30/07/2007 by Siddiqui Fayesal
In the heart of a metropolis there lived a boy called Pawan. Our story starts when our protagonist is eleven years old and he wakes up to a dull morning with a sinking feeling in his stomach that something’s not right. It’s the usual feeling people get when they know that they have done some wrong and they know for sure that they have been caught, but also at the same time they wish, no, hope that they’re wrong about themselves.
Last night while he was having dinner his sister had come stomping in the kitchen, where they ate dinner, and announced with her face streaked with tears that there was some money missing from her purse. Again. A sum of Rs. 150 was missing. During the past couple of months there were many members of the household who had found their own money missing, misplaced or lost.
Pawan’s ear pricked with certain tingling that only he could hear. He could not swallow another morsel of his Dal Chawal and Raita. Not a single grain could be pushed down his so much constricted food pipe.
“Mamma, I don’t feel like eating anymore. I want to go to the toilet””Theek hai. Go fast and come back to eat some food. You’ve had only a pint ab tak”
Pawan went to his room first on the pretext of wearing his pajamas before going to the loo. As soon as he was out of his parents vision he raced to his drawer and removed a crumpled out Rs 50 note from between the paper sheets that lined his drawer and threw it on the table. As soon as he had done this he wore his pajamas and raced to the loo. He came back and refused to eat anymore in spite of his mom insisting a lot. He noticed that his parent’s attitude changed after he came back from the loo. He hoped that it’s only because of the missing cash but he knew deep down inside of him what exactly their reason was.
He couldn’t sleep that night. Twisted and turned the whole night and just kept silently crying and praying and hoping that he gets one more chance to undo that one mistake he did long time back. Hoping that the lord above listens to his one plea; his one desire to undo the wrong. To undo his pathetic mistake but he knew that no amount of prayer would be able to help him now. He knew what was to be done. He knew he had to face his father and mother and repent his mistake in the manner which he could have avoided if only he had listened to his inner voice a long time ago…
He got up with the sinking feeling in his guts. He was hoping that he be disemboweled instead of making him face his parents. He wanted to get to school, to give his Marathi exam. To be able to look into his fathers eyes without feeling a sense of guilt, without feeling like a vermin who has polluted this household. But none happened. Even when he prayed to the almighty to strike him to pieces, to help him shrivel up into a non entity, to make his parents forget that they ever had a child he could only hear a resonance in his heart. All emptiness inside him screamed into his conscience that he had to face his destiny… And face he did.
Before he left for the school his father called him and his mother into his room and locked it up… And without preamble he began thus.
“How much money have you taken from our pockets since the last one year”
He almost said no before he caught himself and just looked down in his lap. If anything he wanted to evaporate into thin air.
“We know that you have been taking money stealthily from my wallet, from your mom’s purse and your sister’s purse. All we want to know is where have you been spending it. Why dint you ask us money if u needed it for any goddam reason.”
Saying this he started crying and this zapped the soul out of Pawan. He had expected his father to abuse him, slap him and curse him. But not this!!! He wanted to say something, to say sorry, to assure that it won’t happen again, to cry out his very soul of his that resided in his body that made his father cry. He wanted to die at that very moment so that he wouldn’t have to see his father cry. The same man who gave in to his every wish no matter how naive and no matter how unpractical. The same man who fought his sleep for 2 years so that he could get into the best school he could barely afford. The same man who studied under streetlights so that he could give his children every luxury that he didn’t get in his life.
“Just tell me why did you do this. I’m an old man son, I’ll die tomorrow if I had to the day after if anything like this happens again. Just tell me what need did you have that made you do this.”
To all the answers all Pawan could do was just keep looking in his lap and keep crying hoping that he dissolved in front of his father; His Mentor; His guide in life; His hero.
He tried to reason but non came out.
His father cried and kept asking him questions whose answers his son dint know. His heart bled to see his own blood do this to him. Robbing from his own pocket.
“If you needed a new bag wouldn’t I have provided you with it? If you needed a new pair of shoe wouldn’t I have provided you with it? Why did you have to do this beta. Why???”
“I’m sorry dad. It wont happen again.” This was all he could muster after his dad got up and was about to leave. His eyes were still in his lap. He didn’t have the guts to see into his fathers blood shot eyes. He couldn’t.
His father only spoke to him when he had to but as days went by everything got back to normal. Pawan and his father even started sharing jokes.
Pawan swore that he would never ever do anything to anger his father. Never ever to make his father shed another tear. No matter what happened. He never took a single rupee out of his parent’s pockets without asking them. His parents began trusting him… after all he was their own flesh and blood…
Ten Years Later…
Pawan was now just about to graduate, his mother comes into the room and sits in front of him. Right from the fateful day he found out he had begun hiding it from his parents eyes. He had always been strained when he’s alone with either of his parents. He’s scared about how it’ll come out. He’s tried harder than ever to hide it. He’s tried too hard to hide it. How can they come to know that he’s having an affair with a girl. He isn’t ready to tell them yet. He sweats and asks his mother, “Why? What happened?” His mother breaks down and tells him a tale that makes him want to shrink back into his body and throws him back in time and makes him feel like a guilty criminal again. “Money has started disappearing again, Beta. Tell me its not you.” She said it so helplessly that Pawan could not help the tears as they began flowing too.
Pawan felt cheated. He thought that he was in the clear after all these years. He tells his mom the truth, “No Ma. It’s not me this time.”. His mom believes him but then a more disturbing question swells up in his heart. “If not me… Then who???”
His father comes home in the evening and asks him the same thing. He is again under the scanner. But how could I, he thought, I haven’t stolen any money since the last time I was caught.
He hears his father talk about his sister and swells up in embarrassment. His sister! But how could she? What if she has learnt it from him??? He again sees his mother crying and his father sad with his hands on his forehead. Defeated. Tired and sad of upbringing children like him.
Seeing his father like this and thinking about how he fears his sister will face his father. Then he decided something that even left him by surprise but he never doubted once that he made the right decision…
After all its better to have one wretched child than to have two, isn’t?
“I’m sorry dad. I’ve done it again.”