“They often come out in the evening, after the sun sets.” said Radhika.
“Do you know what colour they are?” asked Aditya
“Yes, some are grey and some are white.” she replied.
Aditya and Radhika were cousins. Radhika was eight and Aditya had just turned seven.
“Will you take me there, sometime Didi?”
“Sure, but can you reach for them?”asked Radhika.
“I can Didi. I can rise on my toes and touch them. I have learnt gymnastics at school.”
“Alright, but don’t tell anyone or we will get scolded.”
The children giggled.
Aditya was visiting his Mama’s house in the small town of Kathgodam at the foothills of Uttarakhand. He enjoyed being here. Radhika his elder cousin always had something interesting to share. Together they had shared many adventures and often got scolded.
This vacation, as soon as Aditya reached her home, Radhika pulled him aside and told him about the factory near their house.
“I am sure they make clouds.” said Radhika. “They make them and then blow them into the sky.”
Aditya was instantly interested. His school library was full of books and Aditya loved reading. . Books were a dream world for him and what was left in them to imagine, Radhika his cousin helped him fulfil with their vacation adventures.
So the plan was set – the first opportunity they get, she would take him to the factory. Aditya was excited. They let the first couple of days pass. The neighbours dropped in to meet Aditya and his parents, distant relatives and other cousins called them for lunch or dinner. Once the initial frenzy of vacation settled down, Radhika and Aditya were left with their own devices to play.
One such lazy afternoon the cousins decided to set out for their plan.
Aditya and Radhika ran across the fields towards the mountains.
“Didi have we crossed Ranjan Bhaiya’s field?” asked Aditya.
“Yes, but how did you know?” answered Radhika, surprised.
“It is the fourth one from the main road. I remember from our last visit. From here the air becomes cooler as we head towards the water spring.”
“Aditya, you are very clever. .”
“Yes, I am.” said Aditya.
The duo laughed.
“But I am better at sports Aditya. Let us run.” suggested Radhika.
Aditya did as told. Radhika held his hand and they ran across the fields. They reached a big brick wall and stopped.
“We have reached the factory Aditya but I don’t know how to enter it?” said Radhika.
“There must be a gate.”
“Yes there is, but two guards stand there.”
“Let us go around the wall.” said Aditya. “I have read that factories are spread in huge areas. There must be more than one gate.”
“Alright,” Radhika shrugged.
They tiptoed around the wall in the opposite direction of the guards. It was not a very big compound. The children found a small rickety gate.
“Yay Aditya, you were right there is another gate and …” Radhika stopped in the middle of her sentence.
“And what, Didi?”
“And it is locked.” replied Radhika with a sigh.
“So is there no other way we can go in?” asked Aditya.
“Actually there is, but tell me will you be able to climb a gate this high?” she asked.
Aditya laughed. “Oh Didi, How will I know unless we try. ” he remarked.
“Hmmm,” Radhika thought for a while.
She then held Aditya’s hand, raised it to his head and then about 6 inches more before saying, “You need to be this high to climb.”
“I think, I can.” said Aditya, pointing to some bricks lying nearby.
They went up to the gate. Radhika peeped in to see if the coast was clear. She did not see a single person around and right in front of her stood the tower which let out clouds into the sky.
“Aadu,” she called out elated. “The gate leads us to the Cloud Tower, the same tower which lets out clouds into the sky.”
“Shhh Didi, someone will hear us.” whispered Aditya. “Can you see the clouds?”
“Not yet. But I think it will start anytime now. Listen, I will help you climb the gate and then you sit on the wall. It is broad enough for both of us.” Radhika instructed.
“Why on the wall?” asked Aditya.
“Silly, when the clouds come out of the tower, we can stand up and touch them.” she replied.
Aditya was always amazed by Radhika’s presence of mind. “She may not be good in mathematics like me, but she is definitely very intelligent.” he thought to himself.
“Listen, if I see anyone coming, I will shout ‘Jump’ and you jump off the wall. We will run back home.” said Radhika.
“Perfect plan.” said Aditya nodding.
They walked to the gate. Aditya looked for a foothold and then climbed up. She and Aditya managed to pull him up the wall with only a few scratches here and there.
Like Radhika said, the wall was wide enough for them to sit. They sat side by side facing the tower. Aditya was quiet. Radhika was restless.
After a few moments, Radhika exclaimed, “Clouds! Stand Aditya you will feel the clouds.”
Aditya stood up along with Radhika. They both spread their arms as if to hug the clouds. The wind was blowing in their direction and so the big white cloud from the tower floated towards them.
“Can you feel them, Aditya?” asked Radhika.
“Yes, they are kind of warm which is surprising.” replied Aditya.
“Oh look, another big one, a bit grey though.” said Radhika.
“It smells like …” Aditya paused to think for a moment.
Just then Radhika raised the alarm. One of the guards had seen them and was heading towards the wall.
“Turn around and jump Aditya.” shouted Radhika.
Aditya jumped and landed on his feet. Radhika had a rough fall and hurt her knee but she bravely held Aditya’s hand and ran.
When they had crossed a safe distance, the cousins sat under a tree to catch a breath. Radhika checked her knee. The scratch was not deep but it was bleeding. Aditya gave his sister a handkerchief.
She held his hand for a while and then started giggling.
“The guard must have thought we will steal the clouds.” she said.
It was time to go home. The cousins walked back home, hoping no one had missed them.
“Didi there is a book in our school which says clouds are made of water and ice, but these clouds are warm.” said Aditya.
“Maybe they reach the sky and then turn cold.” said Radhika.
“Hmm … May be.”
They reached home to find Radhika’s mother looking for them.
“Where have you two been?” she asked.
“Here and there” replied Radhika.
“And where is here and there?”
The children were quiet. They did not know what to say. Then Aditya came forward and said, “We went to see the factory.”
“The new factory!” exclaimed Radhika’s mom. “You should have informed us. Children are not allowed inside factories alone.”
“We actually did not go inside.” mumbled Radhika.
“Good, if you both are so interested I will ask your father to take you there.” said Radhika’s mother.
The children smiled.
“Radhika what happened to your knee?”
Neither Radhika nor Aditya stopped to answer. They rushed to the terrace.
The sun was setting. Radhika saw more and more clouds coming out of the factory. How she wished they could have held the clouds in their hands!
As if he read her thoughts, Aditya said, “Didi when we grow a taller we will be able to catch the clouds. ”
The next day the cousins went with their family for a visit to the factory. While the adults were busy teaching them about the soaps and toothpastes that were manufactured there, Radhika and Aditya grinned at how less the elders knew; there was one more thing the factory made – Clouds!