About a month ago, a parent came to talk to me about his 15-year-old son. Boy’s name was Raju Mane*. The parent had shown up in his work-clothes… He worked under a civil contractor as a painter on daily wages… his clothes had patches of paint all over. He seemed very disturbed. His son, who studied in a local Marathi-medium school, had miserably failed in 9th standard. On someone’s suggestion, the father had decided to make his son appear privately the tenth-standard exams. However, he was a worried man. “Sir, my son is an intelligent boy,” he said, “Wrong company has spoiled him.”

A dear friend of mine, who taught high-school students, had suggested Raju’s father to see me. Obviously, my friend wanted me to help the young boy realize the root cause… help him improve his self-esteem… make him feel he was a good soul and had to discover himself… that, he could bounce back, if he took hold of himself…

The boy seemed willing to come to me… So, I took him into my fold.

Raju has been a good boy! He has difficulty in speaking and writing in English. But, he is very eloquent in Hindi and Marathi. I encourage him to open up and write a page or two every day on matters relating to his growth. “Just pour it all out as honestly as possible,” I prod him, “It will help you deal with your problems and show that you are a good boy.”

Raju writes in Hindi and, later, we both, translate his writings into English. Today, I asked Raju to write about all his friends – the good, the bad and the ugly – and tell us the impact each one of them had on him. “No one will read it except you and me,” I assured Raju, “So, write with all your heart.”

In less than an hour, Raju came out with a story – simple yet eloquent. It took us another thirty minutes to translate it into English. Here I share it… keeping it as it is except all names.

My name is Raju Mane. I study in tenth standard (Privately). I have many friends. Of these, some are good and some are bad.

My very first friend is Ramesh. He is ruined. Yet, he takes good care of me… Loves me a lot. If anyone troubles me, Ramesh thrashes him. He is my best friend.

My second friend is a very good boy. His name is Vikas. He is the best boy out of all. He is not into any addiction. He asks me every day, “Didn’t you go to school?” And, I tell him a lie, “The school has given a holiday due to rain!”

My third friend’s name is Nagesh. He is a very bad boy… always speaks using foul language. Even though he has grown so much, he doesn’t do any fruitful job or trade.

My fourth friends’ name is Kalpesh. He is just like Nagesh – eats gutka, drinks liquor and doesn’t go to school… Quarrels all day.

My fifth friend’s name is Jaanu. He is very different from others… Works… Doesn’t have any addictions…. Doesn’t do eve-teasing… He is one of the best in the lot.

My sixth friend’s name is Mithun. He too is a very bad boy… Drinks… does eve-teasing… But, does some work or trade…

My seventh friend’s’ name is Mandar. He is very scared of my dad… Even though he drinks and eats gutka, he never gets into fights. He makes everyone laugh.

My eight friend’s name is Prakash. We call him ‘Bahara’ (Deaf). There is a story behind it… One day, he came to our area and there was a flower placed on his ear. Since then, we call him ‘Bahara’!

My ninth friends’ name is Sunil. We call his ‘Doko’. This is because, when he was small, he had fallen on his head. He goes to school… and is not into any addictions…

My tenth friend’s name is Ganpat. We all love him. He always keeps us laughing. He only eats gutka… There is a great friendship between him and Jaanu. He always makes fun of Jaanu…and, Jaanu hits him hard… Still, they are very fond of each other.

My eleventh friend’s name is Lakhan. We call him ‘Lucky’. He is seventeen-year old. But, he eats gutka, consumes liquor, and eats tobacco… He is a very bad boy.

I have been in the company of these friends for years…Still, I haven’t got into any addictions or bad habits. But, now and then, bad words do come out of my mouth.

Jai Hind!

*All names changed

Do friends influence us? Did Raju ‘screw up’ (I love this expression) because of his ‘bad’ and ‘ugly’ friends? Raju is finding out…

Raju is a good boy, I said!


Pic.: Niyothi Lobo


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