Anuj was walking along the beach when he saw a baby turtle struggling on the sands. It had probably come in with the tide. The water had receded leaving the little one behind. Anuj bent down and picked it up gently. It was quite small and at the touch of his hands it curled up. Holding it, he walked to the edge of the water and waited for a wave. He then released it in the water and the wave carried the turtle away.
As Anuj watched, the creature emerged from its shell and swam away obviously enjoying its newfound freedom.
The next evening Anuj was once again talking a walk on the beach. The orange glow of the setting against the dark shimmering waters of the ocean created a beautiful picture. Suddenly he heard a strange voice. He looked around - the beach was deserted. 'Probably my ears are playing tricks on me’, he thought and continued his walk. After a few moments, he heard the voice again. It was coming from somewhere quite near him. He looked down. A huge turtle, the biggest he had ever seen was staring at him from a distance of a few metres.
Anuj stopped in his tracks, fascinated by the size of the turtle.
"Thank you, my friend," the voice seemed to be coming from the turtle.
Startled out of his wits, Anuj jumped a foot in the air.
"You….you can speak."
"What do you think I am doing now?"
"B…but turtles don't speak."
"But, I do and I want to thank you for saving Tillu's life."
Anuj looked down carefully. From behind the massive back of the 'mama' turtle was peeping Tillu – the baby turtle.
"W…welcome. I don't deserve thanks for that. Anyone would have done it."
"No, my friend. You will be surprised to know human beings can be very unkind and callous. Anyway I want to give you something as a token of our gratitude."
"My, you really use big words. You talk like my grandfather who is a retired professor. But you should not repay me for what I consider my duty."
"Please don't say no. Tillu will be hurt."
Anuj could see Tillu nodding vigorously.
"On my back is a ring. It is a very special ring. Please pick it up."
Anuj picked it up.
It was a simple ring made of brass with a stone in the middle.
"What is special about it?"
"When you wear the ring and utter the words: ‘tillu, illu, cheeky chum’, the ring will turn anything you want soft as rubber and when you say, ‘lappa, lappi rosy plum’, it will turn things rock hard.”
"But of what possible use will that be for me?"
"That you will come to know later. The only thing you have to keep in mind is to use the ring only to ward off evil or to help someone, never for harming anyone," the turtle said and turning back swam away with its baby in pursuit.
Anuj wore the ring on his finger and walked home.
Anuj lived alone with his grandpa in a small town close to the beach. His parents had died when he was very young. He was a student of class six in a residential school in the capital city. Tomorrow his holidays were coming to an end and he would be going back to his school and his hostel life.
A few weeks later, Anuj was coming back from form the post office. It was his birthday and his grandpa had sent him a postal order for five hundred rupees. He would buy a new cricket bat and with the remaining money a few books of his favourite writer Enid Blyton.
Anuj was a slim boy with curly hair, a wheatish skin and bright eyes. He was very good in academics and a dependable middle order batsman of his school's junior cricket team.
As he walked back Nanda and Peter his class bullies stopped him on the way. They were both a couple of days older to him and were tall and hefty. They couldn't stand Anuj and left no opportunity of teasing and irritating him.
"Hey, Pete! Look. Sissy has got five hundred rupees."
"Yes, yaar. Look at him clutching the five hundred rupee note as if his life depended on it. "
"How come your stingy grandpa parted with so much money, Anuj," taunted Nanda.
"That is none of your business. And how dare you call my grandpa stingy?"
"I can call anybody what I want, got it," growled Nanda.
"Birthday baby, birthdays are for sharing. So how about sharing the money with us," Peter said trying to grab Anuj's hand.
Anuj quickly stepped back and put the note in his pocket.
"You rascals if you dare touch me, I'll teach you a lesson you will never forget."
"Wha….what did you say," Peter laughed out loud. "Did you hear that Nanda, this little runt is going to teach us a lesson."
"Ha! This must surely rank as the joke of the millennium," sniggered Nanda.
"Okay, He-man Anuj, we'll give you a chance to clobber us, won't we Nanda," Peter said and pushed his face very close to Anuj.
Anuj stepped back and silently muttered: 'Lappa, lappi rosy plum' and struck with his right fist.
It landed on Peter's jaw and he staggered back yelping. "Ouch…ouch," he screamed clutching his jaw.
"You rascal, I'll tear you to pieces," shouted Nanda pouncing on Anuj, his fists flying.
Anuj muttered, ‘tllu, illu, cheeky, chum," and braced himself for the impact. Nanda's fists landed on his face like soft, velvety balls.
As Nanda stepped back, amazed that his famed boxing skills had, had no impact on his opponent, Anuj once again mumbled the pass word and landed a punch on Nanda's fat nose. Nanda howled and fell back his hands flying to his nose, which had turned a deep shade of crimson. The two friends looked at each other and then at Anuj for a few seconds. They then turned and ran back as fast as they could.
From that day neither Peter nor Nanda ever crossed Anuj's path. Anuj quietly warned them that if he ever found them bullying anyone they would get the same treatment.
The two bullies kept his words in their mind and the class was rid of their menacing behaviour once and for all.
And as for the magic ring? Well it stayed on Anuj's fingers for years together. He had to use it on only one more occasion, but that is another story.
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