Amma's Birthday Gift

Amma's Birthday Gift

Charu walked home from school, deep in thought.  Today was Amma's birthday, and she hadn't thought of what to give her. The previous year, Charu had embroidered some handkerchiefs for her, and the year before that, she had made her a bookmark with pressed flowers and leaves.

This year, Charu had been ill with the flu, and she'd had no time to think of a gift.  Her little brother Manish was of no help – he wouldn't do anything if Charu didn't take the lead.  Charu sighed.

She suddenly spotted a telephone booth , and cheered up instantly.
Charu went to the booth and dialled her Ajji's number.
“Hello?” Ajji's kind voice came on the line.
“Ajji!  I'm Charu!  Ajji, I can't think of what to give Amma for her birthday.  Do you have any ideas?”

“Hmm.. you've thought of asking me very early!” said Ajji.
“Ajji, you know I was ill.  Don't tease me!  Do you know if Amma wants anything?”
“Actually, no, Charu.  Your Amma has everything – a beautiful home, a satisfying job, a caring husband, and two wonderful children.  Not to mention a fabulous mother!”  Ajji chuckled.
“Ajjiiiii, tell me tell me!  What does she like?”
“Well, she likes Puliyogare and Rossogollas – think you can make them for her?”
“Ajji.. please stop teasing me!  I'm calling from a booth – Amma will get worried if I don't get home soon.”
“Hmm...”  Ajji thought for a moment.  “I can't think of anything that you can give her right away, Charu.  But you could pick out a book for her over the weekend, with your Appa's help.  You know she loves to read.”
“Hmph!  But I've never seen her reading, Ajji.”
“Ah, yes.  She's so busy with her job, and managing the house, and caring for you kids – just last week, she was telling me that if she could only squeeze in ten minutes of reading every day, it would be enough for her.”
Charu's brain was already whirring.  “Ajji, when do you think Amma would like to read?”
“Before bed-time, perhaps – why?”

“Ajji, you've given me a wonderful idea!  You are the sweetest!”

Before Ajji could even answer, Charu hung up, and ran home.  She waved to Amma and ran into her room, where Manish was sitting with his colouring book. There was a lot of hushed whispering between Charu and Manish for a while.  The evening then progressed as usual, with homework, an hour at the park, and then dinner.  Appa had brought a big jar of rossogollas for Amma, and they all polished it off in no time.

After dinner, Charu and Manish waited impatiently, pretending to do some homework while Amma cleaned up the kitchen.  Just as she finished and came out, they ran to her.
Manish dragged Amma to her favourite armchair and pushed her into it. Charu ran to the bookshelf, chose a book that Amma had bought a few weeks ago, and thrust it into Amma's hands.
Amma looked curiously at her children, their eyes shining, faces red with excitement.
“Amma, from today onwards, you should read something at this time.  We will do all the work that you normally do now,” said Charu.
“I will put back all the books and newspapers and other things in their places,” said Manish.
“I will bring the washing in, and fold all the clothes,” said Charu.
“And I will clean my room and pack my schoolbag and keep my things ready for tomorrow – without your having to yell at me,” said Manish, smiling sheepishly.
“And if there is anything else, you can tell me,” finished Charu. “This is our birthday gift for you.”

Amma was staring at them open-mouthed.  She drew the children to herself, and hugged them.“That is such a sweet thought!  Thank you so much!  Whatever gave you this idea?”
“Something that Ajji said,” said Charu.  “But the idea is all mine!”
“This is the best birthday gift I've ever received!” said Amma.Charu and Manish grinned happily.  And then they quickly got to work!

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