by Gayatri Devulapalli
It was time for Arjun to come back from school, thought Esha glancing at the watch. So why wasn’t he home yet? She decided not to panic. Maybe the van got stuck in the traffic, she thought. She decided to wait for another five minutes and then go down and wait at the gate. Maybe she can find Sheela whose son also comes by the same van.
Then she thought to herself “Why wait for five minutes, it is better to go down if my mind feels uneasy”.
So she went down. Before she could reach the gate she noticed someone wearing the same school dress as her son’ sitting on the park bench. She went upto to him to find that it was Arjun himself.
“What is he doing here? Something must be wrong.” She felt puzzled and a bit angry at him for troubling her this way.
She first calmed herself down and decided not to shout at him or show her frustration. He was after all a eight year old kid. She went closer to him and only then did he look up. He looked worried.
“Hey, Arju why are you sitting here? Why didn’t you come home from the van?” She enquired gently.
She went for another route “Aren’t you hungry? I have made your favourite dish today. Can you guess?”
Still no answer.
“Ok, what happend at school? Is something the matter? Tell your Mamma, na.” She spoke in a very gentle manner.
He looked up then and she saw tears in his eyes. She was worried now. Weird thoughts entered her mind. Did somebody hurt him? She wondered.
“Are you not feeling well, Arju? Did anybody hurt you?” She asked.
Finally Arjun spoke up. “No, Mamma I am fine but I don’t want to go to school tommorrow. Please Mamma let me stay at home.” He was pleading.
Eesha decided not to push him further. “Ok, Arju. Let us go home first.You eat first and then we will decide about you going to school tomorrow.OK?”
Arjun nodded, but still insisted on not going to school.
They went home and Arjun finally forgot about his trouble and ate his food. But as soon as he finished his food he told her again that he wouldn’t go to school.
Esha decided to find out what was wrong. He had eaten at least. "Arju, tell me what happened in school today. Did the teacher say anything? Did you do anything wrong?.Tell me. Mamma won’t say anything.”
Arju shook his head and told her “No,Mam didn’t scold me. Why should she? I did all my math correctly and ate my food also.”
“Then what is it? If you tell me, I will know what is troubling you. Maybe I can solve your problem.But you need to tell me first,” She said.
Arju started, "Mamma....actually tommorrow I need to speak about a topic my Mam gave me in front of the whole class. I can’t do it. I am scared. All will laugh at me. I will forget everything. Mam will scold me.”
So that was the problem.
“Arju, you know there was someone like you who was also scared to talk in class. Do you want to know what happened with her?” She asked him rubbing her palm on his head fondly.
She smiled and started telling him the story. "There was a girl called Pooja. She also went to school like you. One day her madam announced in the class that there was a competition. They would be given a topic and all should speak about it for three minutes in front of the whole class. Whoever speaks the best will win a prize. Pooja was terrified. She had never spoken like that ever before. How could she? She knew the topic well, but will she able to speak in front of her class? Pooja started sweating. Her madam saw this and asked Pooja what was the matter. Pooja told her. Madam smiled and told her that this was a good opportunity for Pooja to get over her fear. Most of the time people fear crossing a rope bridge. But once we do cross it we realise that it was not that difficult. Her madam told her not to think too much about the crossing and instead think about how to cross it so that she can reach the other end in time. Madam insisted that Pooja also try and see. Pooja agreed.”
“Did she participate Mamma?” Arjun asked her.
Eesha took his hand in hers and said, “Yes dear, she did. The day arrived for the competition. She had listened to her madam. She prepared well first. She first practised her speech, and she kept repeating what she had to say many times. Her aim was to cross the bridge first. No matter what. With this attitude she went ahead with the competition.
Next day arrived. Pooja was the sixth participant. She went to the dais and gave her speech. After her speech her madam came to her, congratulated her for participating and showing courage. Pooja was elated. She had done something which she never dreamed of doing. She had spoken in front of a huge assembly. Her heart felt so happy that she had crossed the bridge! She told herself that next time she would also make sure she crosses the bridge correctly. She had become brave now. So Arju, do you see what I am saying?”
Arju looked at her and asked, “Mamma, you didn’t tell me if she won or not?”
Esha replied. “Arju, does it matter? She had won a battle with herself. Is that not the biggest prize? She overcame her fear and spoke which in itself was like a gift for her. But I will tell you anyway. She did not win the prize that day. But she did participate in all competitions in future and also win in some. She never feared speaking in public again. Do you want to know who she was Arju?”
Arju looked at his mother with a surprised look “Mamma, what you told happened in real? Who was it Mamma? Please tell me.”
Eesha smiled and replied “It was none other than your Mamma, my dear. It was me who was scared to speak and I overcame the fear. Tell me, do you still don’t want to try?”
Arju smiled and said, “No Mamma, I want to cross the bridge and see first. I will try Mamma.“
Eesha hugged her son.
“Ok Arju, run and get your book. Let's work on the speech first,” said his mother. ***