Thursday, 11 March 2010

The Medallion

The Medallion

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"Personal relationships shouldn't hinder duty, and duty shouldn't hinder personal relationships. But if they do clash, they use the principles of Dharma to resolve the issue"

You can now read the story from the book - Swami G's Short Stories

As she lay on her deathbed, she looked at her two young sons with extreme anguish in her pale eyes. She held the elder son’s little hand in her blood-drained hand, and said “Raj, my son, I don’t have much time left to be with you both. I want you to take good care of your younger brother. You are a strong young man.” With a lot of effort she took out two identical large copper medallions attached to a black thread each, and put one around each son, saying “Just remember that you both will always remain united through me. Raj, promise me that you will always take care of him” Before Raj could promise, her hand went limp, and her eyes half closed. Tears rolled down Raj’s cheeks.

Ten year old Raj held his younger brother’s hand and walked away, leaving his dead mother on the road. He knew they were alone now, and there was no way they could do anything to sustain themselves. They hadn’t eaten for three days, and his dead mother’s body didn’t mean much to them now. She was with them in spirit, and she had taught to them that living a life of integrity was more important than anything else.

But now didn’t seem to be the time to think about integrity. He was thinking of the various means by which he could forage enough food for himself and his five year old brother. The innocent little one was walking around with one hand in Raj’s, and the other hand tightly gripping a weathered rope pulling a toy lorry with three wheels. As they walked through the crowded market place, Raj was aware of the sinister eyes that were constantly watching the boys in tattered clothes. He knew about the villains who caught lone children, intentionally handicapped them and put them to begging. Raj couldn’t bear to see his younger brother with a begging bowl. He always wanted him to grow up to become someone big, even if it meant sacrificing his own dreams. He had promised his dead mother.

But now, he was thinking of various means of livelihood. He could try working as an apprentice in a garage or perhaps as a shoe shine boy. But he was aware of the local mafia. His best friend had told him how the hoodlums came around collecting their “share” of money. And they asked for it like it was their birthright. He knew that the local mafia would sooner or later put these boys into begging. The rich professionals seemed to pity children with disabilities more than shoe shine boys who were working hard to make a living.

They slowly were leaving the market. Raj thought of collecting some money by begging. He moved to a location which was outside the sights of the vicious ruffians. He asked a lot of men in blazers and pressed white shirts and ties, but in vain. People seemed to ignore him, or making loud rude comments asking him to bother someone else. He hated begging for money. He wanted to do something by himself. But he didn’t know what he could do. He could hear his own stomach growling, but that was drowned by the soft voice of his brother who asked “Brother, I am hungry... When do we eat?”

He knew that there was one way to solve this problem. They had already reached the railway station. He had played his favourite game several times, the one where one of his friends had to catch the others to win. But it was very difficult to win if one ran quickly amongst the crowds. Children, he knew, could disappear among the long legs of adults. Life was after-all a game. And he had to win. If not for himself, for his brother. He walked a few steps and saw a hawker selling buns and biscuits. The hawker seemed to be a burly man, with a large moustache and a long vermillion mark on his forehead. Raj knew that this hawker could hardly catch him. Raj was confident that he could easily outrun the hawker due to his small size and speed. His little brother definitely wouldn’t be so lucky. He thought that the simplest way to solve this problem would be to ask him to wait at a location. Raj could then quickly steal a couple of buns, and run to his brother. The hawker would never be able to trace him in the extremely crowded railway station.

Young Raj saw no flaw in his well chalked out plan and took his little brother to the parking lot, and asked him to wait there. He put his brother’s medallion into his shirt and told him that his elder brother would be back in ten minutes. He asked him to not move even an inch till he was back. The little boy nodded, his large brown eyes showing no emotions.

Raj’s heart was pounding. He had never done this before, and he was very worried of getting caught. He went back into the station, and stood, observing the hawker for a while. The hawker seemed to be constantly looking for potential customers around with an eye of an eagle. But there was only weakness in this bird of prey. When he was performing a cash transaction, his vigil seemed to have dropped. Raj knew then, that he would stand a chance if he could pull two buns out of the pile when the hawker was looking into his tin box or groping into his pockets.

Raj sat, patiently, like a lioness waits in the grasslands, waiting for the precise moment. Suddenly like a bolt of lightning, the little boy ran through the crowds, paused for a brief moment in front of the hawker’s stand, pulled out two buns, and before the hawker could realise what had just happened and shout out, Raj was fleeing towards the exit. The hawker shouted “Thief thief, that little boy has robbed me, someone catch him. Police! Police!” An alert constable saw him, and started chasing him. Raj navigated though the crowds with great ease, but the policeman had the advantage of his uniform. People seemed to give way to the constable who was now closing in on the distance with great speed. He quickly dashed out through the exit, and made his way towards the parking lot where his brother was waiting for him. He was thinking all along if he would be able to prevent his brother from getting into trouble. He knew how the police usually treated boys like him. Some of them even wouldn’t mind tossing them into the wolves of the mafia. Panting heavily, he reached the parking area to find his little brother missing. He was suddenly alarmed. He quickly ran around to a couple of places nearby, but couldn’t find him anywhere. He felt a sudden pang of depression and consternation. He felt like he had lost a huge part of himself. The promises he had made to his mother came back. He touched his own medallion, wondering where he could have disappeared off to. Suddenly, a strong hand grabbed his little shoulder. He turned around to see a man in Khaki gripping him in a vice of his hand. He tried to run and then tried to hit the man’s hand and arm several times with his left hand that enclosed the two buns, but in vain.

He looked into the constable’s face, and instead of looking at a gruff countenance saw a rather amused one. Raj didn’t know what to say nor do, his hand still clutching the buns, started crying. Big tears started pouring out of his eyes as he gave up all hopes of trying to escape. The constable looked at him and said, “Oye, boy, stop crying and look at me”. Raj drew in breaths uneasily, and looked at him. “Such a little boy, and already a thief, eh? Should I put you in the lockup?” Raj got frightened, and started crying again. The constable said, “Hush! Stop crying, and come with me. Don’t worry, I won’t do anything”. The words of the constable seemed to be strangely comforting. It reminded him of his mother. The constable took the pacified boy to the hawker, who seemed satisfied that the boy was caught. Before the hawker could say anything, the constable signalled him to wait and said to Raj,”Now apologise to the nice man here for stealing”. Raj didn’t look at the hawker, but mumbled a few words of apologies. The constable then paid for the buns, and took him outside. Sitting down with the boy who was busy devouring the buns like they were a delicious snack, the constable listened to the tale of the little boy. The constable and his wife were childless themselves, and he felt that raising this little boy would serve many purposes – Of them having a child, and it would give this boy a good home as well as keep him out of trouble while keeping the society clean to a certain extent as well. Raj told him about his lost brother. There were no photos of this tramp, and it would not be possible to find him. The constable filed a missing complaint, and took the boy home.

Raj was adopted by the constable. Working in a police station, his constable father knew all the conditions under which people became corrupt. There was always a liking for easy money that drove men to get caught in scam rackets. Or suspicion or plain greed that got people caught in murders. Raj was taught to stick to the responsibilities and fight injustice. Raj was told that justice should be the same to everyone irrespective or religion, caste, gender, wealth or social status. Raj learnt his lessons from his foster father very well. Rehabilitation was taught to be an effective way to reduce crimes. Raj proved to be good at studies as well, and with passage of years grew up to be a fine young man. He soon was wearing Khaki himself, and was now known as Inspector Raj. He made a good name for himself because of his upright nature. Bribes were not seen anywhere around him, and nor were crimes. He lived a principled life – Honesty, integrity and dedication to job were his greatest qualities. His superiors were very happy with him. But Raj always had a deep guilt of losing his brother. He didn’t know what had happened to him. Everytime he touched the copper medallion, he was reminded of the innocent brother

One night as Raj was sitting, pondering about his brother’s whereabouts, stroking the medallion all the while, a fat merchant came running into the police station. He started wailing and shouting. All Raj could make out from the ruckus was that he was robbed by his servant. Raj asked the merchant to sit down, and gave him a glass of water and heard the details carefully. He asked the merchant not to worry, and sent him home. Raj had solved cases like this, and knew exactly what his action plan should be. He dialled a number on his telephone, and spoke rapidly to his informant. Ten minutes later, Raj received a phone call and had already known about the whereabouts of the thief. Picking up his cap and shoving his gun into his holster, Raj walked quickly. The night was hot and humid. He didn’t like such conditions. He had already reached the narrow inner streets which were frequented by hardened criminals. He was very alert now. The tea shop in the corner had only one customer, and from the long white scar along his left arm, Raj was able to correlate it with the information given to him earlier. This was the man. Raj quietly moved closer. Time to use the element of surprise, Raj thought to himself. “So, celebrating your heist, I see” he said quietly. The man suddenly jumped to the side, looked at Raj with frightened eyes, and started running. Raj chased him through the streets. The thief was a fast runner and Raj was not slow himself. There was suddenly a cloudburst, and both of them found it increasingly difficult to run. The ground was slippery, and the puddles seemed to make their feet uncomfortable.

The thief entered into an alley and realised it was a cul de sac, and Raj was waiting like a predator at the other end, looking satisfied with the position of his kill. The thief was fidgeting uneasily. Before Raj could say anything else, he noticed the copper medallion gleaming due to the street light. He moved closer, and realised it was the exact same as the one he was wearing on his neck. He immediately realised the identity of the one in front of him.

Raj was now in a dilemma. On one hand, he had found his own brother after years of wondering where he had lost him. The promise he made to his dead mother came screaming back to him. But he knew he could not keep up his promise. His foster father had taught him that duty comes first. He was taught that one cannot make exceptions to rules, for then, they cease to exist as rules. Rules should be the same for people of all types, irrespective of religion, caste, wealth or social status. Raj remembered the saying of the wise Swami Gulagulaananda - "Personal relationships shouldn't hinder duty, and duty shouldn't hinder personal relationships. But if they do clash, they use the principles of Dharma to resolve the issue" This man, who was in front of him, was a thief first and brother later. Raj knew that he was not supposed to be attached to this man whom he had not seen for so many years. Duty without attachment is supreme. Attachment always creates weaknesses. And yet, blood seemed to connect them through invisible chains. He didn’t want to be bound by relations while in the midst of performing duty. Raj opened his holster to release his Police revolver. He had only intended to ensure that the thief would not resort to bravado. But the thief realised that his game was up, and suddenly ran towards Raj. Raj fired a shot, but missed by a couple of inches. The thief approached Raj with lightning speed, and suddenly pushed Raj to the side and bolted out into the empty street.

As Raj chased the thief, the thief in a fit of panic ran towards the highway, and without looking at the approaching lorry, ran across. There was a sickening thud, muffled, and yet loud enough to let one know that the victim died on the spot. The thief was lying in a pool of his own blood, that was fast getting diluted because of the heavy rain. Raj felt very sick in the stomach. All the promises he made to his dead mother started haunting his mind. He could hear a little boy’s voice, promising her that he would take care of him till his last breath. And that he would grow up to be a big man some day. And here lay his brother’s mangled body. And he was the reason for it. He was supposed to save his brother, and instead ended up being the reason for his death. Raj didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t bear it anymore. The guilt was too much for him. He tried to convince himself that he was not at fault, but he knew deep inside that it was not true. He gave up. He took out his gun, and fired a shot through his forehead... His brain smeared all over the walls of the red truck.

Inspector Suresh replaced Raj’s seat. The merchant was talking excitedly to Suresh explaining his disbelief that a case was solved to quickly, saying how happy he was to recover all his jewellery. He said that he wanted to thank Raj personally. The merchant was then shocked to learn about Raj’s suicide. He looked through the chest, turned to Suresh and said, “This may seem trivial, but my large copper medallion seems to be missing. It’s of great sentimental value to me”

You might also want to read

Just let go - Story of a man stuck in a theatre with his wife, but he has a nagging feeling to leave, and knows that things will be horribly wrong.... unless he lets go

Quirk - Story of a man who is forced to take desperate steps to save his love... but then......

My race against time - A man describes the race against time... the constant running

The girl who was a ghost before she died - A freaky real life story (Other parts are linked at the bottom, so be sure to catch them all)

Comments from Facebook
Prashanth N Bhat
Hey, nice story. You are fast becoming a good writer

Mac Nirmal Lobo
like che tan bhagat, amazing outline, awesome style, brilliant it so much

Srivathsan Lakshmipuram
Dude! Awesome!

Mithun R Shroff
Loved the climax..! Good one Nikhil :)

Amoolya. V. Tatti
Great story! You can be a professional writer! I got totally absorbed while reading :) Great going Nik!

Hemanth Pai Aaj raat 9 baje ... dekhna na bhuliye .. aapke apne Zee Cinema pe ... Big B aur Shashi Kapoor ki Superhit , The Medallion !! :)

Good story , nice twist .. pretty engrossing . good going :)

Nikhil S Bharadwaj
Hey baliga awesome! Really enjoyed reading it :)

Arvind S Murthy
bollywood movie with a hollywood climax :P

Shreya Urala
nice one!

Abhishek Kodankiry
Man, the climax was just too good... nicely written..

Shreyas Ravindran
naice... :)..

Sanjay Kimi
Nice one da. Liked it :D


nikhater said...

The story is rather trivial. The style admirable but the concept has already been done and tried to death. perhaps u could have come up with something that was not already ripped off from somewhere. But this is far below you, i mean seriously. Great style. But not much creativity. .... work on it ..... mazel tov for now

Nik said...

Hehe :) First of all, I liked your name... And incidentally, the idea was to create a stereotyped story and give an end that would not be anticipated.

Otherwise the whole story till the end is a classic Hindi movie, be it the brothers getting separated or the usage of medallions to bond them together :P