How easily we assume the worst of anyone, suspecting their intentions long before we really knew them! This story explores classroom dynamics even as it highlights the dangers of prejudice.
“Your friend was here a little while ago, looking for you,” Amma said as soon as Rahul walked in.
“Friend?” Rahul echoed. Who could it be? Today was only his fifth day at this school and though he knew the names of some boys, not one of them qualified as a friend.
“A boy named….” Amma thought hard, trying to remember, “Mohit!”
Did he even know a Mohit, Rahul wondered. And then he remembered, yes, there was a Mohit in his class. He had heard the teacher call out the name. But…this Mohit wasn’t one of the really good students. He sat way at the back of the classroom and so far had never raised his hand to answer any question. And that was why Rahul hadn’t had a chance to befriend him. Sriram, Omkar, David, on the other hand, sat in the front of the class, competed fiercely to answer questions and were obviously favourites with the teachers. They were the ‘good boys’.
Rahul wouldn’t have been surprised to have one of them come home. But what could Mohit want? And how had he found out where Rahul lived? Still frowning over this, Rahul went to report to Amma how he had been the only boy to have got all the answers right in the surprise Math test. And it was as he was in the middle of recounting his triumph that realisation suddenly struck Rahul. Of course, he thought, that was why Mohit had come to meet him. He must have wanted to borrow the Math notebook. Rahul was used to this. In his old school too he had often been approached by his classmates, seeking help, wanting to borrow notebooks. And he had always refused to do so. Just as he would do tomorrow, when he met this Mohit. The decision taken, Rahul went back to his studies.
And yet, all through the evening he could not get Mohit out of his head. He kept thinking of Mohit, feeling amazed that this boy would dare to borrow his notebook when they didn’t even know each other. By the time he was in school the next morning Rahul had already decided that he simply did not like Mohit. And so, when a boy came up to him to say, “Hi, Rahul! I came to your house yesterday!” Rahul made no pretence of being polite.
Instead he snapped, “I know. And I can’t lend you my Math notebook!”
“What?” Mohit stared, “I didn’t come to borrow your notebook. Actually I came to return it! You forgot it in the class yesterday and I thought you would need it so I found out where you lived and went to your house!”
Rahul stared at the notebook Mohit was holding out to him. In a daze he took it from Mohit and watched the boy walk away. For once Rahul, the best student in his class, the boy who knew the answers to all the questions, didn’t know what to say.
This story was originally published in Young World. You can read it here