Radha's Prize: Andal Ananthanarayanan

Radha’s Prize: Story On Plant Growing

Radha felt happy and satisfied. She had decided to participate in the “Grow a Plant and Win a Prize” contest. She had no experience in growing plants but she was quite enthusiastic about joining the competition and winning a prize. She kept the whole idea a secret. Radha did not even tell her mother or her sister about her plan.

Radha’s Prize: Andal Ananthanarayanan

She knew plants needed soil and water and if you put the seeds in soil, they would grow. She was quite optimistic and did not expect any setback. So, with all the enthusiasm of a child, Radha took a small earthen pot and put some soil in it. She collected a few balsam seeds from the nearby park and put them in the soil, added a little water and kept the pot in a dark corner inside the house where nobody would notice it. Every morning and evening she would take a look at the pot.

Her joy was great when she spotted the small seedlings trying to push their way through the soil after two days. Four days later the plants had grown a few inches but there was something wrong with them. They all appeared thin and spineless and pale. Radha was greatly puzzled. The more she looked at them, the sadder she became and unable to control her disappointment, she started crying. First it was a low whimper and then a loud cry.

Her elder sister, Rekha, was surprised to see Radha huddled up in the corner, crying. After making sure Radha was not injured, Rekha asked her why she was crying. Radha kept quiet for some time, then slowly divulged her secret and her disappointment. At that, her sister smiled and said, “How do you expect the plants to grow normally in the dark? Put them in light and see for yourself.”

Radha smiled weakly and decided all was not lost yet. She put the pot in the window and went to school. In the evening, as soon as she returned from school, she went to the window and to her great surprise, she saw all the plants turned to one side. They all seemed to be trying to look out of the window. The next evening she found some of the plants growing crookedly.

She went to Rekha and said, “My plants are still not growing properly. I have put them in the window and they are all growing crookedly.”

My plants are still not growing properly. I have put them in the window and they are all growing crookedly
My plants are still not growing properly. I have put them in the window and they are all growing crookedly

Rekha said, “Silly, did I not ask you to put them in the sun? Put them in the courtyard outside and see what happens.” Radha did as she suggested.

Four days passed and to her great delight, all the plants were quite green and healthy. She observed how beautiful the tender leaves looked with their fresh green colour and serrated edges.

Radha looked in the small picture diary her mother had given her for her birthday. There were exactly ten days before ‘D-day’. She watered the plants daily. One day she noticed that in one of have been chewed away. Again, her plants seemed threatened.

She hurried inside the house and called Rakha. Her sister came and spotted a small green caterpillar that was chewing the leaf. Rekha immediately brought some white powder and sprayed it over the leaves. The caterpillar fell down from the plant and Radha heaved a sigh of relief.

Thinking about her plants that night she wondered how long it would take them to flower. She was friendly with the neighbor’s maali and decided to ask him what she could do. She somehow wanted them to bloom on ‘D-day’.

Next day Radha ask him quietly, without attracting attention.

The old gardener was very kind. He said, “Radha baby, see this white powder. This is very good for your plants. I will give you a teaspoon of it. Dissolve it in water and sprinkle it on the plants. Be careful and wash your hands immediately afterwards.”

Radha did as advised. A week passed; nothing happened. She became very restless and anxious. She did not want to miss the prize. She watched the plants closely and soon to her greatest surprise, she found small buds. Her hard work was being rewarded. Two days later she could see the color on the buds.

On the morning of the prize distribution, Radha could not control her impatience. She ran out at first light and there stood her plants blooming in all their glory, gleaming with dew drops. She looked at the flowers. They were really the biggest balsams she had ever seen and their color was also peculiar. They were mauve with thin white stripes. She wanted to take them immediately to the pandal (tent) where the plants were to be displayed but had to wait till 10 o’ clock. Then, dresses in her best clothes, she proudly took the pot to the pandal.

Even as she entered the pandal, people remarked about the lovely color of her blooms. None of them had seen such beautiful balsams and such big ones, too. As expected, Radha’s plants were judged as the best and she got the prize. The organizers said that it was a new variety of balsam and named it ‘Radha’!

~ “Radha’s Prize” story by “Andal Ananthanarayanan“; Illustrations by “Subir Roy

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