Talespin Children

A miracle and a mystery

Illustrations: Sreejith R. Kumar  

The old house was on Maya’s way to school. Two-storeyed, with a red-tiled roof broken in places, its windows lit up every time the sunlight fell at a certain angle.

No one lived there any longer. A decade ago, a freedom fighter had lived there, whose last wish was to have the old ancestral house converted into a primary school. But, five years had gone by, and nothing had happened.

The morning was overcast, and Maya was on her way to school, lost in thought. The district collector had been invited to her school’s Independence Day celebrations. Maya hoped he had received her email. A school was urgently needed, she had written, for the one five km away was terribly overcrowded. The footbridge over the Indravati always flooded over in the rains.

Maya hardly noticed the first raindrops. But the rain was soon sharp on her face, making things shimmer before her, and she stopped hurriedly. On her right, was the old house. She noticed the gap in the crumbling grey-stoned wall. A light flickered through the straggly bushes along the path. Maya ran down towards the portico and into an old sitting room. In the corner was a study table. A rickety three-legged lamp stood near. A brown cat came up and rubbed against Maya’s legs and bounded up a spiral staircase. Curious, Maya followed.

Inspiring sight

Illustration: Sreejith R. Kumar

Illustration: Sreejith R. Kumar  

The stairs emerged into a library of sorts, wooden glass cases stacked by the wall. At a far window, an old lady looked out sadly, holding a familiar piece of cloth. She turned and smiled. “I am glad someone’s here. We simply have to put the flag up today.”

Maya nodded, and reached for the flag. “Thank you. The flag used to be seen for miles around. Pandit Nehru was here once, and he said the fluttering flag was an inspiring sight.”

The steps narrowed, as Maya neared the attic. The cat stayed close, mewing encouragement. The attic had an old worktable stacked with old newspapers, and a typewriter. A stepladder led to the open skylight and Maya saw the pole, its halyard moving in the wind. The hooks were a bit rusty, but the flag sailed up easily and fluttered open, as she shook the halyard. As she looked around, there were no rain clouds, and far away, a bullock cart trundled slowly on the old bridge.

“You must come again,” the woman said, her eyes misty, but Maya had little time to ask who she was. She had spotted the helicopter in the school grounds and knew she was late.

As she entered the hall, Maya heard the collector say, “The chopper reached only because of the flag. We saw it on the old house from way off. I am glad it’ll be a school after all. We decided some days ago.” He told them about Maya’s email and she walked self-consciously to the stage, to great applause.

“It’s strange about the flag,” said the principal later. “Someone from the school always did it because the flagpole was up on the roof. And there it was again, so many years later. Quite a mystery, isn’t it?”

Maya remembered the gentle sunshine on her face, as she looked through the roof. And the old woman. Miracles, magic and a mystery on Independence Day.

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 10:01:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/children/a-miracle-and-a-mystery/article32331357.ece

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