John was only five, and like every other kid, he too was very curious about life, about the world. He had a ‘why’ for almost anything he would be said, a ‘what’ for everything he saw and heard. Every time he comes across something new, his eyes would sparkle, with wonder and excitement.
One day, at the supermarket, he noticed a lady, buying fruits. He loved oranges, and it was while admiring its bright orange colour and the bumpy round outline, that he noticed the lady. She could hardly bend over and had a tummy that was bulging out.
“Mommy, why is that aunty’s tummy so big that it is almost falling off? Is it going to burst?”, asked John.
“No Johnny dear, she is going to have a small baby, that’s all”, replied his mother.
“Is that where babies come from? Is that where I came from? Your tummy? But I thought you said that God had gifted you with me? Or did that aunty swallow her baby?”, asked john.
Hearing all these questions one after the other, and not knowing how to answer them, his mother stood there, clueless, as to whether she should answer or just change the subject. That was when she saw the oranges, neatly stacked.
“Johnny, enough questions for one day. Now you want oranges or not? If you ask me so many questions while I’m shopping I will forget things. Like now, I almost forgot about the oranges”, scolded his mother.
“What?? Noooooo…… I want oranges”, cried John, and that ended there.
A few days later, John was busy eating oranges, when suddenly, he had question to ask. He waited till his mom had finished talking on the phone.
“Mommy, if I eat too many oranges, will I turn orange?”, he asked.
His mother, tired from all the work and also, answering his questions, sighed.
“No my child, don’t worry, you won’t turn orange, but to be healthy you will have to eat other fruits too”, she replied, and went back to the kitchen, where she’d been making dinner.
John happily went back to what he was doing – eating oranges. He would put one slice completely into his mouth and then spit out the seeds. And sometimes he would break it into half, enjoy the bright orange juicy pulp, remove the seeds and then eat it. But this time, as he put the slice into his mouth, he did not notice the seed in it. And he realised it only after he had swallowed it.
Oh no, I’ve swallowed it. Oh nooo……. What will I do?? But then, why do we have seeds, when all we do is throw them away? Let’s ask mom…..
He went to his mother, but she was too busy. So he approached his sister, who was eight years old.
“Lily, why does fruit have seeds? We always throw them away, so why is it still there?”, he asked.
“Johnny, we might throw seeds away, but if you want a tree, you need to sow the seeds, which grow into plants and trees. We throw it away because it is not something to eat.”, she replied.
“Oh, ok. So that’s how it goes….. seeds are sown and they grow into trees.”, said John, still confused.
So……..what now? If what Lily says is true, then that means that the seed I ate will also grow into a big orange tree? Will there be branches growing out of my nose and my ears? What will I do… how long does it take for a small plant to grow into a big tree?
Seeing her little brother worried, Lily asked him,” What happened Johnny? You look like you just saw a ghost.”
“Oh no, nothing at all, but….. Lily… tell me how long will a small plant take to grow into a big tree?”
“Well, I’m not sure, but I think some plants don’t grow into tress at all, and it depends I guess, but it will take time.” said Lily.
Next day, at school, John was still deep in thought. He had just finished eating his favourite vanilla flavoured cream biscuits, when the bell rang and the short break was over. He stood up and wished his teacher as she entered the class.
“So children, how many of you love trees?”, she asked.
Around three fourth of the class raised hands. John, was not sure, whether he liked them or not.
“Oh yes! How wonderful to see that most of you like trees. Now can someone tell me, how trees help us?”’ asked the teacher.
“Trees gives us fooood” said one.
“They let us climb on them.”, said another.
“Oohh…. And also make tree houses!” said another.
“Yes yes yes, trees are so helpful, and patient. They provide us with shade, they give us food. They help us a lot, but what are we humans doing? Cutting them down and killing them. So remember children, trees are your friends, and you should love them and protect them” explained the teacher.
Even if they are inside your tummy? Ready to grow branches out your nose and ears…. Oh my god…. Wait … she said something about killing trees…. Is that possible…? By cutting them down… but how can I cut a tree that’s in my tummy? What if it’s not a tree yet……. Hhhmmmmmm….. But then ma’am said you have to love trees and protect them… Not kill them … does that include letting it grow in your tummy in case you swallow it – by mistake??
He was returning home, after school and still wasn’t sure what to do or what would happen – will the tree survive or simply die and save him a lot of worry. At last, he decided to do what he always does when he is worried: confide to his sister.
Yes, I’ll go talk to her. She always seems to have a solution. I’m sure she’ll help.
After patiently listening to what her brother had to say, Lily – who had been quiet all this while- burst into laughter. Seeing the hurt and confused expression on her little brother’s face, she explained, “Oh my Johnny, don’t worry, trees don’t grow in tummies, they grow in soil. So you’re safe, you won’t have branches growing out your ears.”
After listening to this, he was relieved to a great extent, but not really satisfied. He still had unanswered questions.
“Ok… but why? Are you sure? Then what happened to the seed I swallowed?” he asked.
“Yes Johnny, you don’t have to worry, trust me. Trees need certain…..things to grow, without which they cannot survive, and none of it is available in your tummy. And the seed you swallowed …….hmmm….. Well… you see… whatever you eat Johnny is dige-I mean… turned into energy… that’s why we eat.”, explained Lily.
“Oohhh… ok.”, said John.
Lily felt great that John’s smile had returned and that he didn’t look so worried anymore.