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It was summer. Father was away at the office. Mother had fallen asleep after believing that the children were asleep too. However, she was deceived in this regard - there was no sleep in the children's eyes. They had merely kept their eyes closed and pretended to sleep, waiting for Ma to nod off. The instant the children realized their mother had fallen asleep, they climbed out of the bed and, after quietly opening the latch, were outside. Preparations began for the protection of the eggs. Keshav fetched a stool from indoors, but it proved to be too short. The footrest from the bathroom was fetched, and the stool was placed over it. It was unsteady, and Keshav felt quite scared while climbing on to the stool
Shyama held the stool firmly with both her hands. The legs of the stool were unevenly sized with the result that it wobbled dangerously. It is only Keshav who knows what difficulty he had to face while trying to balance himself on the stool! At such times, he would catch hold of the cornice with both his hands and scold Shyama in a hushed voice for not holding the stool properly. But poor Shyama's whole attention was directed towards the cornice and, although not wanting to, her eyes would rise upwards causing her hold on the stool to slacken. And the stool would wobble.
The moment Keshav got his hands on the edge of the cornice, the mother bird and the father bird took flight. Keshav saw three eggs lying on some straw and twigs, which were spread on the cornice. It wasn't like any nest he had seen on trees.
"How many chicks are there, brother?" Shyama asked from below.
Keshav: "There are three eggs; they haven't hatched yet."
Shyama: "How large are the eggs? Please let me have a look at them."
Keshav: "I will show them to you, but first fetch some rags. I will spread the rags; the poor eggs are lying on the straw."
Shyama ran indoors and brought back a piece of cloth after tearing it off from an old frock. Keshav leaned over, and after taking the cloth piece from Shyama folded it several times into a little rug. He placed the rug over the straw and gently put the eggs on it.
"Please let me see the eggs, brother," Shyama once again begged.
"You will get to see, but first bring that basket here. I will adjust the basket over the eggs so as to provide shade," Keshav said.
Shyama handed over the basket and said, "Now you climb down, let me have a look."
Keshav arranged the basket against a branch and said, "Go and fetch some rice grains and the bowl of water; I will climb down then, and you may have a look."
Shyama was quick to follow the instructions; Keshav placed the rice grains and the bowl of water below the basket and gingerly climbed down.
"Now, help me climb up brother," Shyama entreated.
Keshav: "You will fall."
Shyama: "I won't. You hold the stool firmly."
Keshav: "If you fall, Ma will make mincemeat of me. She will think it is I who had asked you to climb up. Why do you want to see the eggs? The eggs are nicely lying on the rug now; once they hatch, we will adopt the chicks.
Meanwhile, the birds had become very restless. They would repeatedly come to the cornice but fly away again immediately. Keshav guessed that the birds were scared of human presence near the eggs. He removed the stool and the footrest and restored them to their proper places.
Shyama was in tears. "You did not show me the eggs, I will tell Ma," she sobbed.
"I will beat you severely if you say anything to Ma," Keshav warned her.
Shyama: "Then, why didn't you let me have a look at the eggs?"
Keshav: "What if you had fallen and broken your head?"
Shyama: "So what! You just wait and see, I am going to tell everything to Ma."
Just then their mother came out of the house, shielding her eyes from the sun with her hand. "When did both of you come out?" she asked. "Didn't I tell you not to go out in the sun in the afternoon? Who opened the latch?"
It was Keshav who had opened the latch, but Shyama did not say a word about it to Ma; she was afraid that brother would be spanked if she told on him. Keshav was scared Shyama would squeal on him out of spite because he had not shown her the eggs. But Shyama remained silent. It cannot be stated with any degree of certainty whether Shyama's silence was owing to a love for her brother or it was because she was an accomplice in the crime - perhaps both these reasons compelled her to keep her mouth closed.
Mother scolded both of them and latched the door after taking them inside. She gently fanned the children with a hand-held fan. It was only two o'clock, and scorching hot outside. Both the children fell asleep ... and, this time, it was real sleep, not a pretended one.
Some useful links for
- Union Public Service Commission - www.upsc.gov.in
- IIT-Kharagpur - www.iitkgp.ac.in
- Indian Statistical Institute - www.isical.ac.in
- Indian Institute of Technology Madras - www.iitm.ac.in
- Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad - www.iimahd.ernet.in
- Indian Institute of Mass Commission - www.iimc.nic.in
- IIT Bombay - www.iitb.ac.in
- Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad - www.ismdhanbad.ac.in
- Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi - www.bitmesra.ac.in
- Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training - www.cifnet.nic.in
- Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (Deemed University) - www.iiita.ac.in
- Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi - www.cmfri.com
- Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai - www.tiss.edu