiring the dark red star with golden border  at the end of the clip. 

“It is so beautiful !!  “

“Rashmi, you are so lucky !”

“Try it on !” Rashmi said proudly.

“Sure ? Thank you so much, my sweet sweet  Rashmi !!”.

Rashmi smirked and shrugged her shoulders.

“It is looking so nice. See, see …. the red coloured star is twinkling !” Sara shrieked.

“Hey, I want to hold it ! , Give it to me please, please please … !” Rani pleaded.

Kali looked askance at them and continued flipping the pages.  Rani suddenly turned around and shouted . “Kali ! Come and look at the beauty ! “

Rani was Kali’s best friend. In fact, she was her only friend.  No one ever took notice of Kali. She was just a name in the class. Everything about her was ordinary. She was a mediocre student, just scraping through the exams each year.  She was never chosen for elocution or debates. Sports also did not interest Kali and in the mandatory march past and P.T classes, she tried to make some excuse or the other to bunk the class.  Though Kali was interested in singing and tried really hard in the singing class, her voice was terrible.  The singing teacher, Sister Clarence, once tried to encourage her and made her sing Sa-Re-Ga , but her hoarse voice just could not match the notes.

“Kali ! Come quickly ! The bell will ring anytime ! “ Rani shouted again.

As if reluctantly, Kali closed her book, kept it inside her bag and went to see the clip which everybody was admiring. Rani gave it to her. Kali looked at the prized possession.

“Ok girls, Now give it back to me, else it will lose it’s magic charm …” Rashmi announced.

There was suddenly a hush of silence.

“Magic charm ? What  ? How ? “,  one of the girls finally asked.

“Yes. It has a magic charm”, Rashmi almost snatched the clip from Kali’s hands and put it on the left of the side parting of her hair.

“Uncle told me that if  I wore it on any examination day, I will get very good marks “

“Really ? “ the girls chorused. They were amazed.

“Yes”, said Rashmi, stroking the clip on her hair , “See, today in the surprise Hindi test, I got the highest..“ she looked at them smugly .

Everyone was jealous. They wanted a magic clip, just like the one Rashmi’s Uncle had got for her from America.

Kali look at their faces and a germ of an idea started in her brain.

The bell rang and all the girls walked to their designated seats. Rani sat on her seat in the last row and hardly paid attention to what the teachers were saying.  Her mind was racing.

That day, when the school was over,  Kali and Rani sat beside each other in the school bus. Rani kept on talking about the clip.  Is there any way that we can get such a clip from America,  how can we get it by post , if she had such a clip them she would no longer have to worry about her poor grade in Hindi, she rambled on.  

Kali listened to her .

“How much would you spend for such a clip ? “ Kali asked.

“I can give whatever I have in the small piggy bank”,  Rani said, her voice full of longing.

“How much ? “

“Hmm …around Rs 250? That is all I have. I can also ask for some more from Mummy … “

The two class six students sat beside each other , riding the bus back home. 

One of them craved for the magic clip and the other sensed an opportunity.

Getting down from the bus, Kali ran and crossed the busy road. Her mother told her a thousand times to cross carefully, but Kali is always in a hurry when she is back from school. She is ravenously hungry by that time. She opened the big iron gate of 9/5 Pratapaditya Road and quickly climbed up the wooden stairs.

 Kali, her mother and kid brother stayed in the corner room of the third floor. 

She ran through the huge verandah to their room.  As usual , her mother was still not back from the kitchen. She threw her bag on her small study table kept in one corner of the room, opened her shoes and kept it on the small wrought iron shoe rack kept on the balcony attached to the room.  She changed into a faded frock and carefully kept her school dress on the alna kept near the window. She had only one skirt and two white shirts which her mother washed and ironed every Sunday.  Kali was extra careful not to soil the school dress . The sisters in the school were very particular about the uniform and punished the students who wore dirty ones.

Kali opened the lid of the bowls. There was dal, rice, a few pieces of fried potato and fish curry. Kali grimaced. The food was cold. It was kept on a folding table which they  used for eating. There was a small heater, a few utensils, kept on the table. Her mother did not cook in the room , they got their food from the main kitchen on the ground floor. The heater was used to warm up the food or occasionally make snacks like Maggi , omelette , make tea, coffee etc.

Kali looked at the wall clock. It was 3.30 pm and she knew that her mother had also not eaten lunch. She made a face and went to the verandah which overlooked the courtyard. At the end of the courtyard was the kitchen. 

Kali leaned on the railing and bellowed “Maaaa… come up …. Maaaaa … I am hungry … ”.  Boro Jethi was sitting on a reclining chair in the courtyard, soaking in the winter sun.

She looked up.

“Uff,  Kali ! Don’t shout ! My eardrums will burst !” Boro Jethi rolled her eyes and her thick lips drooped side by side. She looked like a witch, Kali thought.

Kali shouted “Maaaaa !!”

“Madhu, you should scold Kali , She is so disobedient “ Boro Jethi shouted at a scale higher than Kali’s.

Her mother’s name was Madhubala, everybody called her Madhu. She hurriedly came out of the kitchen.

Ki holo re ?” Madhu had a ladle in her hands . She looked up at Kali.  “I am coming in 2 minutes , let me quickly prepare the batter for the onion fritter for the evening snacks “.

“Come in two minutes , else I will shout again !” Kali threatened.  Boro Jethi scowled at her. Her mother hurriedly went inside the kitchen.

By the time her mother came upstairs, Kali had laid down two steel plates, heated up the daal and macher jhol.

He mother panted as she stepped inside the room. She had a plateful of rice on which daal was poured and a few pieces of potato from the fish curry.  She kept it on the table and sat down beside Kali on the steel folding chair.

“Why do you shout so much ? You know that your Jethi and Mejo Kaka do not like it … “

Kali ignored her mother, looked at her plate and asked her ,  “Where is your fish? “.

Madhu sighed.

“Tunku wanted an extra piece and … “

Kali cut her short. “And your share of fish went to that monster … “

“Kali ! You should not call names.. !”

“You should not call names !” Kali mimicked her mother. “Every other day , someone or the other wants extra piece of fish, fritter or mutton and the share of Madhu goes to these gluttons ! Why can’t you keep your share aside ? “.

“Kali, don’t you know that nothing is in my hands ? The portions to be cooked are all controlled by Namita … “

“Yes … all controlled by Mejo Kaki , and Ms. Madhubala will just toil hard and cook and feed delicious food  to all the 17 people in this big house !” .
Kali looked at her father’s photograph on the wall.  She was angry. Why did he have to die so early ? They would not have been in this situation if he was alive. How things have changed in this house within two years of his death. 

“Ok ! Now forget your anger and eat – else the food will get cold “, Madhu mixed the rice with the dal and started eating. Kali cut her piece of fish into two and gave one half to her mother.

“Na, na… you have it … “, Madhu protested , but looking at her daughter’s eyes, she started eating the fish.  Sometimes Madhu really dreads her daughter’s angst.  In those moments, Kali’s eyes look like the Goddess in Kalighat.

Kali was 12 years old and ger brother, Aditya, was 5. Kali was just Kali , but Aditya also had a nickname - Bultu . Dadu was very fond of him and when he was born, Dadu called him Bultu and that name stuck.  Bultu went to the nearby play school for three hours. Madhu tried to complete her major chunk of work by that time so that she could wash and bathe Bultu when he returned from school at 12.30 pm.  She left Bultu with Dadu and went back to the kitchen.  Bultu loved Dadu. He listened to stories which Dadu read out to him, played with his cigar case, fiddled with the things kept on the dressing table, the shelves. Dadu indulged him. Everyday Bultu had lunch with Dadu.  After lunch, Dadu and Bultu slept on the big Burma Teak four poster bed. The one given by Dida’s father for their marriage. 

Kali hated sleeping in the afternoons.

She read story books.  She brought Enid Blyton books from her school library. How she loved the description of the food  - the hard boiled eggs, scones, marmalade and cakes. And their investigations and adventures ! One day, she too will have adventures, she promised herself.  Her mother, tired and spent, slept beside her, resting, before she starts the chores again in the evening .

Kali looked at the face of her mother. She has become thin. Her beautiful wavy hair was uncared for and she was wearing a shabby cotton sari. Kali kissed her mother on her cheeks.  “Love you Ma!” , she whispered.

Today Kali did not read.

She closed her eyes and planned.

Stage by stage. Each and every detail. She tried to pre-empt the feelings, emotions and reactions. She thought about the difficulties she will face, the risks that might surface. As she thought, each moment, day and week streamed like a movie in her mind. 

Finally she opened her eyes and smiled.

In the evening, she took out some money from the tin chocolate box where she kept her savings. Money given by Dadu during any festival or a few pennies left from the tiffin money given by her mother on the days when she did not get time to pack her lunch. 

Kali walked and went to Hazra More. She bought 15 black elastic hairbands, just like the ones which the girls wore in school. She bought plastic beads worth Rs 15. She chose the ones which were medium sized and had a big hole in it, enough to insert the elastic hairband through it. There were about 25 white beads.  She tried rolling up the elastic band and putting it though the bead. It worked !

She was excited.  

She then bought a bottle of blue acrylic paint and a small bottle of  golden acrylic paint. She bought two paint brushes. When she came back, it was 6.30 pm. Her mother had kept onion fritters on the table for her.  She ate one. It was tasty. Ma cooked so well ! 

Kali opened the steel almirah and rummaged through the lower shelf where her mother kept the woollens and knitting materials. She took out two knitting needles. She then put the bands, beads, paint, brush and the knitting needles in a plastic bag and hid it below the bed at the far end, beside the suitcase. She will need them at night.  Now she will study for the maths test. She just had  five days’ time to prepare for it.

She opened her schoolbag, took out the maths book and opened the chapter on percentage. She grimaced. Kali hated studying.  But this time she did not have any option other than working hard. It was 10 pm when Madhu came with their dinner. She was very surprised as well as pleased to see Kali poring over her book on the study table and solving maths problems.

She stroked Kali’s hair and said “Good Girl ! You have an exam ? “

“Yes – next week “.

Madhu was astonished. Kali usually studied just a day or two before the exam. She is growing up, must have understood the importance of studying, Madhu thought and smiled to herself.  Bultu was snoozing on the bed. As soon as he heard his mother’s voice, he started weeping. He was sleepy. Madhu picked him up and said,  “Kali, come , let us have dinner. If you want to study more, do it after eating“.

After dinner, Madhu made the bed and crooned a lullaby for Bultu till he slept. Kali resumed her studies. There were 10 solved example sums, 25 practice problems in the book and the teacher had given 5 sums as homework – the exercize book was supposed to be submitted after two days. Kali read through the problem sums and did 3 practice problems. She got stuck in the last one , where the answer did not match.  She closed her book. I will get hold of Jeet Dada tomorrow and understand where I am going wrong.

Kali was tired. But she had work to do.

It was 11.30 pm. She looked at the bed. Both her mother and brother were sound asleep. Kali crawled under the bed and brought out the things she had bought. She put two beads through the knitting needle and painted them blue with the acrylic paint.  At the end of the beads, near the hole, Kali carefully put dots of Golden paint. She then took the needle carefully and put it on top of the shoe rack to dry. She saw to it that   the beads were lying in the area where there were no mesh in the shoe rack else the paint would smudge.

She crept into the bed beside her mother, embraced her and went to sleep. Kali got up at 5 am the next day, before her mother woke up, and went to check the beads. The blue colour was looking beautiful and the golden dots contrasted so well with the royal blue.  She crept under the bed and get two black elastic bands from the packet.  She cut a band, twirled it tightly so that it could go through the bead. She then sewed up the band again with black thread. She adjusted the bead in a way that covered the sewed up area of the band.  She did the same thing with the second band.

“Kali, what are you doing in the balcony so early in the morning ? “ Madhu was awake.

“Studying Ma … I have a maths test next week”.

Kali wore the beaded black band when she went to school the next day. 

Her hair was short and she never wore bands earlier. She took out her maths book and opened the chapter on percentage.  In the next stop, Rani got into the bus and sat beside Kali.

“Hey Kali ! You are studying for the maths exam ?”

Kali did not say anything. She looked at Rani, smiled and went back to reading again.

 “Wow ! And you have worn a band today. You look different “, Rani exclaimed.
Kali closed her book and smiled mysteriously.

“What ? “ Rani asked.

“Nothing … “ Kali shook her head and started reading again.

“Kali ! Do tell me … there is something … right ? I am your best friend – remember ? “

Kali looked here and there, leaned towards Rani and  whispered in her ears, “Ok ! I will tell you, but promise that you will not tell this to anybody “.

“No , No, never …tell me .. please tell me …”

“Well, yesterday I went home and told my Dadu  about Rashmi’s clip, the magical powers and all”.

“Ok… what did he say ? “

“He said that he too had a friend who made magic hairbands !”.

“Really ? “ Rani’s eyes twinkled.

“Yes ! He called up his friend and asked for two hairbands .. “ Kali touched the hairband on her head and stroked the bead .

Rani was goggle eyed.

“This is a magic band ? Can I wear it once ? “

Kali was silent for a minute.

“Please Kali… Ok , I will not wear it , but let me hold it in my hands !”

Posing reluctance, Kali opened the band and gave it to Rani.

“Be careful ! It is expensive ! “

Rani took the band in her hands, touched the blue bead with golden spots , looked at it in awe.

“It has magic in it ? What magic ? What happens on wearing it ? “

“The bead has magic properties. The person who wears it has to hide the bead behind the right ear so that it touched the head.  The bead will then resonate with the brain cells and the person will remember everything word by word whatever she has studied” .

They had studied about resonance in physics and cells in the biology class.

“Oh !” Rani stroked the band . Suddenly she exclaimed “You said you had two bands ! Can you give me one band ? What is the cost ? I have Rs 250 ….”.

“Well, it costs Rs 200 – that is what my Dadu told me “.

“I need it Kali , please bring it for me tomorrow .. I will get Rs 200 from my piggy bank ..”

Kali looked out of the window .

“Kali… please, please , please … “

“I will have to ask Dadu … “

“Oh ! Ok !” Rani sounded despondent.

“I will try Rani, but there are some things which we have to follow for the magic to begin … Dadu told me “.

“What ? “

“Dadu said that we have to read the chapter at least 10 times and before the examination, we have to close our eyes, touch the bead and pray to God. Only then will the magic work. ….Ok , I will bring the band tomorrow , you get the money”.

Kali got the other band the next day and Rani gave her Rs 200.  Both of them wore the band and attended classes.

For the next few days, Kali solved all the problems of percentage given in the book. She solved all the example problems too. She even got a maths book from the library and practiced percentage problems.  In fact she started enjoying maths. Madhu was happy to see her daughter getting serious with her studies.

During the lunch breaks and the bus ride to and from school to home, she discussed the problems with Rani. Two days before the exam, she went to Rani’s house and practiced solving problems with her.

For her plan to succeed, Kali had no other option but to get full marks in the test.  She wrote the exam well.  Two sums in the question paper were from the solved examples and Kali found the other three very  easy.

In the next class, the maths teacher came in the class room and announced – “Three girls have got full marks in the test.  Shoma, Nivedita and …. surprise … Kali ! All three of you stand up . Give them a big round of applause !! “

Everybody clapped. Kali’s face was flushed. She was happy. 

Her mother will be proud.

Rashmi had got 7 out of 10. She looked enviously at Kali.

Rani got  9.5 out of 10.  She started jumping up and down.

“It worked , it worked … the magic worked ! “ Rani exclaimed.

Everybody looked at Rani.

“Silence ! Sit down. I will start a new chapter today “, the teacher announced.

After the school was over , Rani bounded towards Kali and said “Thank you for the magic band! I have never ever got such high marks in maths … “

Kali looked around and saw a few of her class mates looking curiously at them , listening to every word. 

“Shhh” , Kali said loudly , “It is a secret ! Don’t tell anybody .. “. Rani was a popular student and had many friends. Kali knew that Rani will tell about the band to her close friends once they plead her to know about the secret.

When Kali told her mother about her getting 10 out of 10 in maths, she hugged her tightly.

“Kali … you have to work hard .. doubly hard. I want you to grow up and stand on your own feet. We have to survive.  You have to become capable and earn.  Your father .. “, she started sobbing “he left us virtually nothing !”, Madhu mumbled.

That night, Kali made 13 more such bands with the blue beads.

The next week, Kali sold all the bands at Rs 200 each.  The condition for the magic to work was that they should read the chapter at least 10 times and before the exam , they should touch the bead and pray to God.  She sold them with the disclaimer that the magic might disappear anytime.

In the half yearly examination, their class teacher was ecstatic that the average marks of the class had gone up substantially and she got the best teacher award.

Kali did not make any more bands. She knew that things might go out of control. Any further requests for bands were dismissed by her saying that Dadu’s friend has shifted to America and no more bands were available.

Kali kept her first income of Rs 3000 in the tin chocolate box.

30 January, 2019, Belevedere, Alipore