Jalebis, Class 8 English It so Happened Book Lesson 8 Explanation, Summary, Difficult words

 

Jalebis Class 8 English It so Happened Book Lesson 8– Detailed explanation of the lesson along with meanings of difficult words. Given here is the complete explanation of the lesson, along with the summary. All the exercises and Question and Answers given at the back of the lesson

 

Class 8 English (It so Happened Book) Lesson 8 – Jalebis

By Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi

 

lesson 8 jalebis

 

Jalebis- Introduction

Jalebi is an Indian sweet made of a coil of batter fried and steeped in syrup. The lesson, thus, is wrapped beautifully around this Indian sweet. From resisting to spend the money for his school fees and funds on purchasing jalebi, to not receiving his scholarship money on time, and from not being able to pay for fees to playing games with God asking him for money, this lesson teaches us why God doesn’t grant each and every wish made by man.

 

Jalebis- Summary

Once upon a time, when the author was in fifth standard, he carried four rupees in his pocket to give to Master Ghulam Muhammed for his school fees and funds. The Master happened to be on leave that particular day, thus, he was entitled to submit the amount the next day. When school got over, the four rupees’ worth coins in his pocket began speaking. Although coins only go Khanak-khanak, this time they actually spoke! They diverted his attention to the hot and fresh jalebis being made by the Halwai. The boy resisted and told the coins that he was supposed to show his face to Master Ghulam Mohammed the next day and also to Allah Miyan at Qayamat. This made the coins unhappy and they began making a lot of noise that in turn, attracted public attention. He clenched them in his fist to make them quiet, but the oldest coin told him that they only wanted him to benefit. The coin advised him to spend the four rupees on jalebis that day and pay the fees with the scholarship money he was supposed to receive the next day. The boy gave it a thought and decided not to be swept away easily. He decided that for a child of such status, privilege and prestige, it was not right for him to be seen eating jalebis in the middle of the bazaar. Thus, he went straight home. 

Upon reaching home, the coins began making a lot of noise which annoyed him and thus, made him rush to the bazaar to buy one rupee’s worth of jalebis. Those days, one rupee fetched more than twenty rupees does nowadays.The halwai gave him a pile of jalebis in a newspaper. Upon seeing his Chachajaan’s tonga, he ran inside a gali and devoured the jalebis upon finding a safe space. After having devoured the jalebis, he found out that the boys from the entire neighbourhood had assembled in the gali. By that time he was so pleased with his stomach full of jalebis that he got into the mood for some fun. He started handing out jalebis to the children around. Soon a whole lot of other children appeared, probably having heard the good news from the others. He dashed to the halwai and bought one more rupee’s worth of jalebis, came back and stood on the chabutara of one of the houses, liberally distributing jalebis to the children. Then, he bought jalebis for the remaining two rupees as well and distributed them. After having distributed them all, he cleaned himself up and went home with an innocent face.It was not an easy task for his body to assimilate and digest the pile of jalebis, as easy as it was for him to devour them. As often as he breathed, a burp came out of his mouth and he was scared to death with the fear of throwing out one or two jalebis. Thus, the fear was killing him. Besides, he couldn’t say no to the dinner because it demanded an explanation. 

The next day, upon reaching school, he got to know that the scholarship money was going to be paid next month. On the other hand, Master Ghulam Mohammed had made it known that he’d be collecting the school fees in the recess. When the bell rang for recess, he took his bag and walked out of the school till he reached Kambelpur Railway station.

He sat there under a tree for a while and began praying. He told God how a mistake has been committed by him and how he wanted God to grant him four rupees, only for this once. He asked Allah Miya to keep four rupees in his bag. He offered namaaz, recited ten surats, ayat-alkursi, kalma-e-tayyab, in fact everything that he remembered. But when he checked his bag, he could not find a single paisa. He then went to the bazaar to wait for the school to get over. This way, he would go back with children from school and avoid any suspicion of having missed the school that day. The next day, he went to the railway station again and sat at the same place. He prayed to Allahji to grant him money that day, at least. He then decided to play a game with God. In this game, he would go and touch the signal and come back and in the meanwhile, God was to surprisingly put money under a big rock. When he came back from the signal, he first hesitated to check under the rock, but when he did, he only found a hairy worm beneath it. He got scared and he ran away to the signal. When he came crawling back, he picked up his bag to leave but couldn’t resist glancing under the rock once more. Obviously, he did not find any money, just  Mr Worm.

On his way home, he made plans for how he’d pray the next day. Upon reaching home, he found out that the news of his being absent from school had reached before him. What happened after, is of no use to recount. Years later, he concluded that if Allah Miyan were to answer all of man’s prayers, then man would, even today, be living in nests like vultures and crows and would not have learnt the art of making jalebis!

 

Jalebis- Lesson and Explanation

I

IT happened many years ago. I was in the fifth standard at the government school, Kambelpur, now called Atak. One day, I went to school with four rupees in my pocket to pay the school fees and the fund. When I got there I found that the teacher who collected the fees, Master Ghulam Mohammed, was on leave and so the fees would be collected the next day. All through the day the coins simply sat in my pocket, but once school got over and I was outside, they began to speak. 

The author takes us many years back when he was in fifth standard at a government school named Kambelpur then and Atak, now. He tells us how one day he went to school with money in his pocket to pay for the school fees and fund. It had a total of four rupee worth of coins. Upon reaching school, he got to know that the teacher who was in charge of collecting the fees, Master Ghulam Mohammed, was absent that day. So, he was supposed to give the fees the following day. He carried the coins in his pocket all day but after the school hours, the coins began talking.

All right. Coins don’t talk. They jingle or go khanak-khanak. But I’m telling you, that day they actually spoke! One coin said, “What are you thinking about? Those fresh, hot jalebis coming out of the kadhao in the shop over there, they’re not coming out for nothing. Jalebis are meant to be eaten and only those with money in their pocket can eat them, And money isn’t for nothing. Money is meant to be spent and only they spend it, who like jalebis.”

Khanak-khanak- sound of jingling of coins 

Jalebis- syrupy Indian sweet 

Kadhao- large, open pot for cooking/boiling

The author accepts that coins, in general, don’t speak. All they do is, clank against each other to make a jingling sound. But, that particular day in the author’s life, they spoke! One of the four coins asked him what else he was upto when fresh, hot jalebis were being prepared in the shop near him. The coin told him that they are not being made without purpose, they are meant to be eaten and especially by those who have enough money in their pocket to be able to afford them. He said that money also isn’t for nothing, it is meant to be spent and especially by those who are fond of jalebis.

“Look here, you four rupees, I said to them. I am a good boy. Don’t misguide me or it won’t be good for you. I get so much at home that I consider even looking at something in the bazaar a sin. Besides, you are my fees and fund money. If I spend you today, then how shall I show my face to Master Ghulam Mohammed in school tomorrow and after that to Allah miyan at Qayamat? You probably don’t know it but when Master Ghulam Mohammed gets angry and makes you stand on the bench, he simply forgets to let you sit till the last bell rings. So it’s best you stop chewing at my ears like this and let me go home straight.” 

Qayamat- Judgement day  

The author replied and told the coins that he was a good and obedient child. He told them not to mislead him because it would do them no good. He mentioned that he was fortunate enough to get a lot from home, that even putting his gaze upon something in the market seemed like an immoral thing to do. Above all, he told them to maintain silence as they were for his fees and fund. He told them that spending them would be a mistake because he was supposed to face Master Ghulam Mohammed in school the following day, and he was also answerable to Allah miyan on the Judgement day.  He told the coins that they must be unaware but when Master Ghulam Mohammed gets angry and punishes someone, he makes them stand on the bench and very easily forgets about allowing you to sit till the school is finished. Thus, he advised them not to eat his ears with their blabbering and allow him to go straightaway to his home.

go home straight

The coins disliked what I’d said so much that all of them began to speak at the same time. There was such a clamour that passersby in the bazaar stared, eyes wide with surprise, at me and my pocket. The coin of those days, the wretched thing, made so much more noise too! Finally, in a panic, I grabbed all four of them and held them tight in my fist and then they were silent.

Clamour- loud noise

Wretched- terrible

The coins unfortunately did not like what he told them. Thus, they all began talking at the same time. They created so much noise that everyone in the market looked at him and his pocket with their eyes wide open in amazement. The author mentioned that the coins during those times made a lot of sound as compared to the ones we have today. In sudden nervousness, he took the four coins out of his pocket and grasped them very firmly in his fist which finally made them quiet.

After taking a few steps, I loosened my grip. Immediately, the oldest coin said, “Here we are trying to tell you something for your own good and you try to strangle us instead. Tell me honestly now, don’t you feel like eating those hot, hot jalebis? And then, if you do end up spending us for today, won’t you get the scholarship money tomorrow? Sweets with the fees money, fees with the scholarship money. End of story! Kissa khatam, paisa hazam.”

Strangle- squeeze or constrict

Kissa khatam, paisa hazam- end of story (literally: story ends, money disappears)

Once he reached a few steps further, he slightly opened his fist and the oldest coin suddenly began speaking about how they were looking out for his own good and how instead of thanking them or listening to them he is trying to squeeze them. The coin tried to persuade him further by  asking him if he himself didn’t wish to eat those hot, fresh jalebis.  Moreover, they told him that it wouldn’t be a big deal if he spent those four today because he was supposed to receive the scholarship money the next day. So he could buy jalebis with the fees and fund the money to pay the fees with the scholarship money. They made it all seem very simple and told him that money well spent would put the story to an end.

What you’re saying isn’t right, I replied, but it isn’t that wrong either. Listen. Stop blabbering and let me think. I am not a common sort of boy. But then, these jalebis are no common sort of jalebis either. They’re crisp, fresh and full of sweet syrup. 

My mouth watered, but I wasn’t about to be swept away so easily. In school I was among the most promising students. In the fourth standard exams, I had even won a scholarship of four rupees a month. Besides, I came from a particularly well-to-do family, so I enjoyed considerable prestige. I’d never once been beaten so far. On the contrary, Masterji had got me to beat the other boys. For a child of such status, standing there in the middle of the bazaar eating jalebis? No. It wasn’t right, I decided. I clenched the rupiyas in my fist and came home.

Blabbering- talking confusedly

Prestige- respect

Clenched- (of the fingers or hand) closed into a tight ball

Rupiyas- rupees 

The author told them that what they were talking about was not correct but he also knew it wasn’t completely incorrect either. So, he asked them to stop talking foolishly and let him concentrate. He thought to himself that he was not some regular boy and similarly, he realised that the sweets weren’t any regular jalebis either. They were crunchy, freshly made and loaded with sugar syrup.

His mouth watered at the thought of jalebis but he was not someone who could be easily manipulated either. He revealed that he was one of the brightest students in school. He even won himself a scholarship in his fourth standard examination. Thus, he received four rupees each month as a result of that. Moreover, he came from a financially stable family, so he was well aware about his privilege. He was also obedient, so he never got any beating as punishment. In fact, his teachers asked him to beat other boys. It led him into thinking that a child of such superior ranking, standing in between the bazaar eating jalebis won’t be such a pleasant scenario. Thus, he made his decision, held the coins tight in fist and went home.

inexpensive times

The coins were so keen on being spent that day, they kept up their attempts at persuasion till their voices began to choke. When I reached home and sat on the bed, they began to speak. I went inside to have lunch, they began to shriek. Thoroughly fed up, I rushed out of the house barefoot and ran towards the bazaar. Terrified I was, but quickly I told the halwai to weigh a whole rupee worth of jalebis. His astonished look seemed to be asking where I had the handcart in which I would carry all those jalebis. Those were inexpensive times. One rupee fetched more than twenty rupees does nowadays. The halwai opened up a whole newspaper and heaped a pile of jalebis on it.

Persuasion- coaxing

Shriek- utter a high-pitched piercing sound or words, especially as an expression of terror, pain, or excitement; scream

Halwai– sweetmeat seller 

That particular day, the coins were very interested about the prospects of being spent. They tried their best to convince the author even until they had to struggle for their breath. They began talking once again when he sat on his bed upon reaching home. When he went inside for lunch, they began squeaking and screeching, a lot. This made the author so annoyed that he hurried outside the house with naked feet in the direction of the bazaar. Despite being horrified, he asked the jalebi seller to give him jalebis worth a rupee. The halwai gave him a surprised look when he saw no handcart around him in which he would carry those many jalebis. Even one rupee could yield more than what two rupees in the present times. Those were truly inexpensive times. Thus, the halwai at last, grabbed an entire piece of newspaper to put jalebis on it.

 

II

Just as I was gathering up the heap, in the distance I spotted our tonga. Chachajaan was returning from Court. I clutched the jalebis to my chest and ran into a gali. When I reached a safe corner, I began to devour the jalebis. I ate so many… so many jalebis that if anyone pressed my stomach a little, jalebis would have popped out of my ears and nostrils.

Tonga– two-wheeled, horse-drawn vehicle 

Chachajaan- Uncle (often used as a respectful form of address to a man around the same age as one’s father)

Clutched- grasp (something) tightly

Gali– narrow lane

Devour- eat (food) quickly

His eyes fell upon their tonga as he was piling up his jalebis. His Chachajaan happened to be going back from the Court at the same time. He held the jalebis close to his chest and rushed inside a narrow lane (gali). As soon as he reached a secure area, he began eating his jalebis hurriedly (as he was unable to resist). He ended up consuming so many jalebis that if anyone applied pressure on his stomach, jalebis would come out of his nose and ears.

handing out jalebis to the children around

Very quickly, boys from the entire neighbourhood assembled in the gali. By that time I was so pleased with my stomach full of jalebis that I got into the mood for some fun. I started handing out jalebis to the children around. Delighted they ran off, jumping and screaming, into the galis. Soon a whole lot of other children appeared, probably having heard the good news from the others. I dashed to the halwai and bought one more rupee’s worth of jalebis, came back and stood on the chabutara of one of the houses, liberally distributing jalebis to the children just like the Governor saheb used to distribute rice to the poor and needy on Independence day. By now there was a huge mob of children around me. The beggars too launched an assault! If children could be elected to the Assembly, my success would have been assured that day. Because one little signal from my jalebi-wielding hand and the mob would have been willing to kill and get killed for me. 

Dashed- run somewhere in great hurry.

Chabutara- platform 

Saheb- a word of Arabic origin meaning “companion”

Mob- a large crowd of people

Assault- attack

Jalebi-wielding hand- the hand that held jalebis 

On seeing him with the jalebis, other boys from the nearby area gathered round him. He had been so full by that time, that he decided to have some enjoyment. He distributed the jalebis to children around him. It made them so happy that they began running, jumping and shouting in the gali. When others heard about it, they came to him too. When his pile of jalebis got finished, he rushed to the Halwai to get one more rupee’s worth of jalebis for the children. When he came back, he stood on the platform built outside one of the houses and handed out jalebis to the little children just like the Governor saheb in their area used to give away rice to the needy on the occasion of Independence day. At this point of time, he was covered with a whole crowd of children around him. Even the beggars came. There was so much excitement that it felt as if they were attacking him. 

He further mentions how if the children were to be appointed in the Assembly, he would have surely won with a majority that day. He says that the madness was such that even if he gave a single sign from his hand in which he held jalebis, the crowd would have killed and agreed to be killed for him.

I bought jalebis for the remaining two rupees as well and distributed them. Then I washed my hands and mouth at the public tap and returned home, putting on such an innocent face, as if I hadn’t even seen the hint of a jalebi all my life. Jalebis I had gobbled up easily enough, but digesting them became another matter. With every breath came a burp, and with every burp, the danger of bringing out a jalebi or two — the fear was killing me. At night I had to eat my dinner as well. If I hadn’t eaten I would have been asked to explain why I did not want any food, and if I had pretended illness the doctor would have been summoned and if the doctor, after feeling my pulse, had declared, Munna has devoured a mound of jalebis, I would simply die.

Gobbled- eat (something) hurriedly and noisily 

Summoned- sent for/ called

Mound- a large pile or quantity of something

He spent the remaining two rupees also on the jalebis and gave it out to them. When it all ended, he cleaned his hands and mouth using the public tap and went home with a face so innocent so as to not arouse any suspicion. He put on a clueless expression that conveyed that he had not even heard about or seen jalebis in his entire life. 

Next, it was not an easy task for his body to assimilate and digest the pile of jalebis, as easy it was for him to devour them. As often as he breathed, a burp came out of his mouth and he was scared to death with the fear of throwing out one or two jalebis. While this was going on, he was forced to have dinner as well because otherwise, he would have to offer an explanation for not being hungry. If he said he was sick, his family would call a doctor to get his check-up done and just by chance, if the doctor, after having felt his pulse, revealed that he had gobbled up a large pile of jalebis, he would have simply died with the revelation.

The result was that all night I lay, coiled up like a jalebi, suffering a stomach ache. Thank God I didn’t have to eat all four rupees worth of jalebis by myself. Otherwise, as they say, when children speak, flowers shower from their mouths but I would be the first child in the world with whose every word a crisp, fried jalebi would come out.

Coiled up- to curl oneself or something into a small, compact position.

After forcibly gulping in dinner when he was already full, he had to curl himself up in bed like a jalebi because of the resulting stomach pain. He expressed his gratitude on not having to eat four rupees’ worth of jalebis all by himself. Had it been the case, as it is famously said that children shower flowers from their mouths as they speak, but he would become the first ever child to throw out a crisp, fried jalebi with every word he took out of his mouth.

Children don’t have stomachs, they have digestion machines. My machine too kept working right through the night. In the morning, just like any other day, I washed my face and like a virtuous student, with chalk and slate in hand, I headed for school. I knew I would get the previous month’s scholarship that day and once I’d paid the fees with that amount, the jalebis would be completely digested. But when I got to school, I found out that the scholarship was going to be paid the following month. My head started to spin. I felt as if I was standing on my head and could not get on to my feet again even if I tried. Master Ghulam Mohammed announced that the fees would be taken during the recess. When the recess bell rang, I tucked my bag under my arm and left the school and simply followed my nose, walking on and on… If no mountain or ocean blocked my path, I would have kept going till the earth ended and the sky began, and once I got there, I would say to Allah miyan. “Just this once save me. Order a farishta to pass by and drop just four rupees in my pocket. I promise I will use them only to pay my fees and not to eat jalebis.”

Virtuous- good and noble

Followed my nose- go straight ahead 

Farishta– angel 

Generally, children’s stomachs are digestion machines that help them assimilate food faster. His digestion machine did its work all night in digesting the gobbled up jalebis and the dinner. The next day, he woke up in the morning, cleaned his face and went to school with a chalk and slate in hand like a good and noble student. He was aware that he was supposed to receive the scholarship money that particular day. He thought to himself that the jalebis would completely be digested once he paid his fee with the scholarship amount. As soon as he reached school, he got to know that the scholarship amount was now going to be handed out the following month. The news instantly made him feel dizzy. He felt as if he stood on his head and no matter how hard he tried, he could not get on his feet. Moreover, Master Ghulam Muhammed had made it known that he was going to collect the money for school fee and funds during the lunch break. As soon as the school bell for recess rang, he carried his bag under his arm and headed straight out of the school. He kept on walking in the direction of his nose. He walked for so long that he mentions if there were no mountains or oceans, he would have reached the end of the earth and the beginning of the sky. He says that if he could reach that spot, the only thing he’d do is pray to Allah Miyan to save him this time by ordering an angel to drop by just four rupee worth of coins in his pocket. He promised to use the money for paying for his school fees and fund and not by any chance, on the jalebis.

I couldn’t reach the point where the earth ended, but definitely reached the point where the Kambelpur railway station began. The elders had warned me never to cross the railway tracks. Fine. The elders had also warned me that one must never eat sweets with one’s fees money. How did this instruction escape my mind that day? I don’t know.

By walking continuously, he obviously did not reach the end of the earth but surely arrived at the beginning of the Kambelpur railway station. He had always been warned by his elders not to cross railway tracks. He sarcastically mentions that his elders have also not taught him to spend the money meant for school fees and fund on jalebis. It became difficult for him to understand how he could forget such an important piece of  information that day. 

 

III

There was a shade-giving tree beside the railway tracks. I sat under it and wondered whether there could possibly be a more unfortunate child than me in this world! When the coins had first created a racket in my pocket, the entire matter seemed so simple and straightforward. Eat jalebis with the fees money and then pay the fees with the scholarship money. I thought that two and two added up to four and could never be five. How was I to know that sometimes it added up to five as well? Had I known that I would get the scholarship the next month, I would have postponed my jalebi eating programme to the next month as well. Now for the crime of eating a few jalebis, for the first time in my life I was absent from school, and crouching in the shade of a tree in a deserted corner of the railway station. Sitting there under the tree, at first I felt like crying. 

Racket- uproar/ loud noise

Crouching- sitting (as if hiding)

Next to the railway tracks, there was a tree that provided shade under it. He went there and sat in the shade and pondered upon how unlucky he had been. At that moment, he thought of himself as the most unfortunate child in the world. He mentioned how it all looked so easy when the coins first began an uproar in his pocket. The plan of eating the jalebis with the fees and funds money and paying the fees from the scholarship money the following day seemed so simple. In his mind, he never thought that two and two could add up to five. This means that he had never thought that something that seemed so straight and simple, could ever go wrong. He confesses that if he knew in advance that he won’t be getting any scholarship money this month, he would have not eaten any jalebis. Rather, he would have put off the jalebi eating feast till next month. 

He calls eating jalebis a “crime” that has kept him away from school for the first time ever and had made him sit in a lonely corner of the railway station. Being there, all by himself under such circumstances, made him feel like crying.

drops of jalebi syrupThen I felt like laughing when it struck me that the tears I was shedding were not tears but drops of jalebi syrup. From the jalebis my thoughts went to the fees, and from fees to Master Ghulam Mohammed’s cane, and from his cane I thought of God. I closed my eyes, and began to pray

Cane- walking stick

One moment he felt like crying and the next, he felt like bursting with laughter on the thought that they were not tears that were coming out of his eyes, but droplets of the sugar syrup the jalebis were dipped in. His thoughts went from one thing to another very fast. He thought about jalebis, which led him to think about his fees, which further made him think about Master Ghulam Mohammed’s cane and that made him think of God. At this thought, he shut his eyes in order to pray.

‘Allah miyan! I’m a very good boy. I have memorised the entire namaaz. I even know the last ten surats of the Quran by heart. If you wish, I can recite the entire ayat-al-kursi for you just now. The need of your devoted servant is only the fee money that I ate the jalebis with… So all right, I admit I made a mistake. I didn’t eat them all by myself, though I fed them to a whole lot of children too, but yes, it was a mistake. If I’d known the scholarship money would be given next month, I would neither have eaten them nor fed them to the others. Now you do one thing, just put four rupees in my bag. If there’s a paisa more than four ruppes I will be very displeased with you. I promise, if I ever eat sweets with my fees money again, then let a thief’s punishment be my punishment. So, Allah miyan, just this once, help me out. There is no shortage of anything in your treasury. Even our chaprasi takes a whole lot of money home every month, and Allahji, after all I am the nephew of a big officer. Won’t you give me just four rupees? 

Surats- verses from the Holy Quran 

Ayat-al-kursi- title of a verse in the Holy Quran

Treasury- wealth 

Chaprasi- peon 

In his prayers to Allah miyan, he specified that he was a very nice and obedient boy. He even had namaz learnt by heart. He also knew the last ten verses of the Holy Quran very thoroughly. He then offered to recite the verse, Ayat-al-kursi at that very moment. He shared his problem with God and told him how his servant only required four rupees to pay for his school fees and funds, which he had spent on jalebis. He confessed that he made a blunder. Although, he fed a lot of children along with him but he still agreed to have committed a mistake. Had he known that he would receive the scholarship money next month,  he would have never bought jalebis. He asked Allah miyan to keep four rupees in his bag and not even a paisa more. He made it clear that he only needed exactly four rupees to be able to pay for his fees.  He gave Allah his word on never spending his fees money on sweets and if he did, he would accept consequences similar to that of thievery. Mentioning that even though there is abundance of everything in his treasury,  he only needed four rupees. He specified that a peon earns a good amount of money every month and that four rupees were quite reasonable as he was the nephew of a superior officer.

After the prayer I offered namaaz, recited ten surats, ayat-alkursi, kalma-e-tayyab, in fact everything that I remembered. Then I blew over my bag saying Choo. Then, after saying bismillah, I realised that what they said was only too true — no one can erase what fate has decreed. Forget four rupees, there weren’t even four paise in my bag. Just a few textbooks and notebooks. One pencil. One sharpener. One Id card my Mamu had sent me last Id.

Choo- sound of ‘blowing over the bag’ (to ward off evil) 

Bismillah- in the name of God (words spoken before starting something)

Id- the festival of Eid

After saying a few words while praying, he offered namaaz, ten surats, ayat-al-kursi, kalma-e-tayyab and all the more he remembered. He then blew over his bag and said “Choo” out loud as if something had been put in his bag magically. After chanting the name of God, he checked his bag and concluded that once fate had been decided, it can be changed by none. He didn’t find four paise in his bag and at that moment, finding four rupees seemed impossible. All he saw in his bag were some textbooks and notebooks, a pencil, a sharpener and a card which his Mamu had given to him on Eid.

I felt like crying as loudly as I could, but then I remembered that school must have ended and the children must be on their way home. Tired and defeated, I got up from there and walked to the bazaar and waited for the school bell to ring, so that when the children came out I too would walk home with them as if I had come straight from school. 

He wanted to burst into tears as badly as he could but it suddenly struck him that school was almost about to get over and after that, children would be on their way home. Demoralised and exhausted as he was, he gathered the energy to get up and move towards the bazaar. He awaited the ringing of the school bell and the children to come out so that he could walk home thereby, creating an impression that he had been coming back from the school.

I didn’t even realise that I was standing near the jalebiwala’s shop. Suddenly, the halwai called out, “Kyon bhai, shall I weigh a rupee’s worth? Don’t want jalebis today?” 

I felt like saying I won’t eat your jalebis today but, I’d sure like to roast your liver and eat that instead. But I wasn’t feeling too well that day, so I simply moved away. 

While waiting for the school to get over in the bazaar, he was not aware that he was standing not very far away from the Halwai that sold jalebis. Upon seeing him, the Halwai asked him if he should take out and weigh a rupee’s worth of jalebi for him today. Even though the boy wanted to say that he wanted to eat his roasted liver that day instead of his jalebis but he did not as he was not feeling a lot like himself. Thus, he simply walked away.

The next day I did the same thing. I got dressed and left home, went up to the school gate and then turned off to the railway station. Under the same tree I sat and began to say the same prayers. I repeatedly pleaded, Allah miyan! At least give it to me today. Today is the second day. 

He repeated everything the following day. He got up, dressed up for school and left his home. Upon reaching the school gate, he took a turn and went to the railway station. He sat at the very same place he sat the day before and began praying. He continuously requested him for the money. He asked Allah miya to give him the amount that day as he had been there for two days, asking for the money.

Then I said, “All right come, let’s play a game. I will go from here to that signal. You secretly place four rupees under this big rock. I will touch the signal and come back. What fun it will be if I pick up the rock and find four rupees underneath! So, are you ready? I am going towards the signal. One-two-three.” 

I went up to the signal and returned, smiling. But I could not find the courage to pick up the rock.

big hairy worm got upWhat if the coins were not there? But then, I thought, what if they were? 

Finally after saying bismillah, when I lifted up the rock, this big hairy worm got up, and curling and twisting wriggled towards me. I screamed and ran away and once again touched the signal. Then, crawling on my hands and knees, I reached the tree. I tried my best not to let my eyes stray towards the rock. But as I picked up my bag and was about to leave, I had to look once again at the rock, and do you know what I saw there? I saw Mr Worm coiled on it comfortably, staring at me.

Wriggled- twist and turn with quick writhing movements 

He came up with a game to play with God. He told God that he’d be going to the signal and till the time he reached there, he asked Allah miya to secretly keep the money under the huge rock. He felt how exciting it would be to find four rupees under the rock upon coming back from the signal. He asked God to be ready as he counted till three before moving towards the signal. 

He moved towards the signal and returned with a smile on his face. He found it difficult to gather the inner strength to move the rock and see underneath it. He thought to himself what if the coins were not there but then suddenly, he changed his thought to what if the coins were there

He picked up the rock after chanting the name of God and found nothing but a huge worm covered with hair. The worm creeped out and crawled towards him which made him shout. He ran away and went to the signal. He came back crawling on his hands and knees. Although he tried his best not to sneak a peek besides the rock, he could not leave with his bag unless he took a look. Upon looking, all he saw there was Mr Worm, all curled up around it in a cosy way and gazed at him.

I walked away thinking, tomorrow I will do wazu, wear clean clothes and come here. From morning to noon I will keep reading the namaz. If, even after that, Allah doesn’t give me four rupees, I will be forced to learn how to strike bargains or make deals with Him. After all, if my Allah does not give me my four rupees then who will? That day, when I returned home, apparently from school and actually from the railway station, I was caught. The report of my absence had reached home. It’s useless to relate what happened after that.

Wazu- ablution (washing face, hands and feet before praying)

Thus, he walked away planning about the next day. He thought to himself that the following day, he’d do wazu and wear neat and clean clothes before going to the railway station. He planned on reading namaaz from morning till afternoon. He decided on learning how to negotiate and make bargains with God if in case his plan didn’t work. He thought who else apart from God would help him in fetching those four rupees. 

That particular day, when he returned home from the station, the news of his being absent from school had already reached home. He had been caught and he further mentions that details of what happened further are rather useless.

Well, whatever happened, happened. But up to the seventh or eighth standard I kept wondering, if Allah miyan had sent me four rupees that day, what harm could it have possibly caused anyone? It was only later that I came to the conclusion that if Allah miyan were to provide all for the asking, then man would, even today, be living in nests like vultures and crows and would not have learnt the art of making jalebis!

Despite all that happened afterwards, he reveals how he kept on thinking about the consequences till seventh or eighth grade, in case God would have granted him four rupees that day. A lot later, he realised that if Allah miya provided everything that man asked him for, humans would have not evolved and grown as they did and we would still be living in nests like vultures and crows. Besides, we would have also not learned the art of jalebi making.   

 

Jalebis- Question and Answers

 

Comprehension Check

1. Why didn’t he pay the school fees on the day he brought money to school?

A. The author went to the school with four rupees in his pocket to pay the school fees and the fund. When he got there he found that the teacher who collected the fees, Master Ghulam Mohammed, was on leave and so the fees would be collected the next day. 

 

2. (i) What were the coins ‘saying’ to him? 

A. One of the four coins asked him what he was upto when fresh, hot jalebis were being prepared in the shop near him. They told him that those fresh, hot jalebis coming out of the kadhao in the shop over there, they’re not coming out for nothing. They further said that jalebis were meant to be eaten and only those with money in their pocket could eat them, and that money wasn’t for nothing. It is meant to be spent and only those people spend it, who like jalebis.

 

(ii) Do you think they were misguiding him? 

A. The four rupee worth coins in his pocket were for his school fees and funds. His teacher who collected the fees, Master Ghulam Muhammed was on leave that particular day, so the author was supposed to submit the amount the next day. Thus, the coin’s advice on being spent on jalebis when they were actually meant for his school fees was misleading. 

Yes, the coins were misguiding him indeed, by persuading him to spend them on hot, crispy and fresh jalebis. 

 

3. Why didn’t he take the coins’ advice? Give two or three reasons.

A. Despite the coins’ best efforts to persuade him, the author did not take their advice. This was because, initially, he knew it was wrong to spend the school fees and fund money on jalebis because he had to submit it to his Master Ghulam Muhammed the next day. He knew that when Master Ghulam Mohammed gets angry and makes you stand on the bench, he simply forgets to let you sit till the last bell rings. He was afraid of him and considered him answerable to Allah miyan as well, at Qayamat.

Secondly, he was well-aware about how much he got from his home and he was so grateful for it that even letting his eyes fall upon something at the bazaar felt like a sin.

Thirdly, when he thought about what the coins were saying a little, he realised that they were not completely wrong either. He was firm and decided not to let himself get carried away so easily. So, he put a lot of thought into it. In school he was among the most promising students. In the fourth standard exams, he had even won a scholarship of four rupees a month. Besides, he came from a particularly well-to-do family, so he enjoyed considerable prestige. He’d never once been beaten so far. On the contrary, Masterji had got him to beat the other boys. For a child of such status, he did not find it right to stand there in the middle of the bazaar and eat jalebis. Thus, he decided not to listen to the coins’ advice and went home instead. 

 

4. (i) What did the oldest coin tell him? 

A. The oldest coin told him that they were looking out for his own good and how ungrateful it was of him, that instead of thanking them or listening to them he was trying to squeeze them. The coin tried to persuade him further by  asking him if he himself didn’t wish to eat those hot, fresh jalebis.  Moreover, the oldest coin also told him that it wouldn’t be a big deal if he spent those four today because he was supposed to receive the scholarship money the next day. So he could buy jalebis with the fees and fund money and can pay the fees with the scholarship money. They made it all seem very simple and told him that money well spent will put the story to an end. In the oldest coin’s exact words, “Kissa khatam, paisa hazam”

 

(ii) Did he follow his advice? If not, why not?

A. No, he did not follow the oldest coin’s advice. He told the coin that what he was talking about was not correct but he also knew it wasn’t completely incorrect either. So, he asked them to stop talking foolishly and let him concentrate. He thought to himself that he was not some regular boy and similarly, he realised that the sweets weren’t any regular jalebis either. They were crunchy, freshly made and loaded with sugar syrup.

His mouth watered at the thought of jalebis but he was not someone who could be easily manipulated either. In school he was among the most promising students. In the fourth standard exams, he had even won a scholarship of four rupees a month. Besides, he came from a particularly well-to-do family, so he enjoyed considerable prestige. He’d never once been beaten so far. On the contrary, Masterji had got him to beat the other boys. For a child of such status, he did not find it right to stand there in the middle of the bazaar and eat jalebis. Thus, he decided not to listen to the coins’ advice and went home instead.

 

5. He reached home with the coins in his pocket. What happened then?

A. The coins were so keen on being spent that day, they kept up their attempts at persuasion till their voices began to choke. When he reached home and sat on the bed, they began to speak. As he went inside to have lunch, they began to shriek. Thoroughly fed up, he rushed out of the house barefoot and ran towards the bazaar. Terrified he was, but quickly he told the halwai to weigh a whole rupee worth of jalebis. Halwai’s astonished look seemed to be asking where he had the handcart in which he would carry all those jalebis. The halwai opened up a whole newspaper and heaped a pile of jalebis on it. 

 

6. (i) Why didn’t he eat all the jalebis he had bought? 

A. At first, he bought a rupee’s worth of jalebis. Upon devouring some of them for a while, he became full. He ate so many jalebis that if anyone pressed his stomach a little, jalebis would have popped out of his ears and nostrils. Thus, he could only eat that many in his capacity and this is why he didn’t eat all the jalebis he had bought.

 

(ii) What did he do with the remaining jalebis?

A. Upon having devoured the jalebis, he found out that the boys from the entire neighbourhood had assembled in the gali. By that time he was so pleased with his stomach full of jalebis that he got into the mood for some fun. He started handing out jalebis to the children around. Soon a whole lot of other children appeared, probably having heard the good news from the others. He dashed to the halwai and bought one more rupee’s worth of jalebis, came back and stood on the chabutara of one of the houses, liberally distributing jalebis to the children. Then, he bought jalebis for the remaining two rupees as well and distributed them. 

 

7. “The fear was killing me.” What was the fear? 

A. It was not an easy task for his body to assimilate and digest the pile of jalebis, as easy it was for him to devour them. As often as he breathed, a burp came out of his mouth and he was scared to death with the fear of throwing out one or two jalebis. Thus, “the fear was killing him”

 

8. “Children’s stomachs are like digestion machines.” What do you understand by that? Do you agree?

A. “Children don’t have stomachs, they have digestion machines.” This means that their body’s ability to break down food into simpler nutrients is much more than adults. Thus, their stomachs have been called “digestion machines”. 

Yes, I agree that children’s stomachs are like digestion machines. This is because of the high metabolic rate that they have as a result of being engaged in constant physical activities like playing outdoors. They also lead a stress-free life which keeps their organs in good shape. 

 

9. How did he plan to pay the fees the next day? 

A. As a result of being one of the most promising students in school, he was awarded with a scholarship in his fourth standard examinations. As a result of this, he received a sum of four rupees every month and for that particular month, he was supposed to receive it the next day (on which he was supposed to submit his fees). Thus, he planned on paying the money for his school fees and funds out of his scholarship money.

 

10. When it is time to pay the fees, what does he do? How is he disobeying the elders by doing so?

A. Upon realising that he won’t be receiving the scholarship money on that particular day, when he was supposed to pay for the school fees and funds, his head started spinning. He felt as if he was standing on his head and no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get back on his feet.  Master Ghulam Mohammed, on the other hand, had announced that the fees would be taken during the recess. 

Thus, when the recess bell rang, he tucked his bag under his arm and left the school and simply followed his nose, walking on and on. If no mountain or ocean had blocked his path, he would have kept on going till the earth ended and the sky began, and once he got there, he would have prayed to Allah miyan to save him by ordering a farishta to drop four rupees in his pocket. 

He couldn’t reach the point where the earth ended, but definitely reached the point where the Kambelpur railway station began. The elders had warned him never to cross the railway tracks but they  had also warned him that one must never eat sweets with one’s fees money. But despite their warnings, he disobeyed them by spending the money for his school fees on jalebis.

 

11. What was the consequence of buying jalebis with the fees money?

A. As a result of the crime of eating a few jalebis with the fees money, for the first time in his life he was absent from school, and crouching in the shade of a tree in a deserted corner of the railway station, which his elders had warned him against. 

 

12. His prayer to God is like a lawyer’s defence of a bad case. Does he argue his case well? What are the points he makes? 

A. His prayer to God is indeed, like a lawyer’s defence of a bad case. Yes, he also argued the case very well. 

He began with an introduction of himself as a very good boy and mentioned having learnt namaaz by heart. He specified that he even knew the last ten surats of the Holy Quran and offered to recite the entire ayat-al-kursi.

He confessed to Allah miya that he accepted that he had committed a mistake but he also fed a lot of children with those jalebis. He further pointed out that even if he shared it, doesn’t change the fact that a mistake had been committed.

He clarified that he only needed four rupees to pay for his school fees and funds and he would be displeased with God if he granted him even a paisa more.  

He said that since there is no shortage of anything in God’s treasury and even a peon earned a good amount every month, he, being the nephew of a big officer, deserved to have a sum of at least four rupees.

 

13. He offers to play a game with Allah Miyan. What is the game? 

A. He came up with a game to play with Allah Miya. He told God that he’d be going to the signal and till the time he reached there, he asked Allah miya to secretly keep the money under the huge rock. He felt how exciting it would be to find four rupees under the rock upon coming back from the signal. He asked God to be ready as he counted till three before moving towards the signal. 

 

14. Did he get four rupees by playing the game? What did he get to see under the rock? 

A. No, he did not get four rupees by playing the game.  When he lifted up the rock, this big hairy worm got up, and came curling and twisting wriggled towards him. 

 

15. If God had granted his wish that day, what harm would it have caused him in later life?

A. He concluded that if Allah miyan were to provide all for the asking, then man would, even today, be living in nests like vultures and crows and would not have learnt the art of making jalebis! Thus, if God had granted his wish that day, he would have fallen into the habit of asking God for everything instead of working for it. It would have stopped him from growing up and evolving into the best version of himself.