Recently, I read this troubling story of a boy who committed suicide. It unsettled me to a great extent. It pained me to such an extent that I came up with this longish Short Story.
Marina Beach. My favorite destination. I come here twice a day.
Once in the morning, when things are pretty quiet. I just watch the sea waves for sometime. You can call it admiring the nature or whatever you want. But I did get a lot of pleasure out of it.It couldn’t be explained.
Then after watching and feeling satisfied, I begin my writing. I love the calm and peaceful atmosphere. A writer would even die to get such an atmosphere. I was lucky to have my house as close to the beach as possible.
Then I come again in the evening. During sun set. I stay there till the night. This time, I observe people. I take a walk along the shores of the beach and then I come to a quiet corner of the beach and take notes of what I have observed of people.
I silently observe them without seeming creepy. Who would want a man with a long, ungroomed hair and a beard to see you continuously? So I pretend like I am walking and stopping and checking my mobile and thinking about something.
So, mostly they won’t observe me.
That day, I had my usual routine in the evening. I had to go home early, that day, for taking my wife to dinner. So I had planned to cut short my stay in the beach. So I was curious to see some different personality.
But this day, I didn’t observe anyone worth noting. I mean, no one whom I haven’t seen already. They were mostly the same. Guys who came in big gangs oogling at girls and teasing each other, Girls who will behave like they have loudspeakers on their mouth. Kids who roam around and run in the wet sand. Couples who do what they are famous for, genuine and silent couples, the completely misfit horses, the tea vendor, the always trying to force you to buy flowers flower vendor, the sundal vendor. I had already seen them before. So I was getting impatient as I needed to go early that night.
It was getting a bit dark. I had around 10 minutes left, before I had to leave home.
Time ran fast. I had reached my quiet corner. It was time for me to leave. Disappointed, I started walking heading towards the road.
That’s when I saw a boy heading towards the shores, very slowly. I was interested in him. Because he was very young, probably school going. And because he was alone. And because I felt he didn’t have any business to be alone in a beach at that time. I have seen groups of boys, not anyone alone.
Seeing him, I slowed down my pace. And as I walked past him, I noticed that his face was rather grim. He was walking with his head almost bowed down. He seemed lost. I could clearly feel that he was dejected.
“Is it the marks?” I thought.
“No. It can’t be. It’s almost more than a month since plus two results have been announced.”
“Maybe, love failure? Yeah. Quite possible.”
“Aah. This generation. They start this love episodes from school itself. I was even shy to talk to girls till after I finished college.”
“Or maybe, his parents are torturing him. Maybe they didn’t buy him his favorite bike.”
“Or maybe, his best friend died and he was looking for some alone time.”
I was going through all permutations and combinations about what might be going through in his mind.
He piqued my interest so much that I had decided to observe him for some more time. But since it was a quiet and secluded corner, there was no one in the vicinity. I can’t just go and walk past him and observe him. Besides, he has already seen me walking heading towards the road.
So, I went and hided near the boat. Marina beach is famous for it’s parked boats. With the risk of seeming inexplicably awkward if got caught watching a boy. Maybe if someone saw me, they would confuse me for being a gay or worse a paedophile. But curiosity overcame all those fears.
As I observed him, he did seem disturbed a lot. He was continuously watching with his head bowed down for nearly 15 minutes. I had almost lost my patience thinking about his next move and generating around 100 possibilities of what was going through his mind.
But by now I realized that he was terribly depressed with something. And I knew for sure, that this was not a thing that happened suddenly, maybe he was going through this for pretty long time. Something had been bothering him for long. What would it be? I kept on thinking.
After few moments, he started checking if anyone was near him. Also, he made sure to see if I was gone. Hiding near the boat made so much sense that I was proud.
Then he started crying out loud. He had a lot of pent up emotions. He knelt down and cried even more.
“Oh no. He is in some serious trouble. Should I go and talk to him? Or should I just wait.”
When I was pondering over what to do next, he got up slowly. He wiped his tears. He sighed a big sigh of relief.
“Oh Thank God. He should be normal in a while now.” I thought.
Just when I was starting to get relaxed, he started heading towards the waters.
I got alarmed.
“Oh shit. This is not good. I thought he was getting alright. But no. He is trying to commit suicide, I think.”
Now, he was walking fast towards the water.
My fears got confirmed as he just kept on walking.
“Do something. Do something. Get up and shout.” I thought.
“No. That might get him scared and he might run towards the water. I don’t want that. So, go and stop him. Come on.”
“You better go now. If he goes too far, you can’t catch him. You don’t know swimming. You idiot. Go now.”
So, I got up and began running. Like I expected, he just kept on walking.
I ran at the fastest possible speed I could.
He had almost gone till it was near hip deep. If he goes deeper, I can’t catch him. So I shouted.
“Hey. Stop. Stop. I will also come with you.”
He turned back. He was a little bit off balance. I think he was surprised to hear a voice and that too asking him to wait.
Just as I went near him, I grabbed his hand tight. “Thank God. Come on. Let’s go to the shore and talk.”
“Leave my hand. Leave my hand.” he struggled to pull his hand away from me. He lost his balance and fell down. I fell down too because I was holding him.
That’s when a big wave came and hit us. We were taken off guard.
We got all wet. Next moment I knew, I couldn’t breathe, due to the water in my nostrils. I could feel the saltiness of the water. But I was determined not to leave his hand. I held his hand.
With much struggle, I got out of water. I coughed to release the water. I wiped my nose with my other hand. Then I got a bit steady. Luckily we weren’t too far. So, I quickly tried to get on my feet. I kept my hand on the sand. It kept going in. He too coughed and was in visible trouble. But I would not leave his hand. Because, there was one more danger. The returning wave which might take us farther away from the shore. But first I wanted to get steady. So I planted my feet strong on the sand. And then started taking steps. I walked fast towards the shore as I still felt the water was taking us towards the shore.
Then I stopped and put my feet firmly on the sand. It got settled. The returning wave was not as powerful as I thought. I thanked God for it.
He too managed to get on his feet. Then I started running towards the shore holding his hand. He followed suit, in fact he had no other choice. Luckily we got to the safety of the shores. Mother nature was generous with us. Maybe the daily admiration helped.
I immediately dropped that guy on the shore, knelt down began taking my breaths.
“Dei, I almost would have died with you. You stupid boy.”
He too caught his breath, saw me angrily and said “Uncle, I didn’t ask you to come inside the water.”
Just when I was about to react to him, I got a phone call. Tring tring.
Luckily, I had this waterproof pouch. I immediately reached for it from my pocket. It was from my wife. But my hands were wet to pick up the phone. So I tried to blow air into my hand to pick up the phone.
By the time my hand was dry, the ring stopped. Then a moment later, another call.
I picked the phone this time. She enquired me whether I had started. I said no And said “No. I will be late as I am in the middle of something very important. I will tell you everything in detail after I reach home.”
At the other end of the call, my wife was trying to reinforce her perception about me as to how irresponsible I was, how my profession was my first wife, how unloving I was, how much I had changed since marriage. Then as one can expect, she cut the call almost abruptly.
Sighing, I kept my phone back in the pouch.
“See, due to your heroic acts, my wife is upset with me. Today, i won’t get food, you know that? I have to eat outside and go. Do you know how difficult it is to face her after I go home. It will be like India Pakistan.”
“Hello Uncle, stop blabbering. Already I am frustrated. If you continue irritating me, I will scold you in bad words.”
I became silent. I gave him some space to think.
Then he realized something and said “Sorry Uncle. I didn’t mean that.” Then after a pause, “Due to me, you suffered. You know, I was very… very….”
“Hey, stop. I am shivering in the breeze. Can we have some bajji and talk?” I said.
“What?” he thought for a while.
“What? Don’t you like bajji? Ok. Let’s have sundal then. Come on.”
The boy sighed a big sigh of frustration. “Ok. Let’s go.” he said with an almost angry face.
By now, he had become a bit normal. Still, he had to share his feelings with someone. But I stopped purposefully. Maybe it was time to make him realize that after all, life is not that serious.
Then we reached a bajji shop.
The vendor whom I know very well, asked me
“What thambi? You are totally wet? I have never seen you like this.”
“Oh. That’s… That’s… That’s nothing akka. Forget it. One plate bajji all mixed. What about you?” I asked that boy.
“I don’t want anything.” he said.
“Ok, we will share mine.”
He lets out a frustrated sigh and was about to speak something.
“Akka, one plate is enough. We will share it.”
He stopped speaking.
“Who’s that thambi?” she asked.
“He is my distant relative, akka.”
He gave a confused look. Maybe he was thinking, God, never make a person like this my relative.
“Oh.. ok pa.” she said.
We got our bajji plate. Then we took out the stools and placed it at some distance from her, so that she can’t hear our conversations.
By now, both of us were shivering due to the breeze in an otherwise hot day.
“Have it da and then tell what’s bothering you.” I said to him.
Luckily he obliged. Maybe he was hungry as well.
We then ordered one more plate and we finished it off and left. He was finishing them off so fast that I didn’t want to ask any question and decided to wait till he finishes. I then paid her and we started walking.
Then we stood at some distance.
“Ok, now tell me what happened?” I asked.
“I am useless uncle. I didn’t score well in my plus 2 results. I had like 77% but was expecting 90%. I was so dejected. I applied for revaluation. But it reduced to 68%. My parents will be ashamed of me. I failed my duty as a responsible son. You know, my friend, he studies far less than me, but he has scored 88%. But me.” his chest started becoming full and he started crying.
“My parents wanted me to get admitted in some good engineering college, on merit. I shattered all their dreams.” he cried even more. He was gasping for breath.
I tried to console him by patting his shoulders.
“It’s ok thambi. It’s ok. Last time, did your parents scold you for getting low marks?”
“No uncle, they didn’t tell me anything. They said, definitely you would have done better and asked me to apply for revaluation. Now this is my final mark. How will I show my face to my parents?”
“I just feel like dying. I just feel like I am useless. I feel so guilty that I couldn’t fulfil their dream. You know, my dad married off his 4 sisters. He spent all his money as he had the responsibility. We belong to a lower middle class family. They sacrificed many things just for my studies.”
I didn’t want to interrupt as he was continuously speaking, I wanted him to vent out.
“When I wake up at 3.00 am in the morning, my mother would also wake up and prepare me tea. And she would sleep in the night by 11 only after finishing all her household works. And my father works as a security guard and works mostly night shifts. He just sleeps around 3-4 hours per day and he works part-time in the nearby petrol bunk too. Everything just for me. To afford a good school for me. But what I did? I am breaking their hearts again and again.”
“You know what. They don’t even scold me. That makes me extremely guilty. They are such good hearted people, I don’t want to be a burden on them anymore.” he started crying hard.
I make him lean on my chest. Maybe, he needs some fatherly and motherly affection now. After leaning, he started crying even more. After nearly 5 minutes of crying, he finally managed to console himself and stopped his cries. He rubbed his eyes.
“Sorry uncle. I am troubling you very much. Please leave me. I will take care of myself.”
I was silent all this while, and then I looked into his eyes and said
“Ok. See, I understand how you feel. It must feel bad that you think you have disappointed your parents. But, have you thought about how your mother and father would feel if you committed suicide?”
“No.” he nodded.
“Ok. Tell me your father’s number.”
“Why?” he said.
“Just tell it da thambi. Don’t worry, I won’t say anything to him. And what’s your name?”
“Partha. But don’t tell him that I am here. He will be searching for me by now. I was out of my house by noon. So he would be worried.”
He told the number.I dialled and put the mobile on speaker mode.
“Sir, I am calling from GH. Your son got Partha into an accident.”
“Uncle, what are you doing?” he whispered.
I gestured him to keep quiet and wait.
On hearing that, there was a pause, “Sir, what.. what are you saying Sir? How is he now? Where is he?” his panic stricken voice was clearly visible.
I didn’t respond purposefully.
“Sir, Sir… Sir.. .Please tell me how is he now?” his voice completely broke as he asked that.
“Sir, he is ok now. Nothing to worry, it was a minor accident.”
“Oh Good God.” he let out a sigh of relief and finally got a bit of life in his speech.
“Sir, which GH, I will come there immediately.”
“No need. I will bring him home. Where is your home?”
“Mugalivakkam Sir. Sir, why trouble for you? I will come Sir.”
“No problem, I will bring him. I will come to Mugalivakkam and call you to get the address.”
“Ok Sir. Thank you very much Sir. Thank you.”
“Sir, can I ask you something Sir?” I asked.
“If he scores less marks in his plus two revaluation, will you scold him?”
“Sir, what are you talking Sir. Marks are not important. My son is important to us. Sir, how do you know about all these? What happened Sir?”
Partha started weeping again listening to all these.
“I will come and tell you in person. For now, don’t worry, he is completely fine. I will bring him in another 1 hour.”
Then we ended the phone call.
He kept on crying. He was inconsolable..
“So now tell me how would your parents feel if something happens to you?”
“Very bad, uncle.” he said crying.
“Hmmm. You see, their life revolves around you. If you are not there, they are as good as dead. Their bodies would still be alive, but their hearts would be dead.”
“Ok. Now, shall we call your mom?”
“Aiyoh. No Sir. Please. She will almost die.”
“See, now you understand. Ok, now stop crying.”
He stopped and wiped off his tears.
Then after a pause, “Thambi, marks aren’t everything in life. You know many people who are major successes are school dropouts, scored low marks, etc. Marks don’t define your life. How you manage to find your passion, how you make a name for yourself in the field, that matters more.”
“Do you know how much marks I scored in my plus two?”
“How much?” he asked curiously.
“I scored more than 80% in all MPC subjects. But scored less than 50% in English and Tamil. I barely passed.”
“Still you got good marks Uncle. Who cares about language anyways?”
“Haha. I am a writer. I write stories in both English and Tamil.”
“What?” he asked surprised.
“I was stuck up in a job, I kept looking, then I discovered my passion for writing. I quit my job and now, I am writing novels for the past 5 years.”
“Oh. What’s your name uncle?”
“You aren’t that famous. I haven’t heard your name at all. You aren’t that successful. Are you?”
“Do you know an author by the name Ponmalar?”
“Of course. How would I not know her? She is great. I have not read much of her, but heard people saying that she writes well and has plenty of twists and turns in her story. Recently, her book won some award. I remember reading in the newspaper. Why? Is she a friend of yours? Are you training under her?”
“Hmmm.. Well, I am that Ponmalar. That’s my pen name. I write under that name.” I said.
“What?” he looked shocked.
“Oh my God. Such a famous writer.”
“Yes, now tell me. Do you really want to commit suicide or go back home, hug your mother and father, and tell them that you are going to become something in life?”
He thought for a while, smiled finally and said “Let’s go home, uncle.”
“That’s good. I know you will become something someday.”
Then we headed towards the road. I dropped him home. I explained the situation to his parents. They cried a lot. But they were happy that their son was alive and thanked me a lot. The son was happy and realized that there are other things than marks, that are important in life.
Then I finally bid adieu and headed home.
I have written plenty of stories till then. Plenty of twists and turns. But today was different. I managed to twist the real life story of a boy who tried committing suicide. The most satisfying story twist that I have ever written or maybe ever write again. There are obviously more things to look forward to, in life, other than just marks.