The Red Ribbons
“Didn’t I tell you to get it cut short?”
The voice of his neighbor and teacher, Mrs. Saxena could be heard very clearly. She had always been an angry woman. And Ninadh had always wondered why. It was an even bigger surprise when his neighbor, Rajat uncle married her after his wife had passed away.
Ninadh stood at the window and watched silently as Mrs. Saxena took out a pair of scissors, and ignoring her cries of protest, pushed her five year old stepdaughter Shilpa into a chair and began to clip the offending locks of hair. She had the look of the devil in her eyes as she went about her task.
“There,” she shouted once the job was done. Shilpa was in tears. Her mother had always tied her long locks into two pigtails with red ribbons. Now, she saw her stepmother take those very ribbons from the dressing table drawer.
“You won’t need these anymore,” she shouted, a gleeful look on her face as she put them into her purse. “Stop whining, you stupid girl.”
Seeing her glance toward him, Ninadh hid behind the curtains. When the coast was clear, he looked again, and saw Shilpa lying face down on her bed, crying. Mrs. Saxena was nowhere to be seen.
Ninadh was furious. He never liked seeing anyone cry, let alone his adorable neighbor who had told she didn’t want to be friends with him. He knew she had loved her mother that much, and the loss had been devastating.
“What do I do?” he wondered. Then it struck him, and he smiled.
The next day evening, knowing Mrs. Saxena was not around, he went to Shilpa’s window and knocked.
“What do you want?” she asked him, surprised at his boldness.
“To give you this,” he told her, handing her the ribbons that her stepmother had taken away.
He saw her expression of surprise change into a smile as she saw those treasured ribbons. And he smiled remembering his day.
“So, you want to leave your hair long, like a girl, is it?” Mrs. Saxena had asked when she saw him in class with thick hair that almost fell onto his eyes. When he stood silently with a beaten expression, she had decided to teach him a lesson.
“You know the school rules for boys, Ninadh. Since you have not kept your end, your punishment will be to wear the ribbons on your hair, like the rules say for girls. And if you remove them before the end of the day, I will punish you further.”
And she had gone ahead and tied his thick hair with two ponytails using the red ribbons from her purse!
Now, seeing Shilpa run out into the garden and give him a hug, accepting his friendship, Ninadh felt happy.
A day in school wearing those red ribbons had been worth it.
(© 21st April 2015)