Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Punjabi Fairy Story [Part 2]

Many more weeks passed before Mr. Kaykay was ready to decide on the dispute between Patya and Shelrika. The other girls were getting impatient, but Mr. Dooneyvara promised them that the quarrel was nearly over.

At last, Mr. Kaykay was ready to deliver his verdict. He stood up in the playground and delivered his findings in the most authoritative voice he could muster.

“Patya tells me,” he began, “and I accept, that the marigolds, that she picked, came from the woods.

She also tells me that many other girls have used garden flowers in their project. I accept her word on this too.

I have no alternative but to find that Patya should be re-instated in the competition, although perhaps she deserves to have her bottom slapped.”

As he finished enunciating his verdict, a howl of protest rose from within the ranks of schoolgirls assembled. Shelrika was furious.

“We’ll see about that!” she cried, and ran from the schoolyard. She ran and she ran until she came to the house of the village leader. Breathlessly, she banged on the door. She heard a shuffling noise on the other side, and the door creaked open a crack.

“Oh, Mr. Elder!” shouted Shelrika. “Patya-picked-some-garden-flowers-for-her-school-project-after-Mr.-Dooneyvara-told-us-specifically-that-we-weren’t-allowed-to-and-now-her-friend-Mr-Kaykay-has-said-its-okay-and-its-not-fair…”

“Go away, you stupid child,” said Mr.Elder. “Get your teacher to sort it out. Can’t you see I’m gaga?” and he slammed the door shut.

Poor Shelrika! As she trudged home, her eyes brimmed with tears at the unfairness of it all. Some members of Patya’s family passed her by on the other side of the street, laughing and joking. Shelrika wanted to run, but with dignity she held her head high as they passed by.

It so happened that Shelrika’s route home took her past all of the plots of land in the valley. As she walked by, she casually threw her eye over each of the gardens, appraising their beauty. Suddenly she stopped. What was it Mr. Kaykay had said? Other girls have used garden flowers? But, as she passed along the plots of land, she could see that only one girl had in fact used garden flowers. All the other girls had kept by the rules and used woodland flowers. But Patya…She gasped. Not only had Patya used marigolds in her garden [which she claimed to have found in the wood] but now she also had roses growing there in abundance!! Surely now Mr. Dooneyvara would see what a cheat Patya had been!!

As she ran towards the school, bursting with her news, Shelrika wished that it was one of the other girls who had made the discovery. Patya would be bound to accuse her of having a personal grudge against her. Oh well, she thought, it can’t be helped.

She barged into the classroom just as Mr. Dooneyvara was settling the girls down.

“Mr. Dooneyvara!” she shouted. “About the gardens………”

“Come now, Shelrika,” said Mr. Dooneyvara, “that’s all been sorted. Mr. Kaykay…….”

“Patya told lies to Mr. Kaykay,” interrupted Shelrika. “She told him that all the other girls had used garden flowers in their plots and it isn’t true. Go and see for yourself.”

“Is this true, Patya?” asked Mr. Dooneyvara.

“Well, Boheena used lupins in her garden last year, when she won the competition,” said Patya.

Boheena jumped up. “I did not!” she stated, “That’s a big, fat, dirty lie!”

“And,” Shelrika added. “Now she has roses in her garden. Surely everybody knows that roses don’t grow in the wood?”

Something in Mr. Dooneyvara’s expression caused Shelrika to pause. She eyed him very carefully. “You knew about the roses, didn’t you? You knew!!”

“I’m sorry, Shelrika,” said Mr. Dooneyvara, looking crest-fallen. “I admit I knew about the roses. I thought that there had been so much trouble over the marigolds, that I didn’t want to bring up the roses.” A large gasp went up from the classroom.

“Patya,” continued Mr. Dooneyvara. “I’m afraid I can’t overlook the roses. We took your word about the marigolds, but now the roses……… I’m afraid I will have to disqualify you from the competition.”

“No!” screamed Patya. “You just try it. Wait till my Dad hears about this. You just wait!” And as she ran through the open door, a big cheer went up and Shelrika was hoisted on to the shoulders of her classmates.

“Shelrika, you are the winner of the gardening competition,” said Mr. Dooneyvara. “Here is your prize. A milking cow to keep your family supplied with milk for a whole year. And, of course, you will represent your school in the regional gardening competition next year.” Shelrika blushed a deep red with pride and happiness.

As for Patya, she went home and told her family what had happened. At first her family were very annoyed with Mr. Dooneyvara, but then some people started questioning Patya about her honesty. It was decided to let the matter drop quietly, although some members of the family found the whole situation quite unfair. For Patya had put a tremendous amount of work into her garden and it was true that her garden was, in fact, much nicer than Shelrika’s. Okay, they said, perhaps a couple of rules had been technically broken, but the upshot was that Patya had produced the nicest garden and at least deserved some recognition for her efforts.

That night, there came a knock on Patya’s door. “Hello, said Mr. Dooneyvara, “Can I come in?”

Patya stepped back from the doorway to allow him in. He walked into the sitting-room where Patya’s family were all assembled.

“I know you all think I’ve handled this affair rather badly,” he started. When no voice of disagreement came, he continued, “but I’ve been thinking about the situation. Patya did produce a lovely garden, when all’s said and done, and I think she ought to be rewarded in some way…”

“You’re letting me back in the competition?” interrupted Patya.

“No,” smiled Mr. Dooneyvara. “Shelrika has her milking cow. But I can offer you the next best thing. Would you care to take a look out of the window?”

The whole family rushed to the window and pulled back the net-curtains.

“Look at that!”

There, standing on the front lawn in the moonlight, was a big rubber milking cow.

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