Based on a true story.
Vishal looked out of the window of the moving train. This was the first time he would be spending his Diwali vacations in Kerala, away from Mumbai. Young Vishal was accompanied by his parents and they were going for a family function which was to be held at his Aunt’s (mother’s sister) place. He was too young to be worried about the function. His Aunt’s son Rahul would be having a few days off from school as well. Vishal was two years older than him but the other cousins were either too young or old for him to mingle with. So he would as usual spend most of his vacation with Rahul.
On the eve of Diwali….
‘What? A Diwali without fire crackers? No way’ spoke out Vishal furiously.
A young boy who has never broke the ritual of bursting fire crackers was determined this time as well. Kerala was not very upfront with celebrating Diwali. The festival of lights is celebrated with tiny lamps lit across the veranda of homes and that is pretty much it. Among this chaos, Rahul mentioned about an old man selling normal fire crackers made of tied up dry leaves on a wheel trolley nearby.
I was there to meet them all as they happen to be my relatives as well. Seeing all these happenings, I contributed some money for the crackers. It was not much though. They set off to buy crackers; an hour passed by and they were back. I could see Vishal’s dull face right as they came back. I let that go.
Evening passed by and the unusual sound of crackers must surely have made the neighbors a bit uneasy. Nevertheless, evening passed by as expected; kids bursting crackers and elders sitting by the veranda, looking at the kids as they were reluctant to step out. Maybe it is a sign of less maturity to laugh and play around with the kids, or it could be them just wanting to sit back and enjoy the kids laugh and play.
At nightfall, I again noticed Vishal…so did his parents. But he managed to avoid his parents question with some excuse. After dinner, I went and sat outside in the veranda. The elders were busy watching some movie on the television. Rahul was fast asleep by then, Vishal wasn’t. He came and sat right next to me.
‘Did you not enjoy the place? Maybe you miss your place where the celebration are 10 times more?’ I queried just to get something out of him.
He nodded negative to that.
‘Did you guys create some problems on the way to buy crackers or while coming back?’
Again a negative nod.
I whispered again, ‘What’s on your mind? You know I wouldn’t tell nobody about it!’ .
Actually I do have the reputation of being silent and not sharing things that matter little, with the elders. They take hasty decisions and sometimes end up frightening the kids more than helping them out.
Vishal, in a very feeble voice, started narrating… ‘On the way to the shop, Rahul told me that I can pick up a couple of fire crackers and put it in my pocket. The old man would never notice. He even had big glasses so he won’t be able to see me, if I do it. Rahul told me this was a good chance and though I was not confident, I didn’t want him to do it. So I didn’t say no.
While in the shop and as he was packing, Rahul started poking me on my leg and I picked up two fire crackers and put it in my pocket. The old man saw that but I don’t know why he didn’t say anything then. When we handed over the money, he asked me if I had anything more or just the ones he had packed. I told him that it’s just the ones he had packed. While turning back and walking away, he called us again and asked us the same.’
Intrigued… I asked, ‘What did you reply?’
‘I replied the same as before.’
I asked him again, ‘Did he let you guys leave after that?’
Vishal put his head down.
I pat him on his back and he rested his head against my shoulder and asked me,
‘Why didn’t the old man punish me? If this was Mumbai, the shopkeeper would have slapped me and dragged me to my parents.’
I replied, ‘This is your punishment. You will have a troubled conscience for a few days and whenever you remember this day, you will always have guilt in your mind first, more than anything.’
After everything was sorted and everyone went to sleep, I was by myself in my room.
‘Most people in this world deserve second chances. Had that man decided to do anything other than this, maybe Vishal would have never realized his mistake. I am sure today he did and he won’t repeat this mistake. Sometimes it is OK to let go small mistakes made by others for the greater good of everybody.
Also it is time to talk to Rahul and re-evaluate his thoughts and deeds the same way like that shopkeeper did for Vishal today.’
We need more of such people who know to forgive others for their small mistakes. Forgiving has its own power. He had set a benchmark for me to follow.