We have started on the story writing experiment on twitter. The hashtag on twitter to see how the story evolves is #swpb .
We wanted to kick off the story by drawing inspiration from an illustration from Pratham Books website but could not reach a consensus. So I took the liberty of picking up their story title “The Timid Train” and starting the story from there.
Tentative title for the story is “The Fiery Sun”.
Story so far…
I was lying on bed, trying to read the fat book Nonu mausi had brought me. The book kept slipping from my hand and opening up at a new page every time. I had started reading the story ‘The timid train’ but suddenly I was in the land of brightest shiniest sun.
There were sweating trees everywhere. Bigger the tree, bigger sweatdrops falling from it . Some sweatdrops were bigger than my face. Tiny ponds surrounded each tree. Some ponds were like puddles in monsoons which I loved to jump in & mom always cried “Shiri don’t!”. And you know, some others were as big as the large hole dug in the ground where school building is coming up now. We had sneaked in to take a peak at it last year.
By now I was thirsty , so scooped some water from a pond. Yuck! Thoooo. It was so salty. How were trees surviving? My teacher had said that trees drink from ground. Their roots suck in water like we drink with a straw.
As I stood, puzzled and swamped by a raging thirst, I noticed that one tree was different. Not a very big tree with curious leaves that looked like white lace. And instead of sweating, the leaves were shedding what looked like a shower of tiny colourless stones, like diamonds that caught the sunlight as they fell and winked back at me in a glorious, rainbow of colours.
I reached the tree, bent down to pick 1 stone. To my surprise, it wasn’t a stone at , but a tiny, ice-cold blob of sparkly jelly! I put it in my mouth – silly me? – and it melted instantly into a mouthful of delicious, cool coconut water. I quickly gobbled 20 mouthfuls till my thirst was gone. Then i lay down under tree – a cool, dark place that smelled faintly of vanilla & dreamed.
‘Who are you? Why are you here?’
I jumped up in fright. Goodness gracious! A yellow cat was talking to me, its green eyes curious. It was sitting on the lowest branch of the tree of lace, and jumped down, swishing its tail.
‘Little girls are not allowed here.’
‘I’m me. And this place is very, very hot.’
The cat laughed. ‘I’m Jin, and this is the Land of Summer. It is always hot here!’
The Land of Summer? Wow! That would mean no school, and ice cream every day, and swimming in the pond and playing all the time!
‘I’m never leaving here, Jin!’
Jin smiled, showing little sharp teeth. ‘That’s good. We need a Princess. Would you like to apply?’
I had always wanted to be a princess, and this seemed like a godsend opportunity.
“Why not?” I said, trying to hide my excitement. I couldn’t help but wonder how jealous my friends at school would be.
“It is a big responsibility to be a princess, you know”, Jin said with a huge smile on her face.
Responsibility. Now that was a new word for me. I had heard it being used by my parents and teachers, but had never really cared enough to find out its meaning. But whatever it was, I was sure I could handle it.
“Of course I can be responsible, but tell me why is this tree different from others?”. Curiosity finally getting the better of me.
I was suddenly talking to empty air. What? Where had Jin disappeared? I looked up. I looked around the lace tree. She was nowhere.
From a far corner I heard a squeaky “tabala tabala hiri hiri boom” in pretend grown up voice. Who was there, I wondered? Can it be Jin playing a game?
“Jin are you there?”, I called out. No answer.
“Jin! This isn’t nice”, I said while walking towards the voice.
Trees were brighter & more colourful here. Some had orange leaves, some others were silverish and one even had red leaves! That was not all. There were several tiny plants that were animal shaped and one of them was squeaking “tabala tabala hiri hiri boom” while others were moving as if nodding in agreement. Oh oh. I could see lion, deer, pigeon, 3 fishes, 2 dogs, a frog & many others.
I was a little scared now. What was this place that had talking, animal shaped plants? This was definitely not normal. This could either be good, or very bad. I tried talking to one of the plants.
“What are you?” I asked the dog shaped plant that looked like Brutus, my pet dog. All the plants suddenly swayed in my direction.
“We are plants, can’t you see?” They replied in unison.
“I can see that. But why are you shaped like animals?”
“Animals? What are those?” asked the plant that was shaped like a Lion.
It was my turn to be surprised. Were there no animals in this place, I wondered.
“Never Mind animals,” I replied, “Can you tell me what place this is, because I was offered to be the Princess of this place.”
The animal-plants all jumped. The dog plant barked, the lion plant roared, the chicken plants squawked, the crow plant cawed!
‘A Princess? We don’t want a princess! We already have King Jin! He takes care of us, and we are his loyal subjects!’
I tried to tell them that it was Jin who asked me to become the Princess, but they became more surprised.
“King Jin asked you? You see, he is our King because he is the only one who can move and save us from danger. All of us stay still, as you can see.’
Danger? What danger can be here in the Land of Summer? All the plants started laughing. The monkey plant almost fell down!
‘Silly child, that’s because of King Jin! He keeps all the danger away so you can’t see it!’ And then they all looked sad.
‘Why is he leaving us? Why did he ask you to be the princess?’
I had no answers. Jin had asked me, and then disappeared. What was going on? What was this strange mystery in the Land of Summer?
And then I woke up. I was back under the white lace tree, surrounded by the sweating trees which by now had sweated so much, they were drooping, the withererd leaves falling into the sweat pools, turning into soggy brown globs. I wished I was back in the dream. As I gobbled some more jelly miserably, I noticed a strange thing near my foot. It looked like a packet made out of yellow fur! As I bent down to pick it up, 2 green eyes suddenly appeared on it, glowed brightly and vanished. Jin! So, it wasn’t a dream after all? I opened the packet and out fell a map, a gold door handle, a pair of rose-coloured spectacles and 47 chocolate biscuits, shaped like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle! I was torn between eating the biscuits (they looked yummy and I was starved!) and solving the puzzle. But curiosity won and I set about putting the jigsaw together. I had to work fast because it was getting hot and the chocolate was melting.
I could not help licking melting chocolate from my fingers as I worked. I loved solving jigsaw puzzles so this was not difficult. Soon image of a house came up. Wait, this looked my house! It had the same yellow door & red roof. It even had the small tulsi plant mom had on her window sill. Seeing picture of home I wanted to go back to mom, dad and the book that Nonu mausi had given. But I was here in Land of Summers. How do I get out of here? Perhaps the map & the golden door handle were the way? Jin, the kind King, must have decided to help me out as he has been taking care of all those funny animal shaped plants.
Hmm.. so how to use the map, chocolate biscuits & golden door handle to get out? I had to act fast before biscuits melted.
Once the map was completed, I stepped back to look at what clearly was a picture of my house. But, what use was that to me? After trying to figure out what the map could mean,and failing, I realized that the map was melting at an alarming rate. I decided to eat it. It looked delicious. As soon as I picked it off the ground, I realized that there was a picture on the other side too. On turning the map over, I saw that the picture was of the area where I was standing right now. So, I was now on the wrong side of the picture. I looked closely and observed a golden handle attached to one of the trees on the picture.
So, this was how I was supposed to get out of here. I quickly committed the map to my memory, before I ate the delicious map.
I looked closely at the gold handle, turning it upside down, round and round, examining each part running my finger over it. It was smooth. Too smooth, what a strange handle? The picture of that delicious map has shown that it was attached to the tree but I couldn’t see any hook, how will it fit on the tree, and how do I find that tree? Maybe Jin might know. The animal-shaped plants had said that he helped everybody, maybe he is somewhere around.
“Jin, Jin, where are you there? Can you hear me? Please help me.”
I looked around waiting for Jin to appear. There was no sign of Jin. Silence everywhere except those faint distant sounds of ‘“tabala tabala hiri hiri boom” I kept the handle aside and then saw those pair of rose-colored spectacles. They looked so pretty and I tried them on, suddenly …
… Jin appeared on my hand! I jumped in surprise and slipped on the gobs of jelly. Down I went and down went the rose-coloured spectacles. Wiping the jelly off hastily, I searched for the spectacles and put them on again. Jin reappeared, looking peevish.
‘Hurry up!’ He gave me no time to ask any questions. ‘Come quickly! It’s getting hotter, and the door will close soon!’
And he was right. The poor tree of lace now looked like a tree of Nona mausi’s handkerchiefs after a bad cold. Everywhere, the trees looked tired. They were sweating evenmore, and the air was so hot that it hurt to breathe. The sunlight, too, had become brighter.
‘Straight on, little girl! Last tree on this road is the doorway that will take you home. But if we reach after the sun sets, the door will be closed forever!’
That gave wings to my feet. Never see mom and dad again? No way! I ran as fast as I could. But wait!
‘Jin, the dear little animal plants love you so much, and don’t want you to leave them. Should I still be a princess?’
The question barely left my lips when hundreds of leaves from the lace tree floated across to me & became into a gorgeous dress! Then the jelly-diamonds suddenly swooped together into a sparkling wave that washed over my head & turned into a glittering crown.
I had become a princess!
As I gasped, a coach appeared from no where.It was a giant tomato, except that it was also made out of jelly! But stranger still, the coach was drawn by Jin’s animals plants! Their loud, excited “tabala tabala hiri hiri boom” was like thunder.
I ran to the coach. “Quick! Wear the glasses!” a voice said. I did & magically, the gold handle appeared in my hand. I looked up to see that Jin was the coachman! “Get in!” That same voice again! I realised it was Jin’s! I tried to open the coach door but there was no handle.
Of course there wasn’t because it was in my hand! I quickly fitted the handle, opened the door and got in. I had barely sat down when the coach took off like an airplane, wafting through clouds that had faces just like the animal plants. But before I had a chance to wave to them, we were at the last tree. Shaped just like the door to my house, except it had leaves.
A speaking tree?! And what password?
Before I could say anything, the pigeon-plant cooed, “Tabala tabala hiri hiri boom”
And I was back in my bed, the “Timid Train” resting heavily on my stomach & my mum saying, “Wake up, munchkin. It’s tea time!”