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Courage Conquers All

2006-07-13 21:41

  Life is only froth and bubble

  Two things stand like stone

  Kindness in another's trouble

  Courage in your own.

  “Have you heard the latest news? A new boy is to join our class!” Tikkoo Kapoor called out as his friends entered the assembly hall morning prayers.

  “Rot!” Suresh declared immediately.

  “Are you sure? You know, Sir doesn't admit new students in a middle of a term!” Anand, the Captain of Class VIII, pointed out.

  “Yes, it is firm rule,” agreed Ravi.

  “No, I am right! I heard old Ruddy talking to the Math's Master,” Tikkoo insisted, referring to his class teacher, Mr. Rudra.

  “Hope he is good at sports!” Ravi said. His friends hoped so too, for Class VIII had been faring badly in the inter-class football matches held till then.

  “The new boy may not care for games. Not all boys like running about or getting hot and dirty!” Tikkoo remarked disdainfully.

  The boys hid amused smiles. For, Tikkoo hated physical exertion and was the duffer of the class.

  “Tikkoo could be right. The new boy  may be hopeless at games,” argued Suresh.

  The boys knew it was Suresh's wish to be chosen for the school football team. He sensed rivalry even before it presented itself.

  When the boys of Class VIII entered their classroom after morning prayers they were surprised to see Mr. Rudra already at his desk.

  “Good morning, Sir!” they chorused.

  “Good morning!” Mr. Rudra smiled. “We will be having some visitors. Until their arrival, I propose to conduct a History test.”

  The boy exchanged grins as they knew the identity of the visitors. Nevertheless there was an excited buzz when, ten minutes later, the Headmaster walked in, followed by a slight figure.

  “Good morning!” he return their greeting. “Boys! this is Chandrakant Gupta, a new student to Pine Heights. I hope you will make him feel welcome.”

  The Headmaster spoke briefly to Mr. Rudra before instructing the new boy to take his place.

  Chandrakant Gupta felt self-conscious as he walked to the vacant desk in the front row - “Under old Ruddy's nose” - as the coveted seats in the last row were already bagged.

  With a satisfied nod, the Headmaster left the classroom.

  “We were having a little Historical quiz this mooring as I knew my students would be busy speculating about the latest addition to the class to follow any serious instruction!” Mr. Rudra smiled knowingly and continued, “Tell me, Kapoor, which Indian Monarch had an able minister called Chanakya?”

  “Was it…… Chandragupta, Sir?” Tikkoo replied hesitantly.

  “Correct!” Mr. Rudra applauded.

  The boys sniggered softly. They realised that Tikkoo had been thinking about the new boy and that his answer was a shot in the dark. They waited eagerly for the lunch bell to ring, for they had not seen Chandrakant arrive, nor had there been time for conversation between lessons.

  “Welcome to Pine Heights, Chandrakant. We hope you will like it here,” Anand said as they took their places in the dining hall.

  “Thanks! Do call me Chandra. I have always wanted to attend boarding school,” he replied.

  Anand introduced the newcomer to his friends.

  “What is your favorite game, Chandra?” asked Ravi as they strolled out during recess.

  “Football.” Ravi's face brightened but fell when he heard Chandrakant add regretfully, “But  I don't play nowadays.”

  “What a pity!” Anand observed. He looked searchingly at Chandrakant. The new boy looked quite fit, though he was on the small side.

  'I wonder how he will cope with Suresh!' was Anand's thought.

  He did not have to wait long. For, he saw Suresh and his cronies approaching.

  The other boys of the class gathered around to see what would happen.

  “Hello!” Suresh smiled. “I am the strongest chap in the class and all newcomers must meet me in a trial of strength. So roll up your sleeves and come on!”

  Chandrakant stared alternately at Suresh and at the other boys who were watching and knew that this would prove to be a real test. He took a deep breath and said slowly, “Thanks for the invitation, but I don't care to fight!”

  “Coward!” Suresh taunted scornfully. “Here is a name for you - Chandra the Coward!”

  Anand, Ravi and the others looks uncomfortable. They thought it was feeble of Chandrakant for having declined  Suresh's sporting offer. They would not have thought less of the new boy even if he had lost. Anand broke the sudden silence which had fallen and told Suresh to leave Chandrakant alone.

  “Okay, Captain!” Suresh grinned. “I will leave little Chandra the Coward to hide behind yours shorts!”

  Smothered chuckles could be heard. Chandrakant merely shrugged his shoulders.

  “Never mind, Chandra,”  Tikkoo took his arm, “not everyone likes fight or play boisterous games. Let us have a quiet game of chess.”

  Chandrakant allowed Tikkoo to lead him away. After the incident, Chandrakant found that though the boys were friendly, they did not admit him into their inner circle.

  Tikkoo was Chandrakant's faithful companion. Chandrakant was grateful for his company, he felt lonely and left out. Tikkoo's grades in class improved. His gratitude was touching to behold after the results of the exams were announced.

  The following weeks were filled with much excitement. The final of the inter-school football match was to be held on the last day of the term. There was the additional excitement of 'break-up' - packing of trunks exchanging address and promises to “meet during the hols”。

  The Headmaster invited all parents to watch the match after which they could take their sons home.

  Suresh had learnt the Chandrakant's favorite game was football. He lost no opportunity to jeer about 'sissies' in Chandrakant's hearing. Suresh could hardly contain his pride when his parents arrived - he had been chosen for the school football team. Another car drew up alongside at the same time and Chandrakant dashed down the steps.

  Suresh raised his brows in surprise, for Chandrakant's father was dressed in a Major's uniform.

  “Gosh! who would have thought that an Army officer could have a cowardly son, a sissy who won't play games!” Suresh remarked to his friends.

  The words were overheard by Chandrakant's parents. The Major gestured to his wife to remain quiet.

  The match was a most thrilling one with both teams playing well. In the second half, Suresh skillfully tackled his opponent and sped away with the ball. As he kicked it for a goal, his friends danced about madly with joy. Chandrakant clapped as loudly as the others.

  The final minutes ticked by with no more goals being scored. The Pine Heights team was the winner by virtue of Suresh's goal.

  The Headmaster requested Chandrakant's father to present the trophy to the winning team. The Major had a special word of praise for Suresh who had played exceedingly well.

  “Today I have seen a good example of a trial of strength and skill. But strength can be of different kind - physical and moral. Moral strength is, of course, courage or presence of mind. Now, I am not going to lecture you on that, I will leave it to it to your Moral Science instructor!” There was laughter from the boys. “But I wish to tell you a story.”

  Everyone sat up eagerly as the Major continued, “There was a young boy who was fond of games. One day, he was returning home after a football match, when he heard a cry for help. He ran in the direction of the sound and saw a small boy floundering in the river. He plunged in at once, even though he did not know swimming; with much effort he towed the youngster to safety. The small boy tearfully begged his rescuer to save his puppy, too.

  “The older boy searched in vain for the animal. Help arrived in the meantime and a man dived in to rescue the puppy. The man saved both the boy and the puppy.”

  “He was gravely ill, for he had caught double pneumonia due to prolonged exposure. Remember, he had just been playing. Today that the boy is called a coward by his classmates, who wonder how he can be the son of an Army officer. But he still refuses to defend himself despite much provocation……”

  The boys of class VIII knew that he was talking about Chandrakant. Now the reason for his refusal to play games was clear. They respected Chandrakant all the more for having made no excuse, for not bragging about his courage, even thought he had been called a coward.

  Suresh was especially ashamed of himself.

  “Forgive me for the nasty cracks I made,” he held out his hand to Chandrakant. “I admire you, for I would not be able to keep quiet if someone jeered at me. Nor would I have had the courage to plunge into a river if I didn't know swimming!”

  “Forget it, yaar!” Chandrakant smiled. “You have helped me to find a wonderful friend in Tikkoo Kapoor!”

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