“What a weary time those years were — to have the desire and the need to live but not the ability.”
I tried to find him on Facebook, but he was not there. I am not an artist, but I had stored an image of ‘his’ in my mind. If somebody asks me to sketch his portrait, I can readily do that.
The person I am talking about was my classmate. His name was ‘Ravi Inder Singh,’ a long name which generally high class families gave to their children, but he was not so rich.
After giving exams of matriculation, I took admission in non-medical in eleventh class in my school. Non-medical is a combination of science subjects like Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics. Ravi Inder also joined our school in the same year. From this point his story begins….
From his appearance he appeared like a living skeleton. If any body ever touched him, he could feel the thin layer of skin over his body. He was of lightly dark coloured complexion—not at all attractive.
One of his friends ‘Ravneet’ also got admission into our school. He and Ravneet were old friends. Ravneet was clever and he used to make fun of Ravi Inder, but Ravi Inder never minded—or, I can say that he was weak and could not do any harm to Ravneet.
He had a lot of tolerance power inside him.
Slowly students in our class became interactive with each other. In this way, we started knowing one another. Ravi Inder regularly came to school—obtaining maximum attendance in eleventh class in our school. Ironically, there were some students including me who attended school just once a week. There was no restriction on attendance in our school.
Every student was attending three coaching classes. Attending coaching class was just kind of fashion in the education sector. Our school teachers were also running private coaching classes. It was not compulsory for students to attend school classes, but it was mandatory for students to attend the teacher’s private coaching classes. Teachers earned a huge amount of money from there coaching centers. So, finally I developed an image that ‘Teachers are not career makers, they are just money makers.’
Ravi Inder soon become famous in our class by the name of ‘Body Builder.’ Every one would be calling him, “Hey! Body Builder.” When ever I went to school, I would be making fun of him for passing my time.
He was always very attentive. And, even though he used to make proper notes in class—unfortunately he did not get good scores in the ‘First terminal exam’s’ of school.
Watching WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) was my hobby at that time. The wrestler ‘Rob Van Dam’ was famous by the name of ‘RVD.’ Once we were teasing Ravi Inder and Ravneet said to me jokingly, “Do you know Ravi Inder has three girl friends whose name are Joyti, Reshma and Shewta.” I clubbed the first letter of his fake girl friends and started calling him ‘JRS’; the way Rob Van Dam was called ‘RVD’. He became famous by the name of ‘JRS,’ but he never minded nor became angry, as I earlier told about his tolerance power to my readers.
One day I asked him about his family and he told me that his father worked in the University and his mother worked in a private company and she was suffering from chronic lung disease.
Making fun of him was our daily routine. Once I asked him, “How did you come to school?” Most of students in our class came to school on their bikes and I was aware that Ravi Inder comes to school on auto rickshaw.
But, Ravi Inder replied to me sadly, “We are poor, so I can’t afford to come school on bike,” and tear’s trickled from his eye’s. I felt that I had hurt him. I said, “I am sorry, please don’t take it seriously.”
From that day I never teased him, he was calm now.
I met Ravneet and asked him, “Why is Ravi Inder is sad?” To which he replied, “Ravi Inder and his mother lived alone. His father had left them several years ago. His mother is not well; there financial condition is not good.”
From that day I never made fun of him again.
Despite their poor financial condition, his mother forced him to continue attending private coaching classes and they would regularly deposit the fees of coaching classes on first day of every month. This was his good quality which I shall never forget. Usually poor people are more honest than rich.
Second terminal exams came and Ravi Inder did not pass in two subjects. Now he was losing all his hopes, but still he was regularly attending lectures.
After second terminal exams I rarely went to school. Final exams were coming and my preparations for exams were not good. Before examination there was a practical of physical education. Several groups were made—each group consisting of three students. Ravi Inder was in my group.
Every group was made to run on a circular track. The coach was noting the time in which students finished the race. I was aware that I could run faster than Ravi Inder, but that I could not run faster than the other guy; so I knew I would be 1st runner up. When only three people compete; one will be winner, second one will be 1st runner up and the last one will be 2nd runner up. So everybody got a position and no one will be loser at all. How funny it was!
When our group was made to run, I ran faster then Ravi Inder and came in ‘second.’ And Ravi Inder finished the race last.
I was happy at the time for coming in second, but today, I feel that one should not be happy by defeating a weaker person. The truth in our life is that we always avoid messing up with strong people in this world.
After practical exams, theoretical exams were conducted. I was not able to perform well, but still I managed to some how passed and I was promoted to class twelfth.
On first day of class, I took some resolutions that I will be studying regularly, but I was not able to stand on my resolutions for long. I went to attend first lecture of class 12th very happily, but my all my happiness disappeared when I found that Ravi Inder was not present there anymore.
I enquired from Ravneet who was sitting behind me, “Where is our JRS?” He replied, “He failed his exams. He was left with two options; either to repeat class eleventh in our school or to take passing certificate of class eleventh from our school and get admission in class twelfth in some other low reputed school. And you know man! He went for the second option.”
Slowly, we began to forget him as our journey for class 12th was in progress. I passed class 12th with good scores and took admission in ‘Electronics and Communication Engineering’ in the Engineering College in my city.
On the first day of my college, I saw a person in the verandah who resembled Ravi Inder from behind. When he turned around, I was astonished to see that he was Ravi Inder.
I hurriedly went to meet him and just hugged him. I asked him, to which ‘stream’ he had been admitted. He replied, “I got admission in Electrical and Electronics Engineering.”
We met after a year and talked over our school days. He told me that after leaving our school, he took admission in a government school whose fees were quite low. The government school had such a bad image and the teachers there used abusive language but still he managed to spend one year in that drainage.
My last question to him was, “How is your mother?” He replied, “She is fine, her health is better now.”
But he was hiding the truth in his eyes, as his mother was not well. We bid farewell and went to attend our respective lectures.
Ravi Inder continued to maintain his bad habit of attending lectures and I continued to maintain my good habit of bunking lectures. I hardly attended college once or twice in a week and proudly maintained this habit during the four years of my college life.
I met Ravi Inder several times during that month, but our meetings were always short. Every time I met him, I always inquired about his mother and his answer was always the same, “She is fine.”
One day when our college bus was entering the college, I saw Ravi Inder with a woman. I guessed that she must be his mother. They were going out of the college. At that time I felt something wrong had happened to them.
For a week, I did not see Ravi Inder. Finally, I asked from one of the students of his class about him. I asked the boy, “Hey! Do you have any information about Ravi Inder? He has not been coming to college now for several days.” He replied, “He was not able to pay full college fee, so college management showed him the way out of the college. His mother pleaded for mercy, so that Ravi Inder can continue his study but he was not a bright student and the college management did not want to exempt the fees of a dull student, who do not have any chance of bringing any fame for the college in the future.”
I was totally shocked on hearing that; but what could anyone do after all? From that day I started believing that these reputed educational institutions are not education providers but merely business centers. They charged huge fees from the students, but still their future was uncertain. No guarantee of employment after completing education, and you don’t know what is in your future?
Several years had passed, and I never met Ravi Inder again. I wondered–where he is? How is he?
But his skeleton image appeared before me several times saying, “We are poor. We are poor. We are poor…”