Mayank had been through countless admission tests. The worried look on his mother’s face had become a source of guilt for the little boy.
“I’m sorry, mom,” he consoled his mother. He didn’t know what else to say. The way she looked at him with so much pity in her eyes made him feel guilty, guilty of being alive, guilty of having been born.
Mayank was lucky that his father was so busy with his job in the city that he lacked the luxury of the time for worrying about his son. Otherwise how would he bear to see two dear faces carrying an endless worry named Mayank? Mother was a teacher in Ananda Vidyashram which belonged to Phenomenananda Baba and faced the threat of extinction.
Mayank was a class 3 student of Ananda Vidyashram. But when the new session started there were only a handful of students all together in the school. Phenomenananda Baba was not interested in running the school. The school was started by his great, great grandfather, Anantananda Baba, as part of his ashram so that wholesome education would be provided free to the children of the locality. The Babas who succeeded brought about various reforms in the school according to the needs of the times. The regular rise in the fees, removal of certain facilities and closing down of sections were some such reforms. Now the school itself faced demolition because Phenomenananda Baba’s increasing number of rich devotees required parking space for their cars. Mayank’s mother did not want her son to be left in the lurch halfway through the academic session. So she sought admission for him in any of the reputed public schools in the city.
Mayank failed in every admission test. Each test seemed to add a new wrinkle on his mother’s forehead. Each test carried his mother to more and more idols in the temple complex of Phenomenananda Baba’s ashram. Mother’s purse became lighter; the temple’s donation boxes were the gainers.
When the letter from the hundredth school came, Mother said, “No, we won’t open it here. We’ll take this letter to the temple and open it in front of the gods.” Mayank, his head weighed down by the guilt of being such a burden to his mother, accompanied Mother to Phenomenananda Baba’s temple complex. The myriad gods waited to be appeased. Mother went from one to the other offering prayers and aratis, tears dropping down her cheeks, the smoke of hope rising from the lamp in offertory tray. Mayank followed her with folded arms.
Having appeased all the gods with whatever was in Mother’s hands including the last coin in her purse, Mother opened the letter from the Hundredth Public School.
A ray of light descended on her face. The gods and goddesses were now pleased with them. She hugged Mayank. “Didn’t I say the gods were kind?”
A monstrous bulldozer was droning along through the gate of Ananda Vidyashram.