Today's story is very special and it comes from my dear friend, Dr Geetika Mathur. In this story, Venkat makes a new friend named Keshav. Keshav loves birds and studies in a school in Dehradun. Read the story to learn more...
Venkat's English teacher asked the class to write an essay on, "Learning from Friends". Here is what he wrote:
Sunday mornings are the best morning of the week. Amma makes something special for breakfast, and Nanna takes me on a nature walk to a nearby pond. Pragya usually makes a big fuss and wants to come along. As the walk is long, Nanna wants her to stay back and play at home till we return. Amma promises her one extra bedtime story for her of her choice. Pragya enjoys hearing stories, and I too.
This Sunday, it is slightly different. Nanna had to leave early for the office to attend to some important work. But he was very thoughtful and requested his old school friend, Mr Vijay, to accompany me. Vijay Uncle's son, Keshav, would be coming with us too. I was looking forward to making a new friend. Vijay uncle works in the Forest Department and knows a lot about plants and animals. I was super excited. I hoped Pragya would not make a big fuss.
The thought of going with Vijay uncle was enough to make me jump out of my bed. I was already brushing my teeth when I heard Amma's footsteps.
"Brilliant! You are already getting ready. I have made your favourite banana fitters, which you can enjoy with Vijay uncle and Keshav before leaving", Amma said. Amma was very happy to see me out of bed without being called. I know Amma so well. She is so caring.
It was 7 am. I heard the doorbell. I knew it was Vijay uncle. I rushed and opened the main door to meet my new friend Keshav. Keshav was slightly taller than me and had a white cane in his hand. He was wearing yellow coloured glasses. He looked so smart and neatly dressed.
Vijay Uncle introduced us to each other. "Keshav, please put out your hand Venkat wants to greet", said Vijay Uncle. With a warm handshake, we started our conversation.
"I am Venkat", I said. I was not sure what to say.
"I am Keshav, please do not mind my different mannerisms as I have difficulty in seeing", he replied. I was not sure how to respond to this statement as I did not want to hurt Keshav's feelings.
Vijay Uncle understood. So he explained, "Keshav has some vision problems and cannot see very clearly and has a hazy vision like seeing through a plastic bottle filled with water".
"Oh I am sorry", I said.
"No need to say sorry Venkat, it is all right", Keshav replied in a very polite tone. Then he added, "You know, I study in a special school in Dehradun where there are many children like me. I am here with my parents because my school is closed because of the pandemic".
"Oh! We learned about Braille in school. Do you have textbooks in Braille?" I asked. I was curious.
"Yes, we read and write in Braille. It is made of dots. You will find it very interesting and different. You must visit my house one day, I can show you. Braille script was invented by Louis Braille, who was blind himself", Keshav explained.
"Can I also learn Braille", I asked.
"Yes, of course!" replied Keshav.
I could hear Amma calling all of us to have something before leaving. I could hear Pragya in the background asking Amma to let her accompany too. I wished Pragya would understand that maybe next year she will be strong enough to walk that distance and can go with us. Just this year, she has to wait. Amma whispered something in Pragya's ears. Pragya jumped and clapped her hands. I think it was the bedtime story promise. I am so happy to have an understanding little sister, who listens to all of us.
We sat down to have breakfast. Pragya and I watched intently as Vijay Uncle served Keshav his breakfast. Uncle also gave clear instructions to Keshav, "Banana fitters on 12 o'clock, upma on 3 o'clock, idli on 6 o'clock and chutney on 9 o' clock position".
Now Keshav knew exactly what he wanted because he could relate everything laid in his plate to the clock. He joined us in having the delicious breakfast made by Amma. Vijay uncle explained that this is a universal way to serve a visually impaired person.
"That's so wonderful!" I exclaimed. I was sure it would be a great learning day for me. I was ready and took three minutes to wear my shoes. Soon, we were out of the house.
Keshav was so friendly and confident that I was very impressed. I had a feeling that we will be great friends. I asked Vijay uncle, "Can I walk beside him?"
"Of course Venkat, Keshav was looking for you. He told me that he is so happy to have a new friend", Uncle replied.
"Oh! I too feel the same, Uncle!", I said. I immediately went to Keshav's side.
"Will you be my guide today Venkat?", asked Keshav. I felt very happy and replied, "Yes, Keshav. But please tell me what I should do".
"Don't worry, Venkat. We are friends, aren't we? I will definitely tell you what I need".
We walked together side by side. Keshav held my arm just above the elbow exactly like we hold a glass in our hand. We both exchanged jokes and talked softly, sharing few secrets too. Soon, we were near the pond.
"It looks beautiful Keshav", I said quite loudly.
Keshav put his finger on his mouth and whispered, "Quiet, Venkat! My father told me that silence is the golden rule if you are in the wilderness".
A white-breasted Kingfisher sat quietly on a overhanging branch concentrating on his prey. My noise was enough to distract him. He took a flight and disappeared into the thick bush nearby. I felt really sorry. I should be more careful and should not disturb nature.
I heard a bird singing. Keshav pointed his finger in its direction.
"Just get the binoculars my father has and look there. Maybe you will spot a Koel", he said in a very low voice. I followed his instruction, and I saw the beautiful female Koel with spotted feathers.
Keshav whispered, "Try to focus on the eye. They have beautiful red eyes like a bead".
I saw that he was right. I was very impressed by my new friend." How did you know this?" I asked in surprise.
Keshav smiled and said, "I love to read. I am Mr Salim Ali's biggest fan. Did you know he is a great ornithologist? He is also called the "Birdman of India."
I thought to myself, "I need to learn a lot from him". I was thirsty, and I pulled out my water bottle. I asked Keshav if he wanted some. He accepted. We both sat down quietly on a rock listening to the wonderful music which the wind was making as it moved swiftly between the tree branches and the leaves. The soft ripples on the water made a sweet music to the ears too. The whole atmosphere gave a feeling of calmness.
Suddenly we heard Keshav's father breaking the silence. "Did you spot the Black Drongo?" Uncle asked.
"Where?" we both answered spontaneously.
"Right at the end of that old tree", Uncle said to me.
"Oh! What does it look like, Keshav?" I asked.
"It is small and black with a 'V' shaped tail. Do you see it?" Keshav replied.
"Yes, I see it. It has a long tail Thank you for telling me what to look for!" I replied.
We then together observed a few more birds and Keshav told me many, many facts. It was a wonderful bird-watching session.
"It is getting warm, and we should leave now", said Vijay Uncle after a while. We both nodded our heads and got ready to go. Vijay uncle and Keshav dropped me back home. Keshav and I promised to call each other on the phone soon. Amma came down to thank Vijay uncle and Keshav.
Vijay uncle said, "I'm very happy that you boys have become good friends. So, should we go again next Sunday?"
I was so happy for the invitation. "Yes, I would love to go", I replied. I said bye-bye to my new friend I went upstairs with Amma. I had so much to tell my family.
"So, what did you learn today?" Taatha asked me at lunchtime.
"I learned to observe nature in a new way thanks to my friend", I replied. "I have to be very quiet. And it's quite hard!" Everyone laughed.
That evening I asked my parents if I could have a book about Indian birds. My parents promised to get one for my birthday. Thanks to Keshav, I learned about birds and I hope I can learn Braille from him too!
We hope you liked the story. Please do send an email to share your thoughts! I loved Geetika Aunty's story. She has also sent us a word search puzzle. Please don't forget to try it!
Do you know any bird facts? What is your favourite bird? You can draw a picture or send us some facts to publish. As always, all reader submissions will be shared on the website...