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Excerpt for Rangeela Tales - Book 1 by , available in its entirety at Smashwords










BOOK ONE

Gita V. Reddy



Text and Front Cover Copyright ©2016 to 2019 Gita V. Reddy

All Rights Reserved


No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. No part of this book may be scanned, uploaded or distributed by any means, including electronic and print without the written permission of the author.


MEET THE CHARACTERS

When Navjyot’s father is posted to South Africa, Navjyot comes to live with his grandfather in India. Nimi is his cousin, and she is already living with Grandpa. The children do not get along. Grandpa lets Navjyot make the verandah, closed in with a trellis on one side, his room.

One day, Nimi’s cat, Robber, finds an injured parrot in the garden. Navjyot rescues the parrot from Robber and nurses it back to health. The parrot reveals that it can speak and understand human speech. Instead of flying free, it chooses to live with Navjyot on the condition that Navjyot keep his talent a secret.

Rangeela Tales is a series of short stories about Rangeela, Navjyot, Nimi, and Robber. The other characters are Bond, who does all the housework for Grandpa, and Dog, who is a dog without name or ambition.


CONTENTS


Rangeela Finds a Home

Rangeela Says No to Adventure

Rangeela Flies Away

Rangeela and Robber

Rangeela and the Bully

Rangeela and the Diamonds

Fun Facts about Parrots


RANGEELA FINDS A HOME


Robber was staring at the ground and taking small, mincing steps. Navjyot guessed he had spotted a bird or a mouse.

“Stop! Stay! Robber, you naughty cat!” he yelled and ran out of the house.

Crouched low, with his tail up in the air, Robber fixed green blazing eyes on Navjyot and let out an angry meow.

“Scoot! Ask Nimi to feed you!”

Navjyot shooed Robber away and picked up the bundle of green feathers. The parrot was alive but its eyes were shut and it did not move. It was burning up with fever. Its feet were tied with a thin wire and there was a string around its neck. One wing was injured.

Navjyot took the parrot into his room and placed it on the table. He sprinkled some water over it. The parrot did not stir. But for the tiny movement of the chest, it looked dead.

Navjyot sprinkled some more water and started fanning the parrot with a cardboard square. The parrot opened its eyes and shut them again. Navjyot held a saucer with water to its beak and patiently waited for it to take a few sips. He cut away the string and removed the wire. He also applied antiseptic cream on the cuts left by the wire.

“What do you have here?” Nimi asked, making Navjyot jump. He hadn’t heard her come in. She was holding Robber in her arms and he was wriggling.

“Take your cat out!” Navjyot hissed, picking up the parrot.

“Is that a parrot? May I hold him?” Nimi asked.

“No. Now leave.”

“Navjyot, don’t be mean! All I want is to hold the parrot. Does it speak?”

When Navjyot refused to give her the parrot, she stuck out her tongue at him. “I’ll tell Grandpa!”

Navjyot got rid of her and locked the door. He fed the parrot some more water and some nuts. He remembered parrots loved guavas. He would get one from the kitchen.

When he opened the door, Robber was sitting on the doormat. “You Monster Cat! Stay away from my parrot,” he yelled at it and closed the door behind him. Robber moved a few paces back. He looked at the door and licked his lips.

The parrot did not eat the fruit. It did not get up on its feet either. Navjyot took it to a vet. The vet was hopeful. “He’s young and strong. He’ll live,” he said and gave Navjyot some medicines for the parrot. He also gave him tips about looking after the bird.

By the next day, the parrot was able to stand on its feet. Navjyot was thrilled when it allowed him to hand feed it. It also let Navjyot apply the ointment to its cuts. But it tired easily and slept for long hours.

Navjyot’s biggest worry was about keeping the parrot safe from Robber. The cat kept trying to enter the room and Nimi refused to keep it away. One time Robber almost succeeded. Instead of the door, it tried to get in through the window. Luckily, the parrot was awake and it gave a loud squawk.

Robber’s attempts to make a meal of the parrot led to many a quarrel between Nimi and Navjyot. Navjyot wanted Nimi to mind Robber and keep him away from the parrot. Nimi said he was being mean to her.

“Robber is always outside my door. Someday I’ll step on him!” Navjyot threatened.

This made Nimi run to Grandpa. “Navjyot says he will murder Robber! Tell him he is not to even look at Robber.”

Navjyot was fed up of playing hide and seek with Robber. He had an idea. He would move into the room at the back of the house. It would also keep Nimi out of his hair.

The room was actually a long verandah with a sloping roof. It was enclosed with a trellis set in a two foot high wall, with a door at the centre. Navjyot knew his father had used it as a boy.

"Grandpa, may I move in there?" he asked.

"Oh yes," Grandpa said and laughed. "History is repeating itself. I had the verandah converted into a room because my son and daughter were always squabbling. You know whom I mean, don't you?"

"My father and Nimi's mother."

"Your father said your aunt wasn't letting him work on his science project. Nimi's mother complained he was being mean and selfish and always keeping her away. They never got along as children. It's a wonder they are so fond of each other now."



The room was filled with old furniture and junk. Grandpa told Bond to make it ready for Navjyot to move in. Bond did all the work in the house. He cooked, cleaned, did the gardening, marketing, and anything else that came up.

Bond cleared out the room. Grandpa told him to keep the furniture Navjyot could use and remove everything else to the junkyard. Navjyot selected a bunk bed, a bookshelf, a cupboard, a table, and a chair. The cupboard and the table were a little damaged but Bond was handy with tools. He repaired them and also patched up the roof. Grandpa ordered new mattresses for the bunk bed.

Navjyot found a bird cage in the pile of junk. It was twisted and the door did not shut properly. Bond straightened it out with a pair of strong pliers and a hammer. Navjyot painted it red. Nimi found a tennis racket she liked and Bond promised to repair it.

“That bird cage belonged to your mother,” Grandpa told Nimi.

Nimi immediately planted herself in front of Navjyot. "Give me the cage. It’s mine!”

But when Grandpa told her that the tennis racket had belonged to Navjyot’s father, she agreed to let him have the bird cage.

Navjyot took the cage into his room. The parrot was much improved. He strutted on the table top and flew a little in the room. When Navjyot entered the room, he was pecking at the bowl of grain. He cocked his head to one side and watched Navjyot. Navjyot placed the cage on the table and propped open the door. The parrot left off eating and stared at Navjyot.

Navjyot said, “I don’t like to keep you in a cage because birds are meant to fly free. But Robber is always lurking around. He will snap you up at the first chance he gets. You will be safe in the cage. When you are strong enough to fly, I’ll set you free.”

Navjyot liked talking to the parrot. He knew the parrot didn't understand a word but that did not matter. Whenever he spoke to him, the parrot cocked his head to a side and looked at him as if he was following ever single word.

“Step into the cage whenever you feel comfortable with the idea,” Navjyot said. The parrot immediately hopped into the cage. Navjyot was delighted. Now he could carry the parrot with him instead of confining him to the room. He did not have to worry about Robber either.

Navjyot spent three days getting the room ready. Though Bond helped, he did most of the work. The room and the furniture got a fresh coat of paint. To decide upon the colors, he showed the color chart to the parrot and asked him to pick two colors. The parrot touched green and yellow with his beak! Navjyot used those very colors. They made his room look bright and cheerful.

Nimi heard and she held the color chart in front of Robber. Robber put his paw on black. Nimi went to Grandpa and insisted he should get her room painted black. Grandpa refused. Nimi started complaining that Grandpa always gave Navjyot whatever he wanted and never listened to her. She sulked until he promised to buy her a new bed for her cat.

Navjyot moved into his room and hung the parrot cage from a wooden rafter in the ceiling. He also put up a sign. 'CATS and complaining GIRLS NOT ALLOWED.'

Nimi rushed to Grandpa. Navjyot was being mean, she told him, and Grandpa must scold him.

"The sign is meant for girls who keep complaining, not for you," Grandpa said and Nimi had no answer to that.

Navjyot loved cycling. Since he’d come to live with Grandpa, he often cycled to different places. Now he took the parrot along with him. He placed the bird cage in the basket and tied it with a cord.

Navjyot often rode to the backwaters of the river where it was always cool and green. There were birds too. One afternoon when he was there, he took the parrot out of the cage and said, “Fly away if you want to.”

The parrot hopped right back into the cage.

“Don’t you want to leave?”

The parrot shook his head. Navjyot was delighted, “Can you understand me?” he asked.

The parrot looked away. Navjyot repeated the question. The parrot closed his eyes.

“Stupid of me,” Navjyot murmured. The parrot opened his eyes and nodded. Navjyot burst out laughing. He hadn’t laughed like that since he’d come to live with Grandpa.

“I'm going to talk to you because it looks like you listen,” he said. “Nimi doesn't. She always wants to have her way. If I don't do what she wants, she runs to Grandpa with complains. When I came to live here, I thought it would be nice having a cousin."

The parrot gave a questioning look.

“My parents are in South Africa. That’s very far away. You will love it there. Perhaps not, African parrots are bigger. They may bully you.”

The parrot cocked his head. He looked attentive. Navjyot started laughing again. It must be a coincidence but the parrot appeared to be paying attention to every single word.

"Nimi’s parents also live abroad. They are in America. They sent Nimi to live with Grandpa. Eight months later, Grandpa asked my parents if I could also live here. He said we would be good company to each other. Nimi's eight and I'm ten. I think by then he was tired of her complaints."

The parrot gave a soft squawk and nodded. Navjyot was delighted and kept talking.

“You know Bond? Bond makes the best parathas.

(paratha: flatbread made out of wheat dough )

The parrot squawked loudly.

“You agree! Now, let me tell you about the dog. You’ve seen the dog outside the kitchen. Bond had been trying to name him for years. But that dog doesn’t respond to any name. So he’s only called Dog. He eats and sleeps. Funny, isn’t it?”

The parrot nodded.

“I would like to teach you to speak. I don’t know what type of parrot you are. I’ve read some parrots learn to speak very well. We’ll try a few words but I don’t want to force you.”

The parrot fluffed his feathers and flapped his wings. When he settled down, Navjyot said, “I didn't want to name you because I wanted to let you go. But it looks like you are staying for a while. I will give you a name. What shall it be? You are so bright and colorful. Your feathers are green with a streak of blue. Your red beak is magnificent. Do you know you have a bit of orange and gold on your chest? You are a beautiful bird. I'll call you …”

“Rangeela.”

“Rangeela will suit you. It means colorful."

Then it hit him. The parrot had spoken! “You spoke?” he needlessly asked.

“I did.”

“But…”

“You’re a good looking boy. Your hair is dark and soft and your eyes are grey. They are ringed with black. You have long eyelashes. Your skin is light brown. You are a good looking boy.”

Navjyot stared. The parrot was talking but what was he saying? Why was he describing him?

“It is polite to return praise though foolish to praise the color of the feathers or the skin. We are born with them.”

“What?”

Rangeela winked or rather blinked with one eye. “That's just my opinion. I have opinions. I think about things.”

Was it a dream? Was someone playing a trick? Parrots could talk but not like this. In fact, Navjyot didn't even know any human being who said such things.

“Tell me about Nimi. Why is she so cross?” Rangeela asked.

“Her parents were away from home for long spells. She grew up with nannies and babysitters who allowed her to have her way all the time. Grandpa says she has not learnt how to share. Her parents sent her to Grandpa because he is strict. Nimi didn't want to come. She is also angry because Grandpa will not listen to her.”

“Why did your parents send you? You don't look like trouble.”

“My father is an engineer. The company he works for posted him to South Africa for two years. My mother and I went with him but I did not like it there. When Grandpa asked my parents if they could send me to live with him, I insisted on coming.”

“Why does Nimi keep a cat? I don’t like people who love cats.”

Navjyot could see Rangeela’s point of view. He changed the topic.

“Rangeela, why did you not speak all these days?”

“I didn’t trust you. Now I do.”

“You do?”

“Yes. You are not like the bad men I was with. You will not hurt me.”

“What happened to you?”

“I was born in a forest. I was an inquisitive bird. I wanted to see what lay beyond the forest. I flew into a village and saw people living in houses. They were very different from the birds and animals of the forest. Alas, I soon learnt how different they were! They trapped foolish birds like me and sold them.

“The man who bought me trained me to speak. A talking parrot sells for a higher price than an ordinary parrot. The man was cruel. He starved me unless I repeated the words. I would have practiced more if he was gentle because I enjoyed trying out new words. But he did not know how to be kind. I think he enjoyed hurting me.

“I learnt to speak and to understand speech. I was sold five times, each time for a higher price. One man dyed me in a different color and sold me. My eyes stung and my skin burnt. Those men bought and sold birds. When they transported us in big cages over long distances, we went without food, water, and sunlight. Some of us died.

“The last buyer was a magician. He performed tricks on stage. He taught me to ride a small bicycle and to pick a lock. He had designed a fire trick. He would throw a bird into fire and it would magically reappear.

“When he bought me, he also had another parrot, Sheena. He wanted to train me to perform along with Sheena. Sheena was doing the fire trick. During practice one afternoon, the escape door got stuck and Sheena burnt to death. I saw it happen.

“The fire trick was very popular and the magician tried to train me for it but I was terrified. I refused to leave the cage. He decided to starve me. It did not work. Then he brought a candle to my cage. He meant to frighten me into obeying him but it scared me out of my mind. I started throwing myself against the cage and flapping my wings. When I hurt my wing, he removed me from the cage. By then I was limp with exhaustion. I was also ill. But not too ill to try to escape.

“He bound my feet with a thin wire and tied a thick string around my neck, with its other end knotted to the window bar. It was a mistake to use the string but I’m glad he made it. I bit through the string. I saw a covered van under the window. I squeezed through the narrow bars of the window and landed on the roof of the van.

“The van stopped near your house. It was scorching hot on the roof. I was thirsty and ill, and faint with hunger. I saw the guava tree in your garden and tried to fly to it but fell down. I think I fainted. Did Robber find me?”

“Yes.”


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