IS IT ENOUGH TO PUBLISH A BOOK IN BRAILLE? DO THE READERS RELATE TO EVERYTHING IN THE BOOK? Here are the results for the first* contest in the world where the main criterion is to have no [or minimal] visual references or cues. Read on!
* We had one in Marathi a few years back. Again EKansh Trust!
THE PRIZE WINNING STORIES ARE SHARED WITH YOU BELOW IN GOOD FAITH. KINDLY HAVE THE COURTESY OF NOT USING THESE STORIES ANYWHERE WITHOUT EXPLICIT PERMISSION FROM EKANSH TRUST AND THE AUTHORS.
READISCOVERY : PRIZE WINNING STORIES
Announces the winners of
The Short Story Writing Contest for Persons with Visual Impairment.
Judge: Ms. Kavita Kane – Well known author of best selling novels
Panelists [VI] – Mr. Sameer Latey [CA], Ms. Nikita Raut [MBA]
Idea & Execution: Anita Iyer Narayan for Ekansh Trust
1st Prize Rs. 10,000: Rahul Kelapure - The Sound of Silence
2nd Prize Rs. 7500: Dr. Ghanshyam Asudani - Aparajita
3rd Prize Rs 5000: Dr. Vinod Asudani - The silent Watcher
We congratulate and thank all participants who made this contest a success.
Listen to the announcement of prizes here: https://youtu.be/a6x1RYrd22o
Listen to the Judge, Panelists and Ideator here: https://youtu.be/a6x1RYrd22o
Listen to the winners here: https://youtu.be/9V0SZ2lWcfU
FIRST PRIZE Rupees 10,000/-
THE SOUND OF SILENCE By- Rahul Kelapure
It was a usual day for Pragya in her office. After finishing the presentation with clients, she fills her coffee mug and sits on her workstation to take a deep breath. Landline phones’ rings and clicks of staplers can be heard in the background. Cool air of AC was blowing away the aroma of coffee in her mug.
Her colleague Anila comes to her to enter into the chit-chat round before leaving for the day and says:
“The presentation went well, (sighs) let’s cross the fingers for approval.”
Pragya sips her coffee and says,
“Let’s see. Plus Monday, I have to arrange a virtual meeting with Mehta and Sons.”
To which Anila replies,
“New intern Tejas will be taking care of that now and will be reporting to you”
Pragya finishes her coffee and takes her purse to leave.
“Ok, I gotta go now. See you tomorrow, and yes, don’t forget to come for the party next week.”
She leaves the office and reaches the parking lot. Her car’s unlock sound is heard. As she reaches the door of her car, she feels a strange smell and feels sleepy.
She gains her senses after some time. She is still slightly dizzy. She screams for help but realizes that her mouth is tied with a cloth, probably with her own dupatta. The echo from her scream made it clear that this must be a small room where she was kept in. Her attention goes to her hands which are also tied with some wire like material. She struggles to free herself but in vain. She slowly drags herself to the left to reach a wall. She pushes the floor with her feet and finally something stops her. She can feel the cold hard surface against her left shoulder, which was certainly a wall. She slowly gets up taking support of that wall. She now moves ahead dragging her feet slowly like a walking stick and tries to hear the possible sounds around her. Very faint voices of two men are reaching her ears, her left cheek and ear are slightly touching the cold surface of the wall. She focuses more and hears the clock hung on the other wall ticking. The sound of the clock is louder than the voices coming from outside, which also takes her attention to the time.
She thinks: “The house keys are with me. By now my husband must have left the office. If he doesn’t find me home, he’ll definitely do something to find my whereabouts. I know, he’ll immediately go to the police station.”
“Wait wait wait… there must be some person who knows about my routine… and who has some grudges with me. I just have to think about that person. But who can he be? Or maybe it’s a woman.”
“Sulochna aunty’s daughter, with whom I indulged in a serious argument about the building secretary’s post?” “But won’t go to that extent of getting me abducted.”
“Then who else can do it?”
“Please somebody take me out of here. Why am I here?”
She tries to calm herself down with a deep breath and gulps her anxiety.
“I have to think chronologically.” “ Ahhhhhh… She breathes out”
The sound of honking vehicles were interrupting her thoughts, but were reminding her that the place is near some road and people are still actively moving around.
She goes back to the track of her thought and focuses once more, on the point she was interrupted by the noise.
“The person who got me abducted, knows where I work and my work timings. So either he must have been keeping an eye on my activities or knows me very well.”
“Now, if I, for a minute keep ‘someone keeping an eye on me’ aside for some time, then I am left with the person who knows me very well.” “Now someone who knows me very well and can go to this extent is… Mr. Ahuja?”
“Yes, Mr. Ahuja. My neighbour. I lodged an FIR against him for domestic violence. But how can he do so? He is in hospital.”
The clock’s ticking sound continues. The silence gradually pervades outside. She leans against the wall to focus on the sounds but she cannot hear anything much. She estimates the time with the prevailing silence. The surface of the cold wall on which she is leaning to, gets a little warm with her body. As the night deepens, so does her anxiety. She has never been alone in such a dark place. She wants to escape, but does not get a way out. She suddenly cries out of frustration and again starts moving to the right to find out the door to escape. She tumbles down with some obstruction. It sounded like a big steel bucket. She feels a sharp pain near her right knee and murmurs:
“Maybe it’s bleeding.”
She again tries to drag herself to her right. She reaches a corner of the room. And hits the surface with her foot to know if it’s a door or not.
“It’s wall again.” She thinks.
She is scared, but she is also tired and hurt. So she, this time, doesn’t try to stand. She feels exhausted. She again leans on the wall, but her anxiety doesn’t let her sleep. She can hear her breath, the ticking clock sounds louder, the friction of her feet against the floor and can feel the pulse on the sides of her forehead.
She tries to keep awake, but at last she gives up. It is getting cold as the time is passing. She pulls her knees a bit. Suddenly she hears footsteps from the roof. She is again wide awake and waits for more of such sound. She again hears someone dragging a chair around the other side of the wall. She tries to listen to that person's words but no sound comes now. This time she gets a faint smell of cigarette smoke.
It reminds her about her husband Jatin.
"Jatin's office is forty minutes away from our house. By now he must have reached home and after finding the door locked he must have gone to Sulochna aunty's house to ask about me."
"But what if he would think that I must have stayed back in the office for some work and didn't bother?"
She leans again on the wall and thinks:
"He must have called me up, but my phone….? I’m sure I don’t have it here. The person who abducted me cannot afford to make this foolish mistake.”
My husband must have gone to the police station to lodge my missing complaint, after not being able to contact me. I know him."
"He is such a caring husband, that he will not take any risk. But police won't lodge a complaint before 24 hours"
"But anyways he'll soon take me out of this."
She now eagerly waits for her husband to rescue her.
"Thank god, I sent my son to his grandma's house. At least he is out of all this mess."
She still feels the night's cold but hears birds chirping outside. She says to herself:
"It must be around six by now."
She hears a mobile phone's ring.
"This ringtone is of a very old model. And I hear this everyday."
"But where?" she tries to recall.
And she hears a familiar voice answering that call.
"Jagmohan!" "Our office boy!"
"What is he doing here? And why would he do this to me?"
She listens to him carefully.
"Yes sir! She is here. I did what you said and now you have to pay me as you promised."
Her mind and ears are fully alert now.
"That means I was right. Somebody who knows me and about my daily activities."
"Ok sir. I'll wait for you. But you have to come fast as I have to leave for the office in a few hours. Everybody knows that I live behind the office building and if I don't show up, they will send someone to enquire about my availability. It will be very difficult for me to hide her here for long"
Now there is again such annoying silence. She again thinks:
"The way Jagmohan is telling the details about his house and office rules, seems that the main culprit behind this is someone who doesn't work in our office."
After some time he opens the door for someone.
"With the sound of the footsteps of that person, it is clear that he is a man who walks swiftly."
"But who can that person be?"
Now she hears that person's voice.
"Take this money".
"It is more than I promised to you."
She immediately recognizes this voice and thinks:
So Jatin, her husband, is behind her abduction. She hears the footsteps becoming louder.
Jatin tells Jagmohan to open the door.
Assuming that they are about to reach her, she pretends that she is still faint.
She hears the door lock opening. Suddenly she feels around her in the room, a breeze of fresh air mixed with smoke of the same cigarette brand which her husband smokes, while keeping silent without moving a limb.
Jatin opened the door just to check if she was there or not. He, in order to double check, wickedly calls her by her nickname:
“Babieeeeeee…". He laughs when she doesn’t respond to him.
He quickly goes away followed by banging the door behind him shut. On the other hand, Pragya thinks:
"Darn, I got a golden chance to escape, then why didn't I?
"But if I had tried to leave, I would not have been able to go far and they would have again caught me."
Now she calms down. She again gets to hear something.
Jatin says to someone on phone call:
"I just want the insurance money which is 5 crore after she dies. I have planned everything to make her death look like an accident"
After hearing this, Pragya feels shattered. She is not able to believe what she heard. Her marriage, her happy life with her husband and son, Jatin's caring nature, his love for her, everything comes under a question mark.
"Whatever he did to me was fake?"
"Can he think of killing me for insurance money?"
Suddenly her emotions gush out of her eyes. Tears roll down her eyes and slip on her cheeks. They get absorbed in the cloth tied to her mouth. She is unable to stop her tears. She realises that she will be killed any time. There is no one she can call for help. No one will come to rescue her.
"How could Jatin go to the police station when he was the one who planned my abduction. Silly I am."
"But for the insurance money?"
She realizes that it was her biggest mistake to trust him and get married with him. But then she recalls that she is in that dark room, and is about to die any moment.
Suddenly her thoughts get interrupted by Jatin's voice. He is again talking to someone on the phone.
"Yes, I'm her husband. She has decided that she'll be transferring all her property and bank balance to me. You please do the formalities."
She after listening to it, says her self:
"But I discussed this thing with him three years ago. How come he doesn’t know about my will which I made last week with the help of my lawyer?"
"Aaah! Yes, because he was out on his business tour. And when he reached home, we were busy for a week in a family function"
"So he wants my property now, and after that he will kill me to get the insurance money also!"
"But I made a will that all my property will automatically be transferred to my son after he turns 26, but he is just 12. And as per the will, if I need to make a change to it, then my signature alone won't do. As per one of its clauses, my lawyer will have to talk to me to know the reason for modifying the will"
"That means my husband will have to ask my lawyer about the will, and my lawyer cannot make any changes solely on the basis of my signatures"
"The way Jatin is talking, seems that he has already managed to forge my signatures".
"But the ball is still in my court." Jatin cannot make a foolish mistake of killing me at this time."
And the very next moment, she hears Jatin talking again to someone.
"This time he is talking to my lawyer for sure." She sounds very confident this time.
She tries to listen to him again.
"What? Are you sure? But when did she do that?"
"Oh, I see." He says. And after a pause, he says:
"No no, there is no problem. She is here only."
"I can ask her to talk to you."
"Just that she is in the bathroom, I'll call you up when she comes out"
After the call ends, Jagmohan reminds him:
"Sir, I think, since she is here in the store room, she must have heard your plans."
To which Jatin replies: "that's not possible, she was faint when you opened the door. How can she hear me?"
"You don't have brains to understand my cleverness."
The very next moment Jatin goes to open the door. Pragya, who heard it already, also pretends that she doesn't know anything. He opens the door hurriedly and in a very tensed voice, goes to Pragya and frees up her mouth, unties her hands and says:
"Shhhhh… Pragya, I found you, Let’s move out quickly without making noise.”
“You know how tense I was. Just get up and come with me. Let's go before anyone hears us."
While he was whispering close to her face, Pragya, for the first time, felt disgusted by his breath mixing with hers.
Pragya stands up and goes with him out of Jagmohan's house. He makes her sit in the car and starts driving the car home.
Pragya was feeling overwhelmed with the noise on the road and around. The vehicles honking loudly, the hawkers calling passers-by and her cunning husband’s voice. Everything was piercing her heart. But the noise from outside was still not louder than the noise of conflict going on inside her mind.
On their way, he says to her:
"I know this is not the right time to talk about this but do you remember you talked about transferring your entire property to me? Three years ago? I think you should talk to your lawyer once about that."
Pragya doesn't utter a word but keeps listening to him.
He calls up her lawyer and the lawyer speaks:
Jatin replies: "hello… my wife Pragya wants to talk to you about her will"
The lawyer on the other end of the call responds:
Pragya, in her stone-cold voice speaks:
"Call the cops."
SECOND PRIZE: Rupees 7500/-
APARAJITA Dr. Ghanshyam Asudani
Death is the inevitable truth of life. Time and again, you have to bid farewell to one or the another. Timely or untimely; early or late; come it must. We are often afraid of it. But, there are some people who never care for it. It does not win over them. They conquer it. These were the thoughts I was preoccupied while walking with the funeral of Asha. Yes, Asha. Asha Chandrakant Thete.
I still clearly remember the day. Everything was usual at school. The admissions were on. People were bringing their wards clad in rich and gaudy cloths. Usually the children from well-to-do families sought admission in our school. It had maintained a reputation of producing highest result in the region. I was supervising the tough admission procedure. Suddenly I was taken aback by the entry of a poor and shabby looking man who virtually banged into my chamber. He had his 12 year daughter with him. He wanted admission for her in 5th class. She studied in municipal school till class 4. Now he wanted to admit her in good school. When I asked him about the fee, he said that he would manage everything. He only wished that his daughter go beyond the sky and become the pride and propel of his life and existence for he loved her more than the whole world.
She was slim, tall, bubbly girl with curly locks. Full of enthusiasm she left others behind in punctuality and discipline. She soon became favourite of all. Her abject poverty made her all the more simple. She was poor no doubt, but she proved the richest in studies in the school. She stood first in entire school in class 5th and also won a scholarship. Everybody had strong hopes from her.
God is nearer to the children, they say. The almighty manifested on every moment when she soothed a child when he/she got hurt while playing or consoled a crying kid who became restless for parents. She was like elder sister to all her younger schoolmates and the elder pupils loved her as their family member. She also started participating actively in co-curricular activities as well. No school activities would be complete without Asha being there directly or indirectly.
The course of life does never run smooth for those who believe in him the most for reasons unknown to the man. She lived in a dilapidated hut where cold, rain and sun had free hand round the year. The whole family passed waking restless nights when the rain gods were kind enough to the world to bless for days together. The thatched roof had countless holes and the whole structure had leaned on the left side. The meager income of her father was not enough to feed a family of eight. Asha was the youngest amongst three brothers and an equal number of sisters.
Her academic march continued unabated till she reached ninth class. Nobody could even imagine to leave her behind in performance.
It was the annual prize distribution ceremony. Everybody was waiting to hear the name of Asha to receive the best student award. But when her name was announced, nobody came forward. One and all present there was in for shock. Even her classmates were in dark about her absence. The principal declared that he would arrange a separate function to honour Asha as soon as she came to the school.
Such a sudden absence from the school surprised everybody. It created a raucous in my mind. I was the only soul in the school whom she respected the most. I was even her most trusted confidante as well. On my way back to home I could not hold my feet and started towards her house.
Walking through many spiraling lane when I finally reached my destination, I was greeted by a grim silence at her home. Asha did not welcome me as usual. There was an unusual shadow of sadness on her otherwise glittering face. I asked about the reason of her being absent for the prize distribution ceremony. She calmly replied that she had gone to doctor. This was another unexpected shock for me. “doctor? Why?” I asked. “sir, Asha has developed a strange problem since last year” replied her father instead. “strange problem?! What do you mean? She never mentioned it to me!” I almost shouted. “sir, the doctor suspects that she has…!” “what does doctor suspect?” I curied. Now it was becoming impossible for me to sustain my feelings. “he says that Asha has Blood Cancer!” I did not believe my years for a moment. “are you alright?” I retorted. “sir, he has confirmed from her blood test.”
“Asha, you knew all this and you did not say a word!” I at once burst out. But she remained as silent as before.
I passed a restless night. Asha’s innocent face kept haunting me. Why should a faultless being be punished in such a ruthless manner! ‘Thou art just’ they say! Is this his justice? What is the mystry behind such providential cruality? There were thousand questions, only questions and no answer.
From that day on, she could not come to school. I visited her every now and then. She asked me to arrange tenth class books and also to get her assignments corrected by the teachers. I promised her all possible co-operation in her studies.
Asha had nurtured a dream to top the entire state in her matriculation examination. A dream which she was beyond doubt capable of achieving. But now, the things were different. Perhaps the almighty had different plans for her.
In my childhood, my mother used to read ‘Bhagwat Geeta. ’ She used to explain the basic teaching of Geeta in simple terms, “What happened was good; what is happening is good and whatever will happen will also be for our good.” It was alright to chant the mantra in those impressionable years but whatever was happening to this innocent child…! Maybe for a momentary spell, my unshakable faith also starting crumbling. On one side there was theoretical teaching of Geeta and on the practical ground there was a living dream being shattered to dust! Oh, what a contrast of life!
All her classmates were preparing for board examination in the paush public school and this ‘Sanyasi’ [The hermit] was doing her ‘Tapasya’ [the Penance] in her small hut shut from all outside world. All alone, all by herself. By November, she was completely bed-ridden. Her limbs were paralyzed. She could not hold her books properly. Somebody had to read aloud her lessons to her.
Whenever I visited her, she greeted with the same enthusiasm as ever. The ailment had succeeded to afflict only her body and not her mind which was as enthusiastic and active as ever.
In January, her condition deteriorated and she was admitted to hospital. Middles were pricked in her hands to give medicines through drip. She had one aim, one purpose, one desire to write board exams. uncommon determination of a common man makes him uncommon. Her courage of mind was unearthly. Nobody on the earth not even the god could have prevented from achieving her goal.
By the time the exams began, she had become too frail to do anything. Doctors clearly warned her against writing exams. But who could stop an aspiring mind! I requested the examination board and a writer was provided to her.
She had to be transported to exam centre in an ambulance. She dictated the whole exam with extraordinary alacrity and ease. After writing every paper she had the same complain, “I wanted to write more but I did not get the time.” When she finished writing the exam, there was an illuminating glow on her face. She had successfully faced the challenge of nature.
Now, she was waiting for the results. The doctors had given up all hopes of her survival. Only a miracle could save her life. She became the part of my prayers.
It was the night of 20th June. The board results were supposed to be out on 21st June. Everybody was anxious. On the eve of result I visited the hospital. Asha was unconscious. She didn’t know that her destination was nearer.
At the time of dawn when the birds started chirping and the world began to wake up, my telephone rang. It was Asha’s father from the other end saying with chocked voice, “sir, our Asha is no more!”
I was speechless. Words failed my emotions.
It was the very next moment. My phone rang once again. This time it was my principal. “Mr. Asudani, Asha Thete has topped the entire state in class tenth examination.” I was overpowered by a sense of dumbness. I could not move an inch from place. My senses had failed.
Her body was wrapped in red coffin. Today it was no longer a coffin. It had become crimson bridal gown. She was not going to pyre but to her wedding carriage. Death had reduced her body to dust. It had conquered her earthly existence but not her spirit to live, her indomitable courage to face all odds and her extraordinary will power to study.
In our society there is tradition to change the name of a newly wedded bride. It was the time to change the name of this immortal bride. The earthly Asha had today become ‘Aparajita” the unconquerable. She had become the impregnable lighthouse for the generations to come which will continue to show the millions of aspiring minds how to worship the Goddess of knowledge.
My mind echoed the poet: she lives, she wakes--'tis Death is dead, not she
THIRD PRIZE: Rupees 5000/-
THE SILENT WATCHER BY Dr. Vinod Asudani
* while this story has visual references, the panelists confirmed that they are able to relate to them via the context and settings.
Childhood remains incomplete if one is not fortunate enough to have the lovely company of one's grandmother. That is what I have come to believe as I grew up in the affectionate company of my grandmother. I can vividly recall thousand things that we did together. I remember myself as a small boy playing gleefully upon her shoulders, sometimes when I was little older, walking beside her, along the road, clutching to her fingers with my little hand and at other times playing with her, hundred different games. She had always been very sympathetic and gentle to me. I hardly remember that she ever lost her temper or got irritated. I would little hesitate to confess that whenever I received a bitter rebuke from my mother, I ran towards her and sought refuge under her protective and affectionate arms. Her presence gave me a strange sense of security which was beyond any earthly power to destroy. We were so fond of each other that we didn't want to move away from each other even for a moment.
Then it was the time to go to school. At that time I could not understand why my grandmother, who doted on me so much, had herself taken me to school. I would show some aversion for school. She would insist that I should not miss going to school even for a single day. At such moments, she appeared to me quite callous. It was beyond the comprehension of the little mind to fathom deep rooted love that was there in her heart for learning. At least, during those days, I remained quite disturbed and uneasy as I had to be away for some hours to be at the school every day. Gradually, I got accustomed to the new system and the moments of earlier friendship and playfulness did return between two of us once again. It was an unmistakable routine for me to share my experiences with her in the evening. We talked about millions of things. We discussed, we argued, we quarreled and we laughed. But we always remained friends in the end.
There seemed to be something strange about my grandma. Ever since my childhood, she had always been the same. It seemed that time did not have any effect upon her. She did not seem to grow. There had hardly been any change in her wrinkled face, white hair, mildly smiling lips and frail and shivering hands. I am sure nobody could guess her age. One day I asked her,” How old are you grandma?” She said, "How old! I am just old". I could not help laughing and said again, "Grandma, I want to know when you were born?" “Aah! That's it; I was born in the same year when Gandhiji had visited our small village". I asked "But when did Gandhiji visit your village?" “Son, he visited our village when he was fighting for the freedom of the country”, she said with all her sincerity. It was enough to make me realize that how futile it was on my part to make such inquiries. I understood that her philosophy of the life was different from others. She did not count the life in terms of months or years. In fact, it was a coarse measure to judge the life. She valued life in terms of deeds. Perhaps more in terms of feelings like love, affection, consideration and kindness. To her, it was not the matter of how long one should live but she valued how one lived. Sometimes I wondered how she had developed such deep insight into the complex things of life. Her zest for life would put anyone to shame in the view of one’s habit of grudging about the petty matters.
While I was at school she would often inquire about my progress in different subjects. Time was flying by. I completed my schooling and had started going to college. My study, my friends and all other activities had started infringing upon my time which I used to spend with her. Life was going at a fast pace. I was passing through the time of storm and stress. I could hardly see her during the day. Fun and frolic, laughter, discussions, arguments tussles, reconciliation, all had vanished. We were drifting apart. Now there was a sense of alienation. My hopes, my dreams, my expectations, all that I could so easily borrow from her in earlier days were replaced by despair, anxieties and fears. The more I tried to assert myself, the more insecure I would feel. I could not understand what had happened. Grandma was the same, I was the same, and the house too was same. What had changed, perhaps, I had got too busy with myself. Perhaps it was the price that one has to pay to be independent in life. But I asked myself, what kind of independence are we heading to? Freedom to take one’s own decision, to make choice of profession or live as one likes. I do not know. My desire to be something in life was taking me away from my own people; especially from grandma who had been an integral part of my existence, my personality, my being. So far, I frantically wanted to go back to her, to be intimate with her, to be her little grandson, mischievous again.
I got admission to an Engineering college. I was going to be an engineer. This is what my parents had wished, my friends and colleagues had expected and perhaps I too desired. I did not know whether I was doing what my grandma wanted me to. Now I was required to study long hours. I sat in my room for hours together concentrating on my studies. Surely, grandma too was perturbed by the distance that had crept in between us. She was aware of my busy schedule, my ambition and my priorities. Perhaps, she did not want to disturb me, to divert my attention, to engage me in something, perhaps, trivial, futile like her jokes, her anecdotes, her stories, but there was something which connected us. It was above the distance, above the alienation, above the business, above everything else. From time to time, I felt drawn towards her. Of late, Grandma would come in my study room and sit silently in the corner. She watched me studying big books, writing notes and so on. She sat silently, hardly saying anything to me lest I would be disturbed. A couple of times, I asked her "Why do you sit here grandma?", "I love seeing you study". I couldn't say anything. Now I was almost habituated to see her all the time while I studied in my room. If sometimes she was not there, I felt quite restless and uneasy.
One day, as usual, I was engrossed in my studies and she was watching me, all of a sudden, I left my books and went closer to my grandma. Holding her hands, I asked, "Do you really like to see me studying hard?" "Yes my son" she said "Don't you get bored? “Bored! No, not at all." I noticed something, something very strange in her eyes. It was something I had never seen. It was neither hope, nor despair, nor anxiety, nor fear. What kind of emotion was it? Was it an emotion? Was it a feeling? No feeling, no emotion. It was dimly visible, visible for a fraction of second in her eyes. She moved her hand over my shoulders, “Son! Do you want to know why I sit here for hours together watching you studying? "Yes" I said. In you, I see the phantom of my past which didn't materialize. Son, do you know how frantically I was in love with books, the kind of books you read. It was many years ago, in those days, it was not considered right to send girls to school. Education was not meant for them. They were to be trained only in household chores. Whenever, I would see my father or brothers reading something, it fascinated me. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to read and write, there was nobody to listen to me. It was a different time. I was quite small at that time. Those were strange days. All the boys of village went to school. Girls stayed back home. It was not because boys could do studies and girls couldn't, but it was because boys were boys and girls were girls. There was one boy Chandar. He lived at the end of the lane. All of them said he was intelligent. We played together. Then he went to school but I couldn't. Now and then, I went to him and watched him studying big books. One day he told me "I want to be a great sahib so I am studying very hard. I would sit there, see him reading, writing and studying. Often during the afternoons, I would stealthily come out of my home and go there. I loved to see him, to see him studying, reading, to see him doing things. One day he told, "Whenever you are here, I find it easier to concentrate on my studies." Then it went on and on. We met almost daily. Most of the time, I was silent and he was studying. Sometimes we talked a little, sometimes laughed a little. Sometimes laughed, sometimes wept. Yes, we were friends, had tender moments.
One day, while I was with him, I put my hand on his book. As if I wanted to divert his attention somewhere else or it was an attempt to create little disturbance to break his concentration, but no, it was neither of them. It was gesture, perhaps the manifestation of strange kind of my wish, my desire that had been there concealed in my heart since my childhood. Yes, it was my desire to learn, to be literate. He could not understand. He looked at me meaningfully. Perhaps he could not understand why I did so. My hand lay on the open page. Obviously he could not read. Neither did he make any effort. He looked at me and then looked at the wall. Then he looked at the open book. He did not try to remove my hand. I did not know what he took it for, eventually, breaking the silence; I said, "Chandar, I want to learn". "Do you really want to learn?” he said. “Yes, really I do". He softly held my hand in his own and muttered, “Kala, I will certainly teach you.” After that, perfect silence prevailed for some time. Perhaps, that silence taught many things to both of us. A new dimension had been added to our relationship of friendship. Now I had become his pupil and he was my tutor. My schooling started from that very day. He wrote an alphabet on a piece of paper in his fine hand writing and held out before me. He explained the name of every letter and correct pronunciation. It was like dream coming true. I started taking lessons every day. Within a few days, I could read simple words and sentences. It was like conquering new territories. During that short span of time, I grew up faster. I realized there had been a lot of things, ideas which are more significant than the narrow precincts of our limited thinking. He had risen fast in my estimation. I had started looking at him with the mixed emotion of love and respect.
It was like a bolt from blue for me. I learnt that, last night, Chandar's family had left the village. The previous day, we had met. It was an ordinary meeting. Nothing transpired which would indicate that his family was shifting somewhere else. I utterly failed to understand why he didn't tell me all this? Why he had kept it a secret? Did he know it? Or he too was unaware? I did not know. I felt like crying loudly. I felt like going to him and asking him why he left me. But it was all in vain. Whom shall I ask? Where did he go? Who would tell me? I was suffocated and disturbed from within. I did not know what to do. Today he was to start a new lesson. What would happen to my learning now? But in present predicament, I bothered least about my lesson. Everything was gone, finished, destroyed, demolished, as if it hadn’t been ever. As if nothing had existed. Nobody was bothered except me. Nobody asked me. Nobody knew what was going within my heart. The next day I heard my father saying to one of his friends, "India will be free on 15th August. Parliament has endorsed the Independence Act. Country has been divided into two parts. We all will have to go to Hindustan. In fact, some of the people have already started leaving the village. It is too dangerous to be here any longer." My father and his friend went on talking a lot of things, I could not understand much of their talk but one thing surely I had understood that Chandar's family must be among those who had left for the better destination. Then I didn't know the reasons why people were leaving their ancestral land.
After a few days with many other families, I too left the village with bag and baggage. Elders were talking lots of things. "Independence, Congress Rule, Jinnah's Demand Partition, Communal Riots and so on.” I didn't bother for all those issues. It was true that I was deeply pained to leave my house, my village and soil. We had taken some of the belongings with us. So far my personal belongings were concerned; I had taken a bunch of papers with me. In the period of this deep despair, there was a slight ray of hope in the deepest of my heart, perhaps who knows, on the way to the new land, I might get a chance to meet him. Grandma became silent. I was listening to her carefully. Grandma went to her room and came back in a moment. She unfolded a piece of paper on which I could see some words written in beautiful handwriting. Now both of us were silent, looking at the paper. Grandma did not seem to be perturbed. She had something to sustain her. She slowly picked up the paper, folded it carefully and said affectionately, "Son, I love to see you study.”