There was once a boy named Anil. He lived in a small village by the forest. Anil would go to school in the mornings, but he would often spend his afternoons playing in the woods. Some of the villagers, especially older people would say that the forest was enchanted, and would refuse to go there, but Anil’s parents didn’t believe in that, so they didn’t mind the boy spending some time there before dinner.
Anil loved being in the forest. Sometimes he would just be sitting by the edge of the woods playing with rocks and sticks, sometimes he would invite other kids to build fortresses and dams over a stream, but he also liked to come here alone to sit quietly and listen to the soothing sounds of the leaves blowing in the wind and a gentle hum of the stream running over the rocks.
There was one tree in particular that he was fond of. It was a very old tree with a very thick trunk and multiple branches hanging overhead, creating a canopy of leaves with plenty of shade underneath. Anil thought of the tree as his friend and would talk to it often. He knew the tree was always there for him, listening kindly and embracing him protectively with its arms-branches. Anil felt free that he could confide any secrets to the tree and it would never betray him. What Anil didn’t know is that the tree spirit actually could hear him and was very fond of the boy also. The spirit knew all the secret wishes and desires that Anil shared with the tree and really wanted to help the boy fulfill them. You see, the forest was indeed enchanted. Because Anil would always ask it for permission when going into the forest to play or to rest, the forest was always treating Anil with love and respect, so he never had anything to worry about.
On one hot day, Anil was playing in the woods and got a bit tired, so he decided to take a short nap in the shade of his favorite tree. As he was dozing off to sleep, he thought how wonderful it would have been to find a playmate with whom he could share this peaceful experience of just sitting under a tree together and talking about everything in the world… Anil fell asleep for a few minutes, but suddenly he was awoken by the noise coming from the stream nearby. He has never heard it before in the woods, but it sounded familiar. It sounded like… he thought for a second, trying to remember… it sounded like… someone singing! Hmmm… that was unusual, especially since so few people ever wondered this far into the forest, so Anil went to look who it was.
The sounds appeared to be coming from the direction of a small stream running nearby. As he was approaching the stream, Anil noticed that the air around the stream was unusually foggy, as if thousands of shiny droplets of water were hanging in the air. As he approached even closer, he saw a beautiful double rainbow hanging over a stream. Anil paused for a moment to admire the view, but then the singing distracted him again.
When he parted the leaves in the bushes by the stream, he was very surprised to see a young girl his age. She was sitting on a rock with her feet in the water. She was braiding her hair, singing along as the waters were flowing by her.
Hi there!—said Anil.
Hi Anil! –said the girl and smiled playfully.
How do you know my name? —said Anil—I don’t think I ever met you…
I have seen you at the school many times… but you never noticed me—she said with a smile again.
Anil thought it was strange because he did remember all the kids from school very well—after all, their village was very small, but perhaps, she was new at school? After some hesitation, he decided not to pursue this any further. Instead, he said—Sorry, but I can’t remember you. And what is your name?
My name is Shani—answered the girl.
So what are you doing here, Shani?
I came to play with you… don’t you want a friend to play with?
I do… I was just surprised to see someone here, because so few people come to this part of the woods.
Well, I come here all the time. I love water! You can say, I practically live in this stream…
Anil couldn’t stand such a blatant lie—No, this can’t be true! —he said—I come here often, and I’ve never seen you here before!
That is true—replied Shani. You really didn’t, didn’t you?—she said with a light laughter.
The conversation, admittedly, was getting a bit strange, but the girl seemed nice enough and very cute, so Anil figured that he could spend a few minutes playing with her anyway. He said: So what kind of games do you like to play?