Hosted by Reena at https://reinventionsreena.wordpress.com/2017/11/03/reenas-exploration-challenge-week-11/
FROM RAT TO CAT
By Neel Anil Panicker
“You are a cat. Not just any ordinary cat. The big one. The biggest of them all. A true blue Royal Bengal Tiger. The best and the rarest breed to inhabit the whole wide world.”
Saumik began to feel dizzy. His head started to swirl. Blood began to drain out of his face and limbs.
He felt his legs and limbs go limp.
All this not out of fear or pain. But out of shock.
So far no one, not one person in his entire life so far of over two score years on Mother Earth had ever said so many wonderful words of appreciation for him.
A tiger. They were calling him a tiger, that too the best in the business. From a lowly rat to a majestic tiger__that’s quite a paradigm shift. How quickly the wheels of fate change, he thought.
His mind flashbacked to the past, to his childhood, to his village by the sea, near the Sunderbans, the home of the Royal Bengal Tiger.
His mind was once again assailed by words, fierce poison barbs and insults that were heaped on his friends and neighbours.
A recurring image flashed through his mind. There he was, a slip of a ten year old boy, naked above the waist standing a step behind his half bent father whose hands were folded in supplication.
It was morning time. They were in the middle of rich, golden yellow paddy fields. A sickle rested on the ground beneath him, between his father’s legs.
The lands belonged to Hari Shankar, the landlord, an evil eyed wily invective hurling rotund man with a ferocious handlebar moustache.
His father was pleading to Hari Shankar, who also doubled up as the unofficial money lender for the entire impoverished populace.
“O’ dear God’s gift to mankind, O’ dear benevolent soul, you have blessed us by allowing me to till your soil. We__ my wife and three children subsist because of your kindness. Here have a look at my youngest son. Here he is, Saumik, though we call him Birju. His teachers tell me that he is intelligent, that he is meant for bigger things, that he should be sent to the city for a better education. I told him that I am a poor man, that I can’t afford such expenses. But Birju here is insistent. Says he wants to study, go to a proper school, a school that has a roof, a school where the walls don’t smell of urine and cow dung and human excreta. A school that will make a man out of him. O’ dear Lord, I request you to loan me some money so that I can fulfil his dream and send him to the city. For this act of kindness I shall forever be under your debt and till your land all my life”.
‘I have heard you and feel like laughing. A man should never dream for anything that is above his stature. Look at him. He is just like you and your father and all your wretched kith and kin. You people are meant to slog all your lives. You can do nothing else in life. This is your fate. You are just a rat and he too will end up like one, a small, useless, slavish rat all his life tilling the soil of the rich. I tell you, in my fields from today itself. That way there will be two more hands and one extra mouth that can be fed. Now, get back to work, you good for nothing rats”.
‘Congratulations Saumik, you have cleared the most prestigious management school entrance examination in this country. We are proud to tell you that since you are among the top five students, you have secured admission into IIM, Ahmedabad. We wish you all the very best in your B school and hope that you will be an inspiration to millions of students who come from small towns and impoverished backgrounds and realise their dreams by making it big in life. Just one last question. Who do you owe your sterling success to?’
Saumik looked at the distinguished group of panellists who sat across in an oblong teak wood table and were looking at him with eyes that spelled pride and joy. His welled up.
For one nano second his mind’s eye played out the events leading upto his selection in breakneck speed. Like a Bollywood film every single scene, frame and shot came alive in technicolor.
First, his leaving behind his parents and siblings, then his arrival in big city Kolkata. His new school. The initial rough days. The non stop barrage of insults and mocks and humiliations. The stark contrast between him and his city bred school mates. Their language, mannerisms, their style, swag, and oh, their English_ slick and polished, spoken in an accent that sounded alien and heavenly. Compared to them and the crispy starched clothes that they wore and the redolence that emanated from their well toned bodies, he looked with his pidgin rural English, unkept hair, dark smelly skin, and half protruding yellowing teeth like someone literally from the boondocks, a Stone Age man grossly unfit to move around and be accepted in modern society.
And thus he was marked out, segregated, ostracised from all, made the butt of jokes, laughed at derided to the point when he could take it no more.
The frame moved to one where was packing his bags and was leaving; leaving the big city, leaving behind his dreams of giving himself an education, of becoming a man, of fulfilling his parents’ dreams, of going back and joining his siblings and countless others whose fate it was doomed to with another man’s fields all their lives, existing but not living, mere worms and pests of absolutely no productive use, neither to themselves nor to the world around them.
The frame changes; a miracle happens. Out of the bottle, like a genie, a kindly man with a benign smile pops up and says, “Son, I have been observing you for some time. You are a very bright student. I see great potential in you. I also see that you are bullied by other students. I can see why they do it. They see you as unkept, smelly, ill groomed, and most importantly as one who doesn’t speak English like the way they do.
My child, let me tell you, I will guide and teach you the ways of the world. I will guide you in the ways of this world. I will help you to not just speak and write and communicate with your fellow classmates but also to well informed adults in a manner that would be the envy of each one of them. I will make them and everybody who interacts with you feel in awe of you and respect and admire you from the inner cores of their hearts.
The next few frames all full of initial struggle in learning and mastering a new language, the efforts that went into turning an uncut stone into a polished jewel.
And one final frame. The day of his graduation. Seated among the audience was the same kindly man, the his English teacher from school who had taught and moulded him into a man, a much respected hugely admired modern young man.
That evening, as he held in his hands the glittering ‘Best Student’ trophy he had hugged Mr Ashmeet Bhattacharya, his mentor, now for ever friend, philosopher and guide for life.
With teary eyes that night before he went to sleep he realised that he had turned around his fate and suddenly his perspective towards life, towards what constitutes success and how to achieve it had all changed.
“Respected gentlemen, everyman is the driver of his own destiny and thus no one can blame anyone or society or for that matter fate for what befalls him or her. Yes, all of us need one trusted navigator to show them the right path but then all onwards journeys are our to be traversed, however ardous the paths and difficult the terrains we come across. And that navigator is none other than our own perspective. With the right kind of perspective man can conquer mountains, swim oceans and soar high up in the skies. You asked me as to who I owed my success to. I know it is my parents who kept their faith in me despite ever mounting difficulties and teachers, one in particular, Bhattacharya Sir whose efforts helped me turn into a gem.
But besides them, I owe my success to another section of people. The supposed ‘haves’ of this world, the Mr Know Alls, the condescending ones, the ones who insulted me, called me names, made fun of my English et al because if it was not for them and their insults I would not have turned inward and found my inner navigator that has helped me steer the vehicle of my life past failures and towards success. Thanks to them today I have metamorphosed from a rat to a CAT and am about to enter into the best B-school in the country. But more importantly, thanks to them, my perspective towards life has changed for ever as I realise that nothing, absolutely nothing is unachievable for a human being if has the right perspective towards life.”
(c)neelanilpanicker2017 #fiction #shortstory #reena’sexplorationchallenge #shortstory #1563words