Written for


By Neel Anil Panicker

Pin drop silence prevailed; all eyes hooked onto the dashing young man at the front, all ears latching onto every single word that was being uttered.

Rachel, sitting in the front rows, closed her eyes and wandered into dreamland.

“It’s all in the eyes, the way we perceive things, look at people.

They are what we chose them to be­­—- our best friends, or worst enemies.”

‘What is it about love that makes you go weak in the knees; leaves you mumbling and fumbling, trembling and stumbling like a gawky ten year old?’

Rachel opened her eyes and gazed into the man in front of her.

No Gucci shoes or Armani suit, Rolex watch or Bond Street tailored clothes?

No Body Shop fragrance oozing out of a six pack six foot tall movie star persona? Not even a deep edgy baritone?

Then what was it that this very ordinary looking thirty something man who taught her class twice a day had that made her go weak on the knees? Made her get up from bed even on days when her body temperatures touched an alarming 104 degrees Celsius, made her attend every single class of his, come rain or shine, even if it meant foregoing her weekends, exarcerbating her already frayed relationships with her roommates and ex-college friends?

She decided to figure out for herself and clasping her hands under the table, she listened to the words of the man, hoping to find a solution to the mystery that was eating into her vitals, keeping her endlessly awake all through the tortuous nights dreaming fantastical visions of her and her Prince Charming.

“Confrontation. That’s what we have come to. We, and that includes every single person on this planet has been pushed to the wall and believes that the only way out is to fight back, retaliate, adopt a confrontationist attitude.

This is the single most reason that we are become distrustful of one another, both on an individual level and on the scale of nations and nationalities.

Look over and you will find manisfestations of this phenomenon—-Nations are fighting each other; nationalities laying claim t supremacy over others, spreading malice, hatred, animosity, and violence all around, falsely, stupidly, or ignorantly claiming themselves to be superior to others, trampling on the pride, ego and rights of others, bringing nations to the heel, hurtling them to the precipice of war and destruction.

It seems everyone is on the warpath, fighting nonexistent battles, battling invisible demons of their creation, causing not just themselves but all around them massive pain and hurt. It is time to change this mindset. It’s time we confront our own inner demons and crush them once and for all so that the truth sets us free. It is time we engage with mankind, with every single person that we meet and encounter on equal terms, with compassion, with empathy, and with love, immense love that comes from the inner wellsprings of our hearts, hearts which must know only to give and share and are full of care. It’s time we change ourselves and thereby change this beautiful world that we inhabit. It’s time we make love, not war.”

Utter silence enveloped the class, not a single human sound or whisper, no shuffling of legs, or even rustling of papers, not even the faint sound of the early morning breeze that snakes in through the open windows.

Rachel, like all others in the classroom were in a deep trance. Never before had someone so captured their collective consciousness like this young man had through his utterings, his words had a power, his thoughts came loaded with a wisdom culled from centuries old sages and were timeless.

Someone from the back rows clapped, a few whistled, and then it was as if the dam had burst__within seconds the whole class had erupted in thunderous applause, their full throated lusty shouts of approbation resounding in the corridors and beyond long after the class had eneded and young man at the centre of attention had made his exit.

For a good fifteen minutes after all the commotion had died down and the class had emptied itself out, Rachel still sat transfixed to her seat, wondering how and when a mere Personality Development Class had managed to usher in so huge a change in her.

How could a person, a young man at that who incidentally also taught Verbal Ability could speak so well, hold such deeply insightful beliefs, have such an evolved world vision.

A lot many such questions assailed her and she, despite racking her mind far and wide, was unable to get concrete answers to them.

But she knew that this person, in the course of a mere 120 minutes, had filled her heart with positivity and an excitement that she hitherto had thought wasn’t possible to achieve.

Here impoverished childhood, her overriding feeling of inferiority had deadened all passion from ever forming in her small heart was what she had thought so far and what she believed to be true until…

Until…the class had changed her and now, she wanted to meet the person responsible for the change.

So thinking, she got up and walked out of the classroom, looking for an opportune moment to meet and confront her new benefactor, the one she knew held answers to the questions that beguiled her mind.


A week later…

“Your name is Meena, and you have questions to ask me, right?

How could he? How could he have known all this, wondered Meena as she closed the door behind her and walked towards the empty chair in front of her.

“It’s in your face, in your eyes, in the way you look at me when I take classes.”

What was he, a saint, clairvoyant, a soothsayer, a magician…, He seemed to know exactly what was crossing her mind and bothering her all this time.

Meena decided not to beat around the bush and confronted him headlong.

“How could you be so clever and insightful. How do have all the answers, always, Sir”?

‘Deepak Matrani. That’s my name, Those who know me address me as simply Deepu. I will resolve your dilemma today. Come, have  a look at me. What do you see? A young man, reasonably well dressed, well behaved and cultured, and now as per you clever and insightful as well.

Well, the foundations of what you see today in me was set two decades ago in a small village in Bolangir district of Odisha. Have you heard of Bolangir? It is the district that regularly draws international attention for the dubious distinction of the maximum number of child starvation deaths in the world. Not very long ago, I too would have been a mere statistics, adding my tiny, puny might to that empirical data, yet another number for the world to gape at and shake their heads in shame and disbelief and then, quite impassively move on to the next sob story around the world.

But fate had other plans in store for me. I survived, miraculously grew up sans parents, sans schooling, sans love, sans anything.

One day a lady found me lying unconscious in a roadside ditch, my skeletal frame smeared in human excreta, filth and dirt.

I was twelve when she brought me to her home, ‘Saviours of Humanity’, and that’s where I lived for the next ten years, or so, bathed in love and compassion, lovingly fed and raised by unknown hands and brought back to a life of dignity I had never known before.

The lady who saved me and brought me home that day and gave me an education, blessing me with her love and compassion, is today no more. A couple of years back she was waylaid on the road next to her home, accosted by ribald axe wielding religious bigots, accused of forcible conversions, and brutally hacked to death.

This person, whom I called Mother, was killed, her beautiful life cut short by misanthropes, narrow minded illiterate men whose hearts were filled with only hatred towards humanity.

Still, she blessed them as life ebbed out of her saying aloud, “Merciful God, forgive them and bless them for they know not what they do. That day I cried a lot but later, slowly the pain ebbed within me and I realized my true calling in life, which is to spread the word of peace and brotherhood, of love and compassion, of living and letting live.

That day I learnt that the only way to combat the forces of evil in this world is by compassion, by having a sympathetic understanding of all human sorrows, by treating every single person one encounters in life with the same sense of equality, dignity, and love  that one expects of oneself from others. This truth set me free, freed me of all pain, and has helped me become a better soul.”

The room fell silent.

For a long time Reena sat there, alone and lost in her world. Finally, she looked at the man seated in front of her, the man who was her teacher, the man who had impressed her enough with his confidence, his humility, and now his compassion.

Slowly, realization dawned on her and she smiled, a full bloom smile that came from deep within the recesses of her fledgling heart and radiated joy and happiness all around her.

“Thank you, Anirban Sir. Thanks to you, today I am able to confront my fears and I by doing so I have become free of all pain. Thanks to your noble thoughts and philosophy my eyes have opened to a new world, a world of infinite possibilities, and like you, one day I too, who has come from a similar impoverished background as yours, will become successful, but more importantly stay grounded and humble always.”

©neelanilpanicker2017 #reena’sexplorationchallenge#8 #shortstory #fiction #selfdiscovery #1642words

4 thoughts on “neelwrites/pain,truth’speskycousin/reena’sexplorationchallenge#08/shortstory/fiction/1642words/20/10/2017

  1. This felt like listening to a TED talk — wisdom culled from experience. Experience ceases to be pain, at one point, and takes on higher dimensions.

    The names of three different girls confused me initially, but then, I interpreted it as the mass appeal of the protagonist.

    Thanks for joining in with a touching and humanist story!


    1. You are absolutely right about that. I am trying to weave some earthly truths through my stories that i am doing for your wonderful exploration challenge and am glad it’s working well. Thanks a lot, Reena.

      Liked by 1 person

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