Once upon a time in the city of Melakia, there lived three adorable kids with their mummy and daddy. Their names were Lucy, Winston and Estella. But they were more popularly known as – ‘Mirror Lucy’, ‘Underwater Winston’ and ‘Dreamy Estella’.
You might ask, ‘what did the kids do to get those funny names?’
I will tell you that story but on one condition. At the end of the story, I will ask you a question. If you give me the right answer I will tell you another story. But if you don’t, you have to pay me back with three chocolate bars. Agreed? Okay then. Let’s start.
This story began on a Saturday evening. Lucy was five years old then. Her wavy black hair was braided on both sides and she wore her favourite purple frock that day. Winston was three years old. He wore a brown trouser and a t-shirt with the lion king’s picture on it. He kept wandering inside the house enthusiastically. Daddy had promised to take them to the children’s park in the evening. They were all getting dressed up for the outing. Mummy helped Estella to wear her yellow frock with embroidered white daisies. Estella was only one year old. For some funny reason, she kept repeating ‘duck’, ‘duck’ all day. Nobody knew why!
Then suddenly it happened. Heavy rain started pouring with thunder and lightning. The kids got scared but mummy assured them.
“It’s okay my darlings. It’s just the rain. “Lucy and Estella hugged mummy.
“But mummy we can’t go to the park in the rain. And where is our daddy? “Winston asked sadly.
“Daddy will be late, Winnie. Why don’t you guys play inside the house? I will make a big chocolate cake for all of you.’”
Kids were so happy they readily said ‘yes’. Estella said ‘yes’, ‘yes’. They decided to play tent game while mummy baked the cake. Do you know what a tent game is?
The tent game
As you might have guessed, to play this game we have to create a tent first. Kids had three blue chairs. First of all, they arranged these chairs in the form of a triangle and covered it with a bed sheet. Then they took their favourite toys, colouring books, story books and snacks inside the tent. Their toy, the big yellow duck always sat on one side, giving more height to the tent. Kids huddled next to the duck and played games. Some days they played secret passes. Other days they told stories. Estella was too small to join in the games, so she concentrated on her colouring books and snack boxes.
Kids have played this game many times before. But that day something special happened, something magical. When they started the ‘storytelling game’, to all their surprise the yellow duck asked if she could tell her story.
“Hi, babies… Do you mind if I tell you my story?”
Lucy and Winston were too surprised to say a word. They had never heard a duck speak in English. ‘Aren’t they supposed to speak in duck language?’ Winston hesitated. ‘But toy ducks are not supposed to speak at all!’ Lucy felt she was dreaming. But Estella was so happy to hear the duck speak. She went and hugged the duck calling her ‘duck, duck’. Seeing how the duck hugged Estella back with love, Winston and Lucy also relaxed.
“You can call me Mrs Duck. That’s what everyone in my pond used to call me.” Mrs Duck was silent for a moment, then continued.
“It was the time of Monsoons in India. My little pond overflowed with rainwater. Just like today, it rained with thunder and lightning. “Lucy remembered the thunder and lightning with a shudder.
“All birds in our pond tried to hide under the nearby mango tree. Monsoons were too cold and windy. If you were not careful, you could get caught in the winds. All the fishes tried to remain at the bottom of the pond. If you got caught in the overflowing water, God knows where you will end up.” Mrs Duck paused again before continuing.
“We waited like this for many days. We waited for the rain to stop. Then one day the rain stopped and the sun came up. The sky was clear blue with no clouds. But we had nowhere to go, no food to survive. Our stomachs grumbled saying they were hungry. We didn’t know what to do.”
“Then I saw it in the water, a light golden coloured breadcrumb floating towards us. I realized that the grumbling in my stomach was louder than ever. I looked around and noticed that nobody else had seen it yet. I started wading towards the breadcrumb very slowly, not even giving a hint to my friends. Then I pecked it and ate it all by myself.”
At this point, Mrs Duck started crying. Estella tried to wipe her tears, but she was inconsolable. Not knowing what to do, Winston and Lucy also came and hugged Mrs Duck. All of them cried together.
“I am a bad, bad duck. “Mrs Duck kept mumbling in between her sobs. “I did it knowing that my friends were hungry too. The fishes were hungry too. Still, I ate it all by myself. And you know what was worse? It didn’t satisfy my hunger. That’s the thing about doing evil things; it never brings us joy, happiness, peace or satisfaction. “Mrs Duck wiped her tears.
“Still at that time, I was haughty and craved for more food. I did not feel guilty about what I did. I was happy that nobody noticed me. But I was wrong. Soon wind started flowing. Snowflakes, flowers and sunshine started showering on my face all at once. My eyes were blinded by the lights. When I opened my eyes, ‘the wish fairy’ was looking at me. But she looked really angry.”
“She placed a golden crown on my head and announced –The golden breadcrumb chose you, Mrs Duck. I now announce you the queen of ducks, gooses and swans in our kingdom.
My heart sank. I knew that the breadcrumb didn’t choose me. I snatched it. But the fairy added- “But I must confess you are the most unworthy among them all. I saw what you did with your friends. You are so selfish. I wonder how you will rule the kingdom with fairness and selflessness. ”
Wish fairy thought for some time before speaking again. “I can’t deny your right to rule your land. But you need to be punished for your crime first. In a week’s time, you will lay three golden eggs. Each egg will be stolen from you. You will find them again only when somebody does three selfless acts of love for you. She gave me the rules and left without a word.”
Mrs Duck grabbed a breadcrumb from Estella’s snack box and ate it in haste. Only when she finished eating she remembered her mistake. She looked around at the kids feeling scared. But Estella offered her another bread to eat. Mrs Duck started crying again.
“I am a bad, bad duck.” She declared again. The kids kept hugging her nonetheless.
“Lucy, Winston and Estella, I am a very bad duck. I am unable to control myself when I ‘m hungry. But I rule my kingdom with righteousness. You can ask anybody in my kingdom.”
Mrs Duck looked sad. She wanted to ask the kids for help. But she felt they didn’t trust her. She decided to go back to being just a toy.
“Did you find the eggs, Mrs Duck?” Lucy asked her.
“No Lucy. Nobody trusts me now. Nobody will help me. My friends hate looking at my face. My people bow when they see me, but they grumble in secret.”
Estella kissed Mrs Duck on her cheek. She was too small to disbelieve her. Winston looked at Lucy for the final nod and spoke to Mrs Duck. “Tell us what we have to do, Mrs Duck. We will help you.”
“Duck, duck”, Estella agreed.
Lucy’s Mirror image
Three weeks passed since they heard Mrs Duck speak. No magic happened as she had promised. Nobody came asking for help. But Lucy realized something strange was happening at home. Mummy was always silent. Daddy had not come home for the last two weeks. She wondered if they were both quarrelling again. She chose not to discuss it with anyone. Winston was busy with his swimming classes. Estella was learning new words. But Lucy couldn’t concentrate on her assignments from school. She missed daddy and how he tucked her in every night. She missed daddy’s bear hugs.
Every night Lucy sat on the staircase looking at the grandfather clock hanging on the opposite wall. She waited till cuckoo said ‘It’s nine, it’s nine’. Some days she remembered Estella when she heard the cuckoos talk and smiled. Some days she missed her daddy too much and cried. At the end of the staircase, there was a mirror. Lucy sat in front of it some nights until mummy came to put her to sleep.
One such night when cuckoo had already said “It’s ten, it’s ten” Lucy sat in front of the mirror thinking about daddy. Daddy has scolded Lucy only once, for not sharing food with a homeless man they found on the beach. Lucy only loved her daddy more for scolding her. ‘If mummy and daddy kept fighting all the time, who will teach her all the rights things to do’, she thought. She could hear mummy’s sound from the kitchen. She was cleaning the dishes. Lucy thought of helping mummy, daddy would have done the same. She stood up to leave. Then she heard a kid’s voice calling her name. It was coming from the mirror.
“Hi Lucy”, she said smiling. Lucy was shocked.
“But you are supposed to talk only when I talk right?” Lucy asked noticing that the girl in the mirror was not mouthing the same words.
“That’s the rule and I follow it every day.”
“Then what happened today? ” Lucy was scared by her. “Wait…is this magic? ” Lucy asked the girl suddenly remembering Mrs Duck.
“I am your mirror image, Lucy. I am your replica in the mirror world. I have been watching you for the last two weeks. I understand what you are thinking. I miss him too.”
“You miss my daddy?” Lucy asks confused, then corrects herself. “You miss your daddy, my daddy’s mirror image!”
“Yes. Why isn’t he coming home? ”
“I don’t know.”
“Why don’t you call him on his mobile and ask him to come home?”
“I… I didn’t think of that.”
“Mummy is really angry with daddy. If I call him what if she scolds me? Mummy looks scary when she is angry.”
Lucy watched the mirror girl’s face fall into despair. She was going to start crying at any moment then. Lucy stopped her.
“Wait… I will call daddy.” Lucy promised her.
“What! When? “
Mummy was still in the kitchen when Lucy hurried to the bedroom to get hold of the mobile. She looked up daddy’s number in the contact list and dialled him. Daddy’s voice was surprised when he said “hi”.
“Daddy, it’s me, Lucy.”
“Lucy! Lucy!” Daddy was happy. “I missed you, dear. I missed all of you.” He started crying.
“Daddy… Please come home. Please.” Lucy pleaded.
“Lucy things are a bit difficult between mummy and me. She may not like it if I come home.”
“Daddy… Mummy is silent all the time. She is sad. We miss you. Please come home.” Lucy cried on the phone.
Next day children woke up hearing mummy’s laughter from the kitchen. Daddy had come home late at night. It seemed like he had finally learnt how to make mummy happy! He brought mummy’s favourite vanilla ice cream and oranges. There was a glow on mummy’s face. Children beamed with joy too. Estella started repeating ‘daddy, daddy’ dropping her usual rhyme ‘duck, and duck’. They ate breakfast together and decided to go for a dip in the nearby pond.
But before the dip, the kids took the golden duck to the mirror near the stairs. The whole mirror shone like silver and a golden egg emerged out of it. As soon as the egg touched Mrs Duck’s hands, it turned into a beautiful duckling saying ‘quack, quack’.
The Lotus Pond
Saturday dips in the lotus pond were Winston’s favourite time in the world. The pond was enchanting with its clear blue water and pink lotus flowers. He loved watching the swans and fishes from underwater. But that day it was more special. He was going to play in the pond with his whole family.
“He loves going underwater more than staying at the top,” Mummy exclaimed.
“It’s good that we took him swimming even when he was a toddler. I think he is feeling super comfortable with water now.” Daddy remarked.
Winston smiled hearing his parents’ commentary. He took another breath and went underwater again. He could see Lucy’s wavy hair floating in the surface and the sunshine that tried to kiss him underwater. Estella was still in her rubber rings. Mummy and daddy were helping her to float.
Winston was on a new mission that day. He wanted to explore the bottom of the pond. He was expecting to see underwater flowers, fishes and stones. But he was disappointed. The bottom of the pond was littered with some plastic covers and cups. The only beautiful thing he could find was a marble box with a lid. Winston decided to open it.
A long time passed since Winston resurfaced last. Mummy and daddy didn’t panic at first. They thought Winston was breaking his own underwater records. But after some time, they got too scared and dived into the water panicking if he was hurt. As soon as mummy and daddy went underwater, Winston resurfaced laughing at his brilliance. Winston winked at Lucy. The entire water surface sparkled like silver and the second duckling came out of the water. She walked to their house saying ‘quack, quack’. Lucy hurried to Winston’s side.
‘Are you hurt?’
‘No… I was just playing with the mermaids.’
Lucy and Estella moved closer to listen.
‘I found a white marble box at the bottom of the pond. When I opened it, the box took me to the world of mermaids, talking flowers and fishes. It was amazing. They were such loving creatures.’ Winston’s eyes were dreamy.
‘Did they ask you for help?’
‘Yes. Their story was really sad Lucy. Most of the fishes were falling sick. Mermaids were losing their scales. The plants were getting poisoned. All because of the plastic covers and cups people throw to the pond.’
Winston pointed to the heap of plastic covers on the other side of the pond.
‘I cleaned it all for them.’
Lucy patted on his back and gave him a hug. They smiled at each other.
‘Let me call mummy and daddy. They got scared thinking you got hurt or worse drowned.’ Lucy turned to inform their parents.
Winston stopped her.
‘Let mummy swim for some more time, Lucy. Mermaids told me that mummy was just like me till she got married. She used to come for a dip every day. They are mummy’s fans. Let them watch mummy for some more time.’
Daddy tucked in the kids for sleep that night and kissed them goodnight. Estella fell asleep right away. Winston and Lucy were too happy to sleep. They kept chatting till midnight. Suddenly they saw that a black swan sitting silently in their window sill. It was looking at Estella with contempt. Lucy and Winston held each other’s hands. They didn’t know what to do.
“I think the swan is trying to hurt Estella,” Winston mumbled to Lucy’s ears.
“That must be one of Mrs Duck’s enemies,” Lucy whispered an idea to Winston’s ears.
“On the count of three… One, two, three.”
Winston threw his pillow at the swan. It hit the swan right on its long, slender neck and it fell off the window sill. Lucy hurried to the window and locked it before the swan could fly back in.
‘Uff!’ Lucy wiped a tear from her eyes. ‘That was scary.’
‘True.’ Winston hugged his sister for comfort.
‘Look at that’. Lucy whispered to Winston’s ears.
The unicorn in Estella’s bed lamp was glowing in pink. Their cute little sister was smiling in her sleep.
‘What is that Lucy?’ Winston asked loving the pink glow.
‘It’s the third challenge, Winnie. It’s calling Estella. I think it’s happening in her dream.’
‘What do we do to help her?’
‘Nothing, I guess. Let’s wait and watch how it goes and pray that she dreams well.’
The church doll
Next day was Sunday. Mummy woke up Estella and dressed her up in her best Sunday clothes. Winston and Lucy woke up late. They slept very late guarding Estella till the pink glow had disappeared. They wanted to ask Estella what happened but mummy never left her side.
“You two sleepy heads, go take a bath. We are going to church with daddy.”
Mummy helped them to put on their best clothes too. Daddy polished Winston’s shoes and helped him to wear them. Mummy braided Lucy’s long wavy hair and put beads on it. Lucy loved how she looked. Winston looked really smart too. Estella looked like a doll in her pretty frock. For some unknown reason, she refused to let go of her favourite doll even after getting dressed up. Mummy allowed her to take it to church.
At church Lucy and Winston constantly smiled at each other. They were so happy to come to church with the family.
“The family that prays together stays together”, declared the priest. The children high-fived each other with joy. On the walk back to home, mummy said she had heard another version of that quote.
“The family that eats together stays together.”
“We did that too”, rejoiced Winston. “Nothing can break our family now.”
Mummy and daddy looked at him in surprise but soon joined everyone in laughing at the joke. Suddenly Estella got down from daddy’s hands. There was a family in the street begging for money. Among them a little girl was sitting in the pavement, naked, playing with mud. Estella walked up to them and gave the little girl her favourite toy to play. The little girl smiled at Estella and started playing with her new doll. Daddy was baffled. He took a few 100 rupee notes from his wallet and offered it to the homeless family. Compared to his daughter’s generosity, he felt his act was too small.
That night when daddy, mummy and the kids cuddled together and fell asleep in the master bedroom, they didn’t notice the third duckling walk out of Estella’s bedside lamp. And how was Estella supposed to tell her siblings about the beautiful unicorn that appeared in her dream! ‘Unicorn’ was still a big word for her little tongue.
Only mummy was sad when the big yellow duck went missing.
“It’s just… her eyes were beady black and wings were so soft. Those orange feet and beak, which quack, quack quackaty quack and walk, walk the walkaty walk. I miss her.”
Mummy stopped missing the duck when more toys went missing on the following days. Even though Mrs Duck got all her eggs back, the kids never stopped helping the people and magical creatures around them. They took turns to remind daddy to come home on time. They solved the silly fights between their parents. Mummy and Winston took care of the ponds. They put up signboards marking it as a ‘plastic free zone’. They also created mermaid shaped dustbins. Estella learnt more words and Lucy adopted a stray puppy that hugged her all the time.
Even though Mrs Duck couldn’t pay back the kids directly, she named her ducklings after the kids – ‘Mirror Lucy, underwater Winston and Dreamy Estella.’ When the kids tried to tell their stories to their friends, these names started becoming their nicknames also. Even though Mrs Duck left without even saying a proper goodbye, the kids never complained. They felt that their biggest wish had come true because of Mrs Duck – a family that stayed together and lived happily ever after. For that reason, they were always grateful to Mrs Duck.
Did you enjoy the story?
Shall I ask my question now?
Remember, if you can’t answer this one you owe me three chocolate bars.
Shall I ask?
Tell me, my little friend… What is the question I wanted to ask you at the end of the story?
Moral of the story
To parents and teachers –
A family that stays together and loves each other is the biggest gift you can give a child. Also, encourage your kids to ask new questions.