In some ways today was just like all other days. The sun shone brightly through the gaping hole on the wall they called a window. A faint little melody drifted from the kitchen. A song danced on mother’s lips. That was very unusual.
Bunty sprung out of his mat on the floor. He scrubbed his face, rinsed his mouth, finished his morning business and reached the kitchen. The usual plate of dry bread and a glass of fresh goat milk waited for him. He gulped them down and hugged his mother. She was positively beaming. He wondered why, but did not wait to ask. It was time again to chase the flag.
Several weeks ago, Bunty had spotted a group of foreign looking tourists climbing the slope on which his little house stood. But they were so far above him that he had to squint to see them against the glaring sun. As he had strained his little eyes, he had seen one man from the group stick something in the ground- a flag. Ever since that day, he’s been trying to reach there to find out what flag that was.
He filled his water-bag and kissed his mother on her dimpled cheek. He ran out behind his house and set off on his little expedition.
For the first twenty minutes or so, he almost never paused. He sprinted up the hilly terrain as if it were a smooth road. As it got steeper, he found that the going got tougher.
When he paused at his favorite boulder for a sip of water, another boy came along from a less trodden path. It was buried behind dense bushes, almost not visible to the naked eye. The boy said his name was Billu. Smiles were exchanged and some pleasantries followed. What better to do on a no-school day than to climb a hillside, they agreed.
Together from the boulder point, two boys scampered upwards with renewed energy. With many tales to exchange between them, covering a span of a little over a decade, they kept talking almost non-stop
Between collecting feathers and smooth shiny pebbles, catching fish in the little stream to talking about their favorite goats, the boys had much to say, even more to listen, and didn’t even stop by the scary looking ‘monster tree’, as Bunty called it, for a second water break.
When Billu slowed down, Bunty would tease him into a race and when Bunty slowed down, Billu would return the favour enthusiastically.
All this climbing, talking and the excitement of making a new friend slowly made the boys very hungry. They didn’t carry anything with them except water and when they stopped again, they decided it was best to make this attempt another time. Perhaps they could try to reach the flag together on the next no-school day.
When they turned around them, the sight was beautiful. There was something magical about the valleys around them. The air was perhaps a little crisper, or the wind just a little chilly or the sunshine a little warmer. Whatever it was, it definitely was magical.
As the duo looked down at the trail that brought them to this stupendously mesmerizing spot, they had the biggest surprise of their lives. Both of them rubbed their eyes a couple of times to make sure they really were seeing it right.
As they almost ran down the slope in glee, just about managing to not slip on the gravel and roll down the rest of the way, the boys saw the little flag fluttering far below them. They reached it and caught their breath; their eyes shone at the white dove on the flag. In all their excitement, they had crossed their milestone and did not even realize it.
A few hours later, that night when Bunty went to bed on his mat, he gazed at the half moon through the window and smiled to himself. Indeed, he was right that morning, in having felt something was very unusual about that day. He made a new friend, reached his little flag and pushed himself harder than he ever had. He remembered the highlight of the day- after a few animated moments when they celebrated their victory, albeit delayed celebrations, two pairs of eager little eyes looked upward for another flag to chase. The excited eyes spotted some remains of an old wall farther up from the flag.
Their calendar was marked for the next no-school day.
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