That was Sinjini’s last day of seventh standard exam. She hurried towards the cycle stand, but was disappointed to find a puncture. She dragged the cycle to the repair shop located outside the school compound.
Where the road adjacent to the school took a turn, was Nattu’s cycle repair shop. His tin cabin leaned against a dwarf Gulmohar tree like a baby in mother’s arm. The protruding roots of the tree provided many sitting options for the customers. A bunch of old tubes hanging from the lowest branch gave away his address from a distance.
“Our exam is over. Going home we friends are to play the whole day. Uncle, please fix it fast.”, Sinjini announced in one breath even before reaching the shop.
Nattu was a small sturdy man. Half-bald. His dress, stitched at places, had grease all over. But it never smelt foul. Sinjini was always amazed by the swiftness of his hands. They acted like that of a magician. He had boxes with innumerable nuts, bolts, and washers of all sizes and shapes. His hands knew exactly which one to pick.
“Done, my girl.” As usual Nattu had fixed the puncture in no time.
Sinjini didn’t have money. Nattu repaired children’s cycles without any hard feelings. Children paid him at their own ease and pace.
After holidays, Sinjini went to the shop to pay for the repair.
“My girl, can you read it for me.” Nattu handed a document served to him by an officer.
“This road will be widened. The tree will be cut. You have to relocate uncle.” Sinjini muttered and left without meeting his eyes.
She was boiling with anger.
How rude! The road without the tree and Nattu uncle’s shop is unimaginable.
She shared this news with her friends. All her friends were equally upset. She motivated them to stage a protest in front of the Public Works Department. Next day they demonstrated with placards saying:
“Leave the roads,
Widen your minds”
“Listen to the kids,
Save the trees.”
The protest got some media coverage. Voices were raised from different quarters to value amenity trees. Other schools joined the movement. Sinjini emerged as the tireless campaigner for this cause.
When Sinjini got an invite to meet the Chief Minister, Nattu inspired her to cycle the distance. She was joined by hundred others on the way. This became an international headline. She became a household name.
On the New Year’s Eve, the locals had organized a function to recognize children’s unique effort. Sinjini had requested Nattu to join.
Sinjini ended her speech saying, “Thank you Nattu uncle for inspiring us. You are a magician. You showed us how small repairs can prolong life; save the environment.” She invited Nattu to the stage.
“Magic is something you made my girl. Thank you for saving my shop, my livelihood.” Nattu spoke from the stage with a lump in his throat.
There was thunderous applause. Nattu embraced Sinjini while fighting back his tears.
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