Great Readings

Page 2

I was inspired from these short stories. Let the writers be blessed.

Great readings of my choice

Honesty comes from the heart
Sudha Murty
The Little Fairy
Author Unknown
Signed with Love from God
Author Unknown
A Mother's Sacrifice
The train I took
Author Unknown

How could I?
Author Unknown - Translated by me

Honesty comes from the heart

By Sudha Murty

One bright June morning three years ago, I was reading my Kannada newspaper as usual. It was the day the SSLC results had been published. While columns of roll numbers filled the inside pages, the list of rank holders with their photographs took up almost the entire front page.

I have a great fascination for rank holders. Rank is not merely an index of one’s intelligence, it also indicates the hard work and perseverance that students have put in to reach their goal. My background – I was brought up in a professor’s family – and my own experience as a teacher have led me to believe this.

Of all the photographs in that morning’s newspaper, one boy’s photo caught my attention. I could not take my eyes of him. He was frail and pale, but there was an endearing sparkle in his eyes. I wanted to know more about him. I read that his name was Hanumanthappa and that he had secured the 8th rank. That was all the information I could gather.

The next day, to my surprise, his photograph was published again, this time with an interview. With growing interest I learned that he was a coolie’s son. He was unable to study further, he said in the interview, because he lived in a village and his father earned only Rs 40 a day.

Hanumanthappa was the oldest of five children. His father was the only breadwinner. They belonged to a tribal group. I felt sorry for this bright boy. Most of us send our children to tuitions, to coaching classes, buy them reference books and guides, and provide the best possible facilities for them without considering the cost. But it was different for Hanumanthappa of Rampura. He had excelled in spite of being denied some of the basic necessities of life. While I was thinking about him with the newspaper still in my hands, I gazed at a mango tree in my neighbour’s compound. It looked its best with its fresh bark, tender green leaves glistening with dewdrops and mangoes that were about to ripen in a few days. Beyond the tree was a small potted plant which, I noticed, had remained almost the same ever since it was potted.

It was a calm morning. The air was cool and fresh. My thoughts were running free. The continuous whistle of our pressure cooker broke the silence, reminding me that half an hour had passed. Hanumanthappa’s postal address was provided in the interview. Without wasting much time, I took a postcard and wrote a letter to him. I wrote only two lines saying that I was interested in meeting him and asking whether he could come to Bangalore. Just then my father, ever a practical man, returned from his morning walk. He read the letter and said, "Where will he have the money to come so far? If you want him to come here, send some money for his bus fare plus a little extra to buy himself a decent set of clothes."

So I added a third line to say that I would pay for his travel and clothes. Within four days I received a similar postcard in reply. Two sentences. In the first he thanked me for the letter. In the second he expressed his willingness to come to Bangalore and meet me. Immediately, I sent him some money and details of my office address. When he finally arrived in our office, he looked like a frightened calf that had lost its way. Probably, it was his first trip to Bangalore. He was humble. He wore a clean shirt and trousers. His hair was neatly parted and combed. The sparkle was still there in his eyes.

I got straight to the point. "We are happy about your academic performance. Do you want to study further? We would like to sponsor you. This means we will pay your fees for any course of study you wish to take up – wherever it may be."

He did not answer.

My senior colleague, who was present with me, interrupted with a smile, "Don’t go at the speed of bits and bytes. Let the boy understand what you are suggesting and give us his answer at the end of the day."

When Hanumanthappa was ready to return home, he said in a low and steady tone, "Madam, I want to pursue my studies at the Teachers Training College in Bellary. That is the one nearest to my village."

I agreed instantly but spoke to him a little more to find out whether there was any other course he preferred. I was trying to make it clear to him that we would pay the fees for any course he chose. The boy, however, seemed to know his own mind and knew exactly what he wanted.

"How much money should I send you per month? Does the college have a hostel facility?" I asked.

He said he would get back to me after collecting the correct details.

Two days later, he wrote to us in his beautiful handwriting that he would require approximately Rs 300 per month. He had planned to take a room on rent and share it with his friend. The two boys planned to cook for themselves in order to keep their expenses down.

I sent him Rs. 1,800 to cover his expenses for six months. He acknowledged my draft without any delay and expressed his gratitude.

Time passed. One day, I suddenly remembered that I had to pay Hanumanthappa for the next six months. I sent him another draft for Rs 1,800.

This too was duly acknowledged but I was surprised to find some currency notes in the envelope along with his letter. "Madam," he had written, "It is kind of you to have sent me money for the next six months. But I was not in Bellary for the last two months. One month, our college was on holiday and during the next month, there was a strike. So I stayed at home for those two months.

My expenditure during these months was less than Rs 300 per month. Therefore, I am sending you the Rs 300 that I have not used for the last two months. Kindly accept this amount."

I was taken aback. Such poverty and yet such honesty.

Hanumanthappa knew I expected no account of the money sent to him for his monthly expenditure. Yet he made it a point to return the balance money. Unbelievable but true!

Experience has taught me that honesty is not the mark of any particular class nor is it related to education or wealth. It cannot be taught at any university. In most people, it springs naturally from the heart.

I did not know how to react to this simple village boy’s honesty. I just prayed that God would continue to bestow the best on Hanumanthappa and his family.


A Salute to Life

By Sudha Murty

EastWest Books (Madras) Pvt. Ltd.

The Little Fairy

How long will you be poring over that newspaper? Will you come here right away and make your darling daughter eat her food?'

I tossed the paper away and rushed to the scene. My only daughter Sindu looked frightened. Tears were welling up in her eyes. In front of her was a bowl filled to its brim with Curd Rice.

Sindu is a nice child, quite intelligent for her age. She has just turned eight. She particularly detested Curd Rice. My mother and my wife are orthodox, and believe firmly in the 'cooling effects' of Curd Rice!

I cleared my throat, and picked up the bowl. "Sindu, darling, why don't you take a few mouthful of this Curd Rice?

Just for Dad's sake, dear. And, if you don't, your Mom will shout at me'

I could sense my wife's scowl behind my back. Sindu softened a bit, and wiped her tears with the back of her hands. “OK, Dad. I will eat - not just a few mouthfuls, but the whole lot of this. But, you should...” Sindu hesitated.

“Dad, if I eat this entire Curd Rice, will you give me whatever I ask for?”

“Oh sure, darling”.



I covered the pink soft hand extended by my daughter with mine, and clinched the deal.

'Ask Mom also to give a similar promise', my daughter insisted. My wife slapped her hand on Sindu's, muttering 'Promise', without any emotion.

Now I became a bit anxious. 'Sindumma, you shouldn't insist on getting a computer or any such expensive items. Dad does not have that kind of money right now. OK?'

'No, Dad. I do not want anything expensive'. Slowly and painfully, she finished eating the whole quantity. I was silently angry with my wife and my mother for forcing my child eat something that she detested.

After the ordeal was through, Sindu came to me with her eyes wide with expectation. All our attention was on her. 'Dad, I want to have my head shaved off, this Sunday!' was her demand!

'Atrocious!' shouted my wife, 'a girl child having her head shaved off?

'Never in our family!' my mother rasped. 'She has been watching too much of television. Our culture is getting totally spoiled with these TV programs!'

'Sindumma, why don't you ask for something else? We will be sad seeing you with a clean-shaven head.'

'No, Dad. I do not want anything else', Sindu said with finality.

'Please, Sindu, why don't you try to understand our feelings?' I tried to plead with her.

'Dad, you saw how difficult it was for me to eat that Curd Rice'.

Sindu was in tears.

'And you promised to grant me whatever I ask for. Now, you are going back on your words. Was it not you who told me the story of King Harishchandra, and its moral that we should honour our
promises no matter what?'

It was time for me to call the shots.

'Our promise must be kept.'

'Are you out your mind?'

Chorused my mother and wife.

'No. If we go back on our promises, she will never learn to honour her own. Sindu, your wish will be fulfilled.'

With her head clean-shaven, Sindu had a round-face, and her eyes looked big & beautiful.

On Monday morning, I dropped her at her school. It was a sight to watch my hairless Sindu walking towards her classroom. She turned around and waved.

I waved back with a smile.

Just then, a boy alighted from a car, and shouted, 'Sinduja, please wait for me!'

What struck me was the hairless head of that boy. 'May be, that is the in-stuff', I thought.

'Sir, your daughter Sinduja is great indeed!' Without introducing herself, a lady got out of the car, and continued,

'That boy who is walking along with your daughter is my son Harish. He is suffering from ... ...leukaemia.'

She paused to muffle her sobs. 'Harish could not attend the school for the whole of the last month. He lost all his hair due to the side effects of the chemotherapy. He refused to come back to school
fearing the unintentional but cruel teasing of the schoolmates.

Sinduja visited him last week, and promised him that she will take care of the teasing issue.

But, I never imagined she would sacrifice her lovely hair for the sake of my son!

Sir, you and your wife are blessed to have such a noble soul as your daughter.'

I stood transfixed. And then, I wept. 'My little Angel, will you grant me a boon?

Should there be another birth for me, will you be my mother, and teach me what Love is?'

The story appeared in Sunday Herald

Signed with Love from God

She jumped up as soon as she saw the surgeon come out of the operating room. She said: "How is my little boy ? Is he going to be all right ? When can I see him ?"

The surgeon said, "I'm sorry. We did all we could, but your boy didn't make it."

Sally said, "Why do little children get cancer ? Doesn't God care any more ? Where were you, God, when my son needed you ?"

The surgeon asked, "Would you like some time alone with your son ? One of the nurses will be out in a few minutes, before he's transported to the university."

Sally asked the nurse to stay with her while she said good bye to son. She ran her fingers lovingly through his thick red curly hair. "Would you like a lock of his hair ?" the nurse asked.

Sally nodded yes. The nurse cut a lock of the boy's hair, put it in a plastic bag and handed it to Sally.

The mother said, "It was Jimmy's idea to donate his body to the University for Study. He said it might help somebody else. "I said no at first, but Jimmy said, 'Mom, I won't be using it after I die. Maybe it will help some other little boy spend one more day with his Mom." She went on, "My Jimmy had a heart of gold. Always thinking of
someone else. Always wanting to help others if he could."

Sally walked out of Children's Mercy Hospital for the last time, after spending most of the last six months there. She put the bag with Jimmy's belongings on the seat beside her in the car.

The drive home was difficult. It was even harder to enter the empty house. She carried Jimmy's belongings, and the plastic bag with the lock of his hair to her son's room.

She started placing the model cars and other personal things back in his room exactly where he had always kept them. She laid down across his bed and, hugging his pillow, cried herself to sleep.

It was around midnight when Sally awoke. Laying beside her on the bed was a folded letter. The letter said:

"Dear Mom, I know you're going to miss me; but don't think that I will ever forget you, or stop loving you, just 'cause I'm not around to say "I Love You". I will always love you, Mom, even more with each day. Someday we will see each other again. Until then, if you want to adopt a little boy so you won't be so lonely, that's okay with me. He can
have my room and old stuff to play with. But, if you decide to get a girl instead, she probably wouldn't like the same things us boys do.

You'll have to buy her dolls and stuff girls like, you know. Don't be sad thinking about me. This really is a neat place. Grandma and Grandpa met me as soon as I got here and showed me around some, but it will take a long time to see everything. The angels are so cool. I love to watch them fly. And, you know what? Jesus doesn't look like any of his pictures. Yet, when I saw Him, I knew it was Him. Jesus himself took me to see GOD! And guess what, Mom ? I got to sit on God's knee and talk to Him, like I was somebody important. That's when I told Him that I wanted to write you a letter, to tell you good bye and everything. But I already knew that wasn't allowed. Well, you know what Mom ? God handed me some paper and His own personal pen to write you this letter. I think Gabriel is the name of the angel who is going to drop this letter off to you. God said for me to give you the answer to one of the questions you asked Him 'Where was He when I needed him ?' "God said He was in the same place with me, as when His son Jesus was on the cross. He was right there, as He always is with all His children. Oh, by the way, Mom, no one else can see what I've written except you. To everyone else this is just a blank piece of paper. Isn't that cool ? I have to give God His pen back now. He needs it to write some more names in the Book of Life. Tonight I get to sit at the table with Jesus for supper. I'm sure the food will be great.

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you. I don't hurt anymore. The cancer is all gone. I'm glad because I couldn't stand that pain anymore and God couldn't stand to see me hurt so much, either. That's when He sent The Angel of Mercy to come get me. The Angel said I was a Special Delivery ! How about that ?

Signed with Love from God, Jesus & Me.

A Mother’s Sacrifice

My mom only had one eye. I hated her… she was such an embarrassment. My mom ran a small shop at a flea market. She collected little weeds and such to sell… anything for the money we needed she was such an embarrassment. There was this one day during elementary school.

I remember that it was field day, and my mom came. I was so embarrassed.
How could she do this to me? I threw her a hateful look and ran out. The next day at school…”Your mom only has one eye?!” and they taunted me.

I wished that my mom would just disappear from this world so I said to my mom, “Mom, why don’t you have the other eye?! You’re only going to make me a laughingstock. Why don’t you just die?” My mom did not respond. I guess I felt a little bad, but at the same time, it felt good to think that I had said what I’d wanted to say all this time.

Maybe it was because my mom hadn’t punished me, but I didn’t think that I had hurt her feelings very badly.

That night…I woke up, and went to the kitchen to get a glass of water. My mom was crying there, so quietly, as if she was afraid that she might wake me. I took a look at her, and then turned away.
Because of the thing I had said to her earlier, there was something pinching at me in the corner of my heart. Even so, I hated my mother who was crying out of her one eye. So I told myself that I would grow up and become successful, because I hated my one-eyed mom and our desperate poverty.

Then I studied really hard. I left my mother and came to Seoul and studied, and got accepted in the Seoul University with all the confidence I had. Then, I got married. I bought a house of my own. Then I had kids, too. Now I’m living happily as a successful man. I like it here because it’s a place that doesn’t remind me of my mom.

This happiness was getting bigger and bigger, when someone unexpected came to see me “What?! Who’s this?!” …It was my mother…Still with her one eye. It felt as if the whole sky was falling apart on me. My little girl ran away, scared of my mom’s eye.

And I asked her, “Who are you? I don’t know you!!!” as if I tried to make that real. I screamed at her “How dare you come to my house and scare my daughter! GET OUT OF HERE! NOW!!!” And to this, my mother quietly answered, “oh, I’m so sorry. I may have gotten the wrong address,” and she disappeared. Thank good ness… she doesn’t recognize me. I was quite relieved. I told myself that I wasn’t going to care, or think about this for the rest of my life.

Then a wave of relief came upon me…one day, a letter regarding a school reunion came to my house. I lied to my wife saying that I was going on a business trip. After the reunion, I went down to the old shack, that I used to call a house…just out of curiosity there, I found my mother fallen on the cold ground. But I did not shed a single tear. She had a piece of paper in her hand…. it was a letter to me.

She wrote:

My son…
I think my life has been long enough now. And… I won’t visit Seoul anymore… but would it be too much to ask if I wanted you to come visit me once in a while? I miss you so much. And I was so glad when I heard you were coming for the reunion. But I decided not to go to the school…. For you… I’m sorry that I only have one eye, and I was an embarrassment for you.

You see, when you were very little, you got into an accident, and lost your eye. As a mother, I couldn’t stand watching you having to grow up with only one eye… so I gave you mine…I was so proud of my son that was seeing a whole new world for me, in my place, with that eye. I was never upset at you for anything you did. The couple times that you were angry with me.
I thought to myself, ‘it’s because he loves me.’ I miss the times when you were still young around me.

I miss you so much. I love you. You mean the world to me.
My world shattered!!!
Then I cried for the person who lived for me… My Mother