Title: The pencil
Anandi (5), her brother (8) and their neighbour Parvati (7) are out to play. It’s summer vacation and when classes reopen in June, Anandi is supposed to initiate schooling. Anandi’s mother Ahalya is a domestic help, while Parvati belongs to a well-off middle class household.
In the evening, Rajan takes Anandi for a visit to Parvati’s house. Parvati’s father, who works in the city, has come home. He’s brought her all necessary stationery for school. The children admire them. A fancy pencil, with a doll at the rear end, catches Anandi’s fancy. At dinner, the children discuss Parvati’s gifts. They quiz Ahalya when their father would come home and when they would purchase stationery for school. Ahalya mumbles, “soon”.
The children are playing with a crude ball. Anandi misses the ball continuosly and Parvati scolds her. Anandi retorts saying she is going to get a pencil with a doll better than hers when their father comes. Parvati categorically tells Anandi that her father would not come, that he’s left them, and Anandi would not go to school because their mother cannot fund her education. Rajan and Anandi are stunned. Parvati tells them she’s overhead her mother talking.
a) The children confronts Ahalya at night, they ask whether it’s not time they give Anandi’s uniform for stitching. Ahalya is silent. “Soon,” she mumbles in the end.
b) At night, Rajan hears Ahalya muffle a sob.
c) Next afternoon, Umesh, a friendly youth in the neighbourhood, spots Rajan on the street and takes him along with him to the beach. While Umesh hangs out with friends, Rajan loiters around. He walks through the craft stalls where tourists bargain with the shopkeepers. While strolling with waves lashing onto his feet, he comes across a tiny, curious-looking shell. He examines it and is thoughtful.
Ahalya is upset the children are missing from home for long hours. Parvati’s mother had come in search of her and rebuked Ahalya, saying her ruffians are spoiling her daughter. When the children are back home late in the evening, Ahalya questions them. Both do not speak up. Enraged, she slaps Anandi, who cries till bedtime.
At night, Rajan watches Ahalya patting her sleeping daughter, kissing her and crying. Rajan gets up and moving towards his mother, hands over a crumbled newspaper with Rs 173 inside it, in coins and currencies. He tells her they’ve been selling earrings made out of shells they collected on the beach. Ahalya stares at her son. Surprised by the enterprising spirit of her children, she realises that it’s high time she shrugged off her own despair and acted up. She hugs her son and tells him that she will never let them down in life and that Anandi will go to school.
Anandi, Rajan and Parvati walk to school with other children in the neighbourhood. The children chatter and Parvati announces that Anandi’s father has brought her an amazing gift. Anandi is the centre of attraction as the children gather around her to see the pencil — the rear end of it has a corrugated shell with a face scraped onto it, and a tiny conch placed on the back of it resembling a woman’s hair tied into a bun. As other children admire the craft, Anandi beams in elation. Parvati and Rajan steal glances and chuckle. Rajan has made the pencil for Anandi.