It was the festival of spring. From the wintry shades of narrow lanes and alleys emerged a gaily clad humanity. Some walked, some rode on horses, others sat, being carried in bamboo and bullock carts. One little boy ran between his father’s legs, brimming over with life and laughter.
“Come, child, come,” called his parents, as he lagged behind, fascinated by the toys in the shops that lined the way. He hurried towards his parents, his feet obedient to their call, his eyes still lingering on the receding toys. As he came to where they had stopped to wait for him, he could not suppress the desire of his heart, even though he well knew the old, cold stare of refusal in their eyes.
“I want that toy,” he pleaded. His father looked at him red-eyed, in his familiar tyrant’s way. His mother, melted by the free spirit of the day was tender and, giving him her finger to hold, said, “Look, child, what is before you!”
Lanes and alleys
Emerged – Came out
Gaily clad humanity – A beautifully dressed crowd
Brimming over with life and laughter – The boy was very happy
Lag behind – Get slower
Fascinated – Amazed
Obedient to their call
Lingering – Wandering
Receding – Moving back
Pleaded – Requested
Red-eyed – Angrily
Tyrant – One who doesn’t listen to anyone.
Melted by the free spirit of the day
Tender – Soft
Questions & Answers
What do you know about the father, mother and the child? The father of the child is a rough man with a tyrant’s behavior. The child’s mother is loving and caring. She likes to attend festivals. The child is very lively and curious. He loves his parents more than anything.
How does the author describe the festival?
It was a flowering mustard-field, pale like melting gold as it swept across miles and miles of even land. A group of dragon-flies were bustling about on their gaudy purple wings, intercepting the flight of a lone black bee or butterfly in search of sweetness from the flowers. The child followed them in the air with his gaze, till one of them would still its wings and rest, and he would try to catch it. But it would go fluttering, flapping, up into the air, when he had almost caught it in his hands. Then his mother gave a cautionary call: “Come, child, come, come on to the footpath.”
He ran towards his parents gaily and walked abreast of them for a while, being, however, soon left behind, attracted by the little insects and worms along the footpath that were teeming out from their hiding places to enjoy the sunshine.
“Come, child, come!” his parents called from the shade of a grove where they had seated themselves on the edge of a well. He ran towards them.
A shower of young flowers fell upon the child as he entered the grove, and, forgetting his parents, he began to gather the raining petals in his hands. But lo! he heard the cooing of doves and ran towards his parents, shouting, “The dove! The dove!” The raining petals dropped from his forgotten hands.
“Come, child, come!” they called to the child, who had now gone running in wild capers round the banyan tree, and gathering him up they took the narrow, winding footpath which led to the fair through the mustard fields.
As they neared the village the child could see many other footpaths full of throngs, converging to the whirlpool of the fair, and felt at once repelled and fascinated by the confusion of the world he was entering.
Why did the child not ask for his favorite burfi?
The child didn’t ask for his favorite burfi because he half knew that his request would not be listened because his parents would say he was greedy. So without waiting for an answer he moved on.
The child knew that his parents would not buy him a garland of gulmohur. Why?
The child knew his parents would refuse to buy him a garland of gulmohur flowers because they would say that the flowers were cheap. So, without waiting for an answer, he moved on.
What made the child resist his desire to ask for a balloon?
The child well knew his parents would never buy him the balloons because they would say he was too old to play with such toys. So he walked on farther.
How did the snake-charmer perform his tricks?
A snake-charmer stood playing a flute to a snake.
The snake coiled itself in a basket,
The snake raised its head in a graceful bend like the neck of a swan,
The music stole into its invisible ears like the gentle rippling of an invisible waterfall.
Why didn’t the child go to the snake-charmer?
The child didn’t go to the snake-charmer because his parents had forbidden him to hear such coarse music as the snake-charmer played.
Where did the child get separated from his parents? How?
The child got separated from his parents at a roundabout.
Men, women and children, carried away in a whirlingmotion, shrieked (shouted) and cried with dizzy laughter.
The child watched them with great interest and then he made a bold request to his parents to go on the roundabout. There was no reply.
He turned to look at his parents. They were not there, ahead of him.
He turned to look on either side. They were not there.
He looked behind. There was no sign of them.
What was the child’s immediate reaction on being separated from his parents?
A full, deep cry rose within his dry throat.
With a sudden jerk (shake) of his body he ran from where he stood, crying in real fear.
Tears rolled down from his eyes, hot and fierce;
His flushed face was convulsed (to become large) with fear.
Panic-stricken, he ran to one side first, then to the other, hither and thither in all directions, knowing not where to go.
“Mother, Father,” he wailed. His yellow turban came untied and his clothes became muddy.
Why was it difficult for the child to search for his parents near the shrine (mandir)?
He ran quickly again, this time to a shrine to which people seemed to be crowding.
Every little inch of space here was congested with men, but he ran through people’s legs, his little sob (cry) lingering (echoing):
Near the entrance to the shrine, however, the crowd became very thick.
Men jostled each other, heavy men, with flashing, murderous eyes and hefty (large) shoulders.
The poor child struggled to thrust a way (make a way) between their feet but, knocked to and fro (to and from) by their brutal (cruel/without mercy) movements,
He might have been trampled underfoot, if he had not shrieked at the highest pitch of his voice, “Father, Mother!”
Why does the author say that the people in front of the shrine were ‘murderous’ and ‘cruel?’ In fact the people were neither murderous nor cruel. However, the author calls them so because for the child, all of them appeared cruel and murderous.
How do you describe the man who came to the child’s rescue? Choose the words that aptly describe the man:
What did the old man ask the child about him?
The old man asked the child how he got there and whose baby he was.
What all did the man try to soothe (pacify/ to make someone happy) the child?
Roundabout – Ride on the horse.
Snake-charmer still played on the flute to the swaying cobra – The music.
Balloons – Bright-colored balloons
Flower-seller – Gulmohur
Sweet-shop – Burfi.
Why does the lost child lose interest in the things that he had wanted earlier?