"A profound unmitigated loneliness is the only truth of life"
- R.K. Narayan

Allwin was a child prodigy, adept at general knowledge and excelling at mathematical calculations far beyond his age. Nearly every weeknight, and customarily on the weekends, he would regale the slum dwellers - his only friends - with weird facts from the world, almost enacting a street version of Ripley's Believe it or not. The elders would often remark how Allwin had it in him to go places, yet none tried to help him. In the city, the poor never tasted success, and Allwin, an orphan, was too wretched to have any hope.
The mosque is too far from home, so let's do this,
Let's make a weeping child laugh
- Nida Fazli

Dad the rational guide, mom the emotional support. Mandar, the kid, a tabula rasa.  
There was always a difference of opinion at home. Never did Mandar see a peaceful discussion or a calm demeanour from either of his parents. Dad would take a stand, and mom would wantonly refute him, and vice versa, as if it was a rule to break each other's hearts. Was it an ego-clash? Or was this the way families ran? It didn't seem so. Many of Mandar's friends at school spoke so well about their parents. They spoke of love and care, and parents that held hands and smiled together. Of parents that joyfully recounted good old days, laughed together, cooked together, and surprised each other with gifts and pleasantries. Of parents that locked their bedroom door at night so the kid would not barge in. Mandar's parents slept in different bedrooms.
His friends told stories of how their parents would guide the children, holding their hands and walking them through the path of life. His parents guided him too, but in competition. Dad would ask him to get good grades, while mom would ask him to focus on his behaviour. Dad would push him into sports, while mom ushered him into music classes. Whenever Mandar came home injured, dad would pull him aside to berate his carelessness while mom would drag him aside to dress his wounds. They never did anything together. He was not the focus of their attention, but the pivot on which their see-saw played. He was the lever they pushed and pulled until their egos churned, spurned and burned.
Mythology has it that one day the Gods and Asuras had a competition. A tug of war to find out who was stronger. It was arranged in the ocean, where a mountain was placed and a giant serpent wound around it. All the Asuras gathered on one side, while the Gods on the other, and began tugging at the serpent, trying to drag the mountain towards their side. The tug-of-war continued for a long time, with each side pushing and pulling. The mountain stayed where it was, not moving an inch. What the competing parties did not know was a trick the plucky Vishnu was playing on them. As the mountain twisted and turned, it churned the sea beneath it, and out came something wonderful. Vishnu had tricked the Gods and the Asuras into samudra manthan (churning of the ocean) so he could churn ambrosia out of the ocean - the clear sweet nectar of everlasting power and life.
Mandar's friends all grew up to be successful. The business man's son became a bigger business man. The politician's daughter became a minister. The actor's children became celebrities. Mandar, whose parents were both successful industry icons, became a philosopher.