“Hello, may I sit here with you, please? I am actually a bit tired, and this is such a lovely shade, urged Rusha, a bit pleadingly. She was on her usual early morning walk, when the sun had just about started to pop its head up the horizon. The sky was all a beautiful orange and red hue as a backdrop with the greens all alive, fresh and vibrant sending off the birds nestling on them, to their daily chores of finding food for themselves and their fledglings. Rusha loved this part of her day the most, where she felt completely one with the surroundings, merging with the universe as a mere constituent particle of energy, shapeless and fluid. She took a deep breath, with her eyes closed and face upturned, as if to breathe in all the energy around; with a calm, glowing face she then slowly opened her eyes and suddenly they stopped at a figure, lying all curled up, under a big banyan tree. Rusha walked across, to find a boy, barely into his teens, may be just woken up from sleep. He seemed a bit lost and there were the unmistakeable marks of tears, on his tender cheeks.

Seeing Rusha sitting next to him, the boy gathered himself up and fresh tears rolled down. Rusha gently stroked his head and tried to assure him of his safety.

“It’s fine, tell me where are you from? Have you lost your way? Your family would be so worried for you,”

“No! No! No one is worried about me. No one loves me. I am not good enough for them. They love only Rihaan dada. He is the best. Nobody loves me,” sobbed the boy and the sobbing grew louder and louder. Rusha hugged him, cautiously. After some momentary resistance the boy gave in, and cried his heart out. Rusha offered him some water from the bottle that she carried. The boy drank it all up. Rusha very gently suggested that they go to her place and they could talk. Her affection seemed to rub off on the boy, and he agreed. So Rusha and Rupam, the boy, walked back to Rusha’s house.

Rusha lived in a pretty house in the midst of nature, a couple of hundred kilometres away from Mumbai. It was a little out of the way from the main route. She actually came here only for the weekends. The weekdays were spent in Mumbai, doing a corporate job. She organised weekend get-aways for young children where she showed them ways to be friends with nature. She helped them connect with the surrounding in a real way to bridge the disconnect created due to the fast urban and mindless life. Here, for these two days, she would make them do their own work as much as possible; and show them the trees, insects, creatures around. In the evening they would just sit and talk; talk about themselves, their thoughts, their dreams, anything under the sun. Over time, Rusha had realised, how little real talking happened in any family. These talks were so honest that one would really get a peek into one’s mind and that was truly knowing each other. These conversations would be highly interactive and would act as a great stress-buster for all. Rusha could very subtly put across her own ideas into these young minds, and would gently nudge them to think. In the absence of aggressive and dismissive reactions the children would really put their minds to thinking, instead of getting into the mode of attacks and counter-attacks as would normally happen with their parents/guardians. Rusha had named these programs simply as ‘Friends.’

Rusha, with Rupam, entered the house to be greeted by the jumping welcome of Snow and Coffee, the two dogs living there. The five children, who had come for the ‘Friends’ program that weekend, came out too. Rusha introduced Rupam to everyone, and everyone sat down for breakfast. The children had prepared the breakfast. Everyone lapped it up hungrily. Rusha asked Rupam to make his entry in the register, like each child is supposed to do. Hesitantly, Rupam did so. Rusha had planned for a farm visit that morning where everybody would get to do some real farming. Rupam got naturally drawn into the group and set off for the farm with the others. Meanwhile, taking the mobile number from the register, Rusha simply messaged Rupam’s father, telling him that Rupam was with her, and was safe; and requested him to come over along with his wife, by evening. The whole day was filled with happy farming, where the children saw the vegetables growing in the farm, fruits on the trees, beehives hanging menacingly and even anthills which, she told them, were not homes for ants as the name suggested.They planted seeds without being fussy about touching the soil, climbed trees bare-foot and plucked fruits and ate them fresh. They ate simple meal cooked at the farm and learnt how to use a hand pump, as well as how to draw water from a well. Rupam was enjoying all this thoroughly, just as much as others, and it was so heartening for Rusha to see the children take to nature so easily.

Evening arrived, and Rupam was already comfortable with the other children. The evening interactive session was to begin. Rupam did not know that his anxious parents had already reached. Rusha had had a talk with them, and had asked them to stay in a back room. She actually wanted them to hear Rupam speak, without his knowledge. They had been out of their minds looking for Rupam since the evening before, and were still clueless as to how Rupam had reached there; but, on Rusha’s insistence, they had to be patient. The talking session began. Rupam’s parents, Vikram and Ila, were made to sit near the window in the next room from where they would be able to hear the children talk, easily.

“I think, we need to let Rupam talk first today,” started Rusha. “Even I have not heard details about all that has led him to be here with us, today. I met him today morning and all I got to know is that he feels nobody loves him. I am sure, that would be a very undesirable feeling for anybody to have. Can we all please hear Rupam out? Why does he feel so? I am sure he has a family so how is it that he says no one loves him? Many a time we do not like certain behaviour meted out to us, and over a time we infer things that may or may not be correct. So Rupam, please, can we hear what pains you?”

“You infer what you feel and you feel what you see is being done to you,” blurted out Rupam. “From the very childhood, I have only heard one thing - Rupam, look at your brother! See, how good he is! How can you be so lazy, and not even try? You never do anything wholeheartedly! At your age, Rihaan had been winning so many medals; everyone knew him, all the teachers also adored him and you, his younger brother, what are you doing? Nothing!”

With a flushed face Rupam carried on, “Please do not get me wrong. I love my brother. He is my hero, but I am not him! Each one of us is different, aren’t we? Do the adults not know this? At home, I am rebuked all the time for not reaching up to his bar of excellence; at school the teachers are after my life with “Rihaan was this, Rihaan was that, and look at you!” You wasting so much time on drawing? Where will this drawing take you? If you showed some more interest in the main subjects you could have done wonders, just like your brother.”

He paused to take a few sips of water, and looked around at the receptive faces that somehow seemed so understanding, and carried on, “Believe me, I am actually good at other subjects. In fact, I always rank among the top five in class. But alas! That is not enough.That is not good enough for any one around! I need to be the first, like my brother, or else I am lazy. I love to draw and paint, and I do it very well, but that is a waste of time. Each action of mine, all through the day, is observed and ridiculed, branding it to be not enough; why am I expected to be a Xerox copy of my brother or, for that matter, of anyone? If I fail to match the expectations, everyone will shout at me, be it at home or in school. How can anyone, who loves you, do this to you?” tears rolled down uninhibited, on Rupam’s face.

“To make matters worse, my parents will take the whole thing on a different tangent, making me feel guilty, by saying, “Can’t you see how hard we work for the two of you? We have no life of our own, we are just toiling to give you the best, and yet, you are such an ungrateful child. What should we do to drill some sense in you?” Rupam was exhausted with emotions and he just sat down with anger, helplessness and pain written all over his face.

“Rupam, I can understand your pain, for something similar would happen with me too,” lamented Ria, one of the children who had come to attend “Friends.” My parents would say that they are doing it for my good in the future, but I never understood how an unhappy present could lead to a happy future! I understand that our parents are our best well-wishers, but it would have been so much better if they could take care not to hurt us, while reprimanding us. As adults, if only they would know that anything hurting can never yield a positive result! But, maybe, they too get drowned in their own fear of seeing us fail. They expect a behaviour from us that is befitting their own age! Is this fair? It is not, but what can we do? They love us for sure, yes, they do, but poking us in the name of love, should not be desirable.”

“My parents understand me,” said Neil, “They take time out and talk with me patiently. They hear me out, even the most ridiculous of my thoughts, which of course I do not know at that time, and then they help me meander along, leading to some conclusions. Believe me, these joint conclusions are much more welcome to them as well as to me, than otherwise. But I talk to my friends too and I realise that, sadly, such open exchange of ideas rarely happen.”

Now Rusha butted in, gently. “All this while we spoke of something very relevant today. I totally agree with the fact that adults should never compare, and try to push for improvement. Wanting to better oneself should come from within, and should be a challenge for the self. In today’s busy world the parents many a time forget to be careful with their own thoughts, and allow fear to overrule and overrun their minds, leading to such undesirable behaviour. But it is definitely not right to infer that they don’t love their children. What unfortunately has happened is that, many of the parents do not know how to express their love in the right way. If as children we accept this, then we save ourselves from the pain of feeling unwanted and unloved. In this pain we, at times, take wrong measures and pay the price. Let us try to save ourselves from doing so and Rupam, someone is waiting out there for you.”

Rupam turned and stepped out of the room to be held in the arms of his parents, who were sobbing uncontrollably and unashamedly.

“We love you Rupam, we love you with all our heart. We love you and Rihaan both, equally. We have committed the blunder of trying to push you to achieve excellence like Rihaan, so that you too taste all the recognition and fame that he does. We now realise that, in the process, we have hurt you son. Please forgive us. We love you wholeheartedly and, all of you children here, you have opened our eyes. Love cannot be hurtful and no unhappy present can be the foundation of a happy future. We are really sorry, and thank you so much Rusha, for uniting our son with us.”

Everyone was teary eyed, and yet smiling.

“And we too want to join “Friends” for ever. We would like to come every weekend, and enjoy the nature with all of you,” said a smiling, wet-eyed Ila.

Author of the book “The Heart Speaks”, Medium writer since 2018, top writer in fiction, short stories. Loves writing, dance, music, children. Learner for life..