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April 06, 2004 10:32 IST

I was on a short vacation to India. My four-year-old niece GG (short for G Gomathi) decided to join her mom and me on a visit to the nearby grocery store. She was laughing and giggling until we reached the store. Suddenly, she started crying --she wanted us to buy her banana chips.

Since there were lots of snacks at home, my sister-in-law refused to yield. I cuddled GG. "Look at that little baby," I told her, pointing to a young boy. "He is so much smaller than you and he is smiling."

GG was adamant. We finished buying our groceries as she continued to sob away. On our way home, she suddenly became her usual cheerful self. Surprised, I asked her, "What happened to your tears?"

"Chittappa [Uncle]," she smiled sweetly, "when you need something, you must keep crying until they yield. We are far from the store now; there is no way I am going to get the banana chips. So what is the point in crying?"

Dr M Sathya Prasad, Toledo, Ohio

A helping hand

It was a pleasant January afternoon in Bikaner. I was rushing to a nearby shop with an urgent list from my mom -- we were expecting guests -- when I saw a cow groaning. I was worried about the way she looked and wanted to call a vet, but my mother's angry face came to mind. I rushed with the shopping and raced back home, promising myself I would call the vet later.

The visitors arrived and, in attending to them, I completely forgot about calling the vet.

Around 8 o'clock that night, the bell rang. It was our widowed neighbour, whom we called Amma. She wanted a blanket and seemed to be in a hurry. My mother was worried and, after a while, asked me to check if she was okay.

It is very cold outside. I wrapped a shawl over my sweater and, torch in hand, went to look for Amma. Her house was locked. I finally found her on the road, sitting beside the cow I had seen earlier. She had covered the poor creature -- which was now making a faint sound -- with the blanket.

Carrying a big book in her feeble hands and wearing heavy glasses, Amma was reciting the Gita for the dying cow, so she would escape the cycle of rebirth and attain mukti (as per Hindu belief).

When I tried to talk to her, she gave me stern look and put a pale finger on her lips. I could not bear to stand there much longer. I put my shawl over Amma's shoulders and returned home.

Sushma Vyas, Singapore

It's all about brains

Our biology teacher had the habit of beginning each class with a brief introduction to the lesson of the day.

We were studying human physiology and, over the week, she had completed the digestive, respiratory and circulation systems. All of us thought the next lecture would be on the reproduction system.

"Today," she began one fine morning, "we are going to learn about a system you people have but don't use. Do you know what it is?" I was about to answer, "The reproduction system," when she continued, "The nervous system. Your brain is part of the nervous system, but you are not using it to study."

You can imagine how relieved I was that I had not opened my mouth!

K Arulmurugan, Coimbatore

A traveller's tale

I was heading back to IIT, Madras, after spending the holidays at my home in Vizianagaram, Andhra Pradesh. I disembarked from the Ratnachal Express at Vijayawada. After a short break -- that included a meal at Hotel Kandhari and a stroll on the 'Prakasam Barrage' constructed over the River Krishna -- I headed back to the station to catch a train to Chennai

After checking out the timetable, I decided on the Circar Express that was ready for departure. The general compartment was jam-packed and I tried in vain to get hold of a reserved berth.

As I walked towards the end of the platform in despair, I was surprised to find the last compartment relatively empty. I threw in my backpack, settled in and began my favourite travel hobby -- watching the chaos on the platform. Several minutes passed. The platform emptied.

A sudden suspicion crossed my mind.

I leaned out of the door and realised mine was the only compartment on the platform. The rest of the train had begun moving towards its destination a while ago. I burst into laughter. Later, I realised the bogie I got into was a connecting coach to Tirumala Express which was scheduled to arrive much later!

Soma Sekhar Dhavala, Ames, Iowa

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Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh


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