Friday, April 17, 2009

Even The Darkest Cloud Has A Silver Lining

So I am back, but I chose to leave the bang behind.
The span between my last blog and this one is too long. I duly apologise to my patient readers. Yet I am sure they will bear with me after reading this piece.
All this while, time was healing my wounds which I thought would span for long. But you see I have bounced back to life !
This is what happened.

Piyush Pandey and Sushant Pandey are two brothers. The elder of the two , Piyush has been my student for three years now. He is in the twelfth standard. But Piyush is not my subject today. His younger brother Sushant, is.

Sushant is nine and very young for his age. He is an innocent and loveable boy. His mother often complains that Sushant is very finicky. About everything. For instance he does not like his tiffins dripping oil or his glass of Complan with the skin floating on it. It makes him squeamish. His uniforms have to be impeccably clean and if his socks sag even a bit, they invariably become his ayah's son's possessions , much to the ayah's pleasure , his mother's consternation, and his brother's chagrin.
If Sushant fell down in school all hell broke loose. Not because he bled or was embarrassed before the girls but because his dress became dirty !

This is our Sushant. And there is Piyush - his complete antithesis.
My proximity to Sushant has a reason. He is , in many ways, like my own nine-year-old son.

On 2nd April, a frantically panting Piyush reported to me over the telephone that his brother had gone missing. It took me some time and some more effort to arrest the news . After it had sunk in with its shock, I called his mother home to verify it, hoping that Piyush was playing a belated April Fool prank with me.
( I do not entertain such frivolous jokes normally, but that day I prayed he was playing this silly mischief ) . Their servant picked up the receiver. I was on tenterhooks. Shaky.
"Sushant kaisa hai (How is Sushant) ?" I asked directly without beating about the bush.
"Aap kaun ( Who are you) ?"
"Main Piyush ki teacher ( I am Piyush's teacher)".
At this the servant broke down to helpless tears. He answered in Bhojpuri.
" No one's at home. Master has gone to file an FIR. My mistress has gone to his school from where he disappeared, and his grandfather has gone to meet the commissioner of police. Sushant has not returned home since yesterday."
He spoke the last sentence in an uncontrollable and spasmodic outburst.

I was numb. So it was not a prank. Why was this not a prank? What was the family passing through? And why Sushant? Who could even think of kidnapping that cute little boy? What would happen now ? How could I help them? What did the kidnappers want? Could such a thing happen to one so close to me.............................................. ? Innumerable querries pounded my mind. I started praying fervently for the child's wellbeing.

Then the horrific thought dawned on me that Sushant was already missing for more than 24 hours !!! The thought of it gave me nausea. I retired to bed.
In the next couple of days , I kept myself updated about the latest progress in the Pandey family.

After four horrendous days, the family received a ransom call. Sushant's father is an industrialist and the family is thriving. Ironically, they had been waiting and praying for just this moment .They did'nt mind the bail amount. For the joint family of six, nothing was more priceless or irreplaceable than Sushant. So as per the instructions of the captors, on the fifth day they exchanged Sushant for money. No police, no C.I.D officers in plain clothes , no sleuths were allowed to juxtapose between the kidnappers and the family. It was the family's decision. They could not afford to put his life in jeopardy.

When they brought the child home I was there.

Sushant was dazed and appeared very placid . He struggled to walk . He did not jump into his mother's embrace or cry at his reunion. His mother kissed him, hugged him and wept inconsolably. His grandfather, grandmother and brother surrounded and tried to cajole him lightly to emote. The very thought how the poor boy must have borne their ill-behaviour made my eyes moist. But nothing they did could soften him . What had happened to make the little boy so stoic , I wondered . When everything to normalise Sushant failed, the mother turned towards me, sobbing.
"Teacherji, aap hi kuch kijiye na( Please try something, teacher)."
Sometimes , the pain of others inspires one to perform miracles.
So, I mustered enough courage, prayed to all my adorable gods and casually went towards him.I held his hand. Gulping down my own emotions , I touched his shirt here and his pant there.
"My goodness Sushant , you are so dirty! Look at your dress , and have you seen your socks ? Yak ! Go, run and take a nice cold shower after which we can talk."

It was the most inappropriate conversation I ever made in my life . But it worked.
Sushant took one long look at his dress reluctantly and looked at me. His eyes were teary now. Slowly, with great effort he spoke. His words were barely audible. I drew closer and knelt down before him .
"You know aunty, they tied my hands and legs apart. They always kept me blindfolded. I had to pee in my pants all the time.Only in the afternoon did they give me something to eat in a dirty plate and offered me water in a broken cup. I have not brushed my teeth for six days. I never opened these shoes or socks. Once they held me by my tie . I felt I would die. On the first day I threw tantrums. They slapped me. On the second day I cried bitterly. They laughed at me. On the third day I sobbed softly.They jeered at me . I only remembered my mother and prayed to god to help me out of this...................................."

He continued. But I was'nt listening. I could'nt listen. I do not know when I had squatted on the ground . In no time , Sushant's mother, Sushant and I had begun to whine in pathetic fits.

Later, although the family was grateful to me for making him speak , I cried horribly that night for the second time that day when I thought of the tremendous humiliation, agony and distress that was meted out to that poor boy for six long days.

Sushant's mother called me today. She said among many things, " ...The experience has done him one good. He is no longer fastidious with anything."