Wednesday, August 7, 2019

100 Rays Of Son - 87

A Friendly Encounter With The Other Kind

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One with nature

With Deb bringing up the topic of the black snake on facebook, I thought we should get it into our posts regarding Rayyan. Though our stay with my friends in USA has been short, it has been very memorable for all of us.
Not just Paula, but many people who did not know Rayyan had a different idea about him, before they met him. In fact, I myself was a bit apprehensive about how he would react to people there. I have seen boys here staring at girls with short dresses, and we were going to Florida in summer. I was wondering whether Rayyan would be shocked to see different dressing styles in FL and stare at them. But fortunately, Rayyan was more comfortable in FL than he is in India. In fact, he was much more communicative with people there and fit in as though he was from Florida and had visited India in the past years. He loved the food as well, though Farheena had tough time living without the typical Indian thali of rice, sambhar and other side dishes.
Before we were about to leave India, Paula had a list of instructions for us so that we would have a memorable journey without any hiccups. After all, this was our first travel outside the country and these two places were very different.
When it came to Rayyan, Paula hesitatingly made a request, “I don’t want you to misunderstand me but we do follow few rules in our home. He cannot smoke inside the house but can go to the pool area for smoking. Also, we are very strict about drinking”. As Rayyan is away from any of such habits of smoking or drinking even tea or coffee, I was kind of confused. We usually assume everyone knows what we know. “Pee, why should he smoke in the pool area?” I asked in confusion because why should Rayyan smoke at all, I was wondering. Now, Paula started explaining a lot of things about the rules she follows when I realized that she is assuming Rayyan smokes. LOL. Finally I assured her that Rayyan doesn’t smoke. Paula was taken aback and asked, “Don’t all teens there smoke like chimneys, especially something they call hookah and cigarettes that aren’t even safe?” I laughed out loud and said “No one in my family smokes and most of the teenagers I know do not smoke as well”. After a few days of our stay with Paula, Rayyan clearly became her favourite person, may be, even overtaking Farheena. She never expected to meet a teen like him. Yet even after a month, there were things about Rayyan that she did not understand and was about to learn.
Paula was very happy to have a person who loved to be out in sun and could enjoy it as well. Yes, that person was Rayyan. Farheena, Paula and I had tough time under the Floridian sun, which was much more intense than it was in the hot Byndoor. Somehow, Rayyan was always out in the garden and that is how he found the Blue Jay. Since he was out there, we could get the garden job done and it started looking beautiful. Slowly, we all started spending quite some time in the garden and got the work done. We also set up the ladybird garden, a project that all of us loved quite a lot.
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Paula enjoying gardening before the chaos started
One day, I heard a weird shriek from Paula and she got on the swing holding her legs in air. Rayyan was raking some dried leaves and turned towards her. “Rayyan, there is a black snake in that heap of leaves. I saw it get there just now. Hit it with the rake and please kill it before it kills all of us”. I did not understand even a word of what she said, but fortunately Rayyan did. I saw him slowly move towards the heap under strict gaze of Paula who was going to instruct me to save Rayyan in case the snake attacked him. With her position on the swing, I was sure we couldn’t expect any help from her. From where I was, I could clearly see Rayyan making sure that the snake is not there before hitting the heap of leaves. It was like he was creating a perfect balance of following Paula’s order and keeping the snake safe as well. From where Paula was, initially she assumed Rayyan is killing the snake, and in all excitement shouted, “Hit harder, hit harder.. don’t let it escape”. It was at this time that I realized there is a snake that Paula wants Rayyan to kill. I burst out laughing. What a weird hunter she choose for the job! Finally, the snake caught the hint that Rayyan was throwing at it and slowly slithered away to Diane’s garden. It slithered leisurely, as though it knew that Rayyan was not going to kill it.
Paula was very upset, “you had an opportunity to kill that evil snake and you let it go. If Diane is killed by it, you are responsible Rayyan”. Later we heard the story of how the snake had earlier appeared in the garden when Ladybirds had met there. Paula was very sure that all of them had defied gravity and run with both legs in air to the safety of the home. She told me to go and warn Diane that the snake had ventured into her territory. Diane on the other hand was very cool and said she had spotted the snake few times. It was the common ‘Southern Black Racer’ a non-venomous snake.
When I came back, Paula had calmed down and then started evaluating the situation. “Wasn’t I foolish to ask an Indian to kill a snake? You people worship it, right?” I was still laughing at the earlier drama and answered, “No, it is different Indians who worship snakes. Even they at times kill snakes. Rayyan doesn’t kill them. It is not about Indians but this is about Rayyan”. Finally I narrated to her about the animal stories of Rayyan and how he is not so afraid of the snakes. Farheena has never seen a snake in real, so I am not sure how she will respond. As for me, I am not too afraid of them, but they do scare me a bit. But, I have never seen anyone being scared of a snake like Paula was. So, finally Paula realized that Rayyan is not a hunter and cannot kill any living being.
We had hung a bird feeder in the garden as well. Rayyan was responsible for filling it up. One fine day we realized that the seeds we brought were empty, though we had not seen many birds visiting the garden. The next morning I decided to lay in wait to see those mysterious birds eating the seeds but I did not see many. There were just a few of them who were not much interested in the seeds either. Later, I saw Rayyan going towards the tree and putting few seeds in the feeder and moving away. Immediately, a fat squirrel came down and started eating the seeds at the clue. Rayyan did not chase it away but enjoyed the view. Finally, I had my answer.
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 Paula, again tried to explain to Rayyan why it is wrong to feed the squirrel but anyone can guess the effect of it.
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The hare
I had my ladybird friends in USA, but Rayyan had friends of all kinds. He fell in love with the pond full of frogs and fishes, the hare he ran into during skating, the tortoise he saw on the road, the snake that kept visiting the garden more often knowing someone liked him, the squirrel that had food given to him every morning and many more insects as well.
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The fish pond

 Though Farheena loved the dogs and befriended them, for Rayyan they were just another species of living being. I think, he is the only guy who can love any other animal as much as he loves dogs and cats.
There were lot many things Paula learned about India and this particular Indian during our stay there. Finally it was with very heavy heart that Jay and Paula said bye to Rayyan. Paula loved Rayyan even though he sided with the snake and fed the squirrel. Somehow, she found this side of him very endearing as she got to know him better as days went by. One day she told me, “Rayyan is the only person who I don’t feel like changing into a better person”. Coming from her, this is the best compliment he can get ever in his life.
Our friends have shown us that it is not the quantity that decides the bond, but the quality of the time spent together that creates those lovely memories.

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A turtle that ventured on road was put back safely in the bushes

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