The first activity of the day in Little Flower was prayer.
We recited hymns like 'Praise Him in the Morning', 'Rejoice
in the Lord Always'. It was a wonderful experience. More
than two hundred students would sing in chorus, the sun
would slowly climb up the sky, the hymns will ring in our
ears long after we’d stopped singing. I think the most important
thing religion teaches a person is discipline. But we have
to live with the fact that even such great religions could
do very little to get someone like me to realise the importance
of discipline. Somehow I have stayed away from religion
and went to the temple only for the Prasad.
In the same year in Little Flower, I learnt the importance
of being a man. One of my classmates was Raghu Ram Reddy.
He sat next to me in the class. He was a skinny chap who
had a toothy grin. He was particularly fond of using me
as a punch bag. He used to tug the hair on the back of my
head, punch me on my back and pinch me when the class was
going on. Complaining to the teachers was out of the question
as the guys felt that it was not 'manly'. I was not confident
that I could better him in hand-to-hand combat. I have never
hit anyone in my life except my younger brother, Suresh.
That too I hit him when he was asleep. One day it went too
far. Raghu Ram started entertaining his sadistic self that
day in the moral science class- Miss Isabel's class that
is- by periodically punching me on my sides. I couldn't
suppress my grunts of agony and I had tears welling up in
my eyes halfway through the class. Miss Isabel is an intelligent
woman and she sensed that I had a problem, after taking
a couple of glances at me.
"What is troubling you, Sunnu?" she sang.
I could feel the warmth in her voice, the care in her eyes
and the compassion in her words. "Nothing", I
wanted to say, but all I could manage was a strange gargling
sound. I couldn't stop the tears from rolling down my cheeks.
One teardrop even managed to roll down my neck and lodge
itself on my chest. I looked absolutely stupid. Raghu Ram
was smiling and that aggravated my hurt. The whole class
knew why I was crying.
"What happened?" Miss Isabel snapped at me.
"He has been punching me for the last twenty minutes,"
I blurted out. There was a hush in the classroom. The girls
were watching in amusement and the guys were looking at
me the way Caesar would have looked at Brutus. Miss Isabel
turned around and picked up her cane. She seldom used it.
I heard a strange noise. It was coming from Raghu Ram’s
knees - they were shaking at an amazing speed and he had
a dumb 'what will I do now,' look on his face.
Miss Isabel walked up to our desk. "Say sorry to him,"
she said calmly to Raghu Ram.
"Miss... I didn't..." he didn't even complete
his sentence and 'WHACK!' her cane came slashing down on
The whole class was quiet. You could hear a pin drop. I
was happy. I wanted to scream with joy.
"Sorry," Raghu Ram said, without even looking
at me. Miss Isabel paused and gave me a sympathetic look.
"Sit down, Sunnu," she said. I thought my troubles
with that pest Raghu Ram were over. His face was pale and
the tears had left marks on his face. Miss Isabel turned
around and he turned sideways and stared at me. What I saw
in his eyes curdled my blood. A chill ran down my spine.
"Murder!" I wanted to scream. I knew the issue
was far from over. I knew what was in store for me when
the last bell strikes in the school. I started to pray to
Lord Muruga, to Jesus Christ and to every other God I knew.
I knew only they could help me now because none of my classmates
would come to my rescue. I had violated the cardinal rule
of the school fights - never complain to the teachers. It
was five minutes to the last bell when Raghu Ram whispered
in my ear, "You are history." Or something like
I had my intestines in a knot. A beehive of thoughts was
raging in my head. 'What if I asked for protection from
the teacher?' 'What if I stayed back in the classroom itself?'
I glanced at the wall clock. Three more minutes left. Time
flies when you are in trouble, you know. Two minutes. Raghu
Ram had already packed his school bag and was waiting like
a tiger. I started putting my notebook into my haversack.
One more minute left. The whole class was blissfully ignorant
of the slaughter that was about to take place any moment.
I cursed myself for being such a weak guy. My palms were
wet as usual because of the perspiration. This is it. "Clang,
clang!" the bell started ringing. The whole class stood
up to thank the teacher and started to leave. I was glued
to my seat. Raghu Ram was not there beside me. He was gone.
I picked up my bag and started towards the door. My legs
felt weak. I spotted him while climbing down the stairs.
He was waiting near the gulmohar tree. He had a huge smile
on his face, as if he was James Bond and he had just saved
the world. I stepped onto the ground and he started walking
towards me. I knew I was doomed.