I was running recklessly in the middle of the road, trying hard to control my tears. Still, it kept appearing. I was sweating profusely in the winter season as I ran. I questioned myself, why is this happening again? I have to stop it. I just cannot let it happen, once again.
“I am Mohan and this is my story. You all must be wondering where am I heading to and most importantly, why? All this started six months back on one fine normal day in the life of a thirty-year-old guy. That's me!”
“Mohan, don’t forget to take your lunch box kept on the side table,’ screamed my mother, at top of her voice from the kitchen, though I stood outside the kitchen. She had a voice that can be heard by people living three floors above and below us or people living on the same floors of the adjacent buildings. She is proud to be gifted with such a loud voice. She can sit in the hall and speak on a mobile phone while still can be heard by ten surrounding people. We were new in the neighborhood and initially the neighbor’s complaint about her loud voice but her friendly behavior and good cooking skills saved her. Now after four weeks roughly, there are no complaints.
‘Yes. Mom, can you please speak softly?’
‘Why do you always ask me to lower my voice?’ my mom stepped out from the kitchen and walked towards me holding a bowl filled with curd and sugar to feed me.
‘Mom because once I step out, everyone reminds me of all the things you asked me to carry with me and today it is an important day. I don't want to let everyone know where I am heading.’
‘But this is such a good decision. You shouldn't be ashamed of it. I am proud of your decision. Very few people think of it but you are unique. You actually thought of it and decided to walk on that path. I am so happy for you and at the same time nervous’
‘And why are you nervous? I should be. It’s my first day!’ I said while zipping my bag and touched her feet for her blessings before I stepped out for the first day of my school.
Yes, you read it correctly. Today is my first day at school, after ten years. I am walking the lane to school once again. I am equally nervous as I used to be when I was a kid. I missed to finish high school and thus didn't get a degree. It was an unfinished task on my list. I always wonder life would have been a bit different if I had finished my education at the right age. Anyways, once again walking to school made my heart flutter. I was unsure how other kids will react to my presence and will they accept me as one of them?
With the bag on my shoulders and lunch box in my hand, I entered the gates of the school. The watchman stared at me from top to bottom. He doubted my entry in school premises because I don’t look like a high school kid nor I looked like a parent of a high school kid. I smiled at him and showed him my school admission paper. He looked at me again from top to bottom but this time shockingly. I smiled at him again and walked towards the principal office.
The principal seemed to be too much keen on my joining. I wondered, why? Maybe he is interested in knowing my backstory. I sat there detailing him every second of my life's incident dated ten years back. I was constantly looking at the huge clock that hung on the wall just behind his chair. It was one of the old antique clocks with a pendulum hanging at the bottom. After every half an hour the pendulum makes a dong sound. It was fifteen minutes for the first lecture of my high school.
I was running out of time. I wanted to be comfortably sitting in the class when the lecturer walks in. Before that, I have to look for my classroom. My facial expression said to him that I am getting late and he allowed me to step out of his office. The moment I shut his office door behind me, I ran helter-skelter searching for my classroom. Finally, just one minute before the final bell, I found my classroom. I was sweating and my heartbeat was faster than usual. I prayed to God and entered the classroom. There was a loud chatter patter around.
Once I opened the door, all attention was on me. Everything around just got paused as they all stared at me. I froze. They stood assuming me as their new lecturer. I was amused with such respect. Just then, the door opened once again and this time, the actual lecturer stepped in. He came and placed his hand on my shoulders tagging me along with him onto the table.
‘Class, meet our new student, Mohan. He left his studies incomplete due to some medical reasons and now after ten years he is back with us,’ the teacher introduced me to the class.
My classmates reacted differently to my introduction. Few were astonished, few were in disbelieve and few of them just started to hate me from that very moment, for the sole reason that I don’t fit in there.
‘Hello everyone,’ I said with a wide smile plastered on my face. I continued, ‘I hope that we get along well and become good friends soon,’ I said and immediately left from the centre of attention and walked towards the last seat of the middle row.
After a back to back series of boring lectures, there was a lunch break. As soon as the bell rang, everyone left with their group of friends, leaving me alone. I shrugged my shoulders and stood up to walk out too when my eyes fell on a boy sitting in a corner seat. I walked to him.
‘Hello,’ I said and extended my hand towards him. He was occupied in writing something and didn’t bother to look up and see me.
‘Hi,’ he replied while still busy writing something.
‘Mohan. I know that. Lecturer introduced you to the class,’ he said cutting my words midway.
‘Yes, Yes and you are?’
‘I am Sohan’ he said and then looked up at me for a few seconds.
‘So Sohan, do you mind if I join you for lunch?’
‘No. Not at all. You can join but I am occupied with my work and I don’t carry lunch box’
‘But I have a lunch box. Why don’t you just join me? My mother cooks really good,’
He looked up immediately and then looked at the big lunch box I held in my hand. He then looked at the writing work he was occupied.
‘I can help you in completing that too,’ I said. He looked at me and I smiled. This time it was a genuine smile and he instantly agreed.
I don’t know if he agreed because of that lunch box or because I agreed to help him in his writing work or for both the reasons. Anyways, I at least made a friend on the first day of my comeback to the higher school.
We had lunch quietly and now it was time to walk to our classroom.
‘Your mom cooks good food,’ he said after twenty minutes to be precise.
I smiled and agreed.
‘Why you don’t have any friends here?’ I asked. It was bothering me.
He was silent once again as we entered the classroom.
‘Look, someone found a new friend. A perfect one… Sohan Mohan,’ said someone mockingly.
‘No, not a friend. A long lost brother,’ teased another classmate.
‘Yes their names rhyme too as we see in Bollywood movies,’ agreed another and they all burst into a laugh.
I looked at Sohan. He was constantly looking on the floor as if acting ignorant. I was fuming in anger. I felt to retort but Sohan held my hand and gestured me to ignore them. We walked towards our respective seats and the lecturer entered. Remaining three hours passed trying to focus what lecturer was teaching us and the rest of the time wondering, what is his story? I was angry with my classmates and felt pity for Sohan. But one thing that they said seemed realistic, “Long Lost brothers” I too had the same thoughts when I heard his name.
The final bell rang and once again everyone left the classroom in groups, leaving the two of us. I walked up to him as I agreed to help him in his writing work.
‘Let’s go to the library and finish this,’ I suggested.
‘You don’t have to do this for me. I can manage all alone,’ he said trying to smile vaguely.
‘I have to keep my promise. Shall we?’
I walked around the library searching for some good books to read while he was still occupied in writing work. I ignored him while I issued myself a few books to take home. I sat next to him trying to peep what he is writing. He was hiding it from me.
‘I thought we both will finish it but you..,’ I said irritatingly.
‘You enjoy reading books. It’s my work and I don’t want to bother you with this. I will manage all alone. I do it every day’
‘But what is it?’ I kept staring at him continuously.
He was watching me from the corner of his eye. After some time he stopped writing and looked at me, ‘These are notes of all the lecturers that we have. I write it neatly and just before the examinations I sell it to other students.’
I was confused.
He continued, ‘I do this for living. All these students around who tease me daily, purchase my notes to score good marks in examinations’
‘Then why don't you stop giving them notes, who tease you daily. You can continue selling to other students who are good towards you!’ I suggested out of concern.
‘No. I cannot stop giving them. They knew I am overburdened with financial and family responsibilities. So they continue to tease me and I ignore them as usual’
‘Is there anything I can help you with? I can recommend you for a part-time job,’ I said. Now the conversations were getting intense.
‘No. I have tried but without any degree, they won’t pay me a good amount. I earn a sufficient amount to take care of my family.’
‘What does your father do?’
‘He passed away three years back’
I can feel that since I was too raised by a single parent. I know her struggle. Flashbacks were hitting me as I continued to listen to him. I held his hand consoling him.
Days and weeks passed, we started sharing lunch boxes, class notes and sometimes he even allowed me to help him out in preparing notes. I had the experience of working in a factory outlet where later on looking at my selling skills, I was moved to the sales and marketing department without a proper degree with me. I was happy to see my growth chart. I worked smartly, fully utilizing my skills, and earned more than a normal average sales personnel working in that department. Simply bringing large orders and getting a huge bonus in return.
So, I helped Sohan too during the first quarterly examination. Based on the previous examination, I somehow managed to identify the important question which might repeat this year too. I asked Sohan to star mark all those questions before selling it. This will expand his market area. He agreed. He made a threefold profit than regular examination days. We stepped out for the celebration. He seemed very happy today.
‘Today the treat is on me’ he said happily.
We ate until our stomachs were bulging out and were about to burst. It was too fun. That day we decided to continue working and strategizing in the same manner for all the examinations. Life was smooth sailing as we headed for our half-yearly examinations. We started to implement our plans and visited the library to identify all important questions that might appear this too. We divided our work. He was writing notes and I was searching for all the important questions which we will star mark.
‘I need lots of money this time. I am making a down payment for a new house. I have chosen one,’ he said.
I was happy too and congratulated him. ‘Do let me know if you need any help. Always remember, I am there for you. Don’t you remember what our classmates call us? Long lost brothers, so see me as your elder brother’
The next few days were hectic for both of us and after selling off all the notes, we were happy that we made a profit back to back. I was tired and decided to take one day off from school. The next day when I reached school, I felt something odd, something missing. I entered the classroom. Sohan was nowhere to be seen. I remember talking to him yesterday morning before the class starts. I immediately dialed his number. It was switched off. I enquired other classmates about him but nobody seemed to be interested in giving me a proper reply to me. I decided to visit his home. Just when I was about to step out, one of my classmates held my hand and took me out of the class. We walked towards the locker room. I have seen him in the class but we haven’t interacted much until now.
‘Are you looking for Sohan?’
‘Yes. Where is he? Have you seen him?’ I asked.
‘Yes but not today. Yesterday,’ he replied. He was sad now.
‘Did something happen yesterday? Something, which I don’t know?’ I asked him loudly.
‘He was… He’
‘Tell me quickly what happen to him?’ I was shouting by now. I held him by his shoulders, shaking him badly. My instincts were warning me of some mishap.
‘Yesterday those bullies, they stopped his way and asked him to share profits with them that he made by selling those notes’
‘He refused. So during lunch break, he was badly beaten up in the washroom and they took away everything he had.’
‘Where were you and why you didn’t stop them?’ I asked him a valid question.
‘I was in one of the lavatories. I was alone and helpless. They were many in numbers. I stepped out when they all were gone and took him to the doctor. He requested not to say anything to you or to the school authorities’
I immediately left for his home. I was running recklessly in the middle of the road trying hard to control my tears. Too many things were running in my mind. It was then the flashbacks came back hitting me hard. Flashbacks that stayed hidden all these years within me waiting to erupt like a volcano, the reason why I didn’t continue with my high school education.
I still feel guilty about what happened eleven years back. I still feel guilty for not being present at the place where I was needed the most. I feel guilty for leaving him alone. Leaving my BFF alone the night when he was bullied and badly beaten up. It was eleven years back when he cried that entire night and I was relaxing at my home. He dialed my number to speak to me but I was too busy playing the video game, unaware of his situation. I didn’t call him back until the next morning when his father informed me about his suicide. I reached his house just to see his lifeless body full of bruises. My world stopped there. I was not able to continue with my studies.
Now I see history repeating itself. I was running fast to reach there on time. I cannot let it happen again. I cannot lose my BFF once again. He was very much similar to him and that’s why we became friends. I reached his home and started ringing the doorbell continuously. His mother opened the door and I ran upstairs moving his mother aside. I opened the door with a bang. He was standing on a chair and was looking at the ceiling with one hand raised trying to reach the ceiling.
‘Sohan, stop,’ I shouted.
He was startled and was about to fall from the chair. I ran to support him and helped him to step down. I was angry.
‘What were you doing? Have you gone mad?’
‘What happened?’ he asked confusingly.
‘Why were you standing on this chair?’
‘Because my books are in that book shelve overhead. Since now my hand cannot reach there, I decided to stand on the chair’
He was still confused. ‘What were you thinking? You thought that I am hanging myself and that too because of those idiots?’
He had a mild smile on his face and I had tears in my eyes. Don’t know the reason but I still felt hard to believe him. I was relieved to see him standing next to me. But I pledged myself henceforth such bullies will never be spared.
"That day I found my Long Lost Brother and BFF in him"