In which Jaiki climbs the magic beanstalk and explores the land on the clouds.
“I knew it! I knew it! I knew it! The old man was right! There was magic in the beans!” I jumped up and down. “I must climb the beanstalk; I have to know what is up there! I don’t want breakfast, Ma,” I called as I rushed out. Ya, then I remembered that there was nothing to eat at home. I should have brought some water with me. Oh well! Next time!
I climbed and climbed and climbed and climbed the beanstalk till the top of my head touched the clouds. Should I go up? Will I be able to get through it? I hesitated. Then my science teacher Vikram sir’s voice rang out from somewhere. “Clouds are not puffed-up cotton balls like some intelligent person wrote in their test this week. No, they are a group of tiny, tiny, tiny water droplets that float in the air. We will have a retest on the water cycle this Thursday.”
What was wrong with me? Here I am, having the adventure of my life, and what do I remember? The test of the water cycle! “Get a grip on yourself, Jaiki,” I told myself.
“Hmm, billions and trillions of tiny water droplets. So if I go through the cloud, it’ll be like taking a cold bath. Ok, that’s my morning bath, then. But what if I fall through it? Should I risk it?” I looked down. My feet were planted firmly on a magical beanstalk. This is one of the few times it doesn’t make sense to think rationally. I put my head through and looked.
I knew it! A winding road curled around the mist and seemed to go to…I don’t know where. I hopped off the beanstalk, waiting for a wild drop. Nope, I was still standing! I skipped, hopped, and then broke into a dance:
Tha Thai Thayyum Tha
What??? Where did that come from? Thank goodness I don’t have no Instagram yet, so no one was watching me. “Arre, you duffer! Go, find out where you are,” I heard a voice in my head. So, I walked and walked and walked until I came to a house—a house that looked very different from those in my village. “The entire village can fit into that house! They must be very rich!” I stood staring at it. And then I saw a man, tall and thin like a beanpole, walking toward the door with a heavy pot on his head. I ran up to him and said politely, “Hello sir, good morning! Can I help you carry the pot?”
The man looked down at me. “You can go into the pot and be dinner for my master.”
“Er, What do you mean dinner? I was going to ask you for some food.” I protested.
The man glared at me for a minute. “Oh, all right! Come, I’ll give you something to eat. But mind you, the giant who lives in this house will be pleased to eat little boys like you. So, finish up and go back where you come from.”
“I’m glad you are not the giant who eats little boys then!” Why couldn’t I keep my mouth shut? “You are lucky I’m vegan. So there!” he retorted.
The beanpole man threw open the door and led the way straight to the kitchen. He put the pot on the fire. When the pot bubbled over, he scooped the food into a bowl the size of a small bucket and tore a chunk of bread the size of a boulder.
“Eat, and go!” he slammed his hand on the table.
“Ummmm, it smells dange…delicious. May I know what is the dish in the bucket?”
I smiled my winningest smile.
“Baked beans! Now eat. I won’t lift a finger to help you if the giant sees you here.”
“My! What a cheerful fellow he is,” I thought to myself. I was very hungry. So I held my breath and took a bite of the baked beans and bread. “Oh, if only I weren’t this hungry! I will never, ever fuss about the food my mother gives me,” I mumbled as I cut off another piece of bread.
“What was that?” the beanpole man bent down, his eye right in front of my nose.
“Oh, I just thought I must tell my mother about this bean dish. She only knows rajma, chawli, mung….” Uh-Uh, the look on Beanpole’s face is not good. Is it his tummy, or is it his neck?
Beanpole picked me up by my shirt and flung me into a cupboard. “And be quiet! Otherwise, I really can’t do anything to save you,” he whispered hoarsely. The door shut, and the floor shook. I moved my eyes without moving any other muscle in my body. I had to stay still, for I was in a cupboard full of cans. Cans and cans of beans surrounded me! If I moved and knocked one down, it would bring the entire room of cans on top of me. I stood with my body stuck to the door. “Yippee, the keyhole! What’s going on out there,” I peered.
I saw the feet first, closely followed by the legs, then the hips & belly, shoulders and arms. When I glimpsed the face, I couldn’t move even if I wanted to. He was a big one, he was! His head up by the ceiling, arms and legs as wide as ten trees…I couldn’t take my eyes off the giant.
The giant looked this way and that and sniffed.
Fee! Fi! Fo! Fum!
I smell the blood of an Englishman!
Be he alive, or be he dead,
I’ll have his bones to grind my bread!
My head was racing with thoughts, but I shut it all down and watched and listened carefully.
“Our cloud drifted away from the English skies a long time ago. It is dinner, you smell,” Beanpole snapped.
“Dinner? You speak as if you’ve cooked a feast! Let me guess, yesterday was Sunday. It was time for baked beans and toast. Today is Monday, so it must be baked beans and toast! Am I right?” the giant sneered.
Something clicked in my head (quietly, of course). I began to understand. “They must be brothers! They look like each other, but Beanpole is also a giant, only much smaller.”
I watched the giant put the pot of baked beans and several loaves of bread on the table. He gobbled it up without leaving even a drop for his brother.
The giant grabbed a chest from the floor and flung it open. He clutched a couple of bags, went back to the table, and emptied them.
Owww, my eyes hurt!
I peeped from between my eyelids. It seemed as if the entire room shimmered, for on the table was an enormous pile of gold coins. The giant counted the coins with his stubby fingers until, at last, his head drooped. Soon the house shook with his snores. Would it be a free fall for all of us?
“Be quiet!” I sushed my mind and opened the door noiselessly. Then I tiptoed toward the table and pinched a bag. I bent low to carry it without making any noise and made for the door. But how was I to open it? The latch was way up there!
“Would you like some help?” Beanpole unwound himself from the side.
“Yes, please,” I squeaked.
Once we were outside, I felt that I must explain. “The children in our village, we play a game called carrom. These coins are so bright that we can play the game even at dusk. We just need a striker. I’ll manage that somehow.” I managed to sound like it was the most natural thing to play with gold coins.
“A game? Oh, that sounds interesting! But, listen, I wanted to ask you. You said something about rajma, chawli, and mu. What are those, may I ask?”
Whatever it was that I was expecting, it wasn’t this!
I took a deep breath and explained, “Those are different dishes we make with beans. Beans are a kind of legume. In India, we grow different kinds of legumes. They are really rich in proteins and fibre. You can eat them with rice or different breads….”
“You mean those are different types of food, all made with beans? Oh, how I wish I could try some of those.” Beanpole looked drawn and haggard. I couldn’t leave him like that. I leaned over and patted him gently, without dropping my bag of gold coins.
We had come to the beanstalk. “Go! Go before he wakes up,” Beanpole waved me off.
I climbed down and climbed down the beanstalk until I came to my garden. My mother came running when she saw me. “Beta, I am so sorry for being angry with you last night. Please don’t go up this strange plant. I can work at Hotel LOL Bhavan and get you the smartphone. You can even have a Beansta account.”
“MA, STOP! STOP!” I tried to wave the bag, but it was too heavy. I dragged ma inside and shut the door. For the second day in a row, ma whispered something and slid down to the floor at the sight of the gold coins.
Ma used the money to buy a few cows and a small farm. From then on, we were never poor.
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