Thursday, April 07, 2011

Lost and found.

This, believe it or not, is a story with a happy ending − the ‘Lost and Found’ story, not The Cloud & The Kite tale. You may find it hard to accept the happy ending assertion simply because this blog, which as a rule tends to be subdued and cynical rather than over-the-top optimistic, says so.

The story started, if memory serves, in 1977. I was working in Everest Advertising at the time. The comprehensive dummy of the children’s book The Cloud & The Kite, written by me and illustrated by my friend Sanat Surti, was lying in a drawer in my cabin in the office. Then, one day, it suddenly went missing along with the typed manuscript or original text. This dummy had had the rare distinction of having travelled all the way to Japan and back.

Yesterday morning, believe it or not, I found the carbon copy of the long lost original text at home. It was lurking in a long forgotten bunch of papers tucked away in a drawer that had not been opened for years. If only, hoping against hope, I can now persuade Sanat to redo it, we may be able to take a crack at getting it into print as a children’s book.

Meanwhile, I am going to post the entire original text here so that, even if it doesn’t get published, it will get read by at least a few people. I have always felt that The Cloud & The Kite is a children’s book that deserves its place in the sun and that even some grown-ups with their inner child still extant may relish it.

By the way, the story-propelling device used in it is what you may call the plodding “if not this, then what” trial-and-error modus operandi of deductive reasoning. Read it and you’ll know what I mean.

[The Cloud & The Kite original text starts here …}

The Cloud & The Kite

By Deepak Mankar

Pictures by Sanat Surti

©Deepak Mankar 1976. Pictures ©Sanat Surti 1976.

A little cloud was wandering all alone in the sky one day. His name was Meghashyam.

“Oh, how I wish it were the monsoon,” he thought. “Then I would have lots of friends for company.”

But the rainy season was still far, far away. The sky was clear and blue but for Meghashyam.

“I shall change my shape and watch my shadow on the ground,” said he. “That will surely pass the time and keep me happy.”

First, Meghashyam turned himself into a rabbit with long ears and a cotton-bud tail.

“Ha, ha, ha,” he laughed. “Look at the funny bunny. Just look at his long, long ears and short, short tail.”

“Ho, ho, ho,” answered someone suddenly. “Bunnies are white and fair, not grey and dark like your silly shadow.”

“Who said that?” cried Meghashyam angrily.

He looked and looked but could find nobody.

So he went back to his game. He changed the rabbit into a flower with tiny petals and a short stem.

“Ha, ha, ha,” he roared with laughter. “This time, it is a cute little flower with a short tail. Just take hold of the tail and you will get a beautiful flower.”

“Ho, ho, ho,” jeered the same voice again. “Flowers are pink and fair, not grey and dark like your silly shadow.”

This time Meghashyam looked longer and harder than before. But he still could not find the owner of the voice.

“My ears are playing tricks on me,” he said.

“No, they are not,” said the voice shriller than before. “I am right here, behind you.”

Meghashyam turned round and noticed a kite flying smartly and shining brightly in the sunlight.

He had never met a kite before. Kites do not fly in the rainy season, do they?

“My name is Meghashyam. It means a dark cloud,” he said politely. “And, who are you?”

“Why don’t you find out for yourself,” asked the kite, smiling mockingly.

“Are you a balloon? You shine like a balloon,” Meghashyam told the kite.

Then he turned himself into a balloon and looked at his big, dark shadow on the ground.

“No, you are not. A balloon looks like this, not like you,” he said.

By now, the kite was giggling unabashedly.

“Try again, you silly cloud,” he shouted.

“If you shine like a balloon but are not a balloon, are you a butterfly? You are full of pretty colours like a butterfly,” said Meghashyam.

Then he changed his shape to resemble a butterfly and looked at his big, dark shadow on the ground.

“No, you are not a butterfly, my friend. A butterfly looks like this, not like you,” said he a wee bit sheepishly.

By this time, the kite was guffawing brazenly.

“Try once more, you woozy goose,” he cried.

”If you shine like a balloon but are not a balloon, and if you are colourful like a butterfly but are not a butterfly, you must be a bird. Your tail flutters like a bird’s tail,” Meghashyam told the kite.

He at once took the shape of a bird and looked eagerly at the big, dark shadow on the ground.

“Oh, no. A bird you surely are not,” he said disappointedly. “A bird looks like this, not like you.”

That remark made the kite go into even louder peals of laughter.

“Try one more time, you oaf,” he taunted Meghashyam mercilessly.

“If you shine like a balloon but are not a balloon, if you are colourful like a butterfly but are not a butterfly, and if your tail flutters like a bird’s tail but you are not a bird, you must be an aeroplane. You fly like an aeroplane,” said Meghashyam hopefully.

Then the cloud became an aeroplane and looked expectantly at his big, dark shadow on the ground.

“Oh, no. You are not even an aeroplane. Because an aeroplane looks like this, not like you,” he wailed bitterly.

The kite was about ready to split his sides with laughter.

“Try really hard this time, you numbskull,” he screamed scornfully.

But Meghashyam was feeling sorry for himself and in no mood to oblige. He started crying.

“No, I will not. Sob, sob, sob. I give up. Boo-hoo, boo-hoo. I do not even want to know who you are anymore.”

You know what happens once a dark cloud begins to cry. It just cannot stop until it has shed all the tears.

The cloud was no more his former sneering self. Now, for the first time, he felt a tinge of fear. He knew that once he got wet and soggy, he would never be able to fly again.

“Please, oh, please stop snivelling, Meghashyam,” he pleaded. “I am really, really sorry I made fun of you. I take back all the wicked things I said. I will even tell you who I am. But please stop crying at once. There’s a good boy.”

But, try as he might, Meghashyam just could not stop crying.

So the kite got wet and soggy and nosedived alarmingly.

On his way down, he got caught in a huge tree and could not free himself.

That day everyone in the neighbourhood wondered how it had rained so heavily when the rainy season was still far, far away.

Nobody thought of asking the kite caught in the tree.

But then nobody could tell he was a kite anymore.

Because he did not shine like a balloon anymore.

Because he did not look colourful like a butterfly anymore.

Because he did not have a tail fluttering like a bird’s tail anymore.

Because he could not fly like an aeroplane any more.

Well, well, well. Even Meghashyam did not find out who the kite was, remember?

[The End.]