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The Special Prize

By Anand Dev Sharma; Translated from Assamese by Birendra Nath Dutta; Illustration by Mickey Patel

What a naughty boy! He deserves to be thrashed. I have also received reports of his getting into fights with other boys. Send for him. "Mohan! Hey Mohan!" the headmaster shouted for the chowkidar. Mohan guessed from the growl in the voice that the headmaster was very angry. He rushed in and asked apprehensively, "Yes, Sir?"

"Hurry and get Tapan of class V," the headmaster ordered.

Let me introduce the reader to the boy named Tapan. He is the second son of Ratan the clerk of Padumani village. Although rather thin, he is strong, somewhat dark and has bright eyes. He is quite good at his studies. But both at home and outside, there is no end of his pranks. He is always getting into trouble. But it must be admitted that he is never the first to pick a quarrel. But if anybody offends him he never hesitates to give as good as he gets. He is the leader of his age group and is always ready to take up the cudgels on their behalf. He is popular and respected by his companions.

After completing primary school at village, Tapan had gone for a year to a High School, fifteen miles away and stayed with his uncle. Now he is back home and studying at Jnanpeeth High School, a mile and half from his village.

He had only been to Jnanpeeth a month and already there was a complaint against him. Haren, the shopkeeper of Padumani village, had complaint to the headmaster that Tapan and number of other boys had thrown stones at his shop the previous evening. Tapan had been the ringleader.

Tapan came in with the chowkidar and after glancing timidly at the headmaster stood with head lowered. Swinging his cane the headmaster demanded, "You are Tapan arenít you?"

"Yes, Sir," Tapan replied politely.

"Do you know this gentleman?" the headmaster asked pointing at the shopkeeper.

"Yes, Sir. He lives in our village."

"Well, is it true that last evening you and your friends threw stones at his shop? Tell me the truth, or I will flog the skin off your back."

"Yes, Sir. It is true that I threw stones at his shop with Ratan and others."

"Why? Why did you do that, you rascal? Answer me," the headmaster thundered.

"Sir, this man cheats. He charges higher prices and gives less. Moreover, he had introduced a new kind of paper bag, which is padded at the bottom. The day before yesterday we bought a kilo of dal from him. When we weighed the content at home, it turned out to be only eight hundred grams. The padding in the bag weighed fifty grams; he had short-weighed one hundred and fifty grams. It is common knowledge in the village. When I questioned him about it he abused me and chased me out of his shop. That is why I and other boys threw stones at his shop."

The headmaster looked at the shopkeeper; his face was crimson.

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The Special Prize [Stories for kids]
By Anand Dev Sharma; Translated from Assamese by Birendra Nath Dutta; Illustration by Mickey Patel

 

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