Shobhan ran to his father who was just leaving for work.
‘Papa! Papa!’ he called, ‘Jeetu Chacha is my best friend next to you.’
‘He is! That is fine. What has he done?’
‘He just phoned to say he and I are going to Delhi for one week.’
‘Well, are you telling me or asking me?’ Said Papa laughing.
‘Both. You are my best friend;’ said Shobhan looking up into his father’s laughing face.
‘Of course. You can go if its alright by your mother.’ Papa walked out of the little gate to board his bus. It wasn’t long before Jeetu Chacha drove his scooter into the garden path. Together they set off for Delhi.
There is so much for a Ghaziabad boy to see in a place like Delhi.
Shobhan and Jeetu Chacha went to many interesting places. They had a wonderful time visiting the zoo, the Railway Museum, Rashtrapati Bhawan, India Gate, Jantar Mantar, Lal Quila and many gardens, markets and other places.
‘Jeetu Chacha, time is up. I don’t want to leave Delhi yet.’ Shobhan told his chacha as they were walking past Janpath shops.
‘All about Delhi. All in pictures
All you want to know
before you go.” Sang a man.
‘What is he singing about, Chacha?’
‘He’s selling a book called ‘Tara’s Beautiful Delhi.’
‘Oh, wow! A book with pictures. I don’t want to leave Delhi but I can take this book with me.’ Said Shobhan stopping near the man with the books.
‘Now, isn’t that a great idea? Let it be my present to you, Shobhan,’ said Jeetu Chacha buying the book for him.
Back in Ghaziabad, Shobhan ran to his mother and screamed, ‘Mummy, I have brought a book on Delhi with me. Sit down and see all these pictures.’
‘It is a wonderful book. Now, drink your milk and go off to play with your friends,’ said Mummy after she had seen all the interesting pictures.
Shobhan ran out to play and when he came back, he read his book again. He was very proud of ‘Tara’s Beautiful Delhi.’
‘It is my best book,’ he told papa. He told his teacher and he told his friends, Kartik and Shona.
Kartik wanted the book badly. No shop in Ghaziabad sold that book.
‘How can I get ‘Tara’s Beautiful Delhi’ from Shobhan?’ Wondered Kartik for many days.
‘Maybe, I can trade something of mine which Shobhan likes.’ He looked around and wondered what he should offer Shobhan.
‘Oh, yes! My video game. He’d like that. I could give him that.’ Kartik ran to see Shobhan.
‘How about it Shobhan? You told me you liked my video game. Do you want to give me your book for it?’
‘Serious? You mean that?’ Said Shobhan.
He had already read through ‘Tara’s Beautiful Delhi’s hundred and one times. So he happily made the exchange. Shobhan played the game many times which made mummy mad. She just did not like the ‘beep, beep’ sound it made.
‘Well, I suppose, I should exchange it now. I do miss Delhi.’ Thought Shobhan to himself and ran across to meet Kartik.
‘I want to return you game. I want my book back.’ Too late. I sold your ‘Tara’s Beautiful Delhi’ to Shona. She bought me a Triple Sunday Ice Cream at the Snack Shop in Raj Nagar.’ Replied Kartik.
‘You what? You fatty! How could you?’ Shobhan was very angry.
‘Look, you Thinso Pinso. We did business. Buying and selling. The book was mine. So there.’ Said Kartik, stamping his foot and sticking his tongue out.
Shobhan ran to Shona’s house.
‘Shona, I will buy you a very big ice cream with the money from my Piggy Bank. Give me my book, please.’ ‘Forget it. I love ‘Tara’s Beautiful Delhi;’ Kartik and I did business;’ said Shona.
‘How about this video game, then? A fair exchange.’ Said Shobhan, handing the game to her.
‘No, I don’t like the beep, beep, beep, beep sound these games make. So there;’ said Shona stamping her foot and shaking her head.
Shobhan ran all the way home and quietly sat down in his chair.
‘Shobhan, Shobhan. Come and drink your milk, Beta.’ called Mummy.
Shobhan did not get up.
‘Are you alright?’ asked Mummy. Shobhan still did not move.
‘Well? What’s the matter, son? Have you had a fight with Kartik or Shona?’ asked Mummy gently stroking his hair.
‘I hate Kartik. I hate Shona. I will never talk to them for as long as I live,’ Said Shobhan.
‘Tell me what happened?’ asked Mummy.
‘It was business. Wasn’t it? It is a bit late to do anything about it. No point in feeling sorry.’ Said Mummy when Shobhan finished his story.
Next day someone rang Shobhan’s doorbell. And that ‘someone’ was Kartik.
‘Hey, Shobhan. Here is your book. Give me back my video game.’
‘You mean it?’
‘Yes. My cousins are coming to stay. Papa says I should give them the video game,’ said Kartik. ‘Why didn’t Shona give me the book?’ Asked Shobhan. ‘She wanted my calculator for one. I told her that she could use it if she returned ‘Tara’s Beautiful Delhi’. She gave it to me because she had read it at least ten times,’ finished Kartik smiling.
‘Here, shake hands, I really missed Delhi; said Shobhan and invited Kartik into his house.
‘Mummy has made Besan Laddoos today, Fatty,’ said Shobhan.
‘Shobhan, Shobhan. Your telephone. It’s Jeetu Chacha,’ said Mummy.
‘Hello, Shobhan. How would you like to go visiting Delhi again next week?’
‘Wow! Would I like it! I’d love it, Jeetu Chacha, you are great’, Said Shobhan, before ringing off.
First Published in National Book Trust’s Bulletin