“THUD” – the sound caught Suman off guard. It startled her a bit but it did o’t unsettle her. But what she heard next made her skip the heart beat, and not just one but many.
“Maaaa” came a heart piercing sound. It was Raju who shouted from bottom of his gut. Suman, his mother, came rushing through the rooms and reached outside within seconds. It’s interesting to see how women those who take hours to get ready act so quickly when something happens to their kin, especially their child.
“How did this happen? Is it hurting a lot?” saying this she tried to lift Raju when he cried with immense pain. Such a cry was bound to make a mother’s heart stop and it did, for a moment. Her eyes were overflowing with tears now. She, with the help of neighbors, took Raju to hospital. “His hand is fractured”, said the doctor as he examined Raju. In all the hustle Suman did not get time to call Raju’s father, but fortunately the neighbor did the job. By the time Raju’s hand was treated, put safely in the plaster and was moved to a separate room, his father reached the hospital. Perplexed, beads of sweat on his bit large forehead and half rage and half care in his eyes, he sat on the chair besides Raju’s bed. This guy must have done something stupid and got hurt, he thought to himself. Raju opened his eyes after the effect of anesthesia waned.
“What happened? How did you get yourself hurt? And why are you wearing Shaktiman’s dress?”, his father’s voice became more stern with every question he asked. Till now nobody was aware of what dress Raju was wearing. His mother was least bothered about it, but now everyone wanted answers as to how this happened. So everyone shifted their focus to Raju as he started to narrate the incident.
“I was on the roof waiting for Adi to come on his roof so we could decide about the cricket match we were to play today. I was sitting on the parapet wall and happened to look at the nest of a sparrow. The two baby sparrows were chirping in playful voice and mother sparrow was feeding them. In the meantime Adi called me and we were discussing about the game when suddenly the chirps of baby sparrows became louder and coarse. Mother sparrow was shouting at peak of her voice. We both turned to see what was happening and spotted a crow was trying to pick one baby sparrow from the nest. The tree branch is closer to our house, so I thought I can reach it and try to shoo the crow away from the nest. I tried throwing small stones but it did not work, the stones flew too far away from the crow to shoo him. I tried to find a stick or something so that I can beat the crow but found nothing. Then I saw I was wearing Shaktiman dress and thought I can spin and fly like him and save the baby sparrows. But I don’t know why it did not work out” saying this Raju started crying loudly and uncontrollably.
His mother tried to pacify him and father did not know what to say and was quite angry on him. But Raju was just 6 years old and his father could not think of a wise way to tell him that such things don’t work in real life. He just did not know how to react to such an incident. He kept on saying “Are you mad?” but neither he nor Raju could give a reasonable answer to it.
Days passed. Years passed. Wounds healed. The incident faded into blurred past. The TV serial “Shaktiman” too came to an end without further casualties. Raju was 9 years old now. 3 years older since last incidence, but still not experienced enough.
Raju was now a part of a group of classmates. Most of his group members lived close by in same colony. They would play together, go to school together and hang out together in the evening. They would share stories and fantasies about cartoons and characters. The recent fad was of Superman. Off late the movie was aired on TV and everyone was talking about it, from his dress to his powers. “It’s a bird… It’s a plane… It’s Superman” was their favorite line. They would say it exactly the same way the people in the movie say it.
It was one such evening when Raju was out with his group. “I will come by 7 PM Maa” announced Raju and made an exit without waiting for his mother’s plethora of instructions. It was around 7:30 PM and Raju was still not back home, which made his mother a little worried. But knowing that he was with his group, did not make her too paranoid about it. But her sixth sense was on look out for him. She heard someone calling her in weak voice,
“Maaa…”, it was Raju. Her heart sank, again. She turned back and saw there was blood on Raju’s face, shirt and hands. She felt like all her blood has drained out from her body, so white she was.
“What happened Raju?” she inquired in shrill voice.
“Nothing serious mom. I am fine” replied Raju. Though it was “nothing serious” for him, the same was not true about his mother. She quickly fetched warm water, a clean cloth and antiseptic from first aid box and rushed to clean Raju’s wounds. Every time she applied benzene to his wounds, he would cry a bit. After the wounds were cleaned, soothed and treated with, she asked him what has happened? And who has beaten him?
“It’s nothing serious mom. Some stupid guys from my school…. nothing serious.” Raju was trying to avoid and let the moment pass by without much fuss. But his mother persisted and Raju had to comply. So he started narrating everything to her. But before that he made sure no one was around, especially his father.
“Me, Adi and others were just chit chatting at the Ganapati’s temple when these guys from Std. F approached us. Manoj had some tiffs at school today with one of those guys, so they had come to settle the score. They came and started arguing with Manoj. They held Manoj by collar and were dragging him to the center. Adi and others were being coward and started moving away from the scene. But how can I let one of my friend be in trouble in front of my eyes Mom? How could Adi and others go away while our friend was in trouble?” Raju was partly in rage when he was narrating it.
“But I did not go away from Manoj and I was trying to create some distance between those guys and Manoj. Adi and others were cheering me from outside of the temple ‘yes Raju. Beat them. Don’t let them go away’ and I got more and more involved into the fight”.
“But why did you get involved into it alone? Manoj would have handled his own matter, right?” replied the mother still holding Raju in her embrace. “See now, how much you have hurt yourself? And all this for what? Some petty fight?” she was reasoning from her own point of view. Suddenly Raju sat upright and looked into his mother’s eyes,
“How could I let my friend get beaten by those bad guys mom?” there was rage in his eyes and voice.
“But you alone could not have successfully fought with bunch of guys, could you?” her point was valid and logical but Raju did not think logically, he was thinking from his heart.
“Isn’t that something Superman does always mom? Doesn’t he fight with bad guys all by himself?” came a quick reply.
Suman smiled a bit, now she understood where all of this was coming from. She patted Raju’s head and went on to tell him that Shaktiman, Superman are fictional characters and they don’t exist in reality. What you did was with good intentions but it lacked the proper strength. Superman used to do so much of exercise and he had so many powers and hence he could fight the demons in the society. Raju was listening to her intently and soon fell asleep because of all exhaustion.
Rajesh went silent. He stopped in between the rows of students who were sitting and listening to him since past 30 minutes. No one moved, no one made any noise. They were all ears to the story being told to them. After a long pause and looking across all of the faces that were all looking at him, he traced his steps back to the dais. Once on podium he smiled and continued.
“After these 2 incidents, Raju understood that only good intentions will not help, they need to be supported by strength and power. Just wearing Shaktiman or Superman clothes or thinking oneself as them will not help, one needs to work hard and build the confidence and strength from within to fight the evil.”
“That is why Raju studied hard, exercised daily and got selected in IAS. Now he serves the needy, helpless and saves the ones in difficult situations. He fights daily with the evils in society and tries to bring the balance back into the society. No doubt sometimes he gets beaten by the bad guys, but he does not fall back and neither his parents ask him to stay away from the bad guys. They in fact are very proud that their son is helping others in their difficult times”
On that note, Rajesh finished his speech and he was greeted by deafening round of applause. The students didn’t ask the question “Who’s this Raju sir?” because all of them were intelligent enough to understand who Raju really was.
Disclaimer: This story is an art of fiction. Any resemblance to living or dead is purely co-incidental.