As Guru Rajan entered the class, a group of ten students rose to greet their beloved teacher. Everyone was cheerful on that bright sunny day except Guddu, a chirpy ten-year-old boy.
“Guddu, what happened? Who stole your smile today?” joked Rajan.
“Guruji, in the last class you said that we should never do anything that can hurt others.”
“Yes, that’s right. What happened?” replied Rajan.
“Guruji, then why did those Firangis order for a “lathi charge” on Lala ji? What harm did he do to deserve this? He was fighting for all of us.” Guddu looked perplexed. “Guruji, in another class you also said that we should not be revengeful, then why did Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutt threw the bombs?”
Rajan tried to reason with him and said, “That was not to hurt anyone but a move to get arrested and get their opinion heard in the court of law.” Rajan looked at the young, innocent faces. It was clear that all this was beyond their comprehension. There was so much going on in the nation at that time. Instead of listening to rhymes or things appropriate to their age, the children heard about firings, bombings, revolts, massacres.
Children of Guddu’s age tried to reason what was right and wrong trying to align with what they had learnt in school. The end result was puzzled minds. All they needed was a guide, a friend who could explain them the current scenario while also teaching the important life lessons. For Guddu and his classmates, Rajan was their friend and guide.
Rajan knew that unanswered questions were harmful for the developing minds, so he decided that it was better to explain it to them. He understood that it would be unfair to curb their curiosity or to divert their minds. He knew it was time to reason with them. This was an uphill task, considering that their minds wouldn’t be able to absorb the entire situation given the present scenario, but still he wished to give it a try. He began with Lalaji’s protest.
“‘Simon Go back, Simon Go back’ echoed on the streets of Lahore. The non-violent protests were led by Lala Lajpat Rai, as there was no Indian representative in the Commission. The agitated goras ordered a Lathi charge rendering fatal blows to Lala ji. He passed away on November 17th. This stirred a wave of anger and anguish in young minds like Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, BK Dutta…”
“…but why did the people protest against Simon Commission?” questioned another inquisitive boy.
“Let me explain it to you this way. Suppose some people forcefully enter your house and don’t even ask for your permission and start using your things. They start dictating you what to do. They take decisions on your behalf without even involving you, wouldn’t you feel aggrieved? You would raise your voice, right? Similarly, Lalaji and the protestors were protesting in a non-violent way when a policeman deliberately assaulted him causing him injuries.”
“But that was totally wrong, guruji. Didn’t that policeman have a teacher like you who would have taught him that it was immoral to do so?”
“The policemen are bad. Really bad,” concluded the little boy who had questioned guruji a while back.
Wise little Rajan quipped in, “It was nonviolence versus violence.” He turned towards the boy and asked him, “So who do you think has won; violence or nonviolence? The policeman or the protestors?”
The little boy stood up, his eyes shining bright with pride and determination. “It was victory after all. We will always remember Lalaji’s sacrifice.”
Guruji looked at his students with admiration. How well they had understood his lessons. The little boy, whose name was Radhey, had also made an impact on young Rajan’s mind.
Rajan could see a budding freedom fighter in Radhey. He was astonished to see the zeal and determination of a little boy. Guddu too resonated the same feelings.
Rajan now talked about Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar Azad’s role in the freedom movement. The day passed well in school. After school Rajan had to go and meet his friends who had come down from Delhi. Some things were brewing about which he had a faint idea.
He walked out of the school calmly. As he moved, avoiding the puddles which had been created by rains, a cycle passed by splashing water on his dhoti. His dhoti was fully soiled, but he remained calm and composed. Instead he called out to the cyclist to ride carefully else he would also fall. His students were coming after him. He set a perfect example before them of handling a situation in a polite manner. Guddu came running forward. Rajan explained to him, “Sometimes you need to raise your volume so that you are heard. That’s what Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutt intended to do. They are great freedom fighters representing all of us and fighting for our cause.”
Guddu looked convinced. Rajan was happy that he could at least clear some cobwebs off the naive minds. That evening when Guddu went home he propped his bag in the corner of his room and sat on the worn out cot, starting out of the window lost in his thoughts.
“You seem very different today, Guddu.” His mother narrowed her eyes at her son’s unique display of his demeanor.
“Are the Britishers really bad people, Ma?” Guddu asked.
His mother was silent. She knew what the uprising nation believed and she agreed to it, but a small memory of the past told her that it was not the absolute truth.
When she was pregnant, in the year 1919, the tragic incident of Jallianwala Bagh took place. In the aftermath, there were protests and demonstrations all over. Her labour pains had started and it was time for her to deliver. Dai Ma couldn’t come to their place since there was a curfew situation. Guddu’s father went to the market and pleaded to the first British officer he saw. His name was Adam. He explained the whole situation to him. Adam immediately arranged for a car and brought her to the government hospital. They could never forget the kind-hearted Adam. Because of him Guddu was born safe and sound.
Guddu was astonished to hear this story of his birth. He had developed a bad image of the British over time. He decided to share this incident with his friends and guruji, the next day. Since his mother wasn’t much aware about Adam, as she did not know him personally, but was awed by his positive vibes, she presented an angelic picture of Adam before Guddu. Now he was even more curious to know more about Adam. That night Guddu went off to sleep listening about Adam. He kept wondering- How old he was? What kind of clothes did he wear? What was his occupation, etc.
Next day when Guddu went to school, he was excited to share the incident of Adam with his class. Coincidentally, Rajan’s lesson for the class that day was that if there was one bad fish in the pond, it wouldn’t mean that all the others were bad. As he was giving real examples on that note, he asked the class if anybody had anything to share. Guddu excitedly raised his hand and shared the incident which his mother told him the night before.
Rajan asked, “What was the name of the officer again?”
Rajan couldn’t believe his ears. Was he the same Adam who had provided him with shelter and food when curfew was imposed in the city in 1919? The Jaliawala Bagh tragedy had made the country men furious. Such a display of inhumane nature had never been seen or heard in the history. People all over the country were agitated. Rajan too was a part of one such agitation.
His fellow colleagues had raised eyebrows when he was going out of his way to help stranded people. Initially, people didn’t trust his kind-heartedness. They felt he had intentions of getting them arrested. But his genuine concern won the hearts of many. Amidst all the chaos, he became good friends with Rajan. Personally, he condemned the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and pleaded the Indians whom he came across to not consider all the British officials as bad. He praised some higher authorities who were working hard to ease off the situation and were thinking for the benefit of the Indians. Rajan could have never thought of being friends with the enemy but then the Delhi Assembly Bombing had brought along similar agitations now. Some of Rajan’s close friends were in deep trouble. They had been held under suspicion of carrying explosives. But the fact was they were just protestors and had no ammunition or explosives. However, there was no one who would listen to their plight.
Rajan thought of Adam. Adam was now a senior officer. Although they had not been in touch lately but every now and then when they would come face to face, during any protests or demonstrations, they would always ask about each other’s well-being. They shared an unsaid bond of friendship. They were connected by the strings of heart. Rajan could never lie to him. If he felt that the protestors were being unfair then he would never seek Adam’s help. Once in a while he would treat Adam with some tea and samosas. This time he knew his friends were not guilty and he reached out to Adam. Adam was not only a soldier but also a friend. Granted that he was bound to serve the purpose and mission of his own homeland, but at times, he let humanity take over and help the oppressed in every way that he could.
Rajan smiled at his students, “There is somebody I would like you to meet.”
The children furrowed their eyebrows in query as Rajan continued, “The reason I requested him to visited our humble, small classroom, was to teach you all that while heroes of our country fight for our freedom, he fights for humanity in his own way. Pleased to introduce you to Adam.”
A man in his mid-forties entered, standing tall and smiling wide. The children clapped their hands. A wonderful storytelling session of how he and Rajan helped many helpless souls on their journey till today followed. As the session came to a close, a teary-eyed Guddu came forward.
“I have many words to say, but it will never be enough. You have inspired us to do our part in many different ways. When we grow up, we will also do our part to save lives, not for the independence but from evil itself!”
And the children cheered on, amidst teary-eyed Adam and a proud Rajan, who learned that…
…if the elders could be an inspiring past, the children could indeed be their perfect future!
Contributed by- Sonali Prasad, Rashim Rohit Brutta, Sreemati Sen Karmakar, Shristee Singh, Olinda Braganza
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