Flaming bond

Ranjit and Vikram were good friends. But things took a nasty turn when the taps went dry.

Ranjit and Vikram’s friendship had remained strong for ten years. They lived in adjacent huts and went to the same school. One evening Ranjit was up on a tree getting his torn kite, when he spotted the water tanker. He climbed down and ran to his hut as fast as he could. He wanted to be the first in the queue for water. Their neighbourhood received drinking water in the tanker only once in a few days.

It was Ranjit’s duty to fill water when the water tanker arrived in the street. He had grabbed his pots and was about to call Vikram, when he spotted a puppy outside his door.

He petted the puppy and ran outside the ration shop where the water tanker usually stood.

The puppy followed him. Ranjit got so busy playing with the scampering puppy that he forgot all about Vikram. By the time he thought of calling Vikram, the water tanker had arrived and a huge queue had snaked behind him. Now, he couldn’t leave his spot in the queue.

A little diversion

By the time Vikram arrived, the queue was extremely long. Ranjit filled his pots, the puppy trotting after him.

“Why didn’t you call me when the water tanker arrived?” asked Vikram.

“I saw the puppy and forgot.”

The tanker honked and made a hasty exit. Vikram scowled and asked Ranjit “Have I ever gone to fill water without you? How could you?”

“I didn’t mean to…” said Ranjit.

Things became worse when Vikram got home with the empty pots. His grandmother screamed, “Lazy boy! Where were you when the water tanker came? You cause me so much trouble. Now I have to go looking for water.”

From the window of his hut, Ranjit could see Vikram sobbing. When Vikram’s grandmother came out of the hut with the empty pot, Ranjit went to offer his water pot to Vikram.

“Psst…” he whispered. “You can take a pot of water from me.”

“I don’t want anything from you,” cried Vikram.

Ranjit went back home with a heavy heart. His parents had not returned from work. They were labourers at a nearby construction site. He was repairing his kite, when he heard music from the nearby street.

He rushed outside and called Vikram. “Go away!” screamed Vikram. “You are not my friend any more.”

Ranjit ran towards the source of music. A wedding procession was passing through the next street. Musicians in gaudy yellow turbans played instruments while a group of brightly dressed men and women danced merrily.

Ranjit watched in awe as colourful fireworks raced towards the sky. He remembered his pending holiday homework and got back home. Outside his hut he sniffed the air and looked around. The firecrackers were still lighting up the sky. He noticed a spark on Vikram’s thatched roof.

“Fire!” he shouted and entered Vikram’s house, and found him fast asleep. He woke Vikram and dragged him out of the hut.

“There is no water in the house. How do I douse the fire?” mumbled Vikram, rubbing his eyes when he saw the roof on fire. He grabbed fistfuls of mud and started throwing it on the roof.

Ranjit went to his hut and brought out his pot of water and two mugs. Both of them took turns in filling the mugs and throwing it over the roof. The roof sizzled and hissed asking for more water. Ranjit brought another pot of water from his hut. People from the neighbourhood came running. Slowly, the fire died out though the smell of the burnt roof still lingered in the air.

Vikram’s grandmother returned home came back just then with a pot of water. She planted a kiss on his forehead. “Oh, my brave boy! You saved our hut!”

Then she saw the empty pots near Ranjit. “What will you tell your parents about the empty pots? The water tanker will come only after three days.”

Ranjit heard someone call him. It was his mother. “Are you all right?,” she asked. Ranjit told her everything that had happened. “You did the right thing,” she said, patting his head.

A group of women walked towards them. Some of them were holding water bottles, some a small vessel and they filled up the empty pot.

“We can’t give you a pot of water, but we can definitely spare a few glasses,” she said.

Ranjit’s act of bravery spread through the neighbourhood and more people came by with water. His pot was soon filled to the brim.

“I am sorry. Will you be my friend again?” asked Vikram.

“I will always be your friend,” said Ranjit.

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