(This story contains words/colloquialisms of Indian language, written in English)
Pintoo was giving finishing touches to his elephant flying over a tiny village. Totally unaware that maths period was already over and his english teacher, Rajesh sir was standing by his side. The eerie silence and a darkness hovering on him caught his attention. He looked up and an impending sense of doom washed the face of this tiny tot of class 4th D, white. He had not only forgotten his homework but also was caught red handed. Rajesh sir picked up his book and silently walked away. He flipped through the pages and smiled, while his back to the class.
Rajesh Chawla taught English at Bal Vidya Mandir at a little beach town of Velas in the Konkan, Maharashtra. He was young, a favorite of the head master and other teachers and loved being with the kids. But teaching his lesson today was proving to be more difficult than other days. His mind was chasing clouds in the open fields of pind Balucha in Ferozpur district, Punjab.
“ Raju, you dimwit!, do you have any clue how much your mother has to work to make you study at this school here” screamed masterji .
Raju could see masterji melt away behind the tears filling his eyes. He had been staring out of the window and enjoying the rabbit that was chasing a ship across the sky. It was his roll call he had missed and masterji, a hot tempered septuagenarian was an intolerant disciplinarian, age no bar.
“aaahh” screamed Raju in pain as masterji pulled his ears and dragged him from is corner seat right across the class.
“kneel down here you idiot, that should wake you up in no time. This is your last chance I’m warning you, next time you will be thrown out of the school altogether. ” masterji ordered Raju in the middle of the school compound. Raju kneeled, drops of tears budding like tiny flowers near his knees in quick succession. Masterji left swiftly disappearing into the dark corridors Raju disliked.
Now that the worst was over, he looked up. He smiled. The rabbit was now being chased by a dog and maybe a little boy sitting on top of the dog. Raju examined the premises, and saw a cat leaving out the door. Raju decided to join the cat and was in the big wide sunflower fields far far away from masterji and his senseless banter in no time.
This was not an unusual day so far. Little Raju had gone through this grind many times before. He would lay under the comforting shade of the mango tree for hours and imagine figures in the sky that would talk to him, joke with him, listen to him and would promise never to leave him alone. But today, he lost track of time. As the sun set, he saw a figure eclipsing the sun casting a long egg-shaped shaped shadow rapidly approaching him. For the second time today he was out of his wits.
“Oh god, please save me today” mumbled Raju to himself. He gulped and stared wide eyed as his mother paced towards him kicking up a little dust storm behind her.
“You little rat” screeched his mother, and set a tight slap on his little face, dry with tears. Raju was dumbfounded, recovering from the buzz that hit him.
“I send you school to study, and this is what you do! throw away all the precious time laying under this tree and escaping studies. Should never bothered at all and let you become a rag picker like the other kids you hang around with”
She dragged him to their house and threw the sack full of books at him.
“Next time if you get bad marks, or masterji speaks badly of you that is going to be your last day in this house” scolded mother.
Raju had to sleep empty stomach that night. His only solace was the full moon shining bright out of the window of hut and the his friends from the sky as promised to never leave him alone.
“Ma , I hate masterji. He scolds me for everything. He’s bad. I don’t like to study either. I like to play in the fields, make friends. The clouds in the sky listen to me. They like me. Mother, can you please change my teacher….”
“Grr…Grrrr…Grrrrr” came the reply, his mother snoring.
The next day, results of the quarterly test were declared. Raju, timidly crossed the whole length of the class and received his report card. His eyes met masteji’s eyes, magnified by the bi-focals, and immediately he knew that he was in deep trouble. His fears materialized as he saw the report card was packed with red markings all over. He had flunked badly.
“Next time if you get bad marks….that is going to be your last day in this house” words of his mother echoed into his ears.
But this time Raju did not cry. His eyes bore anger and eagerness to escape this crisis and to set himself free of the pressure of his current life. As soon as the class was over he shot out of the school gate, running hurriedly towards the railway platform of Balucha. The clouds turned out a golden lining and the sun burst out of the dense sky like a guiding light. The school cat following Raju, s if well aware of the boy’s destiny.
Raju hopped onto a train which went to certain far away land called Pune. He had never heard of it, but gathered that the journey took more than two days. Far enough to loose mastreji and Ma forever, he thought. He took one last look up above and couldn’t have felt more relieved. The heavens were putting up a brilliant show, to confirm his decision he believed.
Its been more than a decade that Raju had come to Pune. His creativity found home at the night school for the underprivileged, under the mentorship of Mr Joshi, a volunteer professor of English, and an advocate by profession. He carved his imagination into solid character. Taught Raju to become Rajesh Chawla, best selling author of a series of books, websites and talk shows. Rajesh Chwla dedicated his books to his mother and Mr. Joshi.
The school bell rang and the period ended.
Pintoo was the last one to leave, waiting for his notebook, standing in front of Rajesh sir, staring at his shoes.
Rajesh sir kneeled and held Pintoo softly by his arms. His arms bore marks of cane sticks. Whats your name little one, don’t be scared. Pintoo looked up, with moist eyes. He answered “ Sir, my name is Pankaj Vishwakarma”…
story by Vishal Tomar.
© Copyright 2016 vishalt. All rights reserved.
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