The case of the vanishing Marigolds


The sky had dark clouds. I heard the distant call of a koel. I could see flocks of mynahs and parrots noisily retiring to their nests. This calm, tranquil and peaceful scenario was abruptly interrupted by a cry of anguish. It was the maali.

“Good heavens! not again!” I looked at him quizically and questioned the reason behind his panic. “This morning, just this morning I watered the marigolds which will be put up for display at the Lalbagh Flower Show. And now when I go to see them, a large number of them have disappeared! Vanished! What am I to do now? I’ll be held responsible for any wrong-doing. And this has been going on for the past couple of days!...” Calming down, he concluded - “Well, there’s just one thing to do... I’ll go and inform Director Sir about this..this theft. Rest I’ll leave it for the Almighty to deal with.”

I went to see all the flowers and  just couldn’t decide which of them were the best... the heavenly hollyhocks with their rich colours, the royal roses, the dainty dahlias, the pretty pansies, the asters that were so  arresting, those petite petunias, and oh yes... the oh-so-charming colourful cockscombs... phew! Talk about tough competition! Oops, I missed out the magnificent marigolds!

So when the Director heard of this disappearing affair, he told the maali to keep an eye on the flowers and to watch passers by like a hawk. So anyone even in the nearest vicinity of the marigolds was dutifully scrutinized by the maali. And the first one on this list was an old beggar woman who used to sit by the marigolds in the same place everyday.

But the beggar woman denied the maali’s charges. “I may be poor, but I’am not a thief! Besides, what would I do with a bunch of flowers?” she grunted. I went to visit the flowers again in hopes of finding a clue to the “crime”, and what did I see? A dishevelled, scruffy-looking young boy plucking and throwing the cosmos flowers, totally  not bothered! My stern gaze and the maali’s long wooden stick were enough for him to flee from the spot. But before that, the maali caught hold of him and retorted, “How dare you! So you were the scoundrel robbing the marigolds!” “Huh? No, I didn’t rob any marigolds! I didn’t even see them, I swear!” “Don’t lie, you brat! Scram now!” the maali said.

“Hmm... he seemed to be telling the truth...” the maali reflected. I agreed with him too.  I really wondered who the thief could be. But not wanting to waste further time over this puzzle, I went to see all the flowers in their natural beauty.

Finally, when I came to the marigolds, what an astounding sight met my  eyes...!  A small, playful squirrel was seated comfortably near the pots, busy nibbling away at the marigolds! Yes, you read that right! The squirrel held the marigolds in his little hands and ate mouthfuls of them at a fast pace. When I crept closer, it stopped eating to watch and judge my intentions.

As I stood still and silent, it continued feasting contentedly. It looked so cute while eating, I wanted to give it a warm hug! But the squirrel had other plans. It gave me a brief glance, and then bounded away. I left the place in quite an amused daze. So all this while, the marigold ‘thief’ was not the old beggar woman, not the pesky boy, but a squirrel! To think that such a little creature was responsible for so much of fret and worry for the maali!

But hey, don’t reveal the truth to the maali, I too haven’t for a simple reason: if the maali finds out that the squirrel is the thief, we nature - lovers wouldn’t get such sweet sights to see!

Sarah Fathima, 16 yrs
Bangalore.

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