Many years ago, there lived a man called Neil Damiens. He was a rich man, and he lived in the Damiens’ bungalow on Heather street. He lived with his wife and two children. He was the owner of a sugarcane plantation. One day, while he was working in the plantation, a fire broke out and many people died. Neil was one of them. The plantation was shut down. Thankfully, Neil had made his will already. Half his money went to his family and half to his sister. This was in the year 1751.
Many years later, in the year 1951, one of his descendants, Jacob Damiens found Neil’s diary. He read a few pages and finding it interesting, decided to read a page of it every day before going to bed. He read it till the end. Interestingly, it was on the same day he finished reading the diary – 17th of April, that Neil had died 200 years ago.
On the stroke of midnight, Jacob was woken up by a strange sound, like the whirring of pages. He woke up and saw that the diary was closed. This was strange, because Jacob had been so sleepy that he had forgotten to close the diary. Just as Jacob was about to go to sleep, he heard another sound, like that of a cloak brushing against the floor. Jacob was surprised, because nobody in the house wore a cloak.
He took a torch and went out of his bedroom. He followed the sound of the cloak and reached the living room. There, he saw a cloaked figure standing and looking at a picture of Neil Damiens on the wall. The figure turned to face Jacob. It whispered “Jacob.” Again, it whispered “Jacob.” Then it said “I am Neil Damiens.”
Jacob was trembling with fear. The ghost of Neil Damiens said “Listen to me, Jacob. You must save your cousin, Ben Atkinsons, from dying like me. He lives in Wembley. You must not let him go to his factory, the Cotton Mill Factory tomorrow. It will explode tomorrow. I do not want him to die in the same way as I died. You must save him.”
Jacob was very scared but agreed to do as the ghost said. The next day, he called Ben up and introduced himself as Jacob Damiens. He said that he needed 44 pounds of cotton. He also said that wanted to feel the texture of the cotton so he would go to Ben’s house. After he had felt the cotton’s texture, the two men chatted till 12 ‘o clock. Later, that same day, the news of an explosion at the Cotton Mill Factory, Ben’s factory, appeared in the newspaper. It was also written that this was the very spot at which a similar explosion had taken place, 200 years ago, in a sugarcane factory. The owner of that factory was a man called Neil Damiens.
A wood cutter used to go to a jungle near his village to fetch wood everyday in the afternoon. He would mostly be back home in the evening before sun down expect for some days when he would either get caught up with travellers who passed by the path through the jungle or would not be able to find sufficient wood within time. He loved to hear the traveller’s stories of faraway lands and strange places which he was sure actually didn’t exist. He in-turn would weave beautiful narratives and tell them to his mates at the bazaar where he went to sell his wood in the morning. They too didn’t believe a word he said but the stories were so intriguing that everyone would wait for him and be all ears when he started his story camp at lunch time.
“One day”, he started and sipped a little water, “I was unable to find the requisite amount of wood and lingered on longer than I usually do. It was only after sun down that I started for the journey back home. On the way I felt very hungry and could not go on further. I left the donkeys with the wood piles and went up a tree in search of fruits. There were none but I decided to rest for a while as I was feeling very tired. I just sat there staring into the branches and after a while I saw a very ripe and red round fruit which I guess had camouflaged itself in the red and orange leaves of the tree so well that I had missed it while searching. I pranced on it and ate it in a jiffy. I felt very sleepy and it must have happened then. Though I have no explanation for what I am going to tell you next.”
The wood cutter dug at his lunch while others were staring at him with a puzzled look on their face.
“As I woke up, I found myself in a completely different place. There was no jungle. I was not on the tree,” he stopped only take another gulp and continued, “Suddenly a man called me by my name.” “What is your name?” asked an innocent looking young boy hardly in his teens who had come to the market with his uncle. The woodcutter gave a sharp glance and continued, “Well I don’t know, everybody calls me ‘Woodda’; but this man was calling some name and I turned. He said I was summoned by the king. As I followed him I noticed the place was very beautiful, with gardens, springs and to my surprise I myself was dressed in a handsome robe and not my usual attire.”
“A king? Like Vikramaditya?” asked another little boy in shorts. Woodda thought for a while and said, ”Now that you mention his name, might be so. The king was sitting on a large throne and looked very kingly. He asked me who I was and what I was doing in his kingdom that was forbidden for strangers. I said I was myself wondering about the last part and told him the whole episode about the fruit that I had eaten. The king gave a hearty laugh and said, “Do you think you can make a fool out of me with this fruit story? How can anybody just drop into a place by eating a fruit and sleeping?” The King looked very angry but I had no answer to his legitimate question.”
Woodda finished his lunch, washed and sat with his hookah. His mates and their young associates were getting restless and asked, “Then what happened?” “Then a very funny thing happened. The king was very angry and said, ”This man must be a spy from another country and a very trained and learned one at that to have infiltrated our territory.” I had never felt so honoured and proud about myself in my entire life; only all that was being said was so not true that I also felt ashamed of being considered so great. The king continued, ”According to the peace pact we have with other nations no spy is supposed to enter the domain of another and the pact has been honoured for so many gazillion years that all punishments pertaining to such an offence have been forgotten.” I could not stop myself from laughing aloud at this but the king rather than getting further infuriated seemed pleased. He said, “We however do have a punishment for humiliating others and thus shall you be punished.” Later I came to know that more or less crime had been eliminated from that land and thus punishments were also a thing of a very distant past. My punishment for humiliating the court and the king was that I will not be allowed to stay at a place for more than six months. It was very funny for me but looking at the grave faces of the people at the court I thought it must be serious.”
Woodda looked at the mesmerised faces of his listeners and continued, “ I roamed the length and breadth of this strange land which I named fruit land as the real name was so difficult to pronounce that I gave up after the second try. I had finished touring only a part of it, so said the map, when one fine morning I was summoned again. The king looked very much at peace unlike our first meeting. He said, “We have decided that you are not a spy.” I giggled under my breath, they have decided. The king continued, “Since you are not a spy but have somehow entered our forbidden realm we present you with two choices. Either you can stay here forever and become one of us; for which you will be duly trained. The other option is to go back where you came from and though we cannot stop you from doing it, because we do not know how you did it, we will prefer if you don’t bring in more of your kind. It is rude to say do not come again but please come back alone only if you wish to stay here forever.”
“So what did you do?” Stayed back?” said an inquisitive mate. “But then how are you here?” he asked with a puzzled look.
“I had stayed in this strange land for what seemed like a decade but was never comfortable with the unanimity of the place,” said Woodda chuckling at the confused state of his mates. “To give you an example,” Woodda paused to look around and continued, “We see so many houses around the market, some small, some big, some freshly coloured, some in a dilapidated state but there, the houses were all so similar, they might look different from one another by design but the state was all the same. None was rich, none was poor. There was no money business. So you see there was no crime, no punishment, people just lived their lives and since I was not one of them I was kept out of the actual happenings of the place and was provided for everything. In a nutshell it was a boring and monotonous place although it might have been different after I became one of them.”
Woodda took a deep breath and said, “I decided to come back.” Everybody around gave out a loud sigh of disappointment. “Well! Look at the bright side, who would tell you the stories?” cried out an astonished Woodda. “But you could have stayed on and got their secrets and smuggled us in and think what a nice life we would all have” said an elderly fellow. “But they asked me not to do that,” Woodda said baffled. The elderly fellow zapped, “They have no punishments, what would they do if you didn’t listen to them.” The argument was getting heating when the little boy in shorts first mumbled and then screamed, “But how did you come back? If they could not find out how you went there in the first place then how did they send you back?”
“Ah! Now that is interesting and actually by chance I would say,” said Woodda, somewhat relieved to be out of the line of direct fire. He really didn’t think of the possibilities the elderly fellow was talking about. He just wanted to be back home in his familiar surroundings. Woodda continued, “I asked them how could they send me back if they didn’t know how I went there. The king said, “Our scientists have been studying you and have found the likely co-ordinates of your timeline. All we need to do is disintegrate you and send you across. However it is likely that a miniscule error might have happened in calculations and instead of your exact dwelling, as in your case, the tree and the time as stated by you when you fell asleep, it might be some other time and some other place where you find yourself again, like on one of the planets of your solar system, say Mars at a time when it was bustling with life. According to your perception we found there is no life on Mars.” I was too spellbound to say something and kept on looking at the king blankly just as all of you are looking at me now.”
Woodda looked satisfied with himself and also a little amused and said lightly, “It was just yesterday, that I came back and happy I am. I woke up on the forest path only to find that my donkeys have doubled and some boys were managing them. One of them was in fact quite surprised to see me and said, “Where did you come from Woodda? Were you not supposed to visit your relatives today?” It took me a while but then I said, I was coming back from the visit and thought would catch up with you guys. The boy smiled and went on with his work. I tactfully uncovered their names and all that had happened in my absence, which seemed like some 20 odd years. I seem to remember everything till that night and also all that happened in that ‘fruit land’ but can’t recall anything else. I know I have lost so many years of my life, must be calculation error; but given the odds it is not much, I could well have found myself by the side of an erupting volcano on Venus or among some strange creatures in Mars. Also I find myself wealthier and though so many years have passed I do not feel old.”
“You look old though,” chirped in the teenager. “Also we haven’t missed you for a day. You saw me on the day I was born and also named me, so says mother,” said the little boy in shorts. “Is it now?” said Woodda and smiled. “Lots to catch up with I guess,” he said almost to himself.
The story camp started dispersing with loads of thoughts in the air, was this another stunning stories of Woodda, heard from the travellers and rephrased? Or did he make this up on his own? Whatever the case may be this was indeed an extraordinary story.
Woodda got up slowly as an old man would but he could feel the good old strength in his knees. He has been wondering whether the ‘fruit land’ king had send his forty year old self back to his naturally aging body but things were too complicated for him to comprehend and he gave up. Walking towards home he started brooding over the idea of trying to find that tree and the fruit again and go to his fruit-land or some other place, exploration of new lands is an addiction few can refrain from.
Dingy went to a bonfire with his parents. They had loads of fun and they came back home late in the night. Everybody had to quickly sleep off as the next day was the festival of colours- Holi.
All fresh and happy the next morning Dingy heard his mother speaking over phone to his grandma that they had a gala time on the eve of the festival Holi. Dingy was about to ask but then Lia rushed in along with Digi and Random, it was time to play with colours! Dingy was amply tired by the end of the day having played and making merry. He slept off. His query got lost in the routine of life and in a couple of days he forgot all about it.
Then one day there was a buzz about Santa coming to town and giving gifts to children on Christmas eve. Everyone at home and around were very excited, Dingy’s mom gave him clean socks to hang on Christmas Eve. Now the query came back. He stopped his mom in the hallway and asked loudly why we are hanging the socks tonight if Santa comes on Christmas Eve.
Mom dad and seemed like the pets and even the furniture laughed aloud. But mom was apologetic and said she would explain right away. “The Eve”, she said, “means the night or evening before the d-day or the actual day of the festival or event. So the day before Christmas or the day before Holi are called eve of Christmas or eve of Holi respectively.”
His query answered, Dingy a relieved boy shot off to hang his socks and sleep tight awaiting the beautiful gifts from Santa.
Dingy and his friends were stooped on a book when Lia rushed in with the big news, “Darling lost and found”, she screamed.
Everyone looked at him at once. Digi asked, “What happened? What are you screaming about?”
Lia took a deep breath and started, “You all know that I have two pet birds. One of them called Darling suddenly flew out of the balcony. Mom and dad searched high and low and had lost all hopes. Then a fine gentleman brought her back late in the night.”
Random said, “That’s great Lia, see we were just reading a book on how birds are able to fly?” Digi said excitedly,” Lia your bird could fly because she has strong and light bones.
This book says that the body temperature of a bird is constant at 40 degree centigrade. “Birds have wings covered with feathers, that help them take off, maintain balance and go in the direction they wish to”, added Dingy.
“Guys do you know that millions of years ago birds had front limbs, which turned into wings under a process called evolution”, chipped in Lia.
“Time to fly back home birdies”, called out Random. The group dispersed until next time.
Dingy rushed into the room and nearly bumped with the table. Nobody noticed him as everybody was busy playing with MAGNETS.
“Guys!”, screamed Dingy, Lia, Digi and Random looked up startled. “What are you fellows up to?” asked Dingy. “We are experimenting with magnets, come join us”, said all three in unison.
“Okay, but have you guys ever thought how magnet got its name?” asked Dingy, as he settled amongst them.
Lia the jumpy know all fellow, always first to answer said “I know magnets are made from MAGNETITE.”
“And magnets attract objects made of magnetic materials like IRON, COBALT, NICKLE etc,”, added a sober no-nonsense Digi. “But no idea about how this amazing thing got its name”, remarked the clever Random.
“There is a rather interesting story”, said Dingy. “Story time”, all three shouted.
Dingy cleared his throat and started, “Once upon a time in ancient Greece around 800BCE, there was a shepherd called MAGNES. He used to carry a stick whose tip was made of iron and wear boots that had iron nails. One day as he was passing by a rock his stick got stuck to it. He went to take a closer look and stepped on the rock. His boots got stuck to it too. He then left his boot and sticks on the rock and ran to a wise man who lived in the town nearby to narrate his extraordinary find. This wise man was called the Thales of Miletus, regarded as one of the first Greek philosophers and scientists. More about him another day.”
“Well then magnet got its name from the shepherd MAGNES?” burst out an impatient Lia. “That is one possibility Lia. Alternately the name could have been derived from the region that it was discovered from, namely MAGNESIA”, explained Dingy.
“And was that rock a whole big magnet?” asked Random inquisitively. “Yes kind of, the rock was a natural magnet called Lodestone.”
“Wow, that was really interesting, now come Dingy hold this magnet next to mine and lets find out which of their poles are alike?” said Digi.”Yes ! Like poles repel each other!” exclaimed Digi.
It was getting dark outside and Dingy insisted that they pack up for the day. So Random, Digi, Lia and Dingy all left for home with a lovely story and wanting for more, until next time!
Several years ago there lived a ghost. Well let us say there used to be a ghost as ghosts are not supposed to live. He didn’t have a name but he had a lot of friends, all of whom were living. To begin with there was Barly the kid, Meril the lamb, Su the infant, Kit the fawn and Rig the boy. These were his core group of friends and then there were many more.
One fine afternoon the ghost came whooshing on to Rig and asked him to accompany. Rig ran along, hardly able to keep up with the ghost’s floating speed. They came to a clearing where a lot of people had gathered and Barly was pinned to the ground forcibly. He was bleating as hard as he could.
Rig and the ghost heard that Barly was to be sacrificed to bring on rains on a certain day. He was chosen because he was healthy and of the correct age to appease the rain god.
The ghost gathered most of his friends and they animatedly discussed how the silly sacrifice could be stopped. Since they were all too young it was impossible to win by force.
Thus they thought hard with their little brains and finally came up with a plan.
Rig didn’t go home that day, as a result people started looking for him. After searching in and around the village the people decided that he must have got lost in the forest. They arranged for a huge search party complete with torches and drums beaters, to keep away the wild animals.
Now it had been decided that all the ghost’s friends would run towards the old temple in the forest, on the west bank of the river as soon as they see the people and create such an impression that something was going on there. The people will follow out of curiosity.
The search party did follow the animals and reached the temple. It was an old dilapidated structure with a deity that looked fierce and unforgiving. She was the forest goddess. People used to come to her once a year on a particular day with offerings so as to keep her happy. It was believed that she will protect the people of the village from the wild animals of the forest.
That day in the dark the goddess looked more fearsome than ever. The people were scared to their bones when they heard the booming voice of a lady which they were sure was of the deity.
This was actually Rig’s teacher who was speaking through a portion of a water pipe which had been altered a little to turn it into a mike that would make the voice loud and have the special effect of sounding divine.
The voice said, “I have taken one of yours as you were trying to take one of mine. Though humans are my children too, they behave as if they are above all the living things and can decide upon inflicting cruelty on them as and when they deem suitable.”
The people gasped and looked at each other.
The voice continued, “You fools don’t understand that animals are a part of nature and since the Gods have created them just as they have created you, the sacrifice of a life can’t appease the Gods. The Gods would be happy if you live in harmony. Would you want your children to kill one another?”
Some of the people found a little courage and said, “But the rains have been evading us for months so we thought a sacrifice like the elder days might help.”
“You are supposed to learn as you progress in years. Knowledge is supposed to be passed from one generation to the other so that the quality of life improves. Instead you pass superstitions. May be by coincidence it so happened that by sacrifice some end was met by an elder generation of yours, but did you try to find out if it was conclusive?” said the angry voice.
“We should not question everything that the elders have said, that will lead to questioning the existence of God himself,” said a very scared individual that was Rig’s father.
The voice now a little mellowed said, “Well you should. Only by questioning and by being curious can a society prosper and cut out unnecessary conflicts. Humans have always tried to attribute everything to God and wash their hands off. Would you like to know how rain happens?”
The teacher didn’t want go into deeper discussion about God, as she was posing as one and if caught the whole plan would fail.
“I know,” chirped one of the younger fellows, “The water bodies like ocean, rivers and lakes get heated up due to the sun. The heat causes the water to form water vapour which rises up in the air. That is evaporation”
Another young adult said confidently, “Since the other gases in the air is heavier than the vapour it keeps rising up and then the air pressure decreases temperature drops. The water vapour turns into tiny liquid water droplets. That is condensation.”
“And then?” asked the teacher excited about her students being able to remember and explain the water cycle.
The young fellow who had started answering said, “The clouds we see are a large concentration of these droplets. Then since the droplets are heavier than the air they fall back on earth. That is precipitation.”
“Stupendous children! You can ask for any boon related to your school,” the teacher in the guise of the goddess said, quickly adding, “Since you are young school going children.” The teacher was scared at every point of being discovered.
“Can we have this Saturday off please mother goddess?” said one of the boys remembering the ‘kabaddi’ match they had planned after school.
“Okay I’ll try to put these thoughts across to the principal,” said the teacher gingerly.
“Thus dear humans as you can see rain is a result of evaporation, condensation and precipitation and has nothing to do with sacrificing innocent animals,” said the teacher’s booming voice. She continued, “Stop cutting trees, rather plant more of them. That is the only thing that can bring back the rains”.
The teacher gave the people some time to consider all that had been discussed and then said in conclusion, “You will get back your son tomorrow morning. No harm has been done to him. But remember the earth belongs to all its inhabitants. You are not superior in any way.”
The mass started to disburse slowly talking in hushed tones.
Rig was home next morning, his parents called their neighbours and everybody rejoiced. The people called off the sacrifice not only for then but forever.
Meanwhile the teacher convinced the principal to declare a holiday on Saturday and the kids played ‘kabaddi’ to their heart’s content thanking the forest mother goddess profusely.
Eventually people stopped cutting trees recklessly and tried to plant more as often as possible. Consequently and also because of suitable climatic conditions the rains came.
All this while Rig had been thinking, since everybody had a name, the ghost should also have a name and decided to give him one. He spoke to the others and they unanimously decided to call him Gho. They also named their team as the Gho-team.
The Gho-team became the guardians of nature, they made it their mission to stop any unnecessary killing or cutting or anything that would bring harm to nature.