“Maaaa! Maa! Do I have to go to school? One teacher goes on and on about percentage and long division, another bores me about all the states of India and their crops, and yet another drives me crazy about what he calls ‘poetry! Can anyone dance to those poems? It’s not as if it is another Chaiyya Chaiyya!
Please Ma, let me go to work. I can milk our cow and sell the milk.”
“Go to School!” Ouch! That tone of voice! There’s no arguing with it. So I picked up my bag and trudged through the village roads to get to my school.
“The dal you ate with your chapati or rice…that is a lentil. Lentils are a kind of legumes. Who can tell me what legumes are grown in India….” The geography master was on his favourite topic. He won’t notice me if I take a quick nap. Don’t blame me! Thinking about dal chawal makes me feel sleepy!
What a beautiful day it is! I thought to myself as I walked to Hotel LOL Bhavan. I was taking milk from our ghairani to the only hotel in our village, Hotel LOL Bhavan. Superstar Naveen is at the hotel for a shooting. Who knows! When I get to the hotel, maybe the Superstar will see me. I’m sure he will like me and tell the director to give me a role. I will play the Superstar’s younger brother and win everybody over, acting as his brother in many films. I know what I’ll do when I have the money! I’ll buy the latest iPhone.
“Ma! Can I have Instagram on my phone?”
“OUCH! Who pinched me?”
Chandru was staring straight ahead.
“Sleeping again, Jaikiran?” the man’s eye fixed me to my seat.
“No, sir, I have a dreadful headache, sir. Last night I had a high fever, sir….”
“And tomorrow, even your fingernails will have a high fever. At this rate, Jaiki, you will get an egg in the exams; not a hen’s egg, Jaiki, but AN ELEPHANT’S EGG!”
“Yes sir, No sir….”
“But sir, elephants don’t lay….” One look from the teacher and the know-it-all Raju sat down and shut up.
I complained to Chandru on the way home. “Darn it! It was such a lovely dream. It was so real, I tell you! Superstar Naveen is not in our village. Never mind that. He just has to find out about me. I’ll become famous somehow.”
When I got home, I went straight to work. “Ma, Ma, can I have a phone please, ma? Then I can get Instagram and take lots of pictures milking the cow. I can smile from the left and the right, hug the cow and sing and dance. I will have lots of followers and become famous. Pleeeease ma!”
“Jaiki, I want you to take the cow to the market and sell it.” My mom’s smile was missing.
“What? Sell the cow? But how will I take pictures and post them on Instagram if we sell the cow? How will I become famous? How will superstar Naveen find out about me?” I protested.
“Jaiki! We cannot afford to feed the cow right now. I need to pay your school fees, which means we must sell the cow,” she put her hand on me.
“Ma! I keep telling you; I don’t want to go to school….”
“And I keep telling you; You will finish school. Now, get ready and take the cow to the market.”
Thank goodness Ma isn’t a teacher. Then, I would have no other go than to get 95% in my exams. Oh no, I’m thinking and talking about percentages too!
I got dressed and started the long trek to the market.
“What if Superstar Naveen never finds out about me?” I brooded. “Ajay told me I need a smartphone to become famous. How did they make phones smart?”
“Oye…you are sad to leave us, aren’t you? Don’t worry, when I become a famous superstar, I will buy you back,” I rubbed her neck without looking up.
“Ahem.” When did Ghairani learn to clear her throat? I looked at her. “Ahem!”
Oh! It was a bent old man clearing his throat, not my cow. That makes me feel better somehow!
The path was too narrow for all of us to pass. SO I pulled my cow to a side and waited for the old man to pass.
“Thank you, my child. Thank you.” The wobbly man looked intently into my eyes. “Where are you going?” He asked.
“I’m going to the market to sell the cow. I really don’t want to, but ma says I must. We have to pay the school fees. I really don’t want to go to school, but Ma says I must. I want to become a superstar. I’m trying to find a way to buy a smartphone. They are phones which are really smart and heavy with Instagram, and it will make me famous. I have to take photos where I sing and dance and milk the cow….” The man blinked, and I covered my mouth with my hand. What was wrong with me?
“Son, that is very good. I have a way to help you make all your dreams come true. And the best part is, it won’t take you long. Here, I will buy your cow and give you these magic beans. All your dreams will come true.” He held out his hand. “All beans are legumes…” Syam teacher’s voice rang in my ears.
I took the beans and hurried home as fast as my feet could take me.
“Aaaah ha! There’s no need to yell as if I’m in the next village! I’m right here talking to our neighbour. What happened? Why are you back so soon? Ha?” That’s when I had a hunch that this wouldn’t be so easy after all.
My mom stood in the doorway, wiping her hands on her saree pallu. “Ma, you remember I told you about the smartphone?”
“What is this smartphone, fartphone? Ha? How did you come back so soon? Where is the cow?” She was making me nervous, just the way she stood there.
“Ma, if you’ll only let me finish, na! I was walking to the market when I met an old man. He asked me what I was up to, and I told him everything about the school fees and the cow. I even told him about superstar Naveen, smartphones, and Instagram. He gave me something that will make all my dreams come true!” I held out my hand like the old man and showed her the magic beans. I even felt a bit like him. My knees were wobbly.
“Magic beans? You sold our cow for magic beans?” Whatever I was expecting, it wasn’t this whisper!
“I just agreed to work as a cook at the Hotel LOL Bhavan so that we’ll be able to eat with the cow sold. Now how are we going to pay the fees?” Ma held the walls and slid down to the floor.
Whatever I expected, this wasn’t it.
What had I done? oh! Why did I do something so stupid?
I ran to get her water in a tumbler. Ma drank it and then looked at me intently. This was the second time today I was put on the spot. But she didn’t say anything more.
I sat on the veranda, my fingers rolling something. I looked at my hands; oh, it was those blasted beans! I got up and swung my arm as swiftly as I could, and the beans flew into the air and landed I know not where. Be quiet, silly words. This is not the time for poetry!
Then I went back in, curled up next to ma, and fell asleep, holding her pallu. That’s what I do Whenever I get scared, I hold on to ma’s pallu!
The pallu and the magic beans did the trick! My garden overflowed with giant beanstalks. Thousands and thousands of bean pods grew on my plants, and I supplied the beans to the entire kingdom. My mother and I were rich! She is no longer angry.
Nowadays, she just sounds …scared!
What??? Why was she afraid?
I sat up bolt upright and rubbed my eyes open.”Look outside,” Ma pointed to the window. I rose in a hurry and turned to the garden.
The beans were magic!
The old man told the truth, for in my garden were beanstalks that grew and grew and grew all the way up to the sky!!!
Click here to listen to the whole story:
Jaiki and the Beanstalk Part 2
Jaiki and the Beanstalk Part 3