An ordinary man lives an average life, but is glorified after his death.
Little Muthu was a coward. He was most afraid of his Father.
But he also had a streak of mischief in him. His father always told him not to meddle in the Freedom Struggle that was at its peak in the 1940s, when Muthu was a teenager.
He promised his father that he’d go only to school and return home as soon as possible. But when he walked to school with his friends, the boys could never resist the charming temptation of missing school, and joining the protesters to shout “Inquilab Zindabad!”
They didn’t really care to understand the noble cause of the Freedom Struggle. But they loved to be a part of the commotion. In addition to that, the students suspected that they had the secret blessings of the Principal and the Teachers, because oddly, they were let off with a very minor penalty, unlike the times when they missed class because of a “Fever.” In those cases, there was always a stick waiting to welcome them back to school.
Muthu still had his father to face, but he didn’t want to be unpopular among the children and so he joined in the hungama.
A few years later, he worked as a clerk in the Post Office. One day, a respectable man came up to him and said, “A young boy like you, who has his entire life in front of him, should not waste opportunities by doing a job that anybody can do. Come with me! I want you to study. Our new born nation needs smart young soldiers to fight for her and make her great. I am old and passed my prime. But you must study and serve your nation!”
Poor Muthu was flustered with agitation. “Please sir, thank you for your offer. But… but I’d like to decline the offer, sir. I… I hate studying. The fact that I managed to pass with a third- class was a huge miracle sir. My mother is a very prayerful person. She fasted all throughout my exam season. That is why I passed after a few unsuccessful attempts sir. I don’t want to go to College. I will never be able to pass. I’d rather continue with this job, sir!”
“Nothing doing! Come and meet me at my residence at 5 pm tomorrow.”
Ofcourse Muthu didn’t want to go. But he was afraid that the man would create an ugly scene at the Post Office the next day. And so, to prevent such a dreadful possibility, he went.
During the visit, he learnt with horror that the man considered himself to be a philanthropist, and a servant of the nation. And he forced good things on the countrymen he chose, whether they liked it or not. That day, Muthu learnt that this respectable and obstinate do- gooder was a retired professor in the most prestigious college of Madras- Loyola College. And that was where he had acquired a seat for the poor, blameless Muthu.
His parents were dazed. His entire neighbourhood was shocked beyond belief. The best of his school mates just managed to bag clerical jobs. But he, the dud of the school, was chosen to study with some of the brightest minds of India, and rub shoulders with the sons of the “big people.”
Muthu shed a flood of tears every day and every night. He couldn’t understand his misfortune!
College was a struggle for poor Muthu. He felt like an outsider from Day 1. He tried to run away a few times, but his obstinate sponsor always managed to track him down and force him back to College. He tried his best to please his patron, knowing full well, that his was an opportunity of a life-time, but his level of hardwork always seemed irrelevant. Often, he was embarrassed with a big red F next to his name.
But inspite of that, his patron insisted that he finish his degree, even if he had to face the humiliation of sitting in the same class as his juniors. The obstinate philanthropist asked him to take tuitions for small children. This did him a world of good, because he got the chance to brush up with concepts he learnt in school and strengthen his weak academic foundations.
Muthu’s mother always maintained that the only reason why he could earn his B.A and M.A degrees was because of her pilgrimages to every temple, church and mosque in the vicinity. But she too lay shell- shocked when the gods above chose to reward her by bestowing upon her son the most coveted occupation – a “Government Job.” Ofcourse it was not a major post or anything like that, but it was a Government Job nevertheless and no one could deny that.
The one person who was most confused by this sudden turn of fortunes was Muthu himself.
He had a string of failures under his belt- some jobs he lost because of negligence and clumsiness, and two failed business ventures. And now, with this sudden status as a government employee, he was getting marriage offers from girls of every size and sort.
This was too much for him to handle. He declined every offer for marriage, and only concentrated on his job, fearing that if he were not focussed he would lose this job too.
A decade passed, and he still was employed. That was a success. But success in the work- place meant some shortcoming in the domestic space. He noticed that the cook and housekeeper were robbing things right under his nose.
In frustration, he finally decided to marry. He needed someone to look after the house.
His new wife managed the house with a sharp eye, and so he was happy in his marriage.
He lived the life of the ordinary Indian man. Nothing stood out in him. He was one among the thousands. He got frustrated with his job and his boss just like the others. But, like everyone else, he carried on with it, for lack of a better option. He bore children who went to the same school as the others. His sole aim in life was to be a good husband and father and provider. He loved the egg curry and the cauliflower fry his wife made. And he caused an angry fit whenever his wife failed to make lunch on time. Not because he was a stickler for punctuality or anything like that. He just thought that bossing the family around every now and then was one of the perks of being the sole bread winner of the family.
Often, he got frustrated with life. Often he thought of the luxury of quitting the race, which sometimes seemed so pointless. But he continued on with life, because he thought, that was his lot. Like everyone else he had tiffs and arguments with his siblings and children, and like everyone else, resolved those issues after a while.
Like every other grandfather, he doted on his grand- kids, and brought them toys and sweets whenever they came to visit.
And one fine day, like many other old men, he died of a cardiac arrest.
He was just another ordinary soul, who lived his time, and left. He did not have great ambitions. He didn’t achieve anything extraordinary.
When he was alive, his father thought him a miserable coward. His mother thought he was a clumsy fool. His brothers said he was selfish. His wife, considered him to be her burden. She had grown quite tired of his demands and also of giving him his hourly medication. His boss thought he was a difficult person to deal with. His neighbours avoided him because of his violent temper. His children thought that he should have given them better opportunities. His domestic help thought he was miserly and scary.
But when he died, the tables turned. His wife could not stop wailing in the funeral. “Oh! The love of my life! I lost the love of my life! How will I breath now, that he is gone?” His family thought they lost a wise person, who always gave the right advice. He was always right in his decisions. His children then realized that their father was indeed the best father they could ever have. They appreciated his sacrifices, and wished they were better children to him. They wished they would have been around more often, to make his last days happier. His neighbours said that they never saw such a dignified man. And his domestic help swore that he was the best master she has ever had.
Stories were told of his greatness to his grand- children. Your grandfather was such a great man. He was a freedom- fighter. He fought bravely and passionately against the British. He studied so well, and he was so hardworking and diligent, that he was granted a scholarship, by a kind man who saw his potential. He went to Loyola College and in those days he completed both his B.A and M.A. He was the best student of his batch. Whatever he did was a success. You must grow up to be like your grand- father because he was a great man.
His widow, their grandmother, blushed girlishly whenever she spoke about him.
He saw me first when he was a young and dashing freedom- fighter. The moment he set eyes on me, he had decided that he would marry me.
That is why he worked very hard in College. Whenever he was discouraged, he thought of me and worked harder. He says it was because of his desire to marry and provide for me that he worked hard to get that government job. What a wonderful husband he was. So kind. So gentle. So compassionate. You will be lucky, if you become half the man your grandfather was.
When little Kannu hesitatingly showed his report card to his father, he was chided so effectively that his teary eyes reflected the guilt in his heart. “How can you be such a great man’s grand- child. How can anyone who has a drop of Muthu’s blood in him bring home a report card with an F grade? Your grandfather is such a stellar example of the ideal student. You must be like him.”
Up in the skies, where none of them could see him, cowardly little Muthu saw it all and he had a hearty laugh.