They were at the Green Leaf restaurant yet again. After a sleepless night of indecision, Praveena had surprised Ms Marrie early in the morning.
“I’m confused Miss,” she had said.
“Let’s meet up,” Ms Marrie had laughed.
Praveena arrived at the Green Leaf restaurant a little early. She mulled over on what she had to say as Ms Marrie arrived.
“It’s becoming kind of a tradition, isn’t it?” Ms Marrie laughed taking a seat.
Praveena nodded smiling slightly. “Am I taking too much of your time, Miss?” Praveena knew she was, but she asked the question anyway, more out of formality than anything else.
“Well yes,” Ms Marrie said seriously, making Praveena cower in shame. “But,” Ms Marrie added, “considering I’m advising a student,” she smiled at Praveena, “it’s alright.”
Praveena smiled in response before saying, “Thank you, Miss. You’re the best.”
“Let’s skip the embarrassing compliments, shall we?” Ms Marrie raised her eyebrows at Praveena. “What’s troubling you now, Praveena?” she asked concernedly.
Praveena appreciated the concern and time Ms Marrie had always given her. Every time she had wanted to clear her mind, Ms Marrie had been there for her listening without judgement.
“A friend called me the other day, and he mentioned he was a volunteer in an alcoholic anonymous society.” She paused to take a swig at her orange juice. The mid morning sunlight streamed into the restaurant through the heavy glass windows, reflecting and brightening the colour of Praveena’s orange juice. Ms Marrie listened, sipping on her grape juice. “After the chat, I thought of starting a self help group in our locality for drug addicts.” Praveena looked up at the still impassive Ms Marrie’s face. “What do you think Miss?”
Ms Marrie sighed frowning slightly. “I think this is not the source of your confusion.” she observed. Praveena smiled sheepishly, but as Ms Marrie said nothing else, she continued. “I told Pa about this, and he disagreed.” she finished sadly and added, “Unexpectedly.”
Ms Marrie nodded understandingly. “So that’s what’s bothering you.” she said seriously. “What did your father say, exactly?”
Praveena didn’t want to go over the details again. Just thinking about it had been painful enough, let alone saying it out to someone else.
“Well,” she hesitated. This wasn’t as easy as she had anticipated. “he was worried that he made a mistake giving me freedom.” She gulped, “and – er – he also said…” She told Ms Marrie of the conversation she had had with her father. She told her teacher everything, including an afterthought. “I guess he is worried I would get involved with those who do drugs.” She shook her head in disbelief. “I can’t believe he doesn’t trust me.” Praveena was heart broken.
Ms Marrie had just raised her glass of juice to her lips. She placed it on the table and spoke gently, “I don’t think it’s a matter of trust, Praveena.”
“Perhaps,” Praveena replied, now a little doubtful, “but I can take care of myself,” she said earnestly.
“No doubt you can,” Ms Marrie replied confidently.
“Then what’s his problem?” Praveena asked in a slightly raised voice.
Ms Marrie had been drinking her juice. She drained it and smugly placed the glass on the table. “The juice here is good,” she observed smacking her lips.
“Huh?” Praveena stared at Ms Marrie surprised. How could Ms Marrie appreciate the juice when she was worrying about her father?
Smirking at Praveena’s astonished look, Ms Marrie said, “Think of it this way, Praveena. Why do you want to start this self help group in the first place?”
Praveena said nothing, waiting for Ms Marrie to finish her thought.
“Why?” Ms Marrie urged her with raised eyebrows.
“Er – ” Praveena thought. Could this be a question trap? “to help people – ” She stopped with that, but Ms Marrie still looked at her rather quizzically. She tried again, “To help people get over their addiction?” Praveena ended on a higher note, making a question out of a statement.
“Are you telling me or asking me?” Ms Marrie smiled crookedly.
“Er – I’m telling you.” Praveena responded quite uncertain, but giving a curt nod anyway.
Ms Marrie also nodded in approval. “Good.” She appreciated.
“What’s good?” Praveena asked, totally taken unawares.
“You are sure of what you want to do, even if you are not sure of how to do it,” Ms Marrie said, making Praveena put her hands on either side of her head. She continued smiling “You want to help people, but have you considered that these people you want to help, might actually not need it?” She spoke calmly, in a tone that one takes while reasoning with a troublesome first grader.
Praveena looked up at Ms Marrie, “What do you mean?” she asked perplexed.
“Look,” Ms Marrie explained wetting her lips, “Let’s just say, you find this drunkard. He gets drunk everyday and beats his wife wickedly.” Ms Marrie sighed before continuing, “you tell him true happiness lies in living in peace with his family, but all the happiness he knows comes from a bottle of alcohol. From his point of view, happiness is momentary. You may call him irresponsible, but he’s happy.”
Understanding dawned on Praveena’s face. Maybe Ms Marrie had a point, she thought as Ms Marrie continued, “Trying to help that kind of a person into recovery would only make him unhappy.” she shrugged.
Praveena thought about what Ms Marrie had said. She couldn’t disagree, but her inner voice wouldn’t completely agree either, “Not everyone’s like that though,” she said obstinately.
“That’s right,” Ms Marrie replied brusquely. “That’s only a possibility. Your father could be worried you would fail. It wouldn’t be easy for him, as a father.”
“Yeah,” Praveena took a deep sigh. She was still confused.