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Chapter: SHORT STORIES FOR CHILDREN kids school student

A New Religion

A  New  Religion
Sneha's bicycle was stolen. It had rained heavily and their school compound had become a waterlogged muddy quagmire. So everybody had to park his or her bikes outside. A thief had promptly taken advantage, selecting Sneha's red and gold racer. A police complaint brought no result.

A  New  Religion!

Sneha's  bicycle  was  stolen. It  had  rained   heavily   and   their   school   compound   had become  a waterlogged muddy  quagmire.  So  everybody had to park his  or her bikes  outside.  A thief had promptly taken advantage,   selecting  Sneha's  red  and  gold  racer.  A  police complaint brought no  result.
To  prevent further thefts the  principal  did her best to  get the  rainwater  drained.   It  was  found  that  polythene  bags and  Styrofoam cup  debris had clogged the rainwater drains. After the removal of the blockage  the water  drained  out and the  school compound became  dry.
"But  my  bicycle  is  gone  forever!"  Sneha  kept  on  wailing. "It  was  the  best  bike  in  the  world!" Without  her  bicycle   she  would  have  to  walk  to   school with  her  heavy  school  bag.  Without  her  bicycle  she  could not  meet  Ritu  to  share  her  grief.  Oh  doom!
Preksha  dropped  in  to  ask  how  Sneha's  essay  on  'How to  Protect  Our  Environment' was  progressing.  Their  class teacher   had   asked   Sneha,   Preksha   and   Siddharth   to participate in  an  essay competition,  as the three were good at  writing.  The  first  prize  was  a  whopping  Rs.  2001!
"I  have  already finished!"  Preksha  said  smugly.  Preksha was  the  class  scholar.                           /
"I  don't  think  I  can  write  without  my  bike."
"I   did   not   know  you   wrote   with   your   bike!"   Preksha squealed with laughter.  Sneha gave Preksha's braid  a sharp
pull  in  revenge.
It  was  all  right  for  Preksha  to  crack  such  jokes  as  she came  to  school  by  a  car.   She  did  not  have  to  worry  about time  lost  and  fatigue  caused  by walking a long  distance.
"Well,   who   has   time   for   essays?"   Sneha   said   feigning indifference  although  she wanted  to  write.
As  she walked  to  her tuition  that  evening,  thinking about the  essay,   she  had  to  negotiate  many  mud  puddles  and cow pats.  A lorry  swerved  so  near  her that  she  had  to jump plumb   into   a   quagmire   of  mud   and   dung.   Thick,   black diesel  fumes  momentarily  choked  her.
When  she  finally  reached  her  class  (late!)  all  noticed  her smelly  feet!
"Today  we  will  study  how  the  ozone  layer  is  affected..." the  teacher  began  and   Sneha  pricked  up   her  ears.   This might  help  in  the  essay.   Could  she  win  the  prize?  There was  Preksha  who  had  a  computer  to  write  and  check  her spellings  and  a  printer  to  print  her  essay.   Sneha  felt  she had  no  chance  of beating  Preksha.
"...So   don't   use   CFC   perfume   sprays!"   the   teacher concluded  the  lecture.
"What   horrid   perfumes   some   girls   use!"   pretty   and smartly   dressed   Priya   said   pointing   at   Sneha's   feet.   All boys   and  girls  laughed.   Sneha  felt  her  ears  burn.   Priya took   out   a  perfume   spray  and   spattered  herself  with  it. 
A  pleasant  whiff  of jasmine  wafted.
"At  least  I  do  not  spoil  the  ozone  layer with  CFC,"  Sneha said  pointedly  and  stamped  out.
Back  home   Sneha  asked  her  Dad  if  he  would  buy  her a  new  bicycle.
"Not possible now,  dear,"  he  said.  Sneha knew they were not  so  rich.
"But  my  back  will  break  if  I  carry  my  school  bag,  Dad!"
"We will buy you a second-hand bike  soon,"  Dad  assured.
Late  that  night  after  finishing  her  homework  Sneha  had just  begun  jotting   down   some   points   of  her   essay  when her  Grandma  reminded  her  about  evening  prayers.
"What  about  my  essay?"  Sneha pouted.  Grandma  smiled and  gently  reminded  her  that  they  had  to  remember  God at  least  once  every  day.   Sneha  reluctantly  began  prayers.
The  next  day  Preksha  and  Siddharth  showed  the  rough drafts  of their  essays  to  their teacher,  while  Sneha had not
even  begun.
"You  can  read  my  essay  after  I  have  won  the  first  prize," Preksha  said  in  a teasing tone when  Sneha asked to  see  it.
"Bought  a new bicycle yet?"  she  further  asked.
Telling  Preksha  about  her  financial  difficulty would  have made   her   show   false   pity   and   sympathy.   Better   to   try
something that would  silence her.
"I  am  not  going  to  buy  a  new  bicycle  because  I  do  not want  to  damage  the  environment."
"How can buying a new bike  spoil the  environment,  silly?" Preksha  asked.
"Ore  for  metal will  have  to  be  dug,  spoiling  topsoil.  Then refining ore will give off C0 2."  Sneha said.  "Plus toxic colours will  have  to  be  used.   Rubber  for  tyres  will  use  poisonous elements  like  sulphur..."
"All  bunk!"  Preksha jeered.
"What  she  says  is  true.  To  make  one  ton  of steel we  have to  burn  many  tons  of coal."  Siddharth  said.
"Where  did you learn  all this?"  Preksha asked,  concerned.
"While   doing   research   on   my   essaj^   on   environment," Sneha  said,  pleased  that  she  had  had  Preksha  worried.
Sneha  was  dog-tired  after  school  as  she  trudged  home slowly  with  her  heavy   satchel.   Heaps   of  polythene  junk, removed from  the  school's blocked drains  awaited  removal.
"From where  does  this  garbage  come?"  Sneha wondered. Then   she  remembered  how  during  the  lunch  recess  the whole  school  gathered  near  the  snack  bar  and  ate  sand-wiches  and  drank  colas.  Every  food  item  came  wrapped  in polythene  and  liquid  in  Styrofoam  or  plastic  cups.   Most children  threw  their  refuse  in  the  garbage  cans  but  some garbage   accumulated   and  was  washed  into   the  gutters,
which  gradually  blocked  them. 
Sneha was very tired when  she reached home.  1  will  feel better  after  eating,' she  thought,  but  she was  in  for  a rude shock.  Her  Grandma  offered  her  only  a  banana.
"It  is  a  Friday,  dear,  you  have  to  fast."
"Oh,  mother!"  Sneha wailed  but knew  she  had  no  choice. "Of what  use  is  fasting?"
"Fasting  is  a  self-imposed  discipline.  It  helps  us  become better   persons.   All   religions   have   days   when   one   must not  eat."
Sneha,  poor dear,  was  so  exhausted.  On top  of it,  hunger made  her  doze  off into  Grandma's  lap.  But  after  midnight hunger  pangs  awoke  her.
She  thought,   fasting  was  a  type  of  religious  discipline. Without  discipline we would  become  animals.  But the way we  were  spoiling  our  environment was  not  good  discipline.
Why did  most people  all over the world voluntarily remain hungry  once  a  while?  Christians,  Jews,   Muslims,  Jains, Buddhists  and  Hindus-all fasted.  All  also  undertook holy pilgrimages.  All regularly prayed and followed  certain codes.
However,   no   one   had   any   rules   about   preserving   the environment.    Sneha   sat   up   in   indignation.   The   whole society  was  to  lame.  Look  how  cows  were  allowed  on  the city  roads.   Look  how  lorry  drivers  drove  smoky  vehicles. Look  how  industries  emitted  poisonous  gases.   Look  how nations  used  nuclear  fuel  and  made  toxic  garbage.
There was  only  one  solution.  If religion  could be  combined with  the  protection  of  environment,   it  would  be  an  ideal discipline.   Sneha  quickly  grabbed  a  flashlight  and  began scribbling.
Sneha's  rules  for  A  New  Religion':
1.  The  sun  is  our  father  because  he  gives  us  energy.
2.  The  earth  is  our  mother  because  she  sustains  us.
3.  Trees  are  our  elder  brothers  and  sisters  who  give  us
oxygen,  food  and  shelter.
4.  Animals   are   our  younger   brothers   and   sisters  who
also  help  us.
5.  Thus  we  must  help  and  protect  our  family.
Sneha paused,  liking what she had  written  but wondering whether  it  was  good  for  her  essay.
'I   might   as   well  write  what   I   like   because   Preksha  is going   to   win   the   competition   anyway!'   Sneha   thought despondently.  How  could  she  ever  compete with  Preksha?
Sneha   wrote   furiously   through   the   night.    She   was convinced that unless  she  finished her  essay  in  one  sitting she would never be able to  complete it.  All kinds of thoughts overcrowded  her  mind,   but  her  fingers  quickly  recorded everything.
The  next  morning her mother found  Sneha  asleep  in  her chair,  her head  on the table,  her pen lying on  the  floor and the  discharged  flashlight  tightly  clutched  in  her  hand. 
Sneha  had  fever.  Over  exertion  had  taken  its  toll.
The   doctor   was   summoned   and   the   treatment   began. Grandma  began  chanting  the  name  of  Rama.
Sneha's  classmates  came  to  visit  her  the  next  evening as  her  fever  was   still  very  high.   Preksha  pattered   about her essay.  Priya and  Ritu  changed  the wet  cloth  on  Sneha's forehead.  Siddharth  told  her  about  the  new  computers  in the school .
As  soon  as  Sneha was  better  she  searched  for  her  essay but could not find it.  All helped but without result.  Someone probably  had  thrown  it  away  as  waste  paper.  The  loss  of the  essay  was  a  great  disappointment.
"It  was  my  best  writing!"  Sneha  said  sadly.
After  a month  Sneha  and  her  friends  came  to  know  that someone from  their  school had won  third prize in  the  essay competition.
"Of course,  the  essay  that  I  submitted  must  have  won," Preksha  kept  on  saying.  "I  am  surprised  it  didn't  win  the first  prize."  All  booed  Preksha  for  being  arrogant.
The  next  morning  during  assembly  the  Principal  called Sneha to  the  dais  and  declared  that  she  had won  the  third prize  of  Rs.   1000!
"How  come...!"   Sneha  was  silenced  by  the  thunderous applause.   The   Principal   read   out   Sneha's   essay   to   the school  and  declared  that they would  enforce  Sneha's  rules right  away.
"I  am  surprised.  I  had  not  even  submitted  my  essay,  so how  could  I  have  won  the  prize?"  Sneha  said  later  as  they slurped  ice-creams.
"Didn't   I   say   the   essay   that   I   submitted   would   win?" Preksha said revealing the  suspense.  "When I  came  to  visit you  during  your  illness,  I  read  your  essay.  I  found  it  was far  better  than  my  essay.   So,   Sneha,   I  tore  off  mine  and submitted  yours."
Sneha hugged  her friend,  tears  rolling  down  her  cheeks.
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