It was his tenth birthday, and Zakir felt very grown up. He was certainly excited, as his parents had given him a ‘Sports Bike’ with 12 gear speeds. He was lucky too as he had got to pick his gift and choose the colour of his liking. Black and Red it was and it sure looked ‘Spiffy.’ He couldn’t wait to get on to it this morning and try it out and he could imagine the surprise look on Nikhil’s and Sam’s faces!

He leaned across to his younger brother, Tariq and said, “Hey! Wake up buddy. It’s my birthday. Where is my present?” Zakir then poked Tariq in the stomach and ran out of the room. His parents wished him with hugs and kisses and ‘Amma’ their family maid handed him a brown paper bag shyly. He found two storybooks and exclaimed, “Oh! You didn’t have to Amma, thanks anyway.” Tariq then shoved a messily wrapped gift into his hand and slumped onto a sofa. There was a CD-ROM inside with a new game. “Cool! Thanks a lot!” said Zakir and ruffled his brother’s hair.

Once the excitement and breakfast was out of the way, Zakir got dressed to go and see his friends for a while. “Be back by noon,” yelled his mother. Zakir was zipping down the road within seconds on his new bike and as he rounded the corner he noticed all his school friends sitting on the culvert. They all gasped and crowded around him. “Okay, I will let you all take turns but promise to be careful,” said Zakir. Sam and he sat down and discussed what time they were all going to meet at the fast-food counter to celebrate the birthday. The other boys had a great time cycling around. “Let’s go up the hill near the haunted house and come back,” suggested one of the boys. “Yes! Full speed ahead!” echoed all of them and thundered off on their bikes.

What a wonderful time they all had even though some of them were very naughty and did some dangerous stunts. Zakir too showed off and did a ‘wheelie’ and the next moment he found himself in the ditch! He very quickly got up and ignoring his bruises, checked the cycle to see if there were any damages. “How careless of me to do this on my first ride – that too to a new bike,” he thought to himself. He was annoyed when he saw a scratch on the rear wheel.

“Gosh! It is 1o’clock already. I better head home or my parents will have a fit,” said Nikhil. Zakir knew he was late too and the boys charged down the hill in a tearing hurry. On reaching home, his parents looked at Zakir very sternly but they said nothing thereafter. Everything was soon forgotten when the delicious biryani made by Amma came on the table. What a feast they all had! Zakir then spent the rest of the day on the computer and played a game of chess with Tariq. By, 5 o’clock he was ready again to meet his friends. “Son, kindly use the watch on your wrist to tell time,” said Zakir’s father. “Yes Papa, I will…. sorry for being late in the morning. I will be home by 7 pm,” mumbled Zakir.

There was pandemonium at the fast-food counter after Zakir and his friends reached there. The kids created quite a ruckus and the poor attendant looked harried with all the orders! The girls wanted milk shakes while the boys wanted cokes! Some wanted pizzas while others wanted burgers and a few felt like eating samosas! A good time was had by one and all! In between all this someone borrowed Zakir’s bike and went off for a jolly ride.

Once the excitement was over, Zakir looked for his bike but couldn’t see it. He asked Sam and Nikhil if they knew where it was but they just shook their heads. Shweta then piped up from behind and said, “Rishab has taken your bike and gone towards the swimming pool.” Most of Zakir’s friends started to leave as it was getting dark and when Zakir glanced at his watch he was startled to see that it was nearly 7 o’clock! “I am going to be in big trouble today,” Zakir told Sam and Nikhil. “Don’t worry my friend, we will help you look for it,” assured Nikhil. The three of them went in different directions and decided to finally meet up at Zakir’s house.

Meanwhile, Zakir’s mother was pacing the floor and kept going to the balcony to see if she could spot Zakir or any of his friends around. She was getting angrier by the second but was equally worried too. And she couldn’t fathom the reason for the delay. “Punish the irresponsible boy –ground him for a week,” roared Zakir’s father.

All of a sudden three boys trooped in looking completely dishevelled and started talking at once… “Quiet! Speak one at a time and your excuses better be good,” growled Zakir’s father. “…And so Uncle, we finally found this incompetent fool near the supermarket. Imagine, busy shopping with someone else’s bike,” said Sam. “I think, I will have to call you boys incompetent as well,” declared Zakir’s father. “I do hope you have learnt your lesson.”

“You see boys,” said Zakir’s mother, “with age you have to learn to be responsible and value your family, your things…about time and most of all you have to be responsible about yourself. To respect the independence we give you, all of you have to show the elders that you are maturing and understand your duties. I don’t want to lecture you all on Zakir’s birthday but…we love you all dearly!” Sam and Nikhil called up their parents to inform them of their whereabouts and then sat down to gorge on some cake! It was time to call it a day and soon everyone settled into a lazy evening in front of the television. What a day it had been!

Word meanings:

  • spiffy: smart in appearance
  • culvert: a sewer or drain crossing under a road or embankment
  • pandemonium: wild and noisy disorder or confusion
Zakir becomes independent
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