The drive from Chennai to Alangudi was long! The roads were getting worse and Mr.Ramesh was starting to worry about the health of his brand new Hyundai Accent. “Poor baby! I am putting it through hell”, he thought. Glimpses of his childhood flashed in front of his eyes as his Accent puffed up dust into the eyes of a harmless pedestrian buffalo. He had not visited Alangudi in 10 years. Nothing seemed to have changed. Everything he disliked about this place was still there awaiting his return. “Poverty”, he thought. “Nothing can save this country”!
Ramesh had faced a lot of hardships in his young age. Being a farmer’s son doesn’t really help much, does it? But he was an ambitious lad. He was sure about one thing. He did not want to be like his father. He hated him so much for being poor, vulnerable, uneducated and ordinary. He hated him for being human! But his father loved him and did not want his son to be like him: a poor farmer. That was ironically the one thing they had in common. He toiled hard and made sure his son could go to school. Ramesh was a smart kid and the rest is history. Here he is: The Managing Director of a leading IT company. An over achiever in every sense of the word!
Other than that, nothing has really changed. He still hates his parents for continuing to be ordinary. How can they reject his palatial house in posh urban Chennai for an old hut with a thatched roof? He could not understand how money, comfort or luxury did not matter to some people. “What losers”, he thought. He was half lost in translation when he heard a minor blast. What was that sound? A part of him knew. A flat tire was the icing in the cake to this forgettable drive! “Bloody country roads”, he cursed.
“Need help, sir!” A small boy with a heavy bundle of hay on his head chirped. The boy had never seen such a nice car. Ramesh gave him an odd stare. "Hmm... Yeah.. whatever!" The boy dropped the hay down and started helping Ramesh replace his shiny alloy wheel tires. Twenty minutes passed and they made quick work of it. “There you go sir, your car is ready in a jiffy”. “Thank you”, mumbled Ramesh. He was about to leave, but then for a moment the God inside him took over. “Hey.. let me help you carry your hay home”.
“Boy it is heavy. Don’t you go to school?”
“Yes Sir, I do. I am first rank Sir. Every year! In the evening I help my dad in the farm. My house is just 2 blocks away Sir”.
“All right, all right. You speak well. Study well, okay”.
“Yes Sir, I will. I want to work for Infosys. Big company Sir. Oh.. there is my father Sir”.
A tall man with broad shoulders in a dhoti and a towel around his neck greeted him with a warm smile. After thanking Ramesh, he lifted the little boy and the hay and walked back home. There was happiness in the eyes of the boy and satisfaction in the eyes of the father! It somehow seemed very familiar!
Ramesh slowly started walking back to his car. Something changed inside him. His heart was heavy. At that moment, he saw it. He saw Ramesh, the little boy who once loved his father for carrying him to school on his shoulders. A tear slowly rolled down his cheeks. For a moment, he felt good to be back home! For a moment, he felt grounded! For a moment, he felt human!
- A short story by Raj.