How Prakash turned over a new leaf

SHORT STORY

Prakash snatched at a twig from the croton. It refused to snap! He was furious. He yanked it hard, hot tears streaming down his flushed cheeks. His father had given him a stern lecture for scoring poorly in Maths, and Amma had said he would have to do without his favourite breakfast until turned over a new leaf.

Prakash turned his anger on the potted plants. He attacked them fiercely! Roses and dandelions came away, crushed. The leaves lay in sorry heaps. The petals were strewn all over.

Whenever Prakash got angry, he vented his ire on the poor plants. Perhaps, Amma would notice his act of defiance and give him a spanking. But he was beyond caring. One more spanking was not going to matter. “Serves them right for scolding me,” he thought. His friends had also fared poorly, but they weren’t hauled up so harshly! Prakash refused to go to school and lay in bed, crying.

One look at the mutilated plants and Puja was in tears. Gone were her weekend efforts to raise a balcony garden. She lavished all her pocket money on pots and plants. She wanted to put up a trail of money plants soon, but now her plants were a sorry mess.

“Amma,” she wailed. Sunitha heard her daughter sobbing and knew it was Prakash who had slashed the plants, but how could she console Puja?

“We’ll ask Appa to get you more plants. There is no use spanking him. He has been crying all day and he refused to eat too,” she said.

Puja went and sat by her beloved plants. “I love all of you,” she whispered to them. “I shall put in extra compost and you will be strong and healthy again!” She tied a tiny string to straighten a broken twig.

She wondered why Prakash was so unreasonable and decided not to speak with him for a few days.

The episode was soon forgotten as Puja and Prakash had new neighbours. A family had moved in next door. Much to their delight, there was a boy in his teens who loved listening to music and taking them ‘triples’ on his cycle!

Ashwin —  or Ashy as he was called — helped them with their homework and played with them. He could make tennis balls disappear into thin air. He was good at hockey too. Puja and Prakash loved their new friend. Actually, they hero-worshipped him.

Ashwin’s uncle stayed with him and whenever he came out of the apartment and passed their door, he would pull Prakash’s ears hard, or gave him a sharp knock on the head. The elderly man thought it was all in the spirit of fun, but Prakash hated such painful displays of affection! He didn’t know how to tell Ashwin’s uncle to stop treating him like a toy!

Should he seek Ashwin’s help?

Anyway, he had more important things to worry about. He had to do well in Maths after all.

Ashwin was such a good teacher that Prakash learnt quick, easy and fun ways to solve the Maths problems in his book.

When Ashwin’s uncle tugged at Prakash’s ears the second time that morning, Prakash decided that something had to be done! He marched up to his father and said, “Appa, can you tell uncle to stop pulling my ears or ruffling my hair so roughly? It hurts pa!”

Puja had been a quiet listener all along. Now, she piped in with, “Appa, uncle does exactly what Prakash does to my plants, but Prakash does not pull my plants to hurt them! He does it because he is unhappy.”

Prakash got a jolt. He decided to stop venting his unhappiness on the poor plants. He knew how terrible it felt when uncle knocked him on the head, or pulled his ears.

The plants must also be hurt when he tore at their leaves. They must be crying too. He went up to them and said, “I’m sorry. I will not hurt you. I will water you regularly. I will love you too.”

The next morning, Ashwin was at their door. He spoke to Appa, “Sir, may I borrow your scooter? I have given mine for repairs. My uncle wants to return to his village and I have to drop him off at the bus-stop.”

Even before Appa could reply, Puja and Prakash said, “Of course, you can take it! Here are the keys!” What better way to send the ‘head-knocking, ear-pulling’ uncle away?! Puja was happy that her potted plants were safe from Prakash’s anger, and Prakash was happy that his “tormentor” would be soon gone. All’s well that ends well, thought Amma with a smile.

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