Today was a difficult day for Neeta. She was trying desperately not to lose her patience when her four year old daughter, Navya, was demanding a different story from her at their regular story time session before retiring to bed.
“I want something new, something I never heard before. Not the book today!”
It wasn’t a request, she was demanding it with full authority any four year could exercise. Her cute dimples were not helping either. She was clad in a pair of blue flannel pajamas and was snuggling to her mom’s lap. Once settled in , she looked above at her mother and blinked the obvious.
“Well, tell me a story for story time.”
It was pointless to argue about the tiring day and truth be told Neeta didn’t have the energy to resist. She just wanted her little one to sleep. So she put her mind to race for some thoughts and create a story.
“Ok, there was a girl who lived with her parents and …”
“Was she a princess?”
“This girl, was she a princess?”
“O good, I just don’t want to hear any stories that have kings and princesses, magic and rainbows, bunnies and doggies!”
“Ok, Ok, well she wasn’t a princess and you need to listen to the story.”
“This girl, Maya, was nothing special. She was an ordinary girl who liked to play a lot and read books. She loved reading stories and spending time with her mummy and daddy.She had a few friends too whom she would play with everyday. All in all she was very happy with the way things were.”
Then one day, her parents told her that she was going to move to a new place. She got very excited, she started dreaming of a new school, new friends and so many other new things she was going to get to do.
“Wow, that sounds fun! I have a new friend in the school who just came from a different city. I don’t know which but she seems nice.”
“Navi, betu you need to listen and not talk. Close your eyes and try not to interrupt now.”
“Her parents did move and she came to this new place where she saw things were different. People were very happy and loving and everyone were welcoming. She then went to her new school and realized that all the kids there were excited to see her because she was new. She wanted to be friends with everyone but she missed her old friends too.
She soon made friends and started her new life but she was finding something odd. She noticed everyone was faster and smarter than her. Soon the other kids saw her as someone who was weak in studies. They started looking down on her and that made her feel silly. She started missing her old home and friends more and more.
Slowly Maya realized, she did not like this place. She started making excuses not to go to school. Someday she would say she had a headache, other days she would say she was not well. Her mother soon noticed this and decided to go and see for herself what was wrong at school.
It didn’t take her mom long to realize the problem. She took Maya home from school that day and asked her how she felt in this new place.
Maya never told her parents anything. She used to keep to herself after school and would finish her work quietly. She slowly told her mom that she felt stupid because she wasn’t smart as others.The other kids had friends and their way of doing things was different from hers. She said she wanted her old friends back.
Her mom hugged her and said ” Why do you feel stupid? Is it because you think others think you are stupid?”
“Yes. I think I am stupid because everyone whispers when I cannot get the answers right. When I came here they were all nice to me but when I cannot answer, they look at me funny and giggle.They make fun of everything I say and sometime tease me for the dresses I wear.”
“Well, we can’t have that!” Her mom said; ” Look, lets spend sometime together and we will study together from tomorrow. You need to tell me what is bothering you so I can help and trust me you will be smarter than them one day. You are good at so many things. You are kind and loving, your scores in arts and music is the highest and no one can ever be as creative as you are. Subjects might be tough, but asking for help isn’t bad. Mommy can help you here. So from tomorrow, you and I will spend learning language together , ok? And you absolutely do not need to change the way you dress.”
“Ok!” Maya said when her mother hugged her tightly. “I thought you will be angry with me after you visited school today.”
” Now why would you think that? You are the best daughter I have. I love you no matter what! So always come and talk to me.”
Maya and her mom worked and studied together and soon Maya started to like school. She did well in her class and the kids there noticed her change. They stated to accept her more and slowly became friends with her. Maya felt happy too and told her mom that she now was liking this place.
So Navi beta, if you have a problem anytime, come to Mummy and tell me. Never ever keep things to yourself. Talk to me and ask my help; ok?
Neeta looked at Navya and saw her eyes were heavy; but she smiled sleepishly and kissed her. “I will mommy! I will come to you and tell you everything.”
“Ok, now close your eyes and sleep!”
Neeta slowly put the night lights on and closed the door behind her as her daughter drew the bed cover up and snuggled in like a caterpillar in a cocoon.
Neeta made herself a cup of tea after her daily chores were over and tried to absorb the silence. The moment she waited for all day ; a few minutes to herself when she could just clear her mind from all exhaustion and just relax like a sane human being.
And her mind slowly drifted to the story she told, except it was not created and was not true!
She would never forget how her parents moved from abroad to India.She had to leave everything behind. She remembered how she was made fun of for her accent and how kids imitated her when she tried speaking Hindi.
She remembered how her cousins and relatives would taunt her constantly for her dressing sense. Her parents never seemed to be bothered though, they were happy being back home. They loved her, provided for her but never seemed to talk to her.
She was told at school that she was weak in language and needed to scale up. She used to feign sickness a lot and the first time she scored low on a test; her mother scolded her. Never did Neeta mention to her mom how scared and rejected she felt. Never did her mom ask her what was bothering her.
She eventually grew and made new friends. She worked hard and even though she was labelled an average student, she did well in life. Her mother’s biggest regret during school days was that she was an average student but when she saw that Neeta did well in college, she accepted the fact that Neeta knew what she was doing. Neeta’s biggest regret was not having the relationship of friendship with her parents.
Neeta loved her parents but she had promised herself, that when she had kids of her own; she would never let them fight the world by themselves. She would talk and try to understand their problem.
At a tender age of four Navya had a mind of her own , special talents and surely one day she will have to face the music of the world. But Neeta wanted her daughter to know that she was special, even if she was average in studies, that she would never be told that she is weak, that no matter what happens she has a friend in her mother whom she can trust. She didn’t want to shield her daughter from the troubles of the world but wanted to prepare her to face anything. She wanted her to be confident and never doubt herself ever.
She peeked into her daughter’s room for one last time and saw her daughter’s content face and whispered ” you are my special daughter no matter what, I love you sweetheart.” And with that she retired to bed with a peaceful mind.