The clock finally struck 5 in the evening. It was time to see the sun in the backyard.
Rahul’s routine was fixed. He would come back from school by 2pm, complete all of his school chores and assignments by 5, and spend an hour outdoors in the garden, mostly just playing with his football… alone.
He had always been an introvert, a little too shy to make friends, interested mostly in video games and books.
The luscious grass, or the beautiful creatures like the doves or the nightingales didn’t draw him out to spend time in the garden. This habit mostly came from the fact that after a certain point of stressing his eyes for three continuous hours with books and technology, he needed some rest. Rahul loved to go out, relax his eyes, freshen up his mind, and resume what he was doing.
His parents never really paid attention to his aloof behaviour; their jobs kept them so busy that they didn’t have any energy left to focus on the son.
But his grandmother was concerned. She tried to interact with him, asked him about his activities at school, made him listen to music, sat with him in the garden so that he noticed the beauty of nature. She distracted him from just kicking his football with his knee in the air repeatedly. But until now, she hadn’t been successful. This worried her. She assumed time would sort things out, but not much had changed in all these years.
“Do you know why squirrels have stripes on their tails?”
Rahul was fiddling with the ball when his grandmother came out and sat down on the chair outside.
“I don’t know.” His lack of interest showed ruthlessly.
His grandmother didn’t stop; she still tried to start a conversation.
“Well, some versions of Ramayana mention, while creating the bridge to get to Lanka, a squirrel was helping the monkeys headed by Nal and Neel, who were divine architects trained by God Vishawakarma. Seeing squirrel carrying sand for the bridge to set up a pathway between India to Sri Lanka, some monkeys started laughing. The poor little squirrel was hurt. It went to Ram and sat near him. Ram knew the little squirrel’s dedication, and also how it was humiliated by some monkeys. He cuddled its back affectionately. Ever since, squirrels carry white stripes as the finger prints of Ram!”
There was a pause, overwhelmingly filled with silence. None of them spoke. Rahul’s grandmother was probably waiting for Rahul to react; Rahul had no idea how to react.
He saw a few squirrels running across the garden and maybe for the first time, he wanted to look closely at the white stripes on their back. Was this the connection with nature that Grandmother often spoke about? He didn’t know.
His reaction though was not something unexpected. When we hear a folk story, we tend to take it in a very unrealistic way. But when we witness it with our own eyes, in some way, it seems real; it sounds true. Our perspective towards it changes.
Rahul didn’t say anything. He just smiled at his grandmother. The kind of smile that said, “This story from the Ramayana is so intriguing and interesting.”
From that day on, he didn’t just come out with his football. He carried some nuts, to feed the squirrels. He tried to play with them. Initially they ran away. But soon they waited till he cuddled their back softly. His face lit up with joy because finally he had made some new friends.