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On the Way to School


By Savitri Narayanan

“Anu, where are you?” Karan called out from the gate.

“Coming, just a minute!” Anu responded as she picked up her school bag and water bottle.

Next door neighbours and childhood friends, Anuradha and Karan walked to the school together. Near the temple Kunal would join them.

“Kunal is still not well,” said Karan, “Met his brother last evening!”

“Poor thing! He’ll miss the Maths test!”

“Nothing happens! I too missed the Hindi test last month; these marks are not shown in the report cards!”

The school was about fifteen minutes’ walk from their home. Instead of the main road, they took the lane behind the mango orchard which reached the dispensary, a few steps away from the school.

“Tomorrow will be fun!” said Anuradha, “It’s Reema didi’s engagement!”

“Anu stop!” Karan sounded alarmed as he pointed at something.

Anu was alarmed too at the sight of what lay there on the roadside. A few bundles of notes, tied with rubber bands!

“So much money!” they held each other’s hands and stood gazing at it. Never in their life had they had seen so much money!

“What to do!” said Anu, “Run to school before someone catches us!”

“Whose money is that! The one who lost it will be so sad!”

“There could be a bomb hidden under the notes! It might explode when we touch it!”

“Let’s go to school, run fast!”

“How to find the owner!” they looked around, “Imagine how unhappy she must be now!”

“If we take it, we’ll be thieves; if we leave it behind we’ll be uncaring cowards!”

They stood there debating. ‘If only a known person comes by’, they thought. It was getting late.

“Let’s take it to school” said Karan, “Joseph Sir will know what to do!”

They acted quickly. Within seconds, the bundles of notes were inside the school bag. Karan’s heart beat faster as he was carrying a fortune, that too a stranger’s fortune! They prayed hard as they hurried along.

As luck would have it, Joseph Sir was standing right there, at the school gate.

He heard the children out. At the sight of the notes, he said, “Close the bag, come with me.”

They followed him to the staffroom. All the teachers were on their way to the morning assembly. The room was deserted.

Joseph Sir opened his drawer in which they kept the money. Sir locked the drawer and put the key in his pocket. He thought for a minute and said, “Children, I appreciate your gesture. Instead of leaving it behind, entrusting the money to me is responsible behaviour. God is watching over, we’ll find a way to find and return this amount to its owner, till then I request you to keep quiet about this. Do you know what it means?”

They looked lost. The national anthem started; they stood up in attention.

“Do not talk about this to anybody, meaning to nobody! The less the loose talk the easier our task!” said Joseph Sir, “Think how unhappy that person must be at this moment, we’ll surely find a way!”

The assembly was over. They too rushed to their class.

Just like any other day, Joseph Sir walked in, took attendance, gave daily instructions and started the English lesson, as if the bundles of notes were not in his drawer!

In the evening as they walked back home, Anu looked around and whispered, “What do you think happened to the bundles of notes?”

“Wonder if they found the owner!”

“Wonder how much money was there!”

“Let’s not talk about it,” said Karan as they parted ways at his gate.

“Let’s not even think of it,” responded Anu, “God is watching!”


Next day they went to school as usual. As they passed the spot where they’d found the notes, they exchanged glances. Strangely, there was no need to talk, as if they could read each other’s thoughts.

They entered the school gate just as the morning assembly bell chimed.

As the Headmaster came out of his office there were two guests with him. They too joined the assembly.

After the national anthem the headmaster said, “We’re happy to welcome our Pradhan Gopal Dasji and our guest, Mr Antony D’Silva Sir, who owns the Central Bakery. I request Joseph Sir and two of our Class V students, Anuradha Chauhan and Karan Kumar, to come forward too. We have something unique to share with you all today.”

With these words the HM handed over the mike to the Pradhan, who said, “I’m honoured to be here and proud of our school. I’m especially pleased with the teaching staff, who practice and inculcate the right values in our students.”

Joseph Sir said, “Karan, Anuradha, tell them what happened yesterday morning.”

Briefly they explained the incident and said, “We picked up the money as we knew that Joseph Sir would find a way; we had complete trust in him!”

Then it was Joseph Sir’s turn.

“I was truly taken aback at the sight of so much cash! I reported the matter to the HM who in turn informed the Pradhanji and called a special staff meeting. It was a new situation, the challenge was to find the right owner,” he said. “We counted the money, chalked out a message and put it in the WhatsApp groups. Everybody cooperated to spread the message. Thanks to the social media, by evening, we could track the owner, Mr D’Silva!”

With those words he handed over the mike to the guest.

Mr D’Silva bowed with folded hands and said, “No words are enough to thank this school for this help. It so happens that my mother had surgery, was hospitalised for a week. Yesterday was the discharge date. I was short of cash to pay the bill so had borrowed money from three friends. The cash was in a bag, safe with me as I drove the scooter. But when I reached the hospital and parked the scooter, the money was gone! I drove up and down a few times looking on both sides of the road with no results. “Thanks to a few friends and neighbours, I put together the amount and brought maji home. The thought of so much money to pay back was scary. I was figuring out how to raise this amount when I saw the message on my phone that said to contact this school. It was God-sent!”

With those words he turned to the HM, “Sir, I’ll be eternally grateful to this school. As a token of thanks, if any student who passes out of this school needs financial help for higher studies, I’ll help!”

There was loud clapping as the assembly came to a close. The children headed for their classrooms with an intangible noble feeling.