Saturday, April 27, 2013

Stars Stay Far Away

Short Story

On the day Srijan joined the residential school, a 14-year old boy was arrested from his neighbourhood for raping a 6-year old girl.  Srijan’s parents decided to put him in a residential school when he reached class 9 so that he could devote his entire time to studying and thus prepare himself for the medical course that would in due course of time enable him to fulfil his ambition to become a cardiologist.  In a world where people were becoming increasingly heartless cardiologists would be in great demand, his parents thought.

Srijan was not so clear about his life’s purpose and its relationship with the world’s hearts.  But he knew clearly that his parents wouldn’t do anything without clear purposes.  So he accepted New India Public School with his whole heart.

A few days in the school made Srijan wonder whether his parents had made a mistake.  He was sitting on one of the steps leading down to the playgrounds pondering about what some of his companions in the hostel did to him.  Dinner was over and most students were engaged in some indoor game or watching the TV or reading in the library.  The playgrounds remained desolate.

“Do you think you’re a hero here?” Mohit had asked him just a couple of days after his admission.  “Just came the other day and he thinks he has become a hero,” he turned to his friends before turning again to Srijan.  “Stop composing poems and stop buttering the teachers.”  Mohit looked menacing.

Srijan had already learnt that in the New India lingo “buttering” meant ‘flattery’.  Flattery with the explicit purpose of getting certain favours.  Srijan was not trying to flatter anyone when he indulged in composing poems during free time.  He showed the poems to some of his teachers because he enjoyed their pat on his back.  What’s wrong if someone finds my poems good?  Srijan wondered why his companions were offended by a simple thing like this.

The problem started when Mohit pulled out Srijan’s vest from the hook and wiped his shoes with it before throwing it on Srijan’s bed.

“How dare you do such a thing?” asked Srijan.

“How dare you go around singing paeans to the teachers?” asked Mohit.  “Don’t think the teachers can save you from us.”  He wagged his index finger on Srijan’s face.  “We are the dons here.  The teachers are afraid of us.”

“Hey, Srijan, what are you doing here?”  It was Mr Patnaik, one of his teachers. 

Srijan did not want to tell his teachers about his problem.  “Never complain about any student,” one of the senior students had advised him.  “Complaining is taken as treachery in the hostel.  If you have a problem with anyone you have only one of the two options: fight or flight.  Complaining to teachers is worse than suicide.”

“The poem you showed me today was superb,” Mr Patnaik said.  Srijan’s poem which he had shown Mr Patnaik was about stars and their twinkling light which made the night sky look like a blanket studded with silver spangles.  “Do you know that we live in a universe filled with dark matter and dark energy?”

Srijan nodded his head.  “I read about it somewhere,” he said.

“The stars are a good symbol,” said Mr Patnaik.  “And your poem has some deep meaning.”

Srijan did not understand it really.  He had not thought of such a meaning when he composed the poem.  His teacher began to explain that meaning.  Srijan listened intently.  He was lost in the teacher’s words.  Then he began to speak. Without realising what he was doing Srijan narrated to his teacher the reason that brought him to the lonely steps of the playgrounds.

“So, have you chosen to flee?” asked Mr Patnaik after listening to Srijan.  “Is that why you are sitting here alone, in this darkness?”

Srijan wasn’t sure whether he was choosing flight.  He didn’t want to.

“Maybe, it’s not flight,” said Mr Patnaik.  “Maybe, you’re choosing to live a life that doesn’t draw much attention to yourself.  You know you can write poems without drawing the attention of certain people?”

Srijan’s eyes widened.  He understood what his teacher was trying to say.   No wonder the stars choose to stay far away, thought Srijan.

xxx
  
Another story of mine set in New India Public School six years ago: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star




29 comments:

  1. Quite inspiring for a loner kid battling to stay away from the abuse ! Nice read !

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    1. Any intelligent kid in a residential school (any intelligent person in society) faces this problem!

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  2. As usual , a brilliant story.Please keep them coming.

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    1. Thank you for your support that's becoming quite regular :)

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  3. Replies
    1. I know, Chinmoy, you can relate to it easily.

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  4. a very inspiring read.. i too was lost in these words...:)

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  5. Writing poetry or doing anything to differentiate oneself, or leading to unintentional differentiation is a no no in any group. Being outside of the vaunted middle-third is a danger in and of itself. I see your story in that perspective.

    Keep your outsider stuff inside yourself, be it poetry writing or being exceptional in science, math, geography whatever ...

    RE

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    1. Yes, Raghuram, keeping the outsider-in-you inside is the secret to success in a world which insists on pushing up the biggest chunk in the septic tank!

      Poetry is the adolescent's way. Let him get through and he will become a cardiologist! But who wants him to get through?

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  6. A tale that is metaphorical of the times.

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    1. Uma, I never write anything that I don't believe in.

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  7. an inspiring post.. very well written.

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  8. the teacher advised the kid well- after all, he was composing poems because he wanted to.. it doesn't (shouldn't) matter to him if someone praised or derided him

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    1. That's just one aspect. A residential school is a mini society. It teaches all the lessons of life!

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  9. What a choice - hide your light under a bushel or face the consequences of jealous bullying from other kids. Many parents seek to protect their young from this kind of abuse and bullying by home schooling. If that isn't an option we pay through our noses to ensure the numbers per class are low - a max of 30 and the teacher-student ratio is reasonable and that teachers are present during short and long breaks supervising playgrounds or, there are many extra-curricular activities and each student has to take up at least one so that each student shines in his or her own way. Can parents of students who cannot afford such schools - the majority - get together to brain storm and come up with alternatives? At least supervision during breaks?

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    1. You may have read William Golding's 'Lord of the Flies'. Golding shows how cruel children can be to each other. Cruelty is an integral part of humanity, implies Golding. Put the children anywhere without adult supervision and watch their behaviour. It will be worse than adults!

      But that's how children grow up, isn't it? Some unsupervised times are also necessary in that growth-process.

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  10. everytime ,when I am late , commenting on your posts ..I get to see so many interpretations of your work !! while i was willing to draw some conclusions to the read , i prefer not to after I read so many views along with the post ...
    It was a nice read .. for the first time .. no conclusions ...

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    1. Late or not, it's always nice to have you with your view.

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  11. there was a time when growing up when I found it difficult to stay true who I was .. tired to be someone else for a while .. failed miserably but then just like your last line .. got back to being myself .. lost many friends on the way but I found a couple of genuine ones .. It was tough then but it's even more tough for the kids of this generation ...

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    1. Indeed, Sangeeta, the present generation finds it tougher... and the challenge will be greater as time goes by! Too many distractions... Yet one has to find his/her way. Thanks for sharing your thought.

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  12. Many of the young boys and girls face this. It is very common. Thanks for sharing your simple yet effective Short Story :)

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  13. My school did not allow me to look into the words of the story. Only poet Khattar flashed across my mind then and soon the google crome lost this website. I chose to read it today.

    "No wonder the stars choose to stay far away, thought Srijan." Marvellous words. I needed these words. Thanks.

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