“It’s FRIDAY!!! STORY DAY!!” shouted the kids, as they lined up for breakfast. It had been a month since, I had left corporate life and joined an NGO group which helped Orphan houses. Kids here loved Fridays as it was just stories and no studies. This was my favorite day as well. I didn’t have to put extra effort to maintain discipline around and I loved Stories:-). Kids would be on their best behavior, if not they would not get to hear the story. Some authors and inspirational speakers would come and tell stories to the kids and interact with them. And today, it was ‘Ram Shastri’. Kids loved him but for me, he was too realistic and his stories would depict the harsh reality of the world outside.
Kids were already in the class room waiting, as I ushered Ram Shastri inside the class. All the kids went “Good Morning Teacheeeerrrrrrr” followed up by laughter. It always brought a smile on my face. Kid’s laughter is always so pure and full of life. Ram Shastri sat down as, kids surrounded him their website. He was in his late 50’s with full beard which was white in color and wore huge glasses. He looked like a stereotypical, old Indian Author. As he started interacting with the kids, I excused myself and went to arrange for lunch.
After instructing the chief for lunch, I walked back into the classroom as I was interested to hear the story as well. Ram Shastri was just starting. “Now everyone, finger on your lips” he said. He had a bit of a husky voice which added flavor to his story telling. He continued and what transpired in the end of the story brought a tear to my eyes.
‘In a small city called Hubli, Karnataka. There lived a kid named Aries. He was very energetic and always playful. He would never listen to his parents and always went out of the house to play with his friends. When he was just 7 years old, as usual he escaped from his house to go play with his friends. It was a Sunday. As he came on the road saw that, the roads looked very deserted. He didn’t think much and just ran towards his friend’s house.
Inside his friend’s house, he and his friend played for a while. Since his friend was poor he didn’t have a toilet in his house. So his friend went out, crossed the road and to the other side to pee. His mom came and asked Aries “Where is he?”, to which, he pointed his finger out on towards the road and said “TOILET”. Just then a Police Jeep passed on the road slowly and as it passed “BANG BANG” came the sound.
Aries rushed out along with his friend’s home and saw his friend on the road sleeping, looking straight at him. He didn’t move at all. Loud scream behind Aries came as his friend’s mom ran out of the house. Aries just stood frozen, without moving a muscle.
It took few years for Aries to understand that there was a riot then, between Hindu and Muslim people in his city. Because of which ‘Shoot at site’ was declared by the police. The incident haunted Aries’s dreams even till today. He saw his friend’s dead eyes staring at him.
There was pin drop silence in room. Nobody moved and I saw few tears in the eyes of Ram Shastri as well. As he stood up, he looked aged by 10 years. I helped him up. And we together walked out of class. Even then none of kids moved or made a sound. I managed to ask him ‘Sir, why do you tell such stories to kids?’ He looked dead straight into my eyes and said “Kids need to know the harsh reality and real value of life. It is not about who is smarter or who is richer. They need to know the value of life”. “But sir, it’s just too early for kids don’t you think?” His reply still keeps playing in my head,
“Nobody thought about my age or my friend’s age when those people gunned him down! Reality IS Cruel”. I stood there dumbstruck, as he walked away.