That was a very brave thing you did boy” quivered the old man. “Very brave, indeed.


The boy twisted in his bed uncomfortably, unable to push away the nightmares that ailed him. His eighteenth birthday was in three days and he had to make a choice. Ever since he was a child, he wanted to enlist in the army and serve his country. He always assumed he would do his country and his family proud. But now that the moment came, he wasn’t sure he had the courage for it. He had heard numerous war stories, accompanied by their gory details and he was petrified by them. He wasn’t sure that he could stomach the harsh realities of death and bloodshed.

He didn’t want to talk to his family or his friends about this. He was worried they would think him a coward. So in front of them he put on a brave front, insisting on his unwavering resolve to join the army, and he basked in the glory of their adulation and their many praises.

Tick tock. Tick tock. He heard the sound of the wall clock in his room. With every passing second his breathing quickened. His heart raced and he couldn’t get himself to calm down even if he tried to. So little time to make such a huge decision. Would his family really think less of him if he decided to back out? Would his friends support him or would he lampooned by the very people whom he sought to protect and safeguard by joining the forces?

Only time will tell. For now all he could do was rest. But sleep eluded him and unable to shake away his ominous thoughts, the boy decided to go out for a walk. He got his coat and trudged outside his house in a tired manner. It was almost 3 am and the roads were completely deserted. The early morning cold nipped away at the boy’s ears and he regretted not taking his earmuffs.

He reached the end of the street, when suddenly a loud, high-pitched scream shattered the silence. It was followed by muffled sounds. The boy ran towards the source of these sounds and they lead him down an alley. He came in front of two thieves, trying to rob an old man and a young girl, presumably his granddaughter. The girl barely looked sixteen but she was putting up a remarkable fight against the two robbers. She held on tightly to her purse and refused to let them take it away from her. The old man unable to help, was cowering against the wall, entreating her to just give up the purse so that harm shall not befall them.

The boy stepped in. He was not of a great build. He was but five foot five inches and did not have very broad shoulders. He had been scrawny most of his childhood (that had evoked numerous jibes when he told people he wanted to join the army), but he had had a late growth spurt. The boy sincerely hoped that the growth spurt had not ended and that he would sprout at least a few more inches.

The thieves, on the other hand, were definitely larger than him. One was a towering six feet three inches and other was not much taller than the boy but he was stocky and was fabulously muscular. They laughed when they saw that it was but a kid trying to oppose them. The shorter one flexed his muscles menacingly.

The boy grimaced but didn’t back down. He worked out every day. He wasn’t very muscular but he was strong. He mentally prepared himself for the worst and he began fighting the two thugs taking on both of them at the same time. The tall man pulled out a knife and the girl gasped loudly.

“Walk away while you still can. And speak of this to no one” said the tall man threateningly. “Go on boy! I don’t like blood but I’m not afraid to spill it. You look like you have your whole life ahead. So run for it boy! Run away!”

“Neither you nor your little blade scare me. You are not afraid of spilling blood, I am not afraid of fighting for justice.” The boy looked square at the tall man with unblinking eyes. He didn’t expect the stocky man to attack from the side during this exchange. He suddenly felt a sharp blow to his side and he collapsed. The tall man meanwhile yanked the purse out of the girl’s hand and ran for it. But before he could take two steps, the boy who was still writhing on the floor, caught his ankle and caused him to crash into the ground. The knife flew out of his hand which the boy grabbed.

Now that he had the upper hand, the thieves shrunk back.

“Drop the purse” said the boy quietly. There was something about his voice that made it clear that he was not to be crossed. The tall man dropped the bag and the two of them made a run for it. The boy did not bother chasing them. He would report it to the police later with a clear description of their faces and with the tall man’s fingerprints on the knife. The police would take care of the rest.

“That was a very brave thing you did boy” quivered the old man. “Very brave, indeed.”

The boy stopped short. Brave? Him?

“You’re our hero. How will we ever repay you? We are forever in your debt” said the girl. She was looking at the boy with utmost admiration. The way a nation looks at its soldiers..

“Today justice lived because of you. You have touched our lives in a way we cannot describe” she continued. “Thank you. May you always stay blessed.”

The boy had a catch in his throat and he couldn’t anything. He merely nodded. His moist eyes filled with the depth of his feelings, expressed all he wanted to say.

That morning he told his mother about everything – his fears, his insecurities and how that incident had changed everything and given him confidence. His mother beamed with pride when he finished his story.

“Oh dear child. I never doubted you for one second. I always knew you were perfect for the army. And that’s not just because you are brave….. ”

“It’s because you are selfless and your heart is in the right place. And that is what will make you great, not just in a battle but also in life.”

His mother’s words lifted a huge weight off of his chest. The boy smiled.