Saturday, October 19, 2013

The day Neena screamed

I wrote this story for 7-9 year olds, to order. I was offered a nice sum of money for  it. Then it turns out that one of the conditions was that I would not get credit for writing it. How stupid is that? I'd rather everyone read it, patted me on the back if they liked it or told me I'd better shape up if they didn't (not that they should have any hopes of me improving- not if they've been reading my blog!).
Let's do this without the moolah! :)


One day Neena screamed in the park. It was a very loud scream. Lots of people heard it. Some of them came out in their balconies. Others ran to the park. Neena’s mother heard someone calling out and she knew something was wrong. Neena had told her that she was going to the park. It was early afternoon and the other children were still busy with their homework. Neena’s mother got worried and hurried to see if her daughter was okay.

Neena was fine. She was calmly telling all the aunties that there was nothing wrong with her. Yadav aunty, whose house was just opposite the park, told her mother that Neena was clutching her stomach and screaming. Maybe she was ill. Others agreed that they had also seen her do so.

All day Neena’s parents asked her several times if her stomach was paining or if something had scared her. The answer was always no. Dadi remembered Neena had been eating an apple. Did a monkey snatch her apple? Finally mummy decided she would take Neena to the doctor the next morning.

At night Dada came to tell Neena her bedtime story.
“Once there was a girl who was 8 years old,” he began “One day she went to the park in the afternoon when there was no one around and the swings were free”.
Neena looked at him suspiciously.
“This is our secret mystery story” he told her and smiled. “You may have to help me when I get stuck, since I don’t know everything.”

Neena understood that Dada would not tell anyone. They would pretend this was the story of some other girl, but he could help her understand if she had made a mistake. She was thinking of telling her best friend, Anya, in school the next day, but she wasn’t sure. Maybe Anya would laugh at her.

The story continued: “Since it was not so hot in the afternoon anymore, her mummy let her go. She sat on the swing and pushed higher and higher. There were some birds in the trees, but no monkeys who may have politely asked her for her apple.”

Both of them laughed and Neena remembered the time a monkey had snatched her sandwich when she was rushing to catch her school bus with her uneaten breakfast in her hand. Mummy had told her that monkeys were no longer afraid of people since a lot of people fed monkeys. Otherwise monkeys may have kept away from humans like other wild animals did.

“It was quiet. Everyone was indoors having lunch or taking a nap. There was not a soul to be seen.”
“But there was!” Neena butted in, “Two men were standing next to Yadav aunty’s car fiddling with the door.”
“Did they see the girl?” asked Dada
“No,” said Neena, “They were not paying attention and the swing was in the shade.”
“She must have wondered what they were doing” Dada said. “But there was no one to ask.”
Then he fell quiet as Neena continued.
“She could have gone home, but she was afraid she would have to pass close to them since the car was parked next to the gate of the park. Maybe they were trying to open Yadav aunty’s car.”

Neena could not bring herself to say that she thought they were trying to steal the car and may have been dangerous people, but Dada seemed to understand.

“Did she feel sick?” he asked.
“No, but she thought if she called out to Yadav aunty, they may try to stop her. Yadav aunty may not even hear her. But any child can be in pain and people help children in pain, don’t they?” Neena said.
Dada nodded smiling and said, “So the girl screamed so loudly they heard her all the way to China. Doctors came running with their stethoscopes…”
“Fire men with their fire brigades…” Neena suggested.
“Judges with their gavels…” Dada said solemnly.
“Pizza men with their pizzas?” Neena giggled.
“Oh, yes! You would love that, wouldn’t you?” Dada tickled her chin.
Then he became solemn.
“Did Yadav aunty come out and see those men?” he asked.
“Yes,” said Neena. “She did not say anything to them, so I think they may have been repairing her car or something. Did I do something very stupid, Dada?”
“Not at all!” Dada said. “You were alert and responsible. Suppose they were really thieves? I’m proud of you. Now go off to sleep and I’ll go and complete the girl’s story.”
Neena looked at him puzzled.
“We don’t need her mummy to take her to the doctor, do we? He may just give her some silly medicine to make her hate pizzas for the rest of her life!”


Anjali Dahiya

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