“Today we are really fortunate to have our favorite son amidst us. A genius who has brought fame and glory to our little village!” the school headmaster was all praise for Selvam. Selvam heard his voice but the words were different. “You good for nothing idiot! How many times should I tell you? Don’t use your peanut sized brain to come up with your own stupid equations! Can’t you just vomit what I teach in class? Mark my words: You will never come up in life. You lunatic born on a new moon!”
Selvam was back in his village after 25 long years. What has really changed, he wondered! “I was a lunatic then and am a lunatic now”. There was a difference though: Once he was notorious, now he was famous. The people who had once marooned him as a “disgrace” were celebrating him today as an “idol”. His wretched childhood unfolded vividly in front of his eyes. He remembered beaten by his father, scolded by his mother, ridiculed by his school teachers, abused by his classmates, chased by villagers and loved by no one.
His only mistake: He was born on a new moon. His mother believed that he was cursed. His father had lost his job a month after he was born. She thought he brought bad luck and was always worried about him. People in the village were superstitious enough to label him as a thief and a bad omen. Anything went missing, teachers doubted him and students conveniently pointed fingers at him. His father couldn’t believe that he could be his son. He even doubted his mother! Selvam hated his father the most. The hatred was mutual. It was this superstition that drove Selvam to science’s refuge! It sowed the seed of retribution in his heart. He wanted them to celebrate him one day! And here he was: adored and respected by his haters. But strangely he didn't feel any sense of victory!
The only person who really believed in Selvam was his Science teacher. Durai was sitting somewhere in the crowd but Selvam’s eyes were fixed on him. Durai had a bright smile in his face and immense pride in his heart. His boy had come of age. It was still fresh in his eyes: the day Selvam came running to him after his father almost killed him with his leather belt. Selvam was the most intelligent kid Durai had ever seen. He made sure he got out of this hell. He gave Selvam a new life and the world a great scientist. Today their eyes silently shared a tear! One meant happiness and the other: gratitude!
“Selvam was always a very naughty and inquisitive child. His quest for knowledge was immense”: his Tamil teacher’s voice shook him up. “What a great con artist he would have made”, wondered Selvam. He could forget being accused of stealing a pen from a fellow student but he could never forgive the man who tore his first ever poem! He gave him a cold stare but the Tamil teacher continued unflustered. Selvam joined the kids in the front row in making funny faces at his Tamil teacher. Seemed like a nice idea for revenge!
Soon it was time for a small elocution from the school’s best kid: Parvathi. Her topic was: “My Mother”! Selvam shut his eyes hard to resist but Parvathi unlocked his mind and brought his mother in front of his eyes. His mother loved him the most but yet she never believed in him. He did not know which one hurt him more. Her last words to him had been the most painful yet were the fuel to the fire that had propelled his spirit all along.
“Amma… I didn’t take his money. Please believe me. No one else does, Amma.”, he had pleaded when their neighbor had accused him of stealing 100 rupees.
“Every time some one complains about you, I have supported you. But for how long? I don’t think I can believe you any more. It is all the curse of the new moon! It is all my fate!” She burst into tears. And then she said those words: "Tell me.. you took the money right?" Selvam still remembered the belief in her eyes and the disbelief in his!
That was the day she shattered his heart into a million pieces! She never saw him again!
He was so lost in his thoughts that the headmaster had to call him thrice to present the award to Parvathi. He wiped his tears quickly and hugged Parvathi tight. She whispered in his ears: “Is it true that you were born on a new moon?” Selvam didn’t know what to say. He handed the award to her instead!
Parvathi saw the dark scar in his hand and wondered: “What’s that in your hand?”
Well… my father used to smoke a lot of cigarettes. One day he did not find an ash tray to put off his cigarette. So he used my hand instead! He was surprised at the complete lack of emotion inside him.
Parvathi touched the scar soothingly. She then turned to leave but stopped suddenly. She came close and whispered in his ear: “Sir, I was also born on a new moon. Can I also become like you one day?” Selvam felt a gush of happiness like never before and he didn’t know why! He smiled a “yes” to her!
Somewhere way back in the crowd, an old lady was watching him. She had a strange emotion mixed with pride, guilt and shame! A drop of tear rolled down her cheek. She couldn’t tell if she felt happy or miserable!
- A short story by Raj.