Monday, May 28, 2018


On the very first day itself Nitin made a distinct impression in his class teacher’s mind. The class teacher asked, “What’s your Name?”

Nitin said “Nitin”

Trying to teach the boy importance of respect, the teacher said, “You should say Sir”

Nodding his head Nitin said, “Ok. Sir Nitin”

The teacher looked for any sign of mischief in the boy’s face and found none. But he was not sure. His doubt was confirmed next day when he asked “Nitin, how do you spell 'elephant?'

Nitin spelled it “A-L-I-F-A-N-T”

The teacher said, “No, that's wrong”

Nitin said, “Maybe it is wrong, but you only asked me how I spell it”

The teacher thought, “I have to be careful with this boy.” But he realized soon that normal carefulness was not enough with the boy when he had asked the boy to frame a sentence starting with 'I.'

Nitin began, “I is...”

The teacher interrupted, “No, Nitin... Always say, 'I am’ “

Nitin obeyed and said, “All right... 'I am the ninth letter of the alphabet.”

The entire class laughed. The teacher needed a few minutes to regain his composure. In his ten years service as a teacher he had not come across such a mischievous boy. The boy’s answers to any question were never normal.

It seemed too much to the teacher. In next class, purposely he asked a tough mathematical question, “If you add 34,875 with 76,989 and divide the answer by 81, what do you get?”

Nitin quickly said, “The wrong answer”

The teacher decided not to ask any study related question to keep his peace of mind. But still Nitin annoyed him in other matters. He was actively naughty in the class and lazy to do homework.

One day he asked his teacher respectfully, “Teacher, would you punish me for something I didn't do?”

 The teacher said, “Of course not”.

Nitin was very much relieved and said, “Good, because I didn't do my homework”

Next day Nitin’s excuse was different. “I didn't do my homework because I lost my memory”

Suspiciously the teacher asked, “When did this start?”

“When did what start?” Nitin asked. Unable to control his rising of blood pressure the teacher requested the school management change of class and got it. 

Nitin’s class got a new lady class teacher, Revathi. She had learnt so much about Nitin and came with prepared mind. As her twin kids are of Nitin’s age and they are also very naughty, she didn’t mind. 

On first day there was a constant stream of “Miss”, “Miss” calls from her students.  Fed up with the calls, she said firmly, “Do you think we could go for just five minutes without anyone saying ‘Miss”. 

Immediately the classroom was quiet. Then, from her back, Nitin’s soft voice said, “Um ... Revathi”

She couldn’t suppress her laughter. Unlike earlier class teacher she had good sense of humour and loved kids. She also found it difficult to make the boy to do homework. One day seeing his finished home work she said, “This home work looks like your mother’s writing”.

Nitin said in convincing tone, “Of course. I used her pen”

Next day Nitin told Revathi truthfully, “Miss I’m tired of doing homework”

Revathi patiently said, “Nitin, hard work never killed anyone”

Nitin worriedly said, “I know, but I don’t want to be the first”

Suppressing her smile she told Nitin to bring his parents to school next day. Nitin said in serious tone. “They won’t come, miss”

Revathi asked, “Why?”

He said gravely, “They don't like school any more than I do.”

Next day Nitin was absent. Revathi got a phone call, “My son has a high fever and won't be able to come to school today.”

Noticing Nitin’s voice Revathi smiled and said, “Nitin, tell your father to speak with me”

Immediately the reply came. “My father only speaking”

Disconnecting the phone Revathi laughed till tears filled her eyes.

Next day she asked Nitin, “You missed school yesterday. Didn’t you?”

Nitin said, “Not very much”

The boy was a good mixture of mischief and innocence. Though playful, he was also smart and intelligent. He could think really different. 

One day all children were advised to draw something unique and different. The subject of the drawing was left to the choice of the children. Revathi was observing the children while they drew. Seeing Nitin  thinking deeply and drawing seriously, Revathi asked Nitin what the drawing was? Nitin said, "I'm drawing God."

Revathi exclaimed, "But no one knows what God looks like."

Without missing a beat, Nitin replied, "They will know today."

One day a special guest speaker came to his class to give moral lessons. His lecture was boring even to the ears of Revathi. After explaining heaven and hell, he went on explaining the ways to go to heaven by merit. Finally he wanted to test the kids how much they understood his preaching. He asked, "If I sold my house, my car and all belongings and gave all my money to charity, can I go to heaven?"

Everyone was silent except Nitin. He said, "No!"

The speaker was surprised and asked, “If I pray God whole day and involve myself in public service activities can I go to heaven”

Again, Nitin’s answer was, "No!"

"Well," he asked, "then how can I go to heaven?"

Nitin confidently answered, "You've gotta be dead!"

Entire class burst into laughter and the speaker also joined them.

As Nitin’s father got transfer to Delhi, Nitin left the school soon. Revathi missed his humour and mischief very much. She loved those random memories of that kid that always made her smile.

(This article won a prize and published in our bank’s house magazine Vijaya Vikas)

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

An end and a beginning!

(Short Story)

The insistent sound of loud bells crashed abruptly through the silence. Gopinath jerked upright in his bed, groggy with sleep. The ringing continued and he slowly became aware that it was the telephone. The bedside clock read 2.45 a.m. He snatched up the phone. “Hello?”

A distant male voice asked, “Dr.Gopinath?”

“Yes. Who is calling?”

“I’m sub inspector Sadasivam, sir. I’m afraid I have bad news for you”.
Gopinath’s heart began to pound. He looked at his sleeping wife. She was in deep sleep.

The sub inspector continued. “It’s about your son Deepak….”

Gopinath’s hand clenched the phone. “Has…. has my son been in some kind of accident?”

“He’s dead sir. He has committed suicide. He has jumped in front of running train a few hours ago.”

“No!” It was a scream. The call must be a prank call. Some idiot was trying to frighten him. There was nothing wrong with his son.

The sub inspector’s voice was softened. “Sorry sir. I hate to break it to you in this way”
So it was real. It was a nightmare, but it was happening. He could not speak. His mind and his tongue were frozen. Slowly he woke up his wife Anandhi.

Hearing the news, a cold chill went through her. “That’s impossible…… Why would he kill himself? He had everything to live for!” Her voice was ragged. She began to cry…

For three days, Gopinath and Anandhi had no time to think, no time to feel, just time to exist. They functioned as wooden puppets whose jerky movements were the result of strings pulled by an invisible hand.  Their relatives and friends quietly kept order in the house in those days.  Fourth day they left.

Gopinath and Anandhi were alone in their big house to brood over the painful reality. Gopinath was a busy doctor and Anandhi was an executive in a MNC.   They worked hard and earned a lot of money. They gave everything that money could buy to their only son.  Deepak had costly bike, costly car, costly dresses, costly education and a lot of pocket money.  So the parents thought that their son was living like a prince.  But the suicide proved that they were wrong.

Their son left no suicide note or farewell letter.  But slowly truth began to surface. His close friends told them that Deepak was in drugs. They said that he was a drug addict for the past two years. The news was a great shock to them. Both of them were too busy to notice their son’s drug addiction.  They were in the habit of leaving their home early in the morning for work and arriving very late at night. On holidays they were relaxing in front of television or social networking on smartphones.

With their son’s suicide, something had died in them forever and they were left with guilt and loneliness. They checked Deepak’s room and found some drugs that he used to consume and his diaries.  Deepak had written about his loneliness. He had written that his parents were seldom home, and he was raised mostly by the maid, who was also his primary companion.  He had described about spending much of his childhood in their big house, playing with toy soldiers, alone. They couldn’t read further. But they wanted to understand why their son had committed suicide.

Gopinath gave the diaries to his psychiatrist friend. The psychiatrist friend said that he would do a "psychological autopsy" (an evaluation of someone based on information from writings or other sources). A few weeks later, he called them to his house.

He told them that Deepak was manic-depressive. He said that Deepak knew his drug habit was not right, so he had been tormented by confusion and shame. He explained that the chemicals in Deepak’s mind were imbalanced and that they had altered his perception of reality. That chemical imbalance had also produced his thoughts of suicide.

He said, “The first place we feel love or acceptance or hatred and a lack of acceptance is in the family. We learn who we are, if we are valuable or not, all through how we are raised. When the home environment isn’t healthy, a child can’t be mentally healthy. With the majority of homes having two parents working in full time careers, parents may be so involved in their own lives they erroneously give too much trust to their teenage children to raise themselves and be responsible. They may neglect their children unintentionally.”

The word ‘neglect’ pricked the parents’ conscience. They looked at the psychiatrist friend painfully.

He explained in kind voice. “When people hear the word "neglect", they usually think of parents not providing their children with the food, clothes, or a safe environment to line in. However, there are other ways in which parents can neglect their children. Emotional neglect is as dangerous to a child's well-being as physical neglect is to a child's health and safety. Inadequate attention to a child's emotional needs, need for affection, and lack of emotional support constitute emotional neglect. It is important to find a balance between work and family life to avoid neglecting your child…..”

They were heartbroken. Memories of their son came flooding back into their minds.  If they had known Deepak's last day alive would have been that fateful day, they would have focused on him exclusively. Anandhi would have quit her job to spend more time with her son. Gopinath would have unplugged the telephone and television, so he could listen to his son more carefully. They would not have let their son out of their sight for even a nanosecond, so they could have savoured his presence. Nothing else would have mattered. But they did not know.

They regretted now for their choice of life and the way they lived. As he said they could have found a balance between their work and their family. They would remember the psychiatrist friend’s final words forever in their life. “We should treat those we care about with extra attention and sensitivity every moment of every day, or we may plod on about our lives, oblivious to the reality that each moment could be our last or theirs. It only takes a little more effort to listen carefully, to give an extra hug, to say kind words. A moment given now may prevent a lifetime of regret. The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.”

For some days they missed their son’s affectionate nature, his great sense of humor, and even the small things like hearing his feet bouncing up and down the stairs, the smell of his cologne—just everything about him.  One day they saw a quote in a magazine -

“There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in."
                  -Leonard Cohen

The quote made them think deeply. Eventually they learned that they didn’t have to be defined by their past or by their pain. They hoped that their life could count for something positive yet. They could do something in the memory of their son.

They started a support group for rehabilitation of drug addicted youths. They were committed to educating young people about the incredible danger of addiction to drugs.  With the help of their psychiatrist friend they arranged counseling sessions both for the addicts and the parents. They put all their money and wholehearted attempts in that service. They were hoping that their son would forgive them from the other world!


(My Prize winning short story published in our house magazine “Vijaya Vikas”) 

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