The Madwoman

“Alright, let’s see the next one- if ten pencils cost 100 rupees, what is the cost of one pencil? Say, Mukul, rack your brains for once!” The haggard looking father tried hard to grasp his 10 year-old son’s attention. He was using the torn face of a carton to carry out the calculations. His filthy shirt almost fell off him, yet the spine chilling cold of January didn’t seem to bother him much. He was heavily engrossed in Mukul’s sums.

Mukul was least bothered about his father’s ceaseless efforts. He lay there grinning at his mother’s customers, a big bowl of puffed rice in his hands. He was in the fifth standard of the nearby government school. It was Saturday and school got over at 11.30. The sun was overhead and the quaint village by the river glistened peacefully. This was bliss and his father’s incessant questions were non-existent. Inaudible.

Mr. Chakraborty was Mukul’s mother’s customer. She was renowned for her priceless guavas, from her own tree. She felt gratified to have customers like Mr. Chakraborty who had come all the way from Kolkata. She always ensured not to disappoint them. Mukul’s father’s plight amused Mr. Chakraborty as well as his son.

“Why, Mukul? Don’t you like studying?” Mr. Chakraborty ridiculed, with a loving smile.

Arey, Dada! You don’t know him. He is grasped by all the diseases of the world simply at the name of studies. Either his stomach aches or he feels giddy, or feels too weak to even open his eyes, or any other ailment under the sun.” Mukul’s mother said complainingly.

“I haven’t asked him to do a single sum. I just asked him to watch me. Even that doesn’t satisfy him,” Mukul’s father laughed. Mr. Chakraborty noticed how clearly Mukul resembled his father. Their grins were hard to distinguish. He caught Mukul’s father pass a covert smile to his wife, a smile that radiated their love for their son in spite of all odds.

Mr. Chakraborty couldn’t help but remember his wife, Sujata. Her gentle comportment, her mild and loving ways, her ever supportive nature , the aura of beauty and humanity which always surrounded her, her infinite, inexplicable love for their son -everything flashed across his mind. But, the thought of that night lingered on. That pit, the shattered car, the dark, lonesome surroundings, her scream, his escape, her death. The days when he was convinced he could no longer go on. The emptiness that had engulfed his life, his being. Yet, his son’s innocent, loving face had given him the courage, the motivation. His son played the double-role for him from then on.

Now Sushanta, his son, was 14. On the verge of becoming a man, Sushanta loved his father dearly. He knew what his onus really was. And he lived up to it.

“That will be 30, Dada,” Mukul’s mother’s voice brought him back. Just as he was about to take out the money from his purse, he was startled by the helpless yells of a woman behind him.

“My son! Oh, my son! They have robbed me of my son! My son!” a shabbily dressed middle-aged woman with the dirtiest hair was groping around, tears streaming across her unclean face, her eyes nearly smoldering with anxiety.  Most of the villagers around were grinning knowingly.

“She’s a madwoman, dada. Don’t bother about her cries,” Mukul’s mother said, reading the puzzled expression on Mr. Chakraborty’s face, “They are only trying to test her. She lost her mind few years back, some say it was because her husband left her. They’ll return her boy soon.”

“See, I told you! She may have lost her mind, but she never lost her love for that kid,” one of the women remarked knowledgably.

“A mother’s love never dies. The world would have died if that happened,” said another.

“Even if the world goes upside down, a mother never stops loving her child,” Mukul’s father added, with the same grin on his drawn face.

The madwoman walked back with her child, holding on to him tightly, as if no force could snatch him away from her.

Mr. Chakraborty paid for the guavas and walked towards the bank of the river. Sushanta clasped his hands as they stood by the river. The river reddened as it prepared itself to devour the bright sun.

The silhouettes of the father and son stood there for a long time. Together.


If I Go Mad Someday

If nothing makes sense one morning,

And I know nothing of my being,

All of it appears like a joke,

And I walk smiling like a fool on the road,

I feel no pain, and if I know no reason,

If I live and love without any conditions,

And I befriend the most wanted murderer,

And fall in love with the stupidest stranger,

If the cruelest of words and the darkest of nights

Matter not a bit to me nor cause me fright,

If I just sit and weep silently by a river,

If I go mad someday, I’d be happier than ever.

To Lie

Difficult it is to find sense

In a labyrinthine jungle dense,


How hard it is to take back words spoken,

Harder still to mend promises broken,


Garrulous mouths are hard to quieten,

Imbecile brains are hard to enlighten,


Difficult it is to make morose souls smile,

Utterly impossible to make the dead rise,


Painstaking it is to make minutes pass

When life treats you like a futile mass,


Gruesome it is to live the infinite night,

Have a chat with the darkness and combat your fright,


It is formidably tough to apologize,

It is but perilously easy to lie.


Vanishing Traits

“A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle.”

-Benjamin Franklin

The other day, I was having a discussion with my mother regarding what it means to be ‘truly educated’. Our Government is endeavoring ceaselessly to ensure that no child in the country is deprived of her Right to Education. Primary education has been made free of cost and compulsory for every child. India’s higher education system is the third largest in the world, after China and the United States. There seems to be no stone left unturned in improving and developing our education system. Indeed, such facts make us feel gratified and proud of our selves and our nation.


However, as I ponder over the incidences taking place in my vicinity, I’m bound to lament- Where is all this “education” leading us to? Passing examinations, scoring sky-high marks, mugging up the textbook-where is all this leading us?


My thoughts travel back to the words of the Father of our Nation, as he wrote, “Literacy is neither the end of education nor even the beginning. It is only one of the means whereby man and woman can be educated. Literacy in itself is not education.” I couldn’t have agreed more to these words. I remember one of our high school teachers once saying, “You are not going to pin up your report cards on your chest wherever you go.” How true!


Now-a-days, the stereotypical image of a so-called educated person is one with numerous degrees following his name; a good student is one that has cracked the entrance exams with brilliant scores and ranks. Now, undoubtedly, these people are the assets of our nation and of the world. And I admire and dignify all that they have achieved by grace of their hard work.

My point, now, is that amidst our entire obsession for success and fame, and obtaining ranks in exams are we not missing out on some seemingly unimportant, yet, inevitably important values of our personality?


Blinded by fame and wealth, we seem to have entirely dismissed some integral elements from our lives and our being. There seems to be no place for a gentle word of kindness, for embracing our lesser-fortunate brothers and sisters, for bringing a smile on someone’s face or for wiping away their tears. We seem so engrossed within ourselves that we hardly realize the existence of our fellow beings. At times, I feel-how can we disregard the pain and sorrow of someone just like us? Just because we are not going through what they are, should we be so inconsiderate towards them? How can we remain so oblivious to their sufferings?


I believe all of us, at some instance of our lives, have experienced the happiness felt in return of making someone else happy. Our life is like a mirror. All that we give is reflected back to us. As the Bible says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). Just give it a thought, how would you have felt if no one offered you a helping hand in times of need? If no one consoled you when you are despairing? Isn’t that intolerably painful?


Maintaining a humble and gentle demeanor, helping a friend in need or passing a smile at someone we come across cost us nothing. In fact, they beautify our character and make us amiable persons. More importantly, they reflect our “education”. No matter how educated we are, if our comportment is not pleasant, all years of learning are sure to go in vain.


These things, when said or written, seem somewhat unimpressive and obvious. And albeit all of us being so familiar with these values, some Satanic wave seems to have swept away all such traits from us. We now seem to live in a kind of trance, where ‘nothing really matters’, except our own personal benefits. If we continue to be trapped in this trance, that foments intolerance and dishonesty, we better cease aspiring for a developed and prosperous world. For a while, we may be prosperous and successful, but, like all things achieved through deceit, even our success will perish.


It is therefore, the duty of every person, every citizen to ensure that they be concerned, not only about their own selves, but also about their lesser-fortunate counterparts. It is high time we revive the basic human values in ourselves and inculcate the same into our coming generations. Let us all learn and practice to respect and dignify the worth of every individual. Let us realize that every human being is the same, and no one is, and should not deem himself to be, superior.

Only preaching these values is not going to help anyway. We need to make it a part of ourselves. A humble, loving demeanor should become a part of our being. Our years of “education” should be reflected through our actions, not just our words. Only then, will “education” be worth it.


Let us begin today, let us begin now. Let us reawaken the values within us, the vanishing traits in us. Trust me, you will feel the difference.