Friday, September 2, 2011


Andrea had fallen in love with Pondicherry. She had travelled a long way to India just to catch a glimpse of this once French colony. She was an architect by profession and a philanthropist by choice. She travelled the world in search of a purpose that would make her life meaningful to others. Working as a protégé to her father gave her the perfect excuse to buy that expensive ticket! While her eyes scanned the world’s monuments for brilliant patterns and structures, her heart wandered in search of souls she could touch and heal.

Life had not been easy over the past months and she had longed for this retreat. Her father and her boyfriend did not approve of her philanthropic lifestyle. While her father wanted her to focus more on her career, Kevin wanted more from their relationship. This time Pondicherry had offered her a temporary solution. And this simple but magical town had put the smile back on her face. Pondicherry had a surprise for her every day and provided a banquet to all her senses.  And she happy soaked herself in its culture. While its perfectly perpendicular streets gave her glimpses of the French genius, the calm of the Aurobindo Ashram refreshed her soul. The gentle breeze of the serene beach touched her heart, the unique Indo-French cuisine ignited her taste buds and the pastel catholic churches gave her inner peace. She wished she could just never leave!

It was another beautiful morning and the sun’s rays kissed her good morning. She looked out of the window to watch the sea waves hit the shore vigorously while a resolute Gandhi stood frozen on a tall plinth braving the scorching sun still guiding his countrymen. She felt a purpose today which strangely saddened her. Couple of days ago, she had seen a small child in the beach continuously flapping his hands while arranging his toys in a perfect straight line. His teacher Jayashri informed Andrea that Xavier was an autistic child. That is how Andrea came to know of Jayashri Special School which takes care of such special children with various mental disabilities. Andrea found Xavier not so social but very endearing. She decided that she should do something for these children.  Today she was going to make a difference. But what troubled her most was that today was also her last day in Pondicherry. She had given in to her father’s threats and Kevin’s pleas to come back. But she was happy that at least she was leaving a small mark in this angelic city.

She got dressed quickly, skipped the famous complimentary breakfast of the Ashram guest house and strode to the nearest taxi stand.

“Welcome Madam. Bonjour. You French or English? I know 5 languages!”, greeted an overconfident auto driver who had edged out 2 others to grab his customer!
“Jayashri Special School please. How much?”
“Standard rate Madam. 75 rupees!”, he added matter-of-fact-ly.
“Outrageous. I have been here for more than a month. The place is just 3 kilometers from here”.    
“No Madam. Petrol prices going up every day Madam. We are already operating in losses, you see. US economy very bad you see. 70 rupees, only for you Madam”.

Andrea was in no mood for bargaining. She decided to walk it much to the disappointment of the autowala who couldn’t believe she had rejected his best offer!

She had probably walked one-fourth of a kilometer when another auto stopped by her side. “Need an auto Madam”, an old man probably in his late 50s inquired. 
Jayashri Special School! I am not paying a single paisa more than 50 rupees. And I don’t care about petrol prices or the crisis in Libya”. She was not in a great mood today, thanks to the late night call from Kevin.
“I don’t quite understand what you said Madam. But I can take you there for 25 rupees. It is only 2 kilometers from here.” said the old man, a little confused.

She wanted to say sorry. But instead she got in and asked: “What is your name?”
“Anwar, Madam! What brings you to Pondicherry?”, inquired Anwar warmly.
“Don’t know. Coincidence I guess. Was looking at the list of places I could visit and Pondicherry caught my eye. Now I don’t regret it all!” reflected Andrea. Images of the beach swept across her eyes!
“Everything happens for a reason Madam. Your visit will have a meaning more profound than you can imagine.” Anwar’s words resonated in Andrea’s ears for a while.

“But sadly it is all coming to an end. I am leaving tomorrow. Don’t feel like leaving this heaven and returning to my mediocre life again. I hope to do something I can be proud of before saying good bye!” Andrea was completely drenched in nostalgia! “Will you take me to the railway station tomorrow? I won’t get such a good man again!” 

“Sure Madam. Wonderful place Madam, Jayashri School. All God’s own children. I am sure he has his angels on earth to take care of them. You are their Angel today from the West!”
Andrea and Anwar had struck a small conversation about the various kids in Jayashri Ashram when Anwar hit the brakes and the auto came to a screeching halt. “Just 1 minute madam”, he pleaded. “Satya”, he screamed.

A small boy with a bag of candies tied to his shoulder turned back at the cry. He came to Anwar and offered him a candy. His eyes were wet.
“What the hell are you doing? Shouldn’t you be in school?”

“No money to pay the school fees, uncle. Dad came home yesterday night after 1 month. He hit mom for 1 hour, burnt my hands with charcoal for trying to stop him and took away all the money Mom had.”
“The drunk bastard!”, Anwar’s eyes were red with rage!

“Anwar, can you please give me money for my school fees as you did last month? Please. I want to go to school. I want to become a doctor. I don’t like selling candies. All my friends are in school. Please Anwar!”
Anwar looked at his pocket. He had fifty rupees. “Just 450 rupees short!”, he thought! Too bad he didn’t have another watch to sell this month!

The awkward silence said it all. The boy understood. Satya was way too intelligent for his age.
“My dad said I will never become a doctor! Is it true Anwar? He said I will end up in the streets. My mom told me that I should forget school. She said it is only for the fortunate and the rich. How much will I earn selling candies? Can I make enough to pay the fees next month?”

Anwar could not answer. Satya didn’t want him to!
“Bye Anwar. The bus stand will be busy right now. I have to go sell some candies!”, he said trying to hide his tears. Anwar had felt so helpless only once before: when his wife had died of cancer!

The boy’s eyes disturbed Andrea. They conveyed a deep message beyond her comprehension. She wanted to help him but had stopped herself.
“Madam, I have a request. That boy Satya is a gem Madam. He is the topper in his class. Studying is his passion. I will not be able to help him. But you can Madam. You can!” Tears rolled down Anwar’s eyes as he violently wiped them off.

Andrea was in a loss for words. She wanted to help him so badly. But all she could give him was money. What if his father again took that away from him? How can she be so sure? On the other hand, if she helps the children in the Ashram, she can at least rest assured that her contribution went to the right hands. The eerie silence was killing her. She was so torn between her feelings when the auto stopped. They had arrived. Andrea did not get down for a long time. Anwar didn’t say a word. The little boy’s eyes haunted her thoughts again. They implored her. They intimidated her. They took her on a short journey through the boy’s heart!
Andrea woke up with a start. “Anwar, can you take me to the bus stand?”

Anwar’s eyes were wet with emotion. He thanked Andrea and raced his auto as fast as he could. They reached there in a couple of minutes. The bus stand was really crowded for a Wednesday afternoon. Were they all waiting for Satya’s candies? But then Anwar saw his bag on the floor with all the candies scattered. He shuddered. He pushed through the crowd nervously. Then his heart stopped. Satya was on the ground soaked in his own blood. “Poor boy! He was completely blindsided by that bus. Such a young kid!”, remarked an old woman. But Anwar knew. It was the bus that was blindsided by Satya!

Andrea was cold. Anwar dropped her back to the guest house. They had attended Satya’s cremation. Andrea had never cried so much in her life. Anwar had lost his son! Again! How can life be so cruel! Andrea will never be able to forgive herself.

“Should I pick you up tomorrow morning, Madam. For the railway station?”
“Yes. Pick me up. But not to the railway station! We have something better to do. This world can’t lose another Satya!”. Anwar nodded silently and went off.

Every life has a purpose. But sadly, the purpose of Satya’s life was to make Andrea realize the purpose of her life!

      -    A short story by Raj. 


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...