<< Part 4 >>
Sheela in an attempt to lighten the surrounding started talking to the teenager. She asked him his name, where he came from, whether he had any siblings at home, whether he liked playing with balls, and other questions about him.
Although the boy had been administered sedatives, he was sober enough to understand these questions and respond to them with small answers. His story was that of thousands of young boys across the state and more so those hailing from the district of Idukki.
His poor parents, unable to afford food and clothing for him, had sold him off to one of the ‘ganja’ (cannabis) cultivators who operated illegally in the hills of Idukki. The supervisor of the plantations was notorious for his violent methods of getting all these ‘bonded laborers’ to work on the fields. The boy, Lalu, had somehow managed to escape from the clutches of the supervisor and the guards and had boarded the ill-fated bus. He was enjoying his first few hours of freedom dozing away in the bus when the accident occurred.
When Kesavan asked Lalu if he would want to go back to his parents, the boy answered in the negative. He didn’t want to go back to a place where he was not welcome. Kesavan then asked the boy whether he was interested in studying to which the boy said yes. He then told the boy that once he recovered from his injuries and was fit enough to travel, he would take him to Kozhikode and enroll him in the Govt School which he supervised there.
As the conversation went on, the ambulance finally reached the nearest Govt Hospital where Lalu was wheeled away with his stretcher for the doctors to have a look at him. Kesavan and Arjun waited in the lobby for the doctors to come out and tell them as to how bad Lalu’s injuries were. When they were waiting, Arjun suddenly grabbed Kesavan’s right hand, shook it- Kesavan Sir, I am Arjun, I am a software engineer and design mobile games for a living, he said.
Kesavan shook his hand and then went on to hug Arjun- Thank you son, thank you for all that you have done for me since last night, and more importantly thank you for bringing a smile to that young boy’s face.
I know that you have taken a big first step today and I sincerely hope that this step will be the start of a wonderful new journey for you.
Arjun smiled. Somehow he knew that the old school teacher’s words were prophetic.
Three days, a journey on a rickety bus followed by a harrowing auto rickshaw ride from the bus stand to home, the first thing that Arjun did when he saw his mother was to hug her. While she was recovering from the shock of having hugged her son for the first time in almost twenty years, Arjun then went on to hug an astonished father as well who had come out to welcome him home.
Their son was finally back home again.
<< CONCLUDED >>