As I entered my office, a dilapidated building with shattered window panes, a tottering wooden table with snapped edges, I realised that I shall miss this seat of discomfiture for years to come. The government protocol had decided that at sixty, I had done enough. It was time to gather my life spent here, in a box and make way for a young, vibrant candidate.
‘Is this the Superintendent’s office?’ A knock accompanied the question, impatient generation this is.
‘And you are Mr. Rahul Nigam, I suppose, the one who will now adorn my chair.’ I quipped.
His gaze lowered with discomfort, I liked it, the lad had deference. Indeed, a rare quality these days.
‘Good morning sir, not to adorn, but to continue what you started.’ His reply gained him brownies, however the final test still remained.
‘Mr. Nigam, this Children Remand home has broken souls, dreams, aspirations, and lost childhood. It takes a lot to become one of them, do you have it in you?’ I inquired.
‘I believe a broken man mends the other better, sir.’
A strange feeling of confidence percolated me, ‘Come, I shall show you around the campus and acquaint you with the kids.’
Loud cacophonous cheers greeted our entry on the field. A bunch of enthusiastic teenagers running behind a tennis ball and trying to aim it at something in the centre intrigued him.
‘What are they up to? And why are they playing with … Rocks?’
‘Privileged ones like you have soccer balls, forgotten kids like these play with rocks. They are playing the game, “Pithu.” One child builds his stack of seven rocks and others try to break it. That child has his team for defence, but it’s finally up to him to protect his stack; his world. He has to fight and defend to survive in the game. And also keep in mind that which rock forms the base and which the peak.’
‘The game of life?’ His query made me like him by every passing moment.
‘Yes, each rock he stacks is a monumental feat, defending his stack of rocks imparts him a landmark lesson in life of perseverance and balance. Each child shall play his role as a defender and as a destroyer and finally emerge a winner. Will you let them stack their lives as well, after I leave?’
I waited with bated breath, I had raised these neglected kids like my own, his answer was crucial.
‘Sir, this “PITHU” is their cairn, symbolising their past, learnings and existence. Each rock denotes the battles they won and the ones they lost. To breakdown completely and build again. Sir, I promise this cairn shall always be a landmark of their life.’ Saying so, Rahul squatted to tighten his shoe laces, smiled and said, ‘Sir if you permit, can I join too?’
As I saw him sprinting off to the field and join the revelry, I realised it was time for me to leave. My cairn shall always adorn these corridors. The new keeper of this monument had passed his final test.
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