Paglu, as was his old routine, spent half the day with Neem and his bird friends. After coming from school he would quickly eat and take some green chillies for Harini, bread for Myna, fruits for Bulbul and Kahlua. His parents did not mind in the least as he came back home every day on time, just as the sun bid farewell.
He looked happier than ever before. Paglu ate all the wild fruits and other man-made sweets and soon developed teeth cavities. It hurt so bad that he hardly opened his mouth. Sour expression and a foul mood, is what he carried around. He stopped eating in the forest and kept mum, with one hand on his cheek. His parents tried everything, but the pain didn’t subside. The village ‘hakim’ gave him some medicines that helped a little, but did not cure the problem away. Neem noticed and asked what was wrong. Paglu told him how his teeth hurt and he couldn’t eat like before. Neem, being experienced, quickly asked Paglu to take one of his thin softer twigs and to chew on it for few weeks. Neem’s twig worked like a charm and cured Paglu completely. Since then Paglu, and entire human race, called Neem “The Medicinal Tree”.
Paglu was full of gratitude and, as children show affection, he started spending more and more time with Neem. He didn’t like to go back home and got grim when he had to leave Neem. He would often run away from school and spend that time at the forest. He often forgot to do his school work and the teachers couldn’t understand.To them Paglu was a smart child who was good at understanding when he applied himself to it, but lately he seemed to have completely stopped trying. He was mostly not in class or was found standing outside the classroom as a punishment. Paglu’s grades that were bad as it is, started falling and his teachers thoroughly complained. His parents couldn’t understand, and this time his father took charge and decided to investigate.
He followed Paglu for few weeks and noticed his routine. He saw that all Paglu wanted was to be with trees. He had lost interest in studies completely. At the end of two weeks of rigorous investigation father called Paglu and told him what he had witnessed. Paglu got scared. He didn’t want his father to stop his forest visits. Paglu’s father put him under strong provision, which allowed him to go to the forest only when he studied every day for at least one hour and improved his grades. Also, he had to attend all classes and complete his school assignments to teachers’ satisfaction. He was supposed to do well in his exams, which were few months away, else he would be barred from going to the forest forever.
How would Paglu do that? He was so far behind from his class that no matter how hard he studied he thought he would never get at par. This made Paglu even more disinterested in his studies. He couldn’t understand anything and grew desperate. Neem sensed Paglu’s trouble and also saw that lately he had started bringing his books to forest, but he hardly studied. He would open one book and would fall asleep or would get lost in his stream of thoughts till Myna intervened.
Weeks passed and Paglu didn’t seem to get any better at studies.
Neem thought that he had to help as they were best buddies.
Time was short as Paglu’s exams were a month and a half away,
But there seemed no help at bay.
Neem couldn’t directly ask Paglu to study more,
as he did not want Paglu to feel persecuted or pressurized anymore.
He knew that directly asking Paglu would only make him go in a shell,
feeling that nobody understood him very well.
Neem decided to consult grandpa Bodha. He sent a word along-with Kahlua, the clever. Grand Bodha, Kahlua, and Neem together thought of various schemes. Finally they mutually decided the best course of action.
Paglu came as usual, laden with his books, but his thoughts were elsewhere. He came and sat under Neem, offering bits and pieces of food to Bulbul and Harini.
Bulbul winked at Neem and he got his cue.
He asked Paglu, “Why are the skies so blue?”
Paglu looked up and wondered what is with Neem.
Neem smiled innocently as if this is how he has always been.
Paglu said “I guess because of light.
I remember teacher telling me something about its might.”
Neem probed Paglu to find out from his books,
and said “Also read out what they say about my good looks.”
Paglu laughed, conceded and opened one of his books.
He looked for the chapter on trees
and this is how, started his studies.
Neem made it a game and would enquire about things that Paglu studied.
Paglu would proudly explain for he hated defeat.
The trick worked and slowly Neem got him interested.
Paglu understood better now, for he was not as rusty.
His teachers saw him back in class,
and he was no longer lost.
He started loving his assignments and taught Neem too.
He told Neem about the big bird-like planes,
And the rockets that went up in flames.
He told about the different plants,
Those bear flowers that were purple and not bland.
He explained him about religion
And showed pictures of churches, mosques and temples.
He explained about spider’s web,
And how he spins it around to catch its grub.
Paglu’s grades improved
and even Neem could now add two plus two.
Having achieved what they had set out to,
Neem, Kahlua and Bodha smiled just like parents do.
Seeing Paglu improve and hearing his stories on how he got excellent marks in his exams, Neem and his friends all rejoiced. Grandpa Bodha made a speech in Paglu’s honor and about Neem’s friendship that reverberated in the forest, which was talked about for years to come. All trees joined in the celebration and showered Paglu with leaves as a way of applause. Paglu’s father was also pleased and gifted Paglu a brand new watch. Paglu had found what he liked most and decided to pursue that in future.
Paglu understood that if he balances his studies and play time then he could do both without sacrificing either. Thereafter, Paglu never skipped a class, never gave an assignment late and never got any place other than number 1 in his class.
Such is life. It brings its little twists and tales, but it teaches us a lesson all along its way. The village continued its life, like it always did. They didn’t know about Neem and Paglu and how they helped each others like best mates.
What happened thereafter to Paglu and Neem, I don’t know yet.
Maybe I will know after few years. Let’s see, let’s wait.