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Greener grass on the other side!

Greener grass on the other side!
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Highlights

Seven- year-old Milo walked around the supermarket, a smile on his face, while his parents followed him slowly down the aisle, stopping now and then to pick something off the shelves. The moment he saw another adult, Milo would go up to him or her, and say, “I’m going to have a baby sister soon!” People were taken aback with surprise, but Milo was a cute little boy, with dark brown hair, brown eye

Seven- year-old Milo walked around the supermarket, a smile on his face, while his parents followed him slowly down the aisle, stopping now and then to pick something off the shelves. The moment he saw another adult, Milo would go up to him or her, and say, “I’m going to have a baby sister soon!” People were taken aback with surprise, but Milo was a cute little boy, with dark brown hair, brown eyes and rosy skin, and they just said “Aww! That’s sweet!” and went forward to congratulate his parents, who were otherwise complete strangers!

Mr. and Mrs. Carlos, Milo’s parents, lived with him in the city of Seville, situated on the banks of the river Guadalquivir in Spain and were expecting a baby. They knew how excited Milo was about having a younger sibling to play with, and though they still didn’t know if it would be a boy or a girl, they didn’t have the heart to put a stop to Milo’s optimism.

Milo was sure he was going to have a sister, and had already run off to the kids section and started picking out the kind of toys she might like to play with.“It’s still too early to buy toys, Milo”, said Mr. Carlos, affectionately ruffling his hair. “Let’s wait till she arrives, alright? And then, I promise I’ll bring you here myself to pick out the toys for her!”

Does the White Stork fledgling run away from home? Yes, it does! European White Storks (Ciconia ciconia) is a large white bird, with long red legs and long red pointed beaks that come in handy when hunting. It is primarily a carnivore and feeds on insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals and small birds.

It takes most of its food from the ground, among low vegetation, and from shallow water. Flocks of thousands of birds nest together at the same site during breeding season. It builds a large stick nest on trees, in open farmland areas, on buildings, etc. The female typically lays four eggs at a time, but they do not all hatch at the same time.

It has been noted that some chicks (approximately 40% of the population) leave their nest half-way through development for that of a ‘foster-parent’s’, in a phenomenon called ‘Nest Switching’. This occurs when the chicks are not completely satisfied with their parents’ hunting/feeding skills, and runs away to find a better meal elsewhere! It can also be due to aggressive behaviour by its own siblings. It moves into a nest which has fewer fledglings than its own nest, but is usually met with aggression by the foster-parents.

So Milo had to stay content with that, and hope that his baby sister would “arrive soon”. He talked non-stop about becoming a big brother to all his friends, especially his best friend, Jade. Jade had an elder brother who was much older to him, and didn’t think this was such a big deal.

“Well, since you’re going to be the elder brother, things might be better”, he told Milo. “Being the younger kid, I get bossed around a lot. And my parents let him do what he likes, because he is older!”“I don’t think I would like to boss my sister around”, said Milo.
“Well, maybe you wouldn’t, but my brother certainly does!” said Jade. “And Dad expects me to learn from him— because he does well in his class, does well in sports, is so goody-goody; thank goodness, he’s off to boarding school at Madrid now!”

“Don’t you miss him then?” asked a curious Milo.

Jade thought about it. “I do, but I get to have a lot more attention from Mom and Dad now!”

“Oh”, said Milo. “I’m sure my Mama and Papa would listen to me even if I have a sibling!”

So Milo thought no more of what Jade had told him, and looked forward to the D-day.

Everyday, when he went out for walks with his father along the river bank, he stared for hours at the White Storks that nested there. “There, Papa, look!” he would say. “That Stork family is just like ours! It’s got a Mummy and Daddy stork, with a baby stork which has a black patch on its head. And I think I see an egg there! They’re going to have a new baby stork too!”

After days and days of waiting, the great day finally arrived. Milo waited with his uncle’s family while Mama was rushed to the hospital. But Milo’s joy knew no bounds when his Dad came home and announced, “It’s a girl!” Grand celebrations followed. Friends and well-wishers poured in, murmuring words of congratulations and bringing in cured ham as a gift, as is the custom in Spain. Milo was in awe of his little baby sister, Mariana, to notice that he was not the star of the evening, unlike earlier days.

But Milo soon started feeling left out. If he tried to hold Mariana or play with her, his mother called, “No Milo, leave her alone. She’s too small.” Or, his father said, “You shouldn’t disturb your sister; she’s sleeping.” Sometimes, his grandmother screamed, “Keep the boy away! He’s going to hurt the baby!”

Mariana was suddenly the show-stealer at every family event and get-together. Relatives headed straight for little Mariana bundled up in Mama’s arms, and hardly noticed Milo standing beside his father. There was a great to-do the day Mariana’s ears were pierced, and poor Milo had nothing to do and no one to talk to. Milo felt very confused. Had everyone forgotten him?

Even when there were no guests around, Milo felt he was being unfairly targeted. He was often scolded for being careless, messy or playful, things he had never been scolded for before. His every request which had earlier been granted, was now being turned down
without second thought. “Papa, Jade and his family are going to the water theme park. Can’t
we go too?”

Mama answered on his behalf. “Mariana’s too small. We can’t go out in the sun with her!” “Well, you heard your Mama. No theme park for you, young man!” said his father, to a very disappointed Milo. One morning, Milo overheard his father saying he would go to the supermarket to get new toys for little Mariana.

Milo was secretly delighted, because a trip to the supermarket usually meant his father would take him along as well, buy him ice cream like every time, and get him a new toy of his choice! And moreover, he had promised to take Milo along to get new
toys! But that day, when Milo came back from a game with Jade, he found that the toys had already been bought!

“Papa! You went without me!” wailed Milo. Mr. Carlos, who had forgotten all about his promise, was surprised. “Of course, I did! You have enough toys to play with, Milo, so don’t be a cry-baby!” “Did you atleast get my favourite icecream, Dad?” asked Milo in a small voice.

But before he could answer, his wife came and took him away. “Mariana seems to be sick. We must take her to the doctor!”
Milo could stand it no longer. Upset and distressed, he ran out of the house. He went to the riverside, and sat there quietly watching the storks, with tears running down his eyes.

“Papa and Mama don’t care about me anymore!” he thought. “I love little Mariana, but they won’t even let me play with her!”
His eyes fell on the baby stork he had seen long ago, with the black patch on its head. It seemed to have grown a little more, and could now fly.

But instead of going to its own nest, it flew down to another nest some way away, and started taking food from other adult storks. Milo stared in wonder. What was it doing? Why wasn’t it going home? He looked at the old nest. The parent storks were still there, and there were two other fledglings which the parent storks were feeding. Milo looked at this scene for some time, and then, suddenly making up his mind, got up and broke into a run.

Meanwhile, the family got back from the doctor’s and as everyone sat down to dinner, they suddenly realized that Milo was missing.
“The boy must be sulking somewhere”, said the grandmother. “I’m telling you, Emilia, your son is becoming more and more unmanageable by the minute! If you don’t give him a good scolding, he’ll never improve!”

“He wasn’t like this before”, said Milo’s mother. “He was always well-mannered and understanding. I don’t know what’s gotten into him!” “Discipline him now or you will regret it later”, muttered the grandfather. Milo’s father came rushing downstairs. “He’s not in the house!” he cried. “We need to find him!”

Thus began a frenzied search for the little boy. Frantic calls to relatives and neighbours yielded no result. Mrs. Carlos started crying. “He started behaving badly only because we forgot to give him as much attention as his baby sister”, she sobbed. “That’s why he’s run away now!”

Mr. Carlos tried to comfort his wife, but deep inside, he felt very, very, guilty. As a last resort, before informing the police, he decided to visit Jade and ask if Milo had said anything to him. When he reached Jade’s house, he heard shouts of laughter. The door was ajar, and there was Milo, playing a video game with Jade!

Mr. Carlos rushed in and hugged Milo, overcome with emotion. “Why did you run away?” he asked. “He told us you were busy with Mariana at the hospital and had been sent here to spend the night”, said Jade’s father in a puzzled voice. Milo looked like he would cry again. “Even the baby stork flew away to another nest”, he said.

Jade’s father understood. “Milo, baby storks are different. They go because sometimes their parents can’t get enough food for all their babies. So they try to get it from elsewhere. But does that make the baby stork a stranger to his family?” he asked Milo.
“No”, said Milo.

“Milo, your parents love you, and they have been so worried without you. Do you think they would have come searching for you if they didn’t care about you? Now do you think it was right on your part to run away from home?” “No”, Milo shook his head, somewhat ashamed now.

“We love you Milo”, said his father, his voice filled with anguish. “And I know we could not understand how you felt. But you are always ours, we can never forget you or let you go! Remember that a family always stays together, that’s when it’s called a family.” Milo hugged his father tight, happy that life would once again be the same.

By: Sneha Verghese

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