Uncle changed the subject. "But why did you address me as Mejokaka?"
"That! That's because you are Fatty's - I mean Usha's mejokaka. So, you are my mejokaka too. She is my friend, you know."
"Oh! You are Usha's friend? Where do you live?"
"There," Mintu pointed her fingers in a manner that did not indicate any proper direction. "Oh, my!" she exclaimed and ran back to the spot of the accident. The exercise book was still lying there. Mintu returned after picking it up. The exercise book was muddy and soaked in water.
The helping public, in its eagerness to make Uncle drink water, had also not spared the book. "Oh, they have spoiled your book! Were you going to school?"
"No, to buy this exercise book ...."
"New book! It is completely damaged!"
Mintu pretended to be sorry. "That's nothing. I will dry it."
Uncle may not like to lend his books but that that did not mean he lacked conscience. He realised that the girl had suffered the loss owing to him. He said with a touch of affection, "Come with me .... What is your name you said? Mintu? Come with me, I have plenty of exercise books."
"No, no. Why should I take your book?" Mintu said hanging her head as if she was feeling embarrassed.
Uncle, meanwhile, had reached his house. Mintu, of course, was with him.
"You wait here, don't run away. I will come back after changing into clean clothes," Uncle said and disappeared into the interiors of the house.
Mintu had no intention of running away. It was sheer bliss to be in a room with so many books. She could read the titles of the books through the glass doors of the cupboards.
Uncle, having changed into clean clothes, returned with a fat exercise book. But Mintu was unaware of his presence- she was lost in an enchanted world. It was as though she were standing outside Ali Baba's cave and all that she had to do was to utter those secret words which would open the door, and all the treasure would be hers.
But what were those secret words? Who would utter them?
The secret words were uttered by Uncle! He had been observing Mintu closely; he looked at her with a smile and said, "You like to read books, don't you?"
Mintu came back to earth with a start. There was joy, shame, amazement and gratitude in her eyes.
Uncle pressed the exercise book into her hands and said, "Take this. Whenever you wish to read books, you may come here and I will remove the books for you. But you will have to read the books here; I won't allow you to take them home."
It was as if a sea of happiness had started surging inside her, but Mintu checked her emotions and said softly, "No, no, why should you remove the books for me? You don't lend your books; why then should you give them to me?"
"Whoever told you I don't lend my books?" Uncle asked laughing out aloud.
"Usha told me. You are right in not lending the books; people do not take care of the books - they tear them, soil them."