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(This story by Dr. Ms Cynthia D'Costa was 
published in the magazine 'Teacher Plus')

Priya lived in a small village named Vidynagar. She was quite excited. You see, her tenth birthday was fast approaching. This time she was expecting her cousins from the city to join her. Melosa, Aden and Seon had all said that they would surely come to her birthday party. “Maa, please bake a walnut cake. And for dinner, I would love some aloo parathas (Indian wheat bread with potato filling)!”

When Priya’s birthday arrived, she could barely wait for the clock to strike six in the evening when it would be party time. Auntie Geeta had said that they would be there by 5 p.m. Priya’s mother insisted that she sleep for a while in the afternoon. But hardly had Priya shut her eyes when she heard a loud noise. It seemed to come from the kitchen. Slowly she tiptoed to the kitchen and true enough the noise did come from there.

“You must all agree that I am the greatest! After all I let the walnut cake in to be baked,” shouted Darwazelal, the door of the oven.

“Oye Darwazelal, if I had not assisted, Priya’s mother would never have cracked the walnuts for the cake. Imagine a walnut cake without walnuts!” retorted Nutkhat the nutcracker.

“Well Nutkhat, all you do is something mischievous like cracking some one. I am important here because I helped to cut open the packets of flour,” screamed Katribai, the kitchen scissors.

“Katribai, you are known to cut others with your sharp arms. But I don’t do destructive work like that you know. I mould shapeless dough into the most perfect circles. If not for me, Priya would not have had her favourite aloo parathas today,” answered Chotti the roti maker.

Immediately Toaster the Boaster bellowed, “Chotti, I think Priya will prefer the crispy toasts that I have generated….” Without giving him a chance to finish, Pehelwan Pakkad flexed his muscles and said, “Sit quiet Chotti and Pehelwan. Both of you remember that the hot parathas and the toasts need me to handle them. Priya’s mother would constantly have burnt her fingers if I didn’t exist.” Suddenly all of them heard a giggle. It was Chammach Chachi the spoon. “Listen, if it hadn’t been for me, Priya’s mother could not have opened any of the storage tins.”

The next moment all were quiet. They noticed that while they were all fighting over whose contribution was the most important; Tarazu Tauji sat most serenely in one corner. Chammach Chachi broke the silence, “Tauji, why are you so quiet? Who do you think is the greatest? Give us your opinion, Oh Sir. After all, there is no one with a balanced mind like yours.” “Yes, besides, you are an epitome of justice. Your verdict shall be final. Speak out your thoughts, dear Tarazu Tauji,” joined in Pakkad Pehlwan.
“Well thanks for all your compliments. But I really do not know what to say to all of you. Don’t you realize that you are all from one family and fighting like this is unbecoming of you all?” “One family? We are all brothers and sisters. Impossible! How can some one as boastful as Toaster be my brother? Or how can that sharp tongued scissors be even distantly related to someone as cultured as myself?” asked Chotti, the roti maker.

“Well, all of you, sorry all of us, come from the family of levers. Look closely at ourselves. We all have a fulcrum. It gives us our balance”

“Hey I found my fulcrum. Here is it, the spot where my blades meet”. That Eureka moment exclamation came from Katribai. (She was sharp when it came to understanding how things work.) Very soon, Darwazelal discovered that his hinges were his fulcrum. Pakkad Pehelwan, Chotti the roti maker, Nutkhat the nut cracker--- all found their fulcrum. “I realize this is where our balance lies. This is the steady point that helps us work.” All this while, Chammach Chachi was quiet. “Don’t worry Chachi, you too are from our family. Very soon I will help you find your fulcrum,” assured Tarazu Tauji.

Tauji solemnly continued “…and then we all have two more important aspects- a load and an effort. The work you do depends on where the load is. The effort is something that a person applies to get the work done.” “Yes my load is in the centre. The dough is shaped into a ball and placed on my centre and then Priya’s mother presses this handle to flatten the dough, so I suppose that is the effort,” attempted Chotti. “That’s right!” confirmed Tauji.

“My load is at the spot where the nuts are placed and when someone presses the handles, I presume effort is being applied.” “Well the same goes for me too. Without an effort applied to me, I could not possibly be shut,” said Darwazelal.

“Absolutely right!” said Tauji “But then our load, effort and fulcrum are at different places. In my case, or in the case of Katribai and Pakkad Pehelwan, the fulcrum is at the centre and the load and effort are on either side. We are called first order levers. In case of Chotti, the roti maker, the load is between the effort and the fulcrum. And so is it with Darwazelal. They are called second order levers. So you see I don’t think it is right to be fighting over who is the greatest. In our own way, we are all great as we can make difficult work easy.”

“Do I belong to your family?” whined Chammach Chachi. “Of course you do. Let me explain,” said Tauji. “When Priya’s mother uses you to open a tightly fixed lid, the end in her hand is where she applies an effort. You exert pressure on the lid. That is the load.” “I get it,” shouted Chachi “One part of my body takes support on the lid. That is my fulcrum, right?” “Now you get it. So you too are related to us. With her fulcrum between her load and effort, Chachi is …” Without waiting for Tauji to complete, the rest shouted in unison “….. a first order lever.” “Oh aren’t I glad to be related to a level headed and just person like you, Tarazu Tauji?” said Chachi.

Tauji smiled and said, “In fact, we have some more relatives, where the effort is in between the fulcrum and the load. They are called third order levers. For example, the fishing rod that Priya’s father uses has the load at one end, where the fish is caught. The fulcrum is his elbow where the balance is maintained and the effort is exerted by his forearm. We levers are extremely useful and help humans do their work easily. We are also classified as simple machines.” “I wonder, if I am in alien land!” That was Khulja Tim Tim, the bottle opener. One would think he was permanently yawning.

“Oh no, you are no alien, you are a second order lever with your load between your effort and fulcrum.”

“Who is a second order lever, Priya? I think you are dreaming. Get up, it is nearly four o’clock. Your friends Brainy and Brawny are already here. In a short while your cousins will be here. And then we will have a lovely party.”

Priya woke up with a smile on her face. What a strange dream! But how very informative! She went to the kitchen. Khulja Tim Tim gave her a wide mouthed smile. Katribai too had her blades apart. Pehelwan Pakkad had stretched his muscular arms. Tarazu Tauji was swaying a bit. Chammach Chachi stirred slightly. She listened carefully. They were all humming “Happy Birthday dear Priya.” “Thank you folks for the birthday wishes and thanks for assisting mother in the kitchen! Thank You for teaching me never to underestimate anyone. I realize that all of us with our virtues and assets can make this world a better place. You have made my day.” They continued to sing “Happy Birthday” and Priya was sure she wasn’t dreaming now!

Language and art skills
The levers want to wish Priya. Help them prepare a birthday card.

Observe different things in your house that make your work easier. Are there any levers in the list? Classify them as first order, second order and third order levers.

Life Skills
Discuss in groups: What qualities do each of the simple machines mentioned in the story possess? For Example, Tarazu Tauji is very composed. He seems a just person. Which quality appeals to you and why?

Surf the web or conduct a library search about the history of any one simple machine. For instance, find out when knives were first made? Where are they made? What metals are used to make knives? Find more about special types of knives like the Swiss knife, kukri, etc.

Invention time
What machine would you want to invent? What would you want it to do? Machines are supposed to make work easier—so what work would you want this machine to help you do? Draw a sketch of the machine and state its utility.