Pia was very excited when she
returned home from School that day. The Principal had announced in the Assembly
that the school has planned an educational-cum-pleasure trip for the students
to the distant National Park.
For her parents, Kevin and Sarah,
Pia was always a sacred child. Sarah still remembers how much she had cried
after she had a miscarriage after a year of their wedding.
Since her childhood, Sarah had
always longed for a girl child for herself and when she conceived, she knew
that her long wait was finally over. The day her gynecologist confirmed her
suspicion, she had rushed straight to the church and had knelt before the Lord
for she know her prayers had been answered.
However, the miscarriage had
dashed all her hopes. It took Kevin almost three years to convince Sarah that
the world was not yet over for her. However, the second time through, she was
always scared. When the bundle of joy finally arrived, Sarah’s joy knew no
Time flew before Kevin and Sarah
had realized and Pia was now in 10th Standard. She was sixteen now.
In the second half of her teens, she was studying in one of the best schools in
the area. Kevin and Sarah had made sure that they would leave no stone unturned
to give their darling the best of life.
Pia could hardly wait for her
school bus to reach her building. She was the first to jump out of the bus and
rush home to break this news to her parents. By the time, she reached the door,
she was gasping for breath when her mother opened the door for her.
She flung her school bag on the
sofa and drew out from her skirt pocket, the notice about the excursion that
was announced at the school that morning. She never bothered to allow her
mother to read the contents thereof and started explaining verbatim, what was announced
at the School.
Sarah had always encouraged her
daughter to share everything with her. Pia could always sense the same emotion
in Sarah whenever she had any open discussion with her.
Pia was trying to read her
mother’s face as she was narrating the story. However, she was not able to
decipher the same excitement on her face as she was presently having. In fact
Sarah was getting paler in her expressions as she was reading through the
paper. Pia could realize that she was hardly lending her ears to what she was
Sarah and Kevin had never let the
apple of their eye, out of their sight even for a single day throughout these
sixteen years. A slight delay in Pia reaching home from school due to any
reason had always resulted in frantic telephone calls to the School and the Bus
Co-coordinator till she reached home.
And that day, the thought of
sending her only daughter for a day long excursion away from school was sending
shivers down Sarah’s spine. She knew that even if she agreed with a heavy
heart, Kevin would never accept the proposition.
Sarah and Kevin had never said no
to their daughter before. Whatever Pia had demanded was always provided.
Fortunately her demands till date were reasonable as per their standards and
within their realistic norms. However, today was an exception. She knew that
when Kevin came back home from office that day, she would have to break the
story to him, and prepare him much before Pia would return back home from play,
eagerly waiting to repeat the narration to her Dad.
Kevin worked in one of the
multinationals that believed in pushing their employees to their limits. His
work schedule was so hectic that by the time he hit the last staff bus back
home, all he could see before his eyes were the beautiful faces of his lovely
wife and daughter, the delicious supper laid down on the table by Sarah
anxiously waiting for him and various chirpy messages of love from Pia,
secretly kept beneath the keyboard on his computer table, where he invariably
visits to check his personal mails every night before he retires for the day.
Kevin had a hectic day at office
on that day and Sarah could realize it from his face when she opened the door
for him. Sarah always knew that it was Kevin at the door, whenever he arrived.
He had a typical style of knocking at the door, a sort of coded message for his
wife, now religiously learnt by Pia too.
Sarah was ready with the usual
cup of tea, by the time Kevin came out of the washroom. As they sank to the
comforts of the sofa, Sarah commenced the conversation. She started reminding
him of how they used to take turns to carry Pia on their shoulders all through
the night, when she just refused to go to sleep in the night as an infant, how
much she used to cry for months, when she was admitted for the first time to
the kinder-garten, how they had cajoled and prepared her for her first day at
school and finally how Pia had grown up into a beautiful young teenager over
Sarah had the habit of
recollecting these and other nostalgic moments every evening. She knew how to
live by her memories, and Kevin thought that day was no exception. He never had
the slightest inkling that she was preparing him for the final assault, a kind
of performing the rituals before the sacrifice.
Kevin did not react when Sarah
finally told him the story. He was just scared and petrified. He could not
imagine, how their little child could be left to fend for herself for one whole
Sarah, however, was a total
contrast to her self, when she was talking to Kevin. She had mentally prepared
herself and now she had stepped into her daughter’s shoes and was trying to
convince Kevin to say yes.
Kevin could never object to any
suggestions made by her wife. He always knew that his wife had very valid
reasons for any or all of his objections. And that day was no different. She
explained to him that Pia was a grown up child now and needed some space of her
own. She needed to be with her friends once a while, a little way from the
warmth of her parents so that she becomes a little independent, before she is
ready to face the wicked outside world, by the time she graduates from school.
Kevin, of course had valid
reasons for his discomfort with the proposition. Pia was a child who could be
very easily fooled by anyone. She was brought up in a world of idealism. She
was never exposed to the outside world and hence, had the belief that everyone
in the world is good; no one could ever hurt anyone. But the actual world was
so different, and Pia never knew it. But she had to learn the bitter truth one
day and sooner the better.
Pia had the world under her feet
when she realized that her parents had agreed. She could not wait for the next
morning to go to school, break the news to her friends, and give her name to
the tour co-coordinator.
The countdown to the D-day was
scarier to both Sarah and Kevin than the tensions of their daily chores and
more exciting to Pia than anything in the world. When the day finally arrived,
Kevin and Sarah set aside their commitments for the day and made sure that they
took Pia to school and left the school gate only after they made sure that she
had got into the Bus and they proceeded for the excursion. Kevin even suggested
to his wife the idea of hanging around near the National Park gates for the
day, which was refuted by her citing the same valid reasons, which he finally
had to agree.
The day seemed longer than ever
for Sarah and Kevin who were just waiting for the evening, when Pia would
return back from the excursion. Sarah just finished her daily assignments at
the kitchen that afternoon, when the telephone bell rang. The ring never
bothered Sarah who had been used to these calls since noon from Kevin who had
lost track of time and had been calling up from office every hour to enquire whether
she had already left for school to collect their daughter.
Sarah felt the earth slip beneath
her feet when she heard the voice on the other side inform her that some
children on the picnic from Pia’s School had met with an accident. The
telephone receiver just dropped from her hand as she sank to the ground. She
could hear some feeble sound emanating from the receiver and the person at the
other end was trying to communicate with her. But she just could not muster the
courage to pick up the phone to listen any further.
By the time Kevin and Sarah
reached the National Park gates, there was already a huge commotion there. Many
parents had already assembled there.
No one really knew what exactly
had transpired but the only information that they could gather was that the
school principal and some other teachers were already led in by the park
officials and the police personnel.
Kevin and a few other parents
tried to persuade and negotiate with the officials at the gate to allow them
inside or at least provide them with the exact information. Fearing uproar, the
officials gathered into a quick deliberation and it was not long before they
decided that it was more prudent to allow them in rather than face the public
The students had gathered at a
waterfall site for their picnic. The students were playing under the falling
waters when suddenly some students were drifted away by the strong current.
Though they were supposed to be under the watchful eyes of the teachers, these
students had ventured a bit too far and before they realized, they were being
swept away. Their cries for help were dimmed in the sound of the people and it
was then that Pia and another two of her friends sitting and chatting nearby
saw them drowning.
Realising that their dear
classmates were in danger, it took not more than a split second for Pia to
decide and plunge into the water with her friends following suit. The strong
pull of the water current however was much more than Pia and her friends had
anticipated and her friends could hardly go any further.
Pia was thanking her dear parents
for the hours they used to sit and watch her swimming, encouraging her at every
stroke, when they used to take her for swimming classes when she was just five
years old. Being an expert swimmer now, soon she was pulling out the students
to safety, in the meantime, explaining to them as to how they should be
clinging on to the rocks and stay there till they would be rescued.
All of sixteen, her tiny arms and
legs could not withstand the pressure for long and she saw her body giving way.
She had reached all her friends to safety but she herself was not able to
muster enough strength in her body to swim across. She could see the smiling
face of her dear parents before she could not even lift her eyebrows and she
felt complete darkness all around.
When Pia opened her eyes, she was
surrounded by the School Principal and her friends, who were all around. Pia
had managed to save all the students and by that time the lifeguards had
arrived who could pull Pia out of the beastly waters.
Once inside, the parents were
making frantic enquiries at all junctions before they reached the site. Kevin
and Sarah were frantically eyeing for a glimpse of their daughter in the crowd
when almost with synchronized precision, they both saw Pia sitting with the
Principal and the teachers along with a few other students.
Before even they knew, they were
near their daughter, running as fast as their legs could carry them. No sooner
did Sarah reach her daughter, she was hugging her daughter who was clinging on
to her mother and she hardly bothered what Kevin and the other parents were
discussing about the incident. For Sarah, the fact that the apple of their eye
was safe and sound was more than anything else.
When the School principal saw
Kevin and Sarah, she could not contain her emotion. She was folding her arms in
submission and thanking them profusely. She briefed the parents as to how Pia
had saved the lives of her many friends.
It was a great moment for Kevin and
Sarah when they saw Pia’s photograph with the news brief of the previous day’s
incident at the school picnic in the morning newspaper. Their chests puffed
with pride when they read the news article referring to them not by their names
or their positions, but as Pia’s proud parents.
Life was usual as ever for Pia
when she left for school the next morning. Once inside the School, she realized
the difference when many students were rushing to congratulate her or just have
a glimpse of her. The School Assembly announcement about the previous day
incident and a brief felicitation by the Principal for Pia was something she
had never anticipated.
For Pia it was not anything
unusual or extraordinary. She had been taught by her parents that life was
worth living only when you live it for others. For her, helping her classmates
when they were in trouble was her foremost duty. And she had just did it.
No marks would be awarded to Pia
for her deeds and no grades would be given. Her act would be forgotten by the time
she passed out of the 10th Standard and it would not be reflected in
her report card anywhere. But Pia had achieved much more than that. She had
done something no scholar could do, only a simple human could.