Babaji Shows The Light
Spirited Sunday. Cheery Rekha hooked onto her favorite television serial. Brother Akash was pacing through the cliff-hanging pages of an Enid Blyton thriller. Ma was engaged in the kitchen and the grand aroma of her cookery was wafting into each and every room of the Gupta household. The musical doorbell chimed. Akash raised his head. He called out:
“ Dad must be back. Rekha, open the door…please.”
Rekha was dumb-struck as she opened the door. There stood a very tall man in a saffron robe, a grizzly black beard which snaked his way right down to his broad chest.
“ Mummy in?” he grinned and raised his thick eyebrows, whirling his eyes gracefully as he slumped an empty sack on the floor.
As soon as Rekha zoomed in to call ma, the burly man walked in briskly. He hurled himself on the sofa, sprawling his legs in a wide semi-circle.
“ Bom…bom…babaji,” he blessed ma with closed eyes,” God bless your family.”
Akash peeped at the saffron stranger from behind a showcase.
“ You are Mister…?” Ma sounded like an old curiosity cat.
“ God has sent me here,” he sounded confident,” To raise your family to new heights in money and fame.”
He looked up at the ceiling of the sitting room. Splat! A sparrow which had perched on the ceiling fan showered his droppings on holy Babaji.
“ Oh, I’m sorry Babaji,” ma apologized profusely. “ I’ll clean up the mess on your beard with holy Ganga water I’ve collected from Hardwar.”
“ God forgive the bird…,” Babaji muttered a short prayer of forgiveness. Then he sniffed the air with his large nostrils and smacked his lips. “ All you have to do is to provide me with yummy meals.” He proclaimed like a pampered king, adding: “ …and three-star shelter. I will guide you towards the heavenly light and transform you and your family into a prosperous one, crawling with celebrities.”
Ma marched into the dining room with a steaming bowl of basmati rice, paneer and chicken gravy.
“ Close your eyes for seven-and-a-half minutes and pray silently for the wonderful food God has provided for us.”
Rekha shut her eyelids. Ma did too. Akash opened an eye…just in time to catch Babaji stuff a huge potato into his mouth. Babaji’s eyes turned red like an angry ogre and he struck a long finger vertically to his lips warning Akash. The poor boy was so scared that he squirmed his eye shut once again.
“ K…o…o…o…r…h! K…o…o…o…r…h!” Babaji coughed.
Out shot the unsuspecting potato from his mouth like a cannon ball and struck ma on her forehead.
“ A…a…a…a…h!” Ma could have recorded her scream in a seismograph.
“ A miracle!” Babaji wiped his perspiring face with the edge of the clean white tablecloth,” God sent a potato right into my mouth with his holy invisible hand. “
Ma folded her soft hands in a prayer and bowed her head low at Babaji.
“ B-but ma…,” Akash had flagged off a tattle.
Babaji spun his huge eyeballs at Akash, squinting them mischievously. Akash gulped. His legs shivered. His teeth chattered. His nose turned pale white. Babaji was nibbling at a chicken drumstick like a merry alligator when papa
“ Hello, Sir!” Babaji’s voice bounced liberally,” Bom…bom…Babaji.”
Papa removed his specs, rubbed his eyes and took his poky nose rather close to the stranger’s large, long face. Babaji dipped his holy fingers into a tumbler and sprinkled water upon papa’s flushed cheeks. Ma smiled excitedly. She explained to papa the learned Babaji’s intention to usher in wealth and fame for the family.
“ Babaji will show us the light,” she said.
“ What an overgrown bundle of talents going waste,” Babaji stroked his thick, black beard thoughtfully. “ The dashing boy will represent the country in hockey and Rekha will thrill all as a karate champ…gaining in leaps and bounds in this very humble home.”
He closed his dreamy eyes and chanted a few mantras. Then he opened his eyes and addressed papa:
“ You must toss your job away,” he said,” Money will grow on trees for you. Your wife will become a celebrity Kathak dancer!”
At the break of dawn, Babaji trooped into the garden. He directed papa to plant saplings of money plants.
“ As soon as the plant begin to grow,” he assured papa,” I will perform a miracle. Money will blossom instead of flowers.”
Ma admitted a rebellious Rekha to the karate school. She herself began to pursue Kathak dancing in great earnest.
“ A mathematician’s blood runs in your veins,” Babaji evaluated papa, a medical salesman by profession.
“ I’m horrible with numbers,” admitted papa.
“ I’ll be your Math guru,” said Babaji,” You are overloaded with talent…enough to churn out the most sizzling computer programs on earth.”
Babaji winked. He yawned. He had created a lasting impression on both adult and young minds.
* * * * *
More excitement was yet to flower in the house of Guptas. Babaji investigated the family two wheeler intently.
“ Sell off that scooter immediately,” Babaji warned, “ The flaming red color foretells great disaster.”
“ Oh Babaji,” asked a worried Mr.Gupta,” Should we go for a milky-white car then?”
“ Go for a milking white cow instead,” the holy man advised with great care,” You can tuck her into the garage.”
Only Rekha eyed the Babaji with a certain degree of suspicion.
“ Ma, I think we must do away with him as soon as we can,” she said,” Or else we’ll all end up in a big soup.”
Rekha did not notice that Babaji had pricked his large ears and had scooped up large chunks of their conversation.
He car was sacked. Soon a white cow arrived instead.
“ No more Western music,” the Babaji told Akash and Rekha,” Only the best of the East.”
The cacophony of the holy man’s self-sung bhajans vibrated in the room.
When ma churned out the regular ice-cream Sundaes once more, the Gupta children were delighted.
“ Sacrifice…and you will see the Holy Light,” smiled the guru indulging in large scoops of homemade ice-cream himself. “ The more you give…the more you will receive from the Almighty.”
Babaji was right. The more sermons he babbled, ma scooped more chunks of the delicious milk food for the religious giant termite.
Early each morning, papa would milk the cow himself.
“ M…o….o….o…o!” The cow would merrily chew cud and call out loudly.
“ M…o…r…e!” Babaji translated to papa with a tilt of his huge head. A liberal smile spreading all over his freckled cheeks.
The heaven-sent Guruji would slurp up the fresh, pure cow’s milk daily. He would count his holy brown rudrahaksha beads murmuring into the breeze. He stretched his stay from just-a-few-more days to just-a-few more weeks to just-a-few-more months. All for the upliftment of the well-sinking Gupta family. One moonlight night,
ma nabbed him fiddling with the money plants out in the open terrace.
“ What are you doing?” ma cut across sharply,” At this hour?”
“ Plucking money, see?” The Babaji held up a few glittering silver coins in his hands, “ Money has started to grow in your plants.”
“ Your heart is as pure as honey, sister,” the holy man vowed,” I shall take leave as soon as your family becomes rich.”
With Akash gaining finesse in the field of hockey, Mrs Gupta sharpening her dancing skills and Rekha snapping up a black belt in karate, it was now left to Babaji to improve papa’s Math abilities.
“ I always cut a sorry figure in Math,” surrendered papa,” I simply can’t figure out the difference between a python and pythogoras, a trapeze and a trapezium, an angle and an angler…I rather suffer from a strange bout of Math-a-phobia!”
Then disaster struck much against the holy man’s wishes. Ma twisted her ankle at Kathak, Akash got a swollen knee during a practice session and Rekha sprained her left arm.
“ Life has its twists and turns,” Babaji batted his eyelids nervously,” All’s well that ends well.”
* * * * *
A couple of days later, Babaji was alone in the empty house. He quietly entered the Senior Gupta bedroom. He thieved out a bunch of keys from the drawer. He struck one into the safety chamber of the steel almirah. He was delighted! He stuffed the precious gold ornaments into his brown jute sack. His eyes twinkled with joy.
“ I’ve made a fool of all of them!” He guffawed to himself.
He was so drowned in worldly pleasures that he didn’t notice the figure which had slipped into the bedroom. A roaring scream shook him out of his wits. It was ma who had returned. The crook threw down the sack, dodged past ma and raced towards the open bedroom window. He raised a leg over the window ledge and …
Suddenly the family came in together! Akash used his hockey skills with his stick, Rekha used her karate to good effect and ma joined in the chase, lost her balance and clung to Babaji’s beard for support. Off came the false beard!
* * * * *
Babaji had taken flight.
“ Never trust people on face value,” a tired Mr. Gupta yawned.
“ One must always trust one’s own ability in the journey of life,” added ma.
Bhim Singh's Plane Ride
Bhim Singh lived in a garage with his loving wife Parvati and sons Laltu and Paltu. Bhim Singh had a small grocery shop of his own. He was very popular in his neighborhood. One day a new product arrived at Bhim Singh’s doorstep.
A salesman muttered excitedly: “ My potato chips company is offering a free plane ride to the first prize winner and his family.”
Bhim Singh was impressed. Every night Bhim Singh along with Laltu and Paltu would marvel at the planes flying high in the sky.
“Papa are you sure that people are inside the plane?” asked an inquisitive Laltu one day, “ It looks like a toy to me.”
Bhim Singh had taken home two packets of the new potato chips for the kids.
Paltu tore up a packet and can you believe it…
There was a small card with the picture of a plane!
Bhim Singh was so excited that he lifted both Laltu and Paltu up in his arms.
“ Do you know what it means ?” said Bhim Singh, his eyes gleaming with joy,
“ A free plane ride for the four of us.”
“ Wow !” said Laltu.
“ Wow!” replied Paltu.
Bhim Singh pulled out his mobile phone from his trousers like a Little Jack Horner.
He called up the salesman of Star Chips Company.
“ I have found a little card inside a chips packet. It has the picture of a plane.”
“ Congratulations,Mr.Singh!” exclaimed the young salesman,” You have won the first prize of our company’s sales promotion scheme.”
Neither Bhim Singh nor Parvati had ever gone to school. When Paltu told his mother about the plane offer, she seemed not very pleased.
“ Hanumanji carries the plane in the sky,” she replied.
Laltu and Paltu nodded.
Within four days the salesman exchanged the card for four free passes of a joy plane ride from Guwahati to Kolkata.
* * *
“ Heck,” said Bhim Singh to Parvati, “ I forgot to ask the man how many nights the journey will take.”
“ I am taking no chances,” said Parvati ,” I am packing the bedding for all four of us.”
“ That’s a brilliant idea!” added Bhim Singh, “ The children will feel tired and sleepy up in the clouds.”
“ Besides I am preparing two large bowls of aloo gobi and purees,” spoke Parvati thoughtfully.
* * *
On the day of the journey,Bhim Singh loaded all the luggage onto a cycle cart. Then
Parvati,Laltu and Paltu scrambled up the cart.Fat Bhim Singh climbed up too. There was luggage galore. Two large suitcases and four beddings! Near the airport, the police declared that the cycle cart would not be allowed in. So Bhim Singh’s family had to drag their luggage to the airport. At the airport entry, the gateman asked to see their passes. Bhim Singh gladly held them up like a set of cards.
“ Where is our plane?” asked Bhim Singh curiously.
Bhim Singh,Parvati, Laltu and Paltu tried to barge in through the security check with their luggage.
“Luggage goes that way, you go in this way,” said a friendly gentleman.
“How will the luggage know we are going to Kolkata?” asked Parvati. “In any case I will not part with the food bag and the beddings.”
An airlines staff came to the rescue.
“Aw I shee,” said the man who was chewing betel-nuts, “ Come with me.”
He lifted all the luggage upon a conveyor belt. Bhim Singh gave chase.
A young lady stopped the conveyor belt switch and ordered Bhim Singh to get off.
“ My suitcases, my beddings !” the grocer yelled, “ How will we sleep at night in the plane?”
“ Your journey to Kolkata will take fifty minutes,” assured a cabin crew who had heard the commotion.
“ The journey from my locality to the airport took us fifty minutes,” muttered Bhim Singh under his breath.
They next entered the security check enclosure.
Suddenly Parvati gave a scream.
“What the hell?” she cried out in Hindi, “ The police woman has unzipped my food bag and was trying to steal my aloo gobi paratha which I especially prepared for the journey.”
It was Bhim Singh’s loud laughter which drew the attention of the crowd elsewhere.
“That policeman is tickling me all over with the funny steel bar!” he guffawed, “ I thought it was going to be a simple fun-filled ride.”
Just then an announcement went over the mike that a lady was searching for Bhim Singh and his family.
“ Paltu was really excited. “ Papa there are so many persons in the airport and they are all announcing your name.”
When the message was repeated in Hindi, Bhim Singh realized that the lady belonged to the potato chips company. She had requested his family to meet her at the departure gate.
Laltu was fascinated by the escalator. He climbed onto one and soon came tumbling down.
The lady guessed who the prize-winners of her company’s chips were. She smiled and came to the rescue of the family who had lost their way.
“I’m Miss D’Souza,” the polite lady said. “ Wish you a very happy flight.”
Laltu and Paltu’s jaws dropped at the sight of a real plane.
They now began to climb the stairway to the plane. On top of the stairs, a smart air hostess greeted Bhim Singh with a Namaste.
“Namaste,” replied Bhim Singh politely, “ But surely I have not met you before.”
The air hostess waved her hand and requested them to enter the plane.
Laltu and Paltu brushed aside a few passengers, overtook them and scrambled to take up window seats. The passengers protested. Soon the boys were sorted out by the cabin crew. They were allotted seats according to the ones mentioned on the tickets.
“ Please fasten your seat belts,” a passing stewardess told Bhim Singh.
Laltu and Paltu smartly flicked open their trouser belts and fastened them to the seat handle. Bhim Singh looked more worried! How will he tell the plane crew that Parvati wears a sari and she does not have a belt!
Much to Bhim Singh’s comfort, the air crew came to his rescue. They fastened the seat belts, unbuckling Laltu and Paltu who were hanging from a pair of bats from a roof.
Then the captain announced that the flight was ready for take off. The customary demonstration of the oxygen mask was displayed by a flight attendant.
“Gosh ! Is it a plane or a hospital ?” asked Bhim Singh loudly.
Bhim Singh had placed the food bag on the overhead cabin just above his head. He forgot to shut the cabin door. As soon as the plane began to speed along the runway the food bag jumped out and landed right upon Bhim Singh’s bald head.
Parvati quickly muttered all her prayers. Laltu who had a window seat shut his eyes while Paltu had shut his ears. The plane rose into the sky.
Bhim Singh was fascinated by the bevy of air hostesses. He tugged at the sari of one of them and asked, “ Madam, where is the toilet?”
The air hostess felt slightly offended. She showed Bhim Singh the overhead button pressing which one can draw the attention of an air hostess. Then she led Bhim Singh to the toilet.
After sometime the air hostess realized that something was wrong. She knocked on the washroom and opened the door. Bhim Singh was cleaning the basin with a hanky.
“Sir, why are you cleaning the basin?” asked the lady.
“I can understand a bit of English,” smiled Bhim Singh, “ I read the instruction WASH BASIN and so I washed it! “
Oh I did not tell you what happened when the air hostesses served sweets before the flight.
When the attendant offered Bhim Singh the sweets, he winked and said:
“Nobody can fool me. I know how much the sweets cost.”
“They are free, Sir.”
“Free? You mean we don’t have to pay anything for the sweets?”
“ Laltu and Paltu …action please,” declared Bhim Singh.
The two boys who were aged ten and twelve respectively emptied the entire tray into their pockets.
“ Don’t eat them up,” said Bhim Singh, “ I will sell the sweets from my outlet for two rupees each!”
When the meals were served, Bhim Singh and his family refused to eat them out of fear that they will have to pay for them. Besides, Parvati was very upset. She wailed once or twice thinking that they had lost all their luggage. The kids were satisfied with the aloo gobi parathas.
When the plane finally landed in Kolkata the only difficulty they faced were with the seat belts. The cabin crew helped them to unbuckle the belts.
“ What has happened to our luggage?” asked Bhim Singh impatiently.
“ Ask an official inside the airport,” assured a flight attendant , “ You will get back your luggage.”
They did. And Bhim Singh, Laltu and Paltu beamed with joy at their first plane ride.
However, Parvati smiled the largest!
Bobo’s Invisible Acts
Papa and Mummy Ghost looked worried. They had moved their home from an ancient mansion in a remote village to an apartment in Bengaluru.
Mummy Ghost had gifted little Bobo Ghost a beautiful alarm clock. A cute tiny ghost would pop out of the clock like a cuckoo, stick out its tongue and throw its arms wide and scream: “ B…o…o…o…o!”
Bobo Ghost hated morning wake up calls. He hated attending the John Memorial Ghost High School. Bobo often bunked school pretending he had a terrible headache or a tummy ache or ‘ spook fever.’ Now spook fever is so common among primary school-going ghost kids. They feel very light and invisible. Then at the very sight of people, they shiver and shiver and shiver!
What’s worse, Bobo Ghost missed out many important spooking lessons in school.
“ Darling,” said Mummy Ghost one night,” Soon you will grow up to be a teenager ghost and be out haunting the city on your own.”
“ Mum,” replied Bobo Ghost, “ I love watching WWF on the TV. I would like to be a wrestler when I grow up.”
Papa Ghost turned to his wife,” I’m afraid he is talking like a human kid. He is turning out to be less of a ghost kid everyday.”
“ It’s all your fault,” said Mummy Ghost, “ From a spooky mansion to a fast city life … the idiot box and the computer … it’s bad influence for Bobo.”
As ill-luck would have it, the teacher picked out Bobo Ghost in class the following day.
“ Tonight is your practical class…you are going to apply the spooking lessons of the textbook Graveyard Haunting,” she exclaimed,” Be there at the ancient cemetery behind school at the stroke of midnight.”
Bobo Ghost gulped. Oh, how nervous he actually looked !
Visiting a real spooky cemetery can be a haunting experience.
A silent graveyard washed by the pale moon. Not a ghost in sight! He rubbed his eyes. Was he imagining things? He heard voices. Human voices. There were about six men, each one dressed in a black suit and black shoes. They were standing next to an empty pit. They were lowering a coffin. Or were they? Bobo Ghost inched closer.
“ These guys must be crooks,” he spoke to himself,” I can become an invisible detective.”
He was sure the ‘saddest’ man donned a false beard. Bobo swung into action. He tugged at the white tuft upon his chin.
“ Oooow!” cried out the gentleman, “ A Gh...ghost! He is pulling at my smart, old beard.”
The six men scampered away as fast as they could.
Bobo Ghost grinned impishly. He was sure there was treasure inside the coffin.
“ I’ll be richly rewarded for being a hero,” he chuckled to himself.
At the crack of dawn, his teacher appeared.
Bobo triumphantly wheezed to her the night’s adventure. She raised the lid of the coffin and lo!…inside there lay no treasures but a dead old woman!
“ That was very shameful of you,” scolded his Master ,” You have been fooling with your lessons. Now see, you have scared away the poor mourners.”
“ How stupid of me!” Bobo Ghost whispered.
One warm summer night, Papa and Mummy Ghost decided to haunt a get-
together arranged by the Fearless Wives Association of Bengaluru.
Mummy Ghost kissed Bobo goodnight.
Bobo Ghost had to complete his homework first. How he hated doing Math sums, especially invisible addition and HCFs ( Haunting Common Factors).
As soon as the kids of the apartment -- their mum, dad and dog Sandy had entered their bedrooms, Bobo Ghost slipped into the fridge and decided to cool down. It was like paradise. He snoozed off. When he woke up at the dead of night, Math book in hand, the fridge jerked and rocked like a cradle. It took off the ground like Alladin’s magic carpet. Bobo Ghost froze in fear. He slowly pushed the fridge door open. He discovered three pairs of chocolate brown hands on the fridge.
“ Gh…ghosts fr…from another planet!” he gulped. He closed his eyes shut. Then he shrieked out a loud :
The fridge landed upon the floor with a thud. Bobo Ghost leapt out. The room was filled with loud drawn-out shouts of Bhoot! Bhoot!
There was a shuffle of escaping feet. Three figures lay upon the floor in a tangled heap.
The flat owner’s family now woke up raising an alarm.
“ Help! Burglars! Help!” they screamed out in a choir.
Bobo Ghost’s startling act spread like jungle fire. A photographer from the Ghost Times landed up. He clicked a shaken, shivering Bobo. The next day Bobo was so excited that he flipped through the pages of the newspaper.
“ Look, Mum!” he exclaimed, “ My photograph…ugh…um.”
Believe me, just a white oval shadow and Bobo Ghost’s name printed below.
“ Mum,” said Bobo tearfully, “ That blob can belong to anyone. Why me?”
Bobo felt very sad for being a ghost.
“ Sometimes we do great things for others but our deeds remain invisible to the world,” cheered up Papa Ghost.
Mummy Ghost kissed Bobo on his smoky cheeks.
“ We all make mistakes too,” added Mummy Ghost,” They help us to learn as we grow.”
“I’ll do good deeds and remain invisible,” spoke Bobo Ghost triumphantly ,” like Superman!”
Deepan’s Sports Day
Deepan was nervous. Yes, very nervous. He was to participate in many events on his school annual sports day. He tossed about in his bed like a little boat caught in a storm the whole of the previous night. He just did not fall asleep.
At the break of dawn, he decided to brush his teeth. He squeezed a tube but when he put the paste in his mouth it tasted different. It was his dad’s shaving foam!
Deepan’s parents hurried him on to the sports field. The first event was high jump. His legs were shaking like an earthquake. He took a few steps and leapt into the air. He landed on the pit with a thud. He turned around. The spectators laughed. He had sailed below the bar line instead of crossing over the thin tape. Deepan had two more chances to win a medal.
On his second attempt, Deepan’s shoes slipped and he slid below the tape along the ground like a roller skater. There were patches of mud on his behind. He got up and decided to attempt the final try. He took off sideways and landed on the lap of the judge! The fat man tumbled off his chair taking Deepan along with him.
The spectators roared. Deepan shot out of the high jump event without a prize!
Deepan was not worried at all. He was going to participate in many events. Next was the obstacle race. There was a trench full of water, followed by a net the participants had to scramble under and finally step into sacks and hop to the finishing line. As soon as the whistle blew, Deepan tried to cross the water trench, lost his balance and splashed into the water. He was wet from head to toe. The other competitors jumped over the water hurdle and were tackling the net very well. Deepan dived under the net and was soon entangled like a big fish!
He threw about his arms and legs in despair. A teacher rushed up to him and rescued him. Deepan was losing his temper now. He hopped into a sack. By mistake, the organizers had not emptied the sack completely. There were many potatoes inside. Deepan picked up the potatoes and tossed them around in the field. The crowd laughed out their bellies. Deepan hopped and fell flat on his face with the sack! The crowd was now behind Deepan.
In his haste, he had missed out on breakfast. He was really feeling hungry now.
His tummy rumbled. It was time for the egg and spoon race. The competitors had to balance a boiled egg on a spoon stuck to their mouth and dash and reach the finishing line. As soon as the start was announced, Deepan surged forward, spoon in his mouth, egg balancing on the spoon. Near the finishing line, Deepan’s egg fell off the spoon and onto the wet grass. There was a sigh from the spectators. Deepan smartly picked up the egg, peeled off the shell, fished out salt and pepper from a small plastic packet tucked away in his trousers and gobbled up the egg! The crowd stared at him in disbelief.
Feeling much better, Deepan warmed himself up for the 100 meter relay race. He was to finish the race for his Red House team. The gun cracked. The athletes were off. Deepan waited patiently. They were leading the race. Deepan turned around trying to snatch the baton from the third teammate’s hand. The baton stuck Deepan on his belly and he cried out: “Ouch!” in pain. By the time Deepan recovered, the race was over and Deepan’s team had lost just for him.
Deepan was feeling a little sad. The crowds were cheering for him. He had provided so much entertainment for them.
All’s well that ends well. Deepan was sure that he would end on a winning note.
He was to participate in the pole vault event. He was the last participant. He held the pole between his hands, dug the pole in the ground and leapt up into the sky. The pole had stuck in the mud. Poor Deepan! He was dangling at the top of the pole. He was almost in tears. Now how will he come down? The onlookers laughed at the spectacle. Deepan had once again entertained them. One of the volunteers held the pole firmly while the other staff asked Deepan to slide down the pole like a monkey. Slowly, shivering out of fright, Deepan landed safely on the ground. Everyone clapped their hands loudly for the unfortunate boy.
Though Deepan did not win any prize, the Chief Guest had a special word for him for making the school sports day such a memorable one. The spectators gave Deepan a standing ovation. Deepan went home a happy boy.
Motu Lal Comes to Calcutta
Motu Lal arrived at Howrah station in Calcutta. He wore a cream kurta, black coat and a dhoti. He had a big belly. He called up a porter and handed over his steel trunk and bedding. He then waddled after the porter. He used his big tummy to great advantage. He pushed aside anyone and anything that came along his way. There was a sea of passengers in front of him. The tall and lanky porter looked at Motu Lal through the corner of his eye. Motu Lal was searching for the chaiwallah whom he had hoodwinked by not paying him three rupees. Motu Lal stuck his hand in his coat pocket, opened his mouth as wide as an elephant and stuffed a paan. The porter now took off at top speed.
Motu Lal howled after the porter. He bumped his tummy hard into a suitcase. He spun like a mad fly and slipped on a banana peel. He landed heavily upon the platform.
“My trunk! My bedding!” he yelled. The last he had got a glimpse of the porter, the lad was scurrying away empty-handed. Where was his luggage? He rubbed his eyes.
Was he dreaming?
Two young men helped Motu find his feet.
The railway clock struck two in the morning. The porter had disappeared in the bustle with Motu’s belongings. What a start for poor Motu in Calcutta!
Motu reached for his purse in which he had stacked away five hundred rupees. He licked his lips and counted the money. Then he slipped the wallet into the coat pocket.
“ Hai Ram!” he cried out to himself in Hindi, “ I saved three rupees by cheating the chaiwallah …and I have been robbed of my belongings.”
Motu found a jeep and its trailer just outside the railway station. He sadly climbed onto the trailer and slumped off to sleep. When he woke up in the morning, it was broad daylight.
Motu sat up and rubbed his eyes. There was a lot of noise all around. He searched for the railway building but in its place there stood a small paints company:
“Laha Paints Company.”
Motu scrambled out of the jeep trailer and bumped into a tall gentleman.
“Looking for a job?” the man asked him.
“Yes.” Motu winked at the man, fished out a hundred rupee note and offered it to the man.
“Your bakshish for offering me a job.”
The man turned red as a leech.
“ You are lucky I am not going to beat you up,” he screeched like a parrot, “ We need a person who can paint an apartment. I will offer you one hundred rupees a day!”
“Oh thank you, sir,” said Motu softly when he realized that this man was the owner of the paints company. “ You are Mr. Laha himself?”
Motu was offered three chapattis along with a generous helping of potato curry by a man standing next to the owner of the paints company.
“ No money is required…one meal is free!” declared the generous Mr. Laha.
Motu was ushered into the jeep and was whisked away somewhere in the heart of Calcutta city. They stopped in front of an apartment. The driver pulled out a can of fresh paint and slung it around Motu’s neck. Then he stretched out a ladder and leaned it across the outer wall.
“Take this brush and climb up!” he ordered Motu.
Motu had never climbed up a ladder before. Slowly he mastered the art of climbing a ladder. As soon as he had reached the top, he dipped the brush into the can of paint.
The ladder swung away from the wall with Motu’s weight and luckily for our man it struck a lamp-post. Motu looked down upon the street below and his feet started wobbling. He trembled and as he turned to grab the lamp-post the ladder swung back to the wall. Motu grabbed the ladder with both his hands in fright. He dropped the brush onto the street which fell right on top of the driver. The driver shot out his cell phone, called up Mr. Laha and Motu promptly lost his first job in Calcutta. Now Motu let the ladder go and to his great surprise he was sucked into the apartment through the window!
Motu had closed his eyes. He now opened them and in front of him stood a huge burly man with a great black moustache. He resembled a walrus.
The man guffawed: “ Wow! Don’t worry …I am the owner of the Great Calcutta Circus.
You will join my circus from this evening…”
The man whose name was Laltu Mukherjee left the room. In the big hall, upon the carpet were five or six rabbits. They were all busy chewing up carrots and radish. Motu snatched away and munched about a dozen pieces of vegetable.
Laltu returned and offered Motu : “ You want the tiger’s meal or the rabbit’s meal?”
“ I am a vegetarian…,” said Motu, “ In my village I used to drink ten glasses of milk daily…and full of butter floating upon it.”
“ Fine,” replied the circus owner, “ Your meal will cost you your monthly salary.”
* * *
In the Great Calcutta Circus, Motu was hoisted onto a trapeze by a mechanical device.
“ When we say …grab!” the circus instructor told Motu, “ You grab the swinging ladder.”
Motu nodded his head in agreement. If he could perform a star act, he was promised ten glasses of milk …cream floating on it ! As soon as they hurled Motu towards the swinging ladder Motu missed his grip and his dhoti was entangled to the hook of the ladder. Motu stretched out his hands like an aeroplane. He whirled and whirled while adults and kids cheered and cheered from below. Then his dhoti went r…r…r…r..i…p..!
And down came Motu in his coat and underwear with a loud scream! Of course, they held a net to catch Motu’s fall. Motu landed upon the net, bounced up and down like a balloon. Motu had fainted out of fright!
He was a superstar! Laltu Mukherjee was overjoyed with Motu’s success.
He himself entered the ring to congratulate Motu and whispered into his ears:
“ Alo gobbi , dal fry …and ten glasses of milk !”
Motu opened one eye and winked at the circus owner in delight. However, Motu was really scared to take part in the trapeze once again.
“ I will appoint you a baby-sitter of my seven children,” Laltu spoke encouragingly.
“ How much wages?” Motu asked firmly.
“ You will be paid three hundred rupees per kid,” said Laltu.
“ Fine…,” said Motu Lal, “ Atleast my life will be out of danger.”
So that was the end of Motu’s circus life. Back to Laltu’s apartment.
* * *
Motu found himself in a bedroom with four children aged ten, seven, four and two. To add to his misery the other three were a monkey, a tiger cub and a tomcat. As soon as Motu was pushed into the room by Laltu’s wife Parvati, she shut the door. Motu picked up the four year old kid. The child tore up a shampoo pouch, pouring the contents over Motu’s head. Motu spanked the naughty boy. The tiger cub growled and the tomcat purred like a motor engine. The two year old baby was sucking a milk bottle. Motu grabbed the bottle and greedily drank the milk.The monkey screeched its head off. The ten year old girl sneaked to her mother Parvati and Motu lost his job.
“ I promise to be honest in my job in the future,” he told himself, “ I must not be attracted to food.”
Funnily enough, Motu made friends with a pair of twin lads. They had opened a fast food joint. They were making delicious kababs in their stall. They interviewed Motu and were happy to learn that he was a veggie. Motu stared at the boys with his round red eyes. He was sure he had seen atleast one of them somewhere.
“ For every five non-veg rolls you sell, you will get a paneer roll free to eat,” one of the boys offered Motu a deal. The boys left the stall to their new salesman and disappeared as they said that they had other business to look after.
Motu tasted a paneer roll. It was mouth-watering. There was a garage adjacent to the stall. The brothers had left behind the keys of the garage by mistake. As soon as the brothers had left, Motu opened the garage.And guess what did he find inside? He found an array of suitcases, steel trunks and beddings. And what luck! It did not take him too long to discover a steel trunk and a bedding marked with black ink: Sri Motu Lal in Hindi.
“ Aha!” Motu twirled his whiskers, “ Now I recognize my porters at the railway station. One of them got away with my luggage while the other one accompanied empty-handed.”
Though it was two days in Calcutta, Motu opened his trunk with his keys and was surprised to find that his clothes were intact. He stopped a cab. He flung his bedding and steel trunk and called out to the taxi driver: “ Howrah railway station.”
He had had enough of Calcutta life! Time for him to return to his native village in Allahabad. He decided to travel ticketless. After all, he was an Indian first and foremost.
“ No traveling ticketless is a crime,” he told himself. So he bought a ticket for Allahabad.
Then he boarded the train. He kept his luggage upon the seat and squatted upon it.
He was now wearing a brand new starched white dhoti, the black coat, cream shirt and a muffler around his neck. He reached for his coat pocket. He counted three hundred rupees in his wallet. He smiled. He was going back home.
Then he saw the chaiwallah. The same chaiwallah whom he had cheated three rupees a fortnight ago. He decided to cheat Calcutta for one last time! He followed the chaiwallah.
Then he bought a mud pot of tea for three rupees.
“ I will pay you as soon as I come out of the toilet,” he said.
He hopped into a compartment, followed the corridors and disappeared into his section of the train.
“ Well Calcutta, I had my revenge upon you,” he whispered tiredly, “ Hai Ram, forgive me.”
He noticed a bhelpuri man. As soon as he reached for his wallet to buy some bhelpuris he discovered his wallet was gone!
Motu Lal’s wail was drowned by the loud whistle of the train as it departed Calcutta!
The Laughing Hyena
Motu Lal was the saddest zoo-keeper in the entire world.
“ Oh papa,” Chotu asked of his dad one day,” Tell me, why are you so sad?”
“ Well son,” Motu replied with a heavy heart , “ For the last fifteen years or so I have been feeding bears, the monkeys, the lions and the rest of the animals.”
He placed his right hand on Chotu’s shoulder and then said: “ Visitors to the zoo come and admire the animals …while I do all the dirty work.”
Chotu pondered for a while. He scratched his head. Dad had always boasted proudly that his son was so intelligent that he never sent him to school.
“ Dad…I’ve got a great idea!” Chotu cheered up his dad, “ Next time when the press photographers come to snap the animals, we will pose in front of the cages. That way, we will become famous.”
So father and son posed in front of the monkey’s cage. One of the visitors tossed a banana and instantly clicked his camera. Chotu caught the fruit in midair. The cameraman howled at the zoo-keeper and his kid. The monkey was more annoyed with Motu Lal. He chewed the banana and spat the skin right into the zoo-keeper’s big, fat nose! The next day, Chotu discovered an empty cage.
“ Well son,” remarked Motu slowly, “ What about it?”
“ Why don’t we both occupy the cage during your off-hours?” suggested Chotu, “ Maybe if we can entertain the kids…we will draw enough attention and become popular!”
“ You are a genius, Chotu,” smiled Motu Lal.
Just as the duo were dreaming of fame, Mr. Jhutmoot the zoo superintendent smashed their plans.
“ A laughing hyena is arriving this evening,” he stroked his chin,” He will be the centre of all attention.”
Soon there were posters marking her arrival. All this made Motu the zoo-keeper very jealous.
The hyena arrived. Visitors flocked to see her.
Whenever the hyena would see the school children, she would roll over on her back, tickling her armpits with her hind legs and burst out: “ Ha…ha…ha…ha..!”
“ That silly hyena has drawn enough attention,” barked Motu, “ While I have been cleaning and feeding him.”
“ Dad!” sparkled Chotu mischievously,” Why don’t we put a full stop to her silly laughter?”
They decided to consult the zoo doctor Medicinewallah.
“ How can we make the hyena stop laughing?” asked Motu grumpily.
“ As I see there’s nothing wrong with the hyena,” replied the learned doctor,
“ The problem lies squarely with you.”
“ Whenever I tell him my sad tales, the stupid hyena doubles up with laughter,” fumed Motu Lal, “ It makes me sadder still.”
“ Ah I see,” exclaimed the doctor, adjusting his specs,” I’ll provide you with laughing gas.”
He lowered the jars upon a wooden table and said: “ Inhale deeply twice a day. That will bring back laughter to your life.”
“ Why should we laugh?” asked Motu,” We have nothing to cheer about.”
“ Dad,” Chotu tucked at the zoo-keeper’s sleeve and whispered: “ Now with the laughing gas solution on our side, we can challenge the silly hyena at his own game.”
“ Oh Chotu…I am so proud of you,” Motu was impressed with his son’s intelligence, “ We can start our laugh riots right in front of the hyena’s cage.”
“ I have got a bright idea!” Chotu flicked his fingers,” Why don’t we inhale all the laughing gas at one go?”
“ That’s super!” agreed Motu,” Then we can outdo the hyena over the next few days and achieve instant fame.”
So Motu and his son inhaled the entire laughing gas. They arrived in front of the hyena’s cage. They began to tickle each other and rolled over on their backs, just like the hyena.
“ Ho! Ho! Ho!” Motu laughed his lungs out, “ Now we’ll show this silly hyena who laughs the loudest!”
Poor hyena was so shocked that she stopped her laughter. She stuck her head out of the cage and observed how the two dumb creatures imitated her.
“ I heard laughter can be infectious,” spoke an old lady, “ Yet I never can guess it can reach such proportions.”
She stared at the zoo-keeper and her son.
“ Hey…look! We are drawing attention,” smiled Motu, “ Hee, hee, hee!”
“ Dad,” recommended the boy,” Let us occupy the cage. That way everyone will flock to see us…Ha! Ha! Ha!”
So that night, they opened the cage door, let the hyena out and stepped inside. They laughed and laughed. The hyena sniffed freedom and regained her lost laughter once again. Motu locked the cage and dropped the key. The hyena took the key in her mouth and scampered off.
Next day the zoo superintendent arrived at the cage.
Motu nearly lost his job as a zoo-keeper. And Chotu? Well, he was promptly dispatched off to school!