“Life sucks” Mahesh said kicking at a small stone and missing
“I thought you could only suck ice creams and golas” his little sister asked him
Mahesh didn’t deign to answer her and continued walking
homewards. ‘I am really going to get it from Dad this time’ he thought
worriedly. The first term examination results had just got out that day and
Mahesh had flunked in Algebra. Again. He never seemed to pass that rotten
subject in spite of being coached in it endlessly.
He kicked another stone, this time hitting it and hurting the
toe of his open toe sandals. “Shit” he groaned.
He bent down to inspect his bleeding toe. It just wasn’t his
day. He wished he could run away and go to stay with his Uncle in Pune. He
dreamed of being a mechanic, the best in the world and his Uncle owned a
garage. What use was Algebra to him.
“Wait” he ordered his sister and removed his handkerchief
from his pocket. He inspected the grimy hanky doubtfully, shrugged and used it
to clean his bleeding toe. ‘Can’t even kick a stone properly’ he thought
hopelessly. Sudden tears pricked his eyes. He rubbed them away fiercely.
“I am useless” he murmured dejectedly.
“No, you are not” said his sister, swinging from his arm.
“You are my big brother”.
He looked to check the traffic signal and saw an old couple
standing at the crossing. The old lady seemed to be too tired or something. She
clung desperately to the old man, who propped her up as best as he could.
Something about the couple, touched his heart and he walked up to them. His
sister trailed behind obligingly.
“Is anything the matter, Uncle?” he asked the old man.
The old man looked at him with tired, rheumy eyes. “My wife
is not well. We have just been to the doctor” he waved vaguely behind him. “We
are standing here since the past fifteen minutes waiting for an auto rickshaw.”
“Oh” Mahesh said, comprehension dawning. He thought he could
be like a boy in the stories, who were only ever asked to help old people cross
roads safely, not help them catch auto rickshaws. The road they were on in was
notorious for never having any empty autos.
“Why don’t you call for a cab?” he asked brightly.
“We would rather catch an auto” the old man replied a little
‘What is his problem?’ Mahesh thought resentfully and made to
be on his way home. He had to go home after all, his mother would worry if they
reached too late. And look at his toe. Wasn’t it throbbing painfully?
“You won’t be able to catch an auto on this road” he told the
old man, wanting to do his duty thoroughly. “Maybe if you walk two blocks you
will find one.”
He took his sister hand and was about to walk away when the
old lady said, “Beta, can you help us catch an auto? We really cannot walk any
‘What is that to me?’ Mahesh thought in exasperation. He was
about to decline politely when he noticed sweat gathering on the old man’s
brow. The old lady’s face was a sickly pale colour. ‘How did it get that
colour’ he wondered idly. ‘It is because they are old and sick and tired’
informed his brain. Mahesh was not a bad boy, he was just having a very bad
day. But his goodness won out and he said roughly, “All right. But you will
have to take care of my sister. I will have to walk far to catch an auto. Wait
under that tree over there” he pointed behind him.
“Thank you beta” the old lady said softly.
“The address is Sadar Street” added the old man.
Mahesh sighed and began hunting for autos. In five minutes,
hurling abuses, he had walked to the next street. Still no luck. He walked on
and on and finally found an auto. He whooped in joy and got in the auto
rickshaw, idly glancing at his wristwatch. ‘Was it late? They were going to get
very late reaching home. And then he will get scolded for the Algebra and for
getting late and for not taking proper care of his sister’. The familiar
dejection rolled over him once again. He tapped his foot impatiently, cursing
his good nature. ‘Why did he have to offer to help the old couple catch a cab?
“Stop near that tree” he ordered the auto rickshaw driver,
spotting his sister and the old couple. His sister was chatting with the old
couple and the old man was smiling. Mahesh sighed again and stepped down from
“Here” was all he could say.
The old couple moved energetically towards the auto.
“Thank you beta” the old lady said again, smiling.
Mahesh nodded, turned and took his sister’s hand. A gnarled
hand touched his hair. “May God bless you” murmured the old man.
Mahesh looked at the old man to find him beaming, at him.
Unthinkingly he grinned back and waved as the old man got in
after his wife. His eyes sparkled and he stood up straight.
‘Life is good’ he thought as he raced his sister home.