The deserted locomotive shed adjacent to Dadar station was empty at this hour on other days of the week. Today it was not. After all, it was a Saturday night. Punters formed a ring large enough to give the two fighters a suggestive feeling of a fight arena. Cigar, pipe and cigarette smoke clouded the light coming from the four lamp bulbs hanging on the long poles, one standing in each corner. The bets had been placed. Hardly anybody spoke as the two fighters took their respective corners. The bout was over in less than a minute. The man in the red shorts did not take a pause in those few seconds. He went hard and fast at his opponent in blue shorts.
Most from the crowd were disappointed. Not because all of them had lost money, but because they lost it so fast. They had come to see bloodshed, broken bones and high pitch action spanning over six rounds of two minutes each. Instead, the limping man in the red shorts had handed them out only a few seconds of entertainment. Life was not just, they thought.
Once the crowd had dispersed, the organizer went about his chores. While the winning fighter sat on a chair putting on his clothes, the organizer held out his hat towards him, extending the winner’s share of the fight money. The winner had nothing to do with the money. He picked up the notes and coins from the hat and threw them in the air behind him. The beggar children, who had prayed heavily for his win like all the previous weekends, ran and wrestled the money from each other. As long as no one died in this ordeal, the winner could not care less. The burden of another death on his soul was the last thing he wanted. He slowly stood up, picked his walking stick and limped away to his red Aston Martin parked a few blocks away.
The organizer shut down all the lights before counting the money he had to pay as bribe to various officials who had let this show go on for a year now. He also checked the money in his right trouser pocket which he had to pay to his biggest winner for the evening. He let out a wry smile to himself knowing what would happen shortly afterwards to that amount of money. After he had walked in the opposite direction for a few blocks, he found the biggest punter of the evening standing below a street light. The two had been meeting at the designated spot after every fight, every week, ever since the ‘show’ started. And the man standing below the light, dressed as always in a neat, expensive three piece suit and smoking a pipe had never lost a single bet. He had always bet on the limping man and never had a chance to regret it, or so the organizer thought. But again, it was not for the money. He adjusted his pince-nez to look at the amount the organizer handed to him. He had seen enough money in his life to know the approximate value of a wad of notes. Using his stick, he turned on his better leg to face a line of elderly women, eagerly waiting for their weekly bounty. As long as none of them had to sleep on an empty stomach, the man smoking the pipe knew that he could sleep peacefully himself. He had found this to be a soothing emotion for his ailing soul. For the ladies, the man with a twitched face became a popular expression to address the anonymous man. The lines of the elderly ladies was getting bigger, but so were his winnings. After evenly distributing the money among them, the man slowly walked to his silver Aston Martin parked properly on the main road. He smoothly took it out and drove to his house, a place he had never called home. He knew he had to come back to this arena again next week. After all, the routine would have to go on till one of them found the ultimate cure for their bereaved souls- death.
The Crimson Tide
Even though India had attained freedom from the British more than a couple of years ago, Estado da Índia continued to be a part of Portuguese dominion with Goa at the heart of political chessboard between India and Portugal. Far from political upheaval widespread in North and Eastern parts of the country, Goa remained to be indecisive on its future. The colony was divided in its opinion but the majority indicated a merger with the Indian Union. With every passing week, the Satyagrahis became larger in numbers and louder in their non- violent protests against the Portuguese establishment.
Deepak Rau was a humble and honest man and believed in Gandhian principles as much as he did in God. The Rau family lived in Aravalem and Deepak had been part of these protests and believed that later or sooner he would officially call himself an Indian. He had been a man of no education and worked as a laborer in the iron ore mines. He had gradually made his and his wife Lata’s lives better over the years despite the hardships. But today was a joyous day in his life. After years of trying, he and Lata had been blessed with a child – a son at that. Though the sex of the child was not on top of Deepak’s mind, who was in his late thirties, but he always had wished for a son. Another set of working hands within a labourer’s family goes a long way to a richer mediocrity.
Vihaan had curly hair, a pert little nose and chubby cheeks. He was usually dressed in clothes which were too big for him. They were hand-me-downs from the older children of their neighbourhood. However, once in a year Vihaan was given new clothes to wear. He looked beautiful rather than handsome. One of the first emotions Vihaan knew was love. He was cocooned by love from two people who seem to feel that his very breath was their breath, his tears wrenched their heart, and his smile made their day. Vihaan knew that his father was rarely at home, but his mother was always there. She was there to help him when he fell, she chided him when he got into mischief, she tended to him when he fell sick and fed him at regular intervals. Ever since he was a toddler, Vihaan knew that his mother’s eyes followed him. Even if she was busy with household chores, which were plenty, Vihaan knew that she was alert lest he would get into mischief or get hurt as soon as he was out of her sight.
Home was a simple but warm place. It consisted of two rooms made of mud with a thatched straw roof. A portion of the house was earmarked as a small kitchen where his mother cooked in an angithi. The part which was the kitchen had a raised mud platform. Here coals burned giving out heat and smoke which would make Vihaan cough. Sometimes Vihaan would watch the glowing coals fascinatedly. His mother cooked delicious vegetables and rice, curry and dal and sometimes fish. When the food was prepared, his mother would feed him first. In their small house, there was a shelf on the wall where photographs of Hindu Gods like Durga and Ganesh had been placed. His parents bowed before them every morning and evening. Vihaan learnt to do it too watching his parents. In the morning Lata would blow the conch shell, a sound which interested Vihaan. His mother would later light incense sticks before the Gods, or Bhagwans as he heard her call them as.
In another corner of the room hung a photograph of an old man with wizened skin and round spectacles sitting on his nose. Kindly eyes looked down upon him. He learnt that this was a photograph of Gandhiji who was almost as revered by Lata and Deepak as God. Vihaan’s father would often talk about Gandhiji. “I do not know our fate, but he was a great man who led India to freedom. Today India is free, but Goa is still under foreign rule. If only these Portuguese would go back to their own lands, then we too will become a part of India. I wonder if I will live long enough to see my dream come true.”
Lata chided him, “ You should remain positive and peaceful. You have done your bit for our motherland, and I am sure that soon we will live on a land free from Portuguese rule.”
Though India had got independence and the British were gone from India, but the Portuguese refused to go from Goa. There were few things for which Deepak was grateful to the Portuguese. It was they who had revived mining in Goa. Hundreds of workers like Deepak were employed thanks to the thriving mining industry. People from other states too came to Goa. Small towns sprung up. Deepak was mindful of the fact that industrial prosperity of the region had come at the cost of forsaking natural beauty. Trees, which had been standing for centuries, had been ruthlessly chopped and the once virgin forest now stood like open scars, ugly and dirty, from which iron was extracted. Deepak wished that there be a better way more learned men could come up with which could maintain a fine balance between preservation of natural resources and yet flourish industrially.
Even when Vihaan was a baby crawling about, he became aware of dust. It seemed to cover almost every part of the house even if Lata closed all the windows and doors and swept and cleaned the house at least ten times a day. Yet, within minutes, it would make a grand entry, and cover their few belongings. Outside their home all vegetation, plants and shrubs looked grey instead of green. When Vihaan’s father came home from work, he was covered with dust from head to toe his face almost unrecognisable. Vihaan did not like the look of his father at that time. Before entering the house his father would wash himself thoroughly from the water of a common handpump. This was the only source of water in the colony. In the morning Lata, along with other ladies, would carry water from the handpump to their homes. When he entered the house, he washed himself again and wore fresh clothes.
Slowly as Vihaan began to walk and grow, he began to observe the world outside his home. Vihaan lived in the miner’s colony which though primitive, was full of warmth. Everyone in the neighbourhood seemed to care for and love him. He was picked up and carried high above on the shoulders of an annaa or elder brother. He heard stories from Ajjo, a grandfather figure who lived next door. Ajjo could not work, given his old age . His hair was white and he had very few teeth. But sitting on the floor of his house he told Vihaan several stories which Vihaan gobbled. One day after narrating a story he looked at Vihaan thoughtfully and said, “Your parents were blessed with you after many prayers. You must always take care of them and never hurt them. They have got only you and you should always love and respect them anyone who truly loves you. Pure love is a rarity in today’s world.”
Vihaan did not understand what Ajjo meant, but he listened carefully and nodded his head. Sabitha Aakka lived on the right of their house. She had a round dark face with small twinkling eyes which lit up whenever she saw him. Whenever Lata had to go out for an errand, she left Vihaan in Sabitha’s care. Her children were older to Vihaan and she would often give him small toys like a clay elephant to play. Vihaan loved toys. Deepak had bought toys for him whenever he went to the market or weekly fair. Sometimes it was in the form of balloons at other times a ball or a clay toy. Most of them were dirt cheap but to Vihaan they meant the world.
Deepak used to go out often when he was not working as he took an active part in the Satyagraha movement. He firmly believed that the Portuguese should be driven out by following Mahatma Gandhi’s methods of satyagraha. He shunned violence and disagreed with the tactics of the Azad Gomantak Dal,which burnt police stations and attacked troops. He took part in peaceful demonstrations and protests as a member of the National Congress Goa. These meetings with other satyagrahis went on late into the night, and when Deepak came home, he found Vihaan had fallen asleep while Lata waited anxiously for his return. At such times he felt a sense of guilt, but he knew that he was working hard to support his family and free his country from foreign rule. If he was free on a Sunday, he took them to a neighbourhood market where Lata would buy essential items she needed for the house and sometimes a trinket like bangles for herself. During such excursions, Vihaan would be excited and amazed. He was usually treated to candy or sweet which he liked. Deepak was fortunate in another way. Unlike other mine owners, his employer, Mr. Santos, despite being a Portuguese, was benevolent and took care of his employees if they were in trouble. Even if his employees were Satyagrahis. As long as they came to work and did their jobs duly, he did not treat them rudely or did anything unjust with them. He did not hesitate to grant them leaves when they fell sick or shell out a few rupees to tide over a financial crisis.
When Vihaan was four years old, he was sent to a neighbourhood government school. Vihaan was admitted to the kindergarten. The school was a small brick red building, hastily constructed. All the children of the worker colony went to the same school. The primary section was located in a small shed with a tin roof. Here too facilities were lacking. Vihaan sat on a rickety bench, while a teacher taught him in Portuguese. He went home crying for the first month or so as he did not want to go to a school where they taught in a language he could not understand. Lata tried to calm him down. “I have never gone to school. That is why there are so many things we cannot do or understand. If your father and I were educated, we might have had a different life. You are getting a chance to study. I want you to learn how to read and write. If you study hard, you will be able to work in an office and live in a proper house. Without education there can be no progress.”
Vihaan went to school regularly. though he hated being away from Lata. Slowly he began to learn how to count and learn the alphabets. He also began to understand Portuguese. His teacher Jane looked like a foreigner. Vihaan later learnt that Jane belonged to the unfortunate class of mixed breed, a lot which would have it’s loyalty tested when it would come to choose between staying in India or going to Portugal. She was half Portuguese and half Indian. She wore skirts and high heels. With blue eyes and hair of gold, she was adorable. Vihaan like other children listened to her carefully and slowly began to follow her. She wrote on what looked like a makeshift blackboard. She admired the Portuguese way of living and what they had done for the state. At school, though Vihaan was too young to comprehend the hot discussion among the staff and teachers, whether Goa should risk joining India. One group felt that Goa would be ruined if the Portuguese left, while others felt that the life of Goans would be much better once they were free from foreign rule and become a part of India, a country they considered their motherland. It was in India that they dreamt of living their lives with dignity and self-respect.
On a certain day in 1955, the lives of everyone in the Rau family changed for the worse. A group of unarmed civilians, mostly the Satyagrahis, demonstrated against the Portugal regime. The sepoys opened fire and twenty two of them were killed. Deepak Rau was one of them.
Despite a lot of protests against these killings, no one was arrested or punished. The Portuguese government had declared it as a just step to counter anti-establishment protests. Mr. Santos, the owner of the mine where Deepak worked, extended all his help towards the bereaved family, including a small one time financial help and an offer to Lata to work in the mines. As children below fourteen years of age weren’t allowed inside the mines, Lata was not keen on taking up the offer. It was only when the neighbors reassured her several times that they would take good care of Vihaan in her absence, did Lata accept the job. She knew that illiterate people did not have much choice when it came to picking a profession for livelihood.
Though the neighbors took good care of Vihaan yet there would always be a difference in parental love and caretaker love. Even at a tender age, Vihaan could understand the difference. He had been made to understand by Lata that he would not see his father ever again and that the two of them were now to live forever with the misfortune. But it was not his father’s love that Vihaan missed more. Like any other child, it was his mother’s love that he longed for. But their life routine did not allow him to have that ‘luxury’.
Next few years were like clockwork for both of them. Lata used to get up around five in the morning to cook breakfast and dinner before waking up Vihaan to send him to school. After dropping Vihaan at the school, she used to reach the mines by eight in the morning. Vihaan used to walk back to the colony after school, accompanied by the children of other miners, and used to stay at one of his neighbors till six in the evening when Lata used to come back. Lata hardly had any energy left by the time she cleaned up and fed Vihaan his dinner. As much as Vihaan wanted to discuss several things around him, he understood that his mother needed rest most of all. While Lata slumped into a deep sleep every day by nine o’ clock in the evening, Vihaan used to lie in one corner of their mud floor and look at the straw roof top and stay awake thinking. He knew that he wouldn’t be allowed to work alongside his mother till he turned fourteen. His appreciation for any kind of education kept on reducing through those years. With each passing month, he became surer that all he wanted to do was to earn as quickly and as much as possible. That for him seemed to be the only way he could ask his mother to stay home and spend more time with him. He soon became a loner at school and was only interested in learning various ways to earn. By the time he reached age ten, he started skipping school and wandered in the streets to understand first-hand the various occupations of people around him and their earnings. He learnt that most people worked for not a huge amount of money and spent their entire lifetime in making a very few others extremely rich. While the others called the owner of business as maalik or sethji, Vihaan much preferred the word bhagwaan for such people as he could see how they owned the destiny of people who worked for them. He knew he wanted to be the bhagwaan for people working for him, sooner than later.
Goa’s political scenario was rapidly changing by 1960. In March 1960, Portuguese Defence Minister General Botelho Moniz, told Prime Minister Salazar that a sustained Portuguese campaign against decolonization would create for the army "a suicide mission in which we could not succeed". His opinion was shared by Army Minister Colonel Almeida Fernandes, by the Army under-secretary of State Lieutenant-Colonel Costa Gomes and by other top officers.
The widespread panic among Europeans settled in Goa forced Portuguese government to think about the evacuation of civilians from Goa. Before a formal action could be initiated, catastrophe struck. On 9th December 1961, the vessel ‘India’ arrived at Goa's Mormugão port en route to Lisbon from Timor. Families who had been waiting for a carrier to escape out of Goa decided to take their chances and the Governor General of Goa, Manuel Vassalo e Silva, allowed it. It was a given that ladies and children would be the ones who would be making the exit using that vessel.
Mrs. Amanda Santos asked Lata to help her pack all the essential and expensive items in as small boxes as possible. That her husband was actively involved in dayto day political meetings, did not help her cause. Lata understood the seriousness and criticality of the situation. She did not even get the time to think what she would do once Mrs. Santos left the country. She could only hope that Mrs. Santos would leave behind a huge parting gift either in cash or some ornaments. She took Vihaan along to assist in carrying back such alms.
The vessel India had a capacity of only three hundred and eighty as it was not meant to be a passenger ship for evacuation. As soon as all the seven hundred or so civilians reached the Mormugão port, everyone realized that things were about to get ugly.
After a disciplined on boarding of the first few passengers, people who were significantly behind in the queue, started cutting the line and flung themselves and their valuables on board the ship, pushing aside the few constables who were overlooking the process. Amanda, who was in the middle of the line, tried to urge people to remain calm but it was not the time when people remained civil. In under ten minutes, more than five hundred people had boarded the vessel and still over two hundred were trying to make it to the deck of the ship.
Soon, some people started throwing overboard all the big luggage which some others had been able to pull aboard. Scuffles started in various corners of the ship but it was quite clear to the majority on the ship that the lives of people still on land was far more important than the material belongings of few. People were pushed into toilets and a stampede ensued amongst people on land. Amanda took out some money from her hand bag and then threw it away along with the other bags. She picked her two sons and shouted instructions to Lata to carry her other two sons. Lata quickly complied with the instructions, ordersing Vihaan to stand on the wooden foot bridge ashore. The six of them started running towards the ship which had blowed its siren to signal its departure. Amanda could see the vessel starting to drift away from the shore. She cried out loudly to the people standing on the rail, mostly deck hands, who could do nothing except stretching out their arms, ready to pull all of them aboard, if their hands could meet before the vessel was in deep waters.
Amanda, ran for her life and the lives of the ones she loved most. Lata followed closely. The water was getting deeper and by the time they reached near the deck, water was already waist high. Others were rushing in too, mustering all the strengths they possibly could.
Amanda quickly pushed her two sons, one by one, in the hands of two of the crew members who were almost falling off themselves. Then she looked back and saw Lata running in closely at her heels. She quickly took her third son and raised him above her shoulder so that the crew men could lift him on board. She did the same thing for her fourth son. The water was chest high and it was becoming increasingly difficult to remain standing on the soft sea bed. Amanda tried her best to hold the hands of any of the people who were trying to pull anyone aboard but with the last minute dash from the few remaining offshore, it was a losing battle. Lata quickly evaluated the situation and rushed towards Amanda. She swiftly lifted Amanda atop her shoulders and started to run towards the ship which was already a good twenty yards away from the shore. Lata called upon her every last bit of her strength and pushed Amanda towards the outstretched helping hands. In doing so she fell down, face first in the saline water. She half raised her body to see Amanda being pulled over. She let out a smile. But before she could stand up, she felt a strong push from behind and fell in the water again. The following footsteps negated all her efforts to stand up while pushing her deeper into the sea at the same time.
By the time the ship had reached fifty yards away from the
shore, Lata's lifeless body had been pushed twenty yards deep in to the sea bed. After a while, a handful of bodies floated up to the top alongside Lata's. The waters run red and crimson tide hit Vihaan’s bare feet. Lata drifted with the waves and Vihaan lunged towards it. Lata’s eyes were open and her face bore a distraught look, a look Vihaan never forgot his entire life.
A FEW GOOD MEN
Sourav Das had worked his way up the career ladder through hard work and determination. He was a fifteen year old illiterate boy when he started working at the mines of Sekhar Bose at Jharia in 1915. But soon he realized that physical labour was no match to the educated lot when it came to earning money. So, after working his mandatory hours at the mines, Sourav used to study wherever it was possible to get artificial light, a rarity in those days. Railway station, streets and even the small labour canteen at the mines, any of these places he could find, Sourav used them as his personal study room. He started with the newspaper as the material to induct himself into education. Sourav did not start with the alphabets. Instead, for the first few months, he would ask people to read him out the various phrases or sentences written on the main page. Over a period of time, he developed his own learning methodology which taught him to read the whole newspapers and understand what it conveyed. It took him the next whole year to be able to write decently well. Sourav had also keenly observed what the elderly munim would do on pay day, which happened to be one day each month when munim would come and distribute salary. He understood that mathematics was more than just counting on fingers. With the help of munim, he started learning simple addition and subtraction. Munim could easily see that Sourav had a flair for numbers and could mentally do simple mathematics. Munim knew that soon he would not be able to travel to Jharia from Calcutta due to his falling health. After seeking permission from Sekhar Bose, munim started training Sourav how to carry out the transactions on pay day. Sourav would travel to Calcutta a week prior to salary day, pick the latest employee list and other papers which required a pay out at Jharia, like electricity, water supply and the like, and would travel back to Jharia with sufficient cash to cover all expenses. For the initial three months, munim travelled with Sourav not only because it was a large sum of money but also to check how Sourav conducted himself while carrying those large amounts. Munim did not require a fourth trip to fully trust Sourav. Sourav was smart and outright honest and carried out the monetary transactions perfectly.
Munim passed away in 1925. It did not take much effort for Sekhar Bose to see that Sourav was the right replacement for munim. Sekhar Bose arranged for permanently shifting Sourav to Calcutta and by end of 1926 Sourav got married and settled there. Sourav was very fond of Sekhar’s son Rabindra who was four years old at the time. Over the next few years, Sekhar knew he could trust Sourav with his life. Sourav too had become a shadow to Sekhar and the two could have intelligent discussions in very few words because they knew what the other person was thinking. Though Sourav desperately wanted a girl to be his first born child, he was blessed with a boy in 1930. He named him Gourav and threw a huge party in celebration. The social fabric of India, in the meanwhile, was also changing rapidly. Dandi march called by Gandhi ji in 1930 had a rousing impact throughout the country and its tremors could be felt all the way to the eastern part of India, including Calcutta.
The newspapers in Calcutta especially the vernacular ones were full of Mahatma Gandhi’s salt Satyagraha. Calcutta too was gripped by a fever of patriotism. Everywhere British goods were boycotted and foreign cloth burned. Khadi gained popularity and Sourav also dressed in a khadi dhoti kurta. Protests were held. In Maedinapore people refused to pay the chowkidar tax. There were sporadic cases of violence reported from Calcutta and other places. However this time Mahatma Gandhi did not call off the movement. In the drawing rooms of Calcutta the only topic of discussion was the Dandi march and the subsequent goal of Swaraj.
Personally, it was a happy time for Sourav who was enjoying fatherhood. Sekhar came to see Gourav and presented him with a gold chain. Sourav was extremely touched by this gesture of generosity. Sekhar’s family had always valued the services of Sourav and did not hesitate to show their appreciation openly.
The next few years of Sourav passed in bringing up his son. Gourav’s annaprashan ceremony was held in a modest style. Sourav took this opportunity to invite many of his old friends. The 1930s passed quickly. Sourav continued to work hard. He now made enough money to provide a comfortable life for his family. Calcutta in the late 1930s presented a city which was growing and changing rapidly. New roads came up. More buses could be seen on the roads. The entire city was criss-crossed with tramlines which were usually crowded. Private cars could be seen plying on the roads. The population of the city was increasing. The footpaths were crowded with vendors selling their wares.
A fever of patriotism swept over Calcutta but many residents of the city now favoured the new star in the Indian National Movement- Subhas Chandra Bose. When differences cropped up between Mahatma Gandhi and Subhas Chandra Bose most of the people in Calcutta favoured Netaji over Gandhi. Netaji, as Bose was fondly known, formed the Forward Block.
A feeling of fear was palpable among the British residents in Calcutta as the National movement gained momentum and rapidly became a mass movement. Meetings were held everywhere, including the maidaan where the British went for a stroll and even in street corners. A number of youth turned into terrorists and manufactured bombs in their houses to gain freedom. Fearing for their lives many British residents started leaving Calcutta. Those who stayed knew that their days in India were numbered.
In 1939 the world turned topsy-turvy when World War II broke out. Many Indians were forced to fight by the side of the British army. Subhas Chandra Bose opposed the Congress’s stand of supporting the British during the war. The Congress and Bose drifted apart. Bose did not believe in the non violent movement advocated by Gandhiji. He gave a clarion call “Give me blood and I will give you freedom.” He was arrested and clamped into jail by the British. He went on a hunger strike in the jail. The authorities were forced to let him go and he was put under house arrest. In 1941 he staged a daring escape from his sprawling Elgin road residence in his family car and within three months reached Germany where he sought help from Hitler. Subhas Chandra Bose caught the imagination of the youth in Calcutta who believed in him fervently. Many residents of Calcutta revered Subhas Chandra Bose as a greater hero than Gandhiji.
The war brought turmoil but Sekhar made handsome profits as the demand for coal increased manifold. In Jharia work went on in full flow and more and more miners were hired to meet the increasing demand. Sourav would often have to travel to Jharia. His son Gourav was now a young boy studying in school.
In 1942 the Quit India movement was in full flow. Sourav was in Jharia. He was busy with work. Whenever he went to Jharia he felt the air change. It was more suffocating and filled with blackened coal dust. Sourav always took several changes of clothing in his trunk to cope with the coal dust. It was during one such visit that he came across Narendra Chatterjee with whom he was to form a close bond eventually. When Sourav met Narendra, the latter was in a pitiable state. He was dressed in a shabby half torn shirt and was sitting on one side of the road, close to his hotel, with a book in his hand. Something about the boy struck a chord in Sourav. The boy looked older to Gourav. There was an earnestness in his face that appealed to Sourav. He enquired about the boy and found that he had recently lost his parents. His father worked in the mines for the Bose family and had lost his life in a mining accident. Sekhar had paid his family adequate compensation and given a job to Narendra’s mother. But a greater tragedy awaited the family. Narendra’s mother suffered from a massive heart attack and collapsed never to wake up again. At that time Narendra was studying in a government school. The boy took a keen interest in his studies. The twin tragedies shattered him completely though he still lived in the same house and went to the same school.
The face of the innocent boy haunted Sourav. He seemed to mirror Sourav’s own turbulent childhood. He decided to visit the boy.
He headed for the miner’s colony where Narendra lived. He went to his house and found Narendra cooking a pot full of rice with boiled potatoes. He approached the boy and said, “I am Sourav Das. I am the accountant at the mines where you work.”
The boy nodded in acknowledgement and touched his feet. Sourav said, “I have heard about your tragedy. I know you have suffered a lot.”
Narendra burst into sobs and then controlling himself said, “I have no one in this world whom I can call my own. I wanted to study hard and complete my schooling before going for a job. I do not think it will be possible now. I have to support myself. I guess I will get work in the mines.”
Sourav felt a strong feeling of compassion welling up inside him. Somehow this unknown boy tugged at his emotions. It made him feel like a helpless child again. He made a decision and then asked, “You love books?”
Narendra’s face brightened up, “Yes, more than anything else. I think education helps a man to lead a better life.”
Sourav said softly, “It can still be possible. I will sponsor your education. You can become my ward.”
Narendra could not believe his ears. He looked up his eyes incredulous. At last he stammered, “Do you mean what you say?”
“Of course. When you come to know me better, you will understand that I never make false promises.”
Narendra fell on Sourav’s feet sobbing uncontrollably. His life changed after that. The boy who considered himself unlucky now thought he was the most fortunate boy in the whole world. He was being given an opportunity of his dreams.