Papa and the two children went through the front door into a large room full of empty pots and seeds and gardening tools and bags of manure. The room had a dry, clean smell.
The room opened out onto a terrace covered with dozens of baby plants in pots. A flight of wide steps led down into a sunken garden where Meera and Rani could see even more plants - some in pots, some in the ground.
'So - this is it', said Papa. 'Your surprise pets! Choose a plant each - and let's take them home to show Mummy.'
'But plants aren't pets,' protested Rani.
'They can be, if you think about it,' said Papa. 'They need as much love and care and looking after as an animal.'
'Pets are alive!' said Meera.
'Well - so are plants,' said Papa. 'They grow, they need water, and food from the soil. They hurt when you break them or kill them. They grow beautiful with love and care...'
'But of course,' said Papa, 'If you don't like my idea, we can always go back. You don't have to buy anything if you don't want to.'
Meera and the Surprise Pet...continued