Pitara Kids Network

Two Girls and a Lotus

On top of a three-hundred-foot hill was a quaint old temple. A hunched, old man performed puja here. Enshrined in the centre of the temple was a beautiful idol. Usha and Lalita, two good friends, enjoyed talking to the kindly temple priest and watching him adorn the beautiful idol with multicoloured flowers.

Often in the morning, Usha and Lalita climbed the hill, dancing between the rhododendron bushes, jumping, singing and playing hide-and-seek. Woken from its slumber, a dovelet would coo sleepily, “Coo! How noisy these Brobdingangian doves are!” A squirrel would skip past, flicking its bushy tail and chattering, “Audacity! They dare show me how to play hide-and-seek!” A bright, yellow warbler, flying overhead, would trill, “Silly modern girls! Their frocks are the colour of my undercoat. Are they just trying to tease me?”

But the multicoloured flowers – pink, blue, yellow and purple – that lined the path, would sway gently in the breeze and whisper, “Lalita and Usha, we are in full bloom. You can pick us and we shall adorn the lovely idol in the temple yonder!”

Usha and Lalita would happily pluck them – to the dismay of the flittering butterflies, of course – and take them to the priest. The old man would feel the flowers – his eyesight was weak – and guess their names accurately. He would decorate the idol and chatter with the girls.

“Have you brought jasmines? Fine. God will grant you purity.” Or “So today they are roses, aren’t they? God will give you love and peace.”

One evening, Usha asked, “What if I offered a lotus?”

The priest replied, “Lotus? The queen of all flowers.

The lotus is the consciousness of the Lord. When you offer a lotus with devotion, you get nearer to Him. You become a better person.”

Usha was delighted. She skipped around joyfully. Lalita looked puzzled. “But where will you find a lotus?” she questioned.

Usha smiled mysteriously and refused to answer. After some coaxing, she reluctantly confided. “Remember the old pond on the other side of the mountain? I saw a lotus bud there. It should blossom by tonight. I will pluck it early tomorrow and bring it here.”

“But the pond belongs to my father,” protested Lalita shrilly.

Usha had not thought of that before. But she remained adamant. “May be,” she replied. “But nobody ever goes there. The flower would have blossomed and withered unnoticed. I saw it. So I have a right to pluck it.”

“But how? The pond is my father’s.”

“So what?”

“So only I can pluck the flower.”

The two friends parted that evening without smiles.

“Have you brought jasmines? Fine. God will grant you purity.” Or “So today they are roses, aren’t they? God will give you love and peace.”

One evening, Usha asked, “What if I offered a lotus?”

The priest replied, “Lotus? The queen of all flowers.

The lotus is the consciousness of the Lord. When you offer a lotus with devotion, you get nearer to Him. You become a better person.”

Usha was delighted. She skipped around joyfully. Lalita looked puzzled. “But where will you find a lotus?” she questioned.

Usha smiled mysteriously and refused to answer. After some coaxing, she reluctantly confided. “Remember the old pond on the other side of the mountain? I saw a lotus bud there. It should blossom by tonight. I will pluck it early tomorrow and bring it here.”

“But the pond belongs to my father,” protested Lalita shrilly.

Usha had not thought of that before. But she remained adamant. “Maybe,” she replied. “But nobody ever goes there. The flower would have blossomed and withered unnoticed. I saw it. So I have a right to pluck it.”

“But how? The pond is my father’s.”

“So what?”

“So only I can pluck the flower.”

The two friends parted that evening without smiles.

The next day, dawn was just breaking when Usha approached the pond. She ran all the way while the sky turned from a light grey to a gentle orange. When the pond was within sight, she was overjoyed – but there was a touch of sadness for her friend. Poor Lalita!

But suddenly her heart almost stopped beating. In the hazy light of dawn, she saw somebody climbing out of the pond. Yes, it was Lalita and she had the lotus in her hand.

Usha hid behind a bush. Lalita quickly began climbing the hill. Holding back her tears, Usha followed and reflected bitterly on the perfidy of the girl she had considered her friend.

Lalita stood before the priest who had just emerged from bathing in the spring and was about to perform puja.

“Who is it?” asked the old man.

“I. I have brought a lotus.”

“Lotus? Wonderful! I will put the flower on the idol in your name. It is Usha, isn’t it? It’s a pity, I cannot see clearly and always confuse Usha and Lalita.”

Lalita did not answer. Usha, who was hiding and peeping from behind, could no longer control her tears.

“Is it Usha?” asked the priest again.

Suddenly Lalita replied, “Yes, yes. Please offer the flower to the diety in the name of Usha.”

“No,” shouted Usha from behind. “Panditji, it is Lalita who brought the flower.”

“But you discovered the flower. I only plucked it,” said Lalita, with tears streaming down her cheeks.

“But the lotus was your property,” replied Usha, while tears flowed down her cheeks too.

“So what?”

“So only you can offer it to the deity.”

Then very gently the priest intervened. “Never mind. I will utter both your names when I offer the lotus to the Lord. He will not object to bestowing His grace on both of you. You shall both be dear to Him. Both of you shall grow to be much better human beings.”

On their way back, Usha and Lalita looked and smiled at each other. They felt that they had already become better human beings. They jumped, danced and sang as usual. Once again roused from its sleep, the dovelet cooed drowsily in protest at the disturbance.

First Published by National Book Trust, India