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Circle of Life
by Debashish Majumdar

Akash lived in a big mansion. His father was a doctor. A noble doctor. He did not charge a high fee when a patient was ill and needed his service. He would attend, free of charges, to the poor and the downtrodden whenever they needed him. He always told his son Akash that he should mix freely with children irrespective of family background. Akash’s mother also agreed with her doctor husband.

Akash returned home from school. He tossed his school bag upon his bed, hurriedly removed his school uniform and dressed up in casual wear. He drank a tumbler of milk and chewed cream biscuits hurriedly. Then he  stuffed his trousers pockets with cream biscuits. He also tucked in pocket money. He rushed to the balcony of his big house.

“ Ali,” cried out Akash in clear-cut Hindustani, “ Come, join me for a game of cricket. Call the other boys too.”

“ Bhaiya,” replied Ali from the street corner,” Back from school?”

The two boys exchanged a wave of hands. Then Akash clambered down the stairs and was joined by a gang of street urchins. They all loved and respected Akash bhaiya. Akash stopped by a sweatmeat shop and bought a few laddoos for the hungry boys. They thanked Akash profusely and stuffed the yellow balls of sweets into their mouths. Akash also offered them the cream biscuits.

“ Surely you don’t have to thank me, boys. ” Akash spoke with a smile.

“ I was so hungry, I did not even have time to thank you,” said Ali.

“ You are so kind, Akash bhaiya,” said the urchins, “ You feed us and we can give you nothing in return.”

“ We must be grateful to the Almighty,” said Akash,” It is he who provides me with a few rupee notes to share with you, my friends.”

Indeed, the boys were grateful to Akash. It was he who would donate his old clothes, toys and books to his poor friends who lived down the lane and could not afford to buy such luxuries.

Every evening, after a refreshing game of cricket, football or kabaddi - Akash would visit their straw homes. Under the lamp he would guide his friends to the basic alphabets or teach them a few sums. Then he would rush off home to complete his own homework.

These poor children could not all afford to go to school. Ali’s father, for example, worked as a mechanic in a local garage. During the day, Ali himself had to work as a coolie carrying loads and loads of goods from arriving trucks, to a godown.

With his wages, Ali and his family could barely eat two square meals a day. Ali was a happy boy. He never grumbled. It is true he was missing out on the best part of his childhood. How he wanted to go to school! He would love to dress up like the boys and girls who would smartly go to school in their uniforms with their school-bags slung upon their shoulders.

However, Ali at sixteen had learnt how to drive a truck, even a car. He would wake up early in the morning and would accompany his friend Sambhu chacha.

Now this old man had a rickety Ambassador car. He would drive and impart lessons to would-be truck drivers on how to drive a vehicle. He loved Ali. So this enthusiastic boy had picked up his lessons quickly with ease and free of charges.

~*~

One evening, Ali had a lot of work to do. Dusk had fallen. A truck had arrived from Haryana, rather late, and Ali knew that he could not play this day even though Akash and the other boys would be waiting for him to join them.

Suddenly, Ali spotted Akash’s family car. It was parked on the other side of the street. Ali wondered what it was doing here. While unloading goods from the waiting truck, he kept his eyes on the car. Then he noticed a man approaching the car. Suddenly, the person clutched his chest and while trying to open the door of the car, slumped to the ground. There was commotion.

Ali ran towards the spot. He lifted the man. He peeped into his face. It was Akash’s father! Ali rubbed the doctor’s chest. Then he snatched the keys from the limp hands, lifting his friend’s doctor father into the car. Ali started the car engine ushering the crowd to disperse.

He knew there was a hospital nearby. He drove the car blindly in the traffic. He knew a Doctor Samir in the hospital. As luck would have it, Uncle Samir was walking out of the hospital after his day’s duty. Ali explained to him what had happened and Doctor Samir, two attendants as well as Ali carried Akash’s father to the emergency ward.

Within a few minutes, Akash’s father was gasping. Then he was breathing normally. He opened his eyes and met Doctor Samir’s hopeful face.

“ You are alright,” said Doctor Samir,” A mild heart attack. This boy saved your life.”

Doctor Trivedi, Akash’s father tried to speak up. He wanted to thank Ali.

“ Not now, later,” said Uncle Samir,” I advice you one week’s bed rest. I understand from Ali that you are not only a noble but a great doc yourself!”

Later, Doctor Trivedi was delighted to know that Ali was a close friend of his son Akash. His entire family was grateful to Ali for saving the doctor’s life. Ali was a  humble, modest boy. He wanted no reward. He even said that Akash had taught him how to help people in need and not to expect anything in return.

~*~

A month later, Doctor Trivedi was back on his feet. He was a very active man and soon he was back doing noble deeds for the public at large. Ali continued to play in the evenings with Akash and his friends whenever he was free from
work.

One night, Ali could not return home. He was going to be paid overtime as there were three trucks left to unload. The twinkling stars were already smiling in the sky. Ali’s father was back home in the evening and he cooked the family meal.

Ali’s mother had not returned from work. She worked as a housemaid. When it was past midnight, Ali’s father began to get worried. He rushed to Ali and found him busy at work.

“ Come, come with me…quick!” He wept loudly as he dragged Ali,” Mother has not returned.”

“ Where is she?” asked the anxious boy,” What has happened to her? Where will we find her in this dark night? I don’t even know the house where ma works.”

“ I know the house your ma works,” Ali’s father breathed heavily and smelled of alcohol,” Come, I have got your mother’s present location.”

They crossed one road after another. Finally, they arrived at a nursing home.

Ali was stunned to meet Akash at the gate.

“ Don’t worry, Ali,” assured Akash,” Your mummy is fine. Just a minor stroke.”

“ I don’t understand,” said Ali recovering his breath,” How did you….?”

Akash took Ali aside. Then spoke to him quietly :

“ I never told you this. Your mother, Abida Begum works as a maid in our house. I thought you will be hurt to know the truth.”

Ali shook his head as he rapidly paced his steps towards his mother’s room.

“ As soon as she fell ill in our house this evening, “ said Akash,” I called a taxi and rushed her to my father’s nursing home. She is well out of danger. She is doing fine.”

Ali and her father were surprised to see mother smiling at them. There she was lying on a bed in an air-conditioned cabin with a troop of nurses attending on her.

Doctor Trivedi had placed one of his palms upon her forehead.

“ Thank you, Uncle,” said Ali profusely. “ Thank you dear Akash!”

“ Ali, you?” Doctor Trivedi was shocked beyond belief. “ I never knew she was your mother. Akash had kept it a secret.”

“ Thank the Almighty,” smiled Akash. “ Remember, you had saved my dad’s life once.”

Ali clutched Akash’s right hand firmly.

Doctor Trivedi nodded his head slowly, held up his spectacles and whispered to Ali: “ All the deeds one does in life – good or bad, comes back Full Circle.”

9-May-2010
 
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