My father had changed seven houses in the last eight years. I was now moving to the eighth house and my eighth birthday was just a few months away. I had left behind many best friends in all these houses. In the last house one of my best friend was a frangipani tree which I had planted. I used to stand by its side and look at it longingly to see its first leaf sprouting. I used to water it in the morning and evening. I used to love when it rained as I felt my friend smiling with joy when the earth around it cooled. I could see my tree through the large bedroom windows even in the night. There was a white garden light fixed next to it by my father. At times I felt the tree too was watching over me.
I was eagerly waiting to see the first flower and inhale its fragrance. I know the smell of this flower travels a long distance. My grandmother had this tree in her garden. She told me that it is only the tree with white flowers which have a permeating fragrance. I used to gather all the flowers that fell to the ground and make it into a garland for my grandmother. She used to be thrilled to get such a gift from me. Did you know that my best friend was a baby of the tree that my grandmother had? She gave me a branch for me to plant it in my garden.
But my father was transferred again and I had to leave my friend behind. “ Can’t we wait till my tree flowered?”
Pa, “ You have now more than ten best friends and it is because we went to new places. So, probably a new friend is waiting for you in the next place.”
My mother chased me out of the house as she had to unpack and the last thing she wanted was me hanging around the house and getting in between her work. But as always I set out to explore my neighbourhood. My grandmother had warned me that since I was moving to a city, I may see things and places which I had never seen before and may meet new types of friends quite unlike my earlier ones.
Since I wanted to get a better view of the entire area, I climbed a mid sized neem tree and surveyed the area around. I suddenly saw this scraggly, boy with hair disheveled and rather outgrown hair ,join me up the tree. He started talking to me about many things and I was so fascinated by his talk. His mother worked as a household help in the houses nearby.
The other boys in the colony never included him in the games that we played. But he was ever willing to help us get the ball when it went into thicket of thorny bushes or when it fell into the gutter. He never complained that his clothes would get spoilt if he did this. And I could see that he did not do this to get included in the game. He was actually part of the game by helping us.
On Saturdays and Sundays when other boys were busy playing with the gadgets gifted to them by their parents, I felt lonely outside. But Lucky would always come up with some exciting games. One day he taught me how to make a bow and arrow with dried bamboo sticks.
I had a bicycle and Lucky would run alongside with me. My mother then offered to lend Lucky her bicycle whenever he wanted to ride it. But one day when he brought it back punctured, she was very upset with him and withdrew her offer.
I was gifted a binoculars on my birthday and I decided to take it during my bird watching trips around the neighbourhood. Lucky accompanied me on all these trips as he wanted an opportunity to look through the binoculars. He would always spot the bird first by the rustle in the leaves of the branches or through birdcalls. He seemed to know where birds lived, about their behavior and almost everything about them.
Then he would tell me “Hey look there ! There is a rose ringed parrot.”
I would then fumble with my binoculars and by the time I focused on the place that he pointed, the bird would have flown away. I decided to put the binoculars back into its large pouch and both of us started enjoying the birds with our naked eye. We saw more than the birds with our shared vision and togetherness.
When the rainy season started, all the children remained indoors. I could never resist getting wet in the rains. I found Lucky too shared the same passion. So we soaked ourselves wet and built dams .
Sometimes Lucky was busy fetching firewood for his mother that he did not have time to play with me. But I would go with him on these trips into the scrub to pick the twigs. We decided to keep this a secret from everybody as me helping him get firewood would have put a full stop to all my freedom.
With every passing day we got closer. Now this became a sore point at home. I was asked as to how could I play with a child whose mother scrubbed the dirty floors or even cleaned the toilets of our homes. I told “ Then why is he playing with me as we are the people who dirty everything .”
I found this strange how I learnt many things at school that all human beings are equal and we need to love everybody. But everybody around me saw only differences . Lucky loved me unconditionally.
“If he continues to roam with that boy he is going to learn all the bad things from him.”
I asked my grandmother “Is good stronger than bad?”
She replied “ Where is the doubt? Definitely the good wins over the bad.”
I then promptly replied,” Then don’t you think that I would be able to transfer all my goodness to Lucky.”
The arguments at home continued …………………
And finally the day to move to another house came. Lucky’s mother came with her son to collect her money and any old clothes that we had to give away. She told my mother,” Amma, Lucky is going to miss Chota Baba. He learnt a lot of good things from him. He has now learnt to say some words in English too. This year I will try to put him in a school nearby.”
I stood by my mother’s side and felt that I was the lucky one to have him as my friend.