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An Outing to Delhi

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By Savitri Narayanan

The morning assembly was coming to an end. As the students stood at attention for the national anthem, the Headmaster said, “After the morning assembly, Class V students to stay back here for a special announcement.”

This was rare!

The other students returned to their classes. Class V sat down on the grass itself as the peon brought chairs for the HM and Joseph Sir.

“I have good news for you, students!” the HM smiled, “A first-time event in the history of our school!”

Simragadh Primary School had been there for decades. About an hour and a half away from Haridwar, most of the villagers were farmers who for generations sent their children to this school.

What could be this ‘first time event’?

“How many of you have been to Delhi?” asked the HM.

An unexpected question, the students looked at the HM and Joseph Sir for some clue.

The HM surveyed the class and repeated the question, “How many of you been to Delhi? Raise your hands please!”

A few hands went up.

“I was born in Delhi when Papaji was working there, but my parents came back here when I was only two,” said Rajesh hesitantly. “I have no memories of Delhi!”

“My Tauji lived in Delhi,” said Meena, “When he passed away we all went there; I was in Class II.”

“I’ve some relatives there,” said Bhaskar. “They keep coming here; we never get a chance to go there!”

“The good news is that you all will be going to Delhi soon!” said the HM.

He fondly smiled at them and explained, “Mr Gaurav Ahuja is an old student of this school who now runs a successful tourist outlet there. He has offered to arrange a one day tour of Delhi for you!”

The children broke into spontaneous applause. The HM continued, “As you know, Delhi is the capital of our country and is the home of many historic monuments like the Amar Jawan Jyoti, Rajghat, Parliament House, Qutab Minar, Red Fort, etc. Ahuja Sir will arrange a bus to take you to see all these important places and drop you back at the station. This means two nights in the train and one day roaming around in Delhi! It’s a gift, a token of gratitude to the school! You’ll pay only for the train tickets. Once your parents sign the permission letter and submit Rs 1,000, we’ll book the tickets.”

As an afterthought, the HM added, “The balance amount after the train tickets will be your pocket money!”

The excitement and anticipation rose so high that they could hardly concentrate on the studies!

xxx

As usual Anuj and Vikas walked back home together. Anuj was rather quiet, lost in thought.

“You go home, Vikas,” said Anuj, “Leave me alone!” He dumped his bag and sat on the park bench.

Vikas too sat beside him, and asked no question.

“Delhi is out for me,” said Anuj. “Dadiji may need hospitalisation and Papaji is struggling to put some money together…”

“Suppose I ask Pitaji to pay for you too,” Vikas had an idea. “Your father may return it when he can!”

“Of course not, that’s like begging! Papaji will surely come to know and he’ll be upset!” said Anuj.

Both sat there, lost in thought.

“When I see his struggle, don’t even feel like mentioning this Delhi trip!” Anuj got up.

Vikas too picked up his bag and walked along.

“There are three days left to pay; something will happen to get the thousand rupees!” said Vikas, “God is watching over us!”

***

It was still early morning when Lakshmi finished her chores, came out and locked the front door. Arun, too, had left early to catch the bus to his college. Employed as a gardener with the panchayat, nine to five were her duty hours. But, before that, she worked at Janaki madam’s bungalow. In her late seventies, Janaki madam was more or less home bound. Lakshmi was helping her with domestic chores for quite a few years now.

As usual, madam was seated on her chair near the window with the morning paper and spiritual books beside her.

“Is it too much for you to manage your work here and in the panchayat?” asked madam, noticing the uniform that Lakshmi carried.

“Of course not, madam,” said Lakshmi, “It’s my honour to be of any use to someone like you! You’re so good at heart! When we were almost starving, it was you who gave me a livelihood!”

As she mopped the floor, Lakshmi said, “Madam, there’s someone whom you might want to help; it’s Murukesh bhaiyya!”

“What happened to Murukesh?”

Anuj’s father Murukesh was a familiar figure in the locality. A carpenter by profession, he helped out with any errand and accepted whatever was offered.

Lakshmi told her about the previous evening.

“I was trimming the grass in the panchayat park when these two boys came along. Instead of going home, they sat on the park bench. I happened to overhear their talk,” said Lakshmi and recounted the details.

Janaki madam listened carefully with no questions or comments. Soon, Lakshmi finished her work, put on the uniform and was on her way out.

“Lakshmi, I need help from you!” said Janaki madam. Handing out the cash, she said, “That boy must go for this Delhi trip! Give this to the Headmaster but don’t mention my name.”

Lakshmi was thoughtful, ‘What shall I tell the HM!”

“God is kind, I have enough to help this boy,” smiled madam. “You find your way with the HM. If there are any more students who are missing out on this trip due to money problem, I’ll pay for them too!”

“You’re so kind, madam!” the words burst out of Lakshmi’s lips.

“Lakshmi, it is God’s will, not mine!” she said. “Haven’t you heard the saying, ‘what goes out comes back’?”

                     

(The author is a retired educationist at present in Bengaluru. A mother and a grandmother, loves reading, writing and travelling.)