Neelan was in apprehension.
The master has been asking every student to bring the Surya book but some of the students couldn’t afford it, including Neelan. The book, all but of 124 pages, was a prescribed text book for 9th grade students of Kerala during the 1960s. It costed 75 paise then, more than the price of some other books which went up to 300 pages. Neelan could no way afford it and also didn’t feel it was worth that price.
The master entered the class right on time as always and as expected his first question was whether all the students have the book. He asked the students without the book to stand up. Hesitantly one by one the boys stood up – a total of 13. Master’s expression changed from doubt to disgust. He warned in his usual harsh tone to bring the book from tomorrow or get ready to stand outside the class everyday during his period. The students sat down sighing a relief of having escaped his wrath for one more day.
But the next day was not very far.
Neelan got up early in the morning. He was not the lazy kinds and got up the same time everyday even though the day before was hectic and he had slept late. He rushed to school after finishing all his morning chores. He waited with baited breath for the Science period. The master walked in promptly and asked the very same question. This time there were only 12 children standing, Neelan didn’t.
The master asked all of them to stand outside the class but he hadn’t missed noticing that Neelan was sitting, which meant he bought the book but how? Curious and doubtful, the master approached Neelan’s bench and asked him whether he bought the book.
Neelan replied, “No master, I couldn’t afford to buy the book but I have the book with me.”
Puzzled, the master asked him how that was possible and asked Neelan to show the book.
Confidently, Neelan pulled out sheets of rough paper which he had tied together to make a book and gave it to the master. Still puzzled, master took the book and turned the pages. He was not only astonished but felt proud to see what was in the book.
Rough papers costed only 25 paise per bundle during those days. After a lot of thought, Neelan had borrowed the actual Surya book from one of his friends, bought some rough sheets, and copied the whole book with his hand over the the sheets in one single night. All of 124 pages was beautifully written in Neelan’s crisp handwriting on those rough sheets, now in the master’s hand.
The master called the students standing outside into the class and showed this act of tactfulness to all in the class. The master was so happy that he took Neelan immediately to the staff room and the Head Master’s room to tell them about what he had done. This was a lesson for all those who couldn’t afford the book.
This was not only an act of tactfulness but also thirst of knowledge which compelled Neelan to do this. His act showed not only the helplessness of the needy but also the brilliance of a person who was not ready to hang his head in shame.
Neelan was celebrated in the school for this reason for all the years he studied there.
PS : I know, not really a great attempt, in fact I am not even attempting to write a story here. This was just an incident taken from my father in law’s (Neelan in the story) life, something which I felt like sharing for the lesson hidden in it. :)