Nobody liked to befriend him neither in school nor in the neighborhood because of his mischievous and violent nature which not only petrified others but distanced them from him. The neighbors would restrain their children from mixing with him so that they weren’t spoilt by his influence. His parents who were in return constantly barraged with complaints decided with great chagrin to shift him to a reformatory boarding school.
“I really don’t understand why he is like that .My daughter and son are so different from each other,” cried his mother Manisha .
“We have no other option left than to put him in a boarding school. I had long discussions with everyone from the Principal to his teachers; our neighbors and the local councilor and all were of the opinion that a reformatory school is the best solution otherwise we might soon see him behind bars. His monstrous designs are just beyond our control”, exclaimed his father Debanshu with great consternation.
Raja was notorious. He had a morbid passion for the hideous. From his early childhood days he showed signs of his destructive nature and his love for anything macabre. On birthdays and during the festive seasons his parents lavished him with various gifts like toys, story books and games which he would within a few minutes reduce to little fragments and pieces. His sister Rubina, five years elder to him, couldn’t tackle his younger brother and would often be vanquished by him and reduced to tears. His parents hoped that as their son grew older he would gain in wisdom and change. But to their utter dismay he grew even more fiendish with time. He stole toys and storybooks from his sister’s selves and destroy them with a diabolic animosity as if enjoying the exploits of conquering the unforbidden. Her hysterical wails of anguish and pain at discovering her belongings thus pillaged and cruelly demolished made him feel powerful and happy. Neither punishments nor severe reprimands left any lasting effect on him. For a few hours he remained calm and then as usual unruffled by the consequences of his actions he returned to his usual self and old habits.
“Mother, please don’t object .I have decided to put Raja in a boarding school”, announced Debanshu firmly.
Radharani Devi, a frail old widow overburdened by age couldn’t retort back as she sensed that the air around the room had turned volatile. She closed her eyes and turned aside in her bed to face the wall. Debanshu without further ado walked out of the room with heavy steps .It was during such moments that Raja sought comfort and support from his grandmother. He ran to his grandmother, lay beside her silently and was a transformed boy in those rare moments. He listened to her gentle chides and advices which was soon followed by narrations of folklores; of heroic deeds and actions from the lives of great personalities. Escaping to this new world he riddled his grandmother with constant queries.
But today was different. She saw danger looming large on the horizon .She went into a silent protest feigning disinterest in food; ill- health and all things worldly. Her health deteriorated by the day and Debanshu was left with no other choice but to cancel his son’s deportation.
A strict elderly private tutor, Raghav Pandit was arranged to teach Raja at home. He was a broadly built ,imperious ,middle-aged man who was famous for taming and disciplining many an unruly student. Never did a faint smile elude his grave countenance.
“I have come here with the sole purpose of teaching you and I expect total co-operation, obedience, your undivided attention and will approve of no nuisance. I want all my tasks done sincerely and properly and won’t refrain from punishing you if not done,” he said coldly picking up the ruler softly from the study table and placing it back on it.
Raja studied his tutor quietly on the first day obeying all his dictates. His parents were relieved that at last they had found a proper person to fix him. A few days passed by in such a peaceful manner.
But he was not one to be tamed so easily. Mischief made him restless.
One day he noticed that a bunch of crows had gathered at his roof top and made their nest at the light post nearby. A wicked plan crossed his mind. Every morning Jaggu, their servant used to purchase fresh fish from the local bazaar and then hand his bag over to his mother.
“Ma, let me have a look at the fishes that Jaggudada has got from the bazaar” , said Raja running to her mother’s side. He saw her pour prawns and other fishes into a bowl from the bag. Constantly engaging her in small talk while hovering around the kitchen he slyly picked up a small ‘tangra'(cat fish) from the bowl and made a hasty retreat. His mission was partly accomplished. At the back of the house there was a storeroom where his father kept all his tools. He picked up a small fishing hook to which he tied a thin long transparent nylon string. He stuck the hook inside the fish’s mouth firmly. Now with his apparatus ready he launched on his venture. On the boundary wall of the terrace he placed his bait and holding on to the long nylon string which he let loose gradually, he progressed towards the room on the terrace and stood watching out for his prey. Soon, a crow noticed the fish so temptingly perched on the boundary wall. It flew down to have a bite. It pecked at the fish two or three times and on the fourth peck it started cawing vehemently as the hook entered its beak. Other crows hearing its wails of anguish swarmed around to defend it. They went absolutely berserk pecking anyone who they found nearby.
“Ouch! Oh my God”, cried Gobardhan Babu as a crow came swooping down speedily pecking fiercely his bald head. Blood spurted out and ran down his head, fell over his face and his shirt.
“Everybody take shelter”, shouted Bishnuda, a neighbor. .
Seeing the chaos he created Raja was thrilled at his achievements and clapped his hands in joy, laughing and jumping up and down.
“Something is wrong, otherwise the crows wouldn’t suddenly become so aggressive”, said Jaggu, their servant.
As Raja tugged at the nylon string fiercely once again the crow screamed louder than before in pain and its fellow mates hovered around the place cawing loudly and attacking everyone whom they sighted. The crowd quickly dispersed and took shelter.
It was nearing Diwali and his father and uncles made a lot of fire crackers at home. The house was full of ‘tubris’, rockets and chocolate bombs. He just loved this festival of lights and enjoyed bursting crackers. But his enjoyment always bounded on the bizarre and mischievous. He purchased small ‘patakas’ (firecrackers) and tied them behind the tails of stray dogs and then lit them up. As the crackers burst the dogs would howl and bark in fear and turn vicious. Even severe beatings couldn’t reform Raja and his ways.
Raghav Sir had become a terror for him. He was the only one whom he didn’t have control over. One day when he was being punished by him for not doing his lessons he planned to teach the man a lesson. After completing his arithmetic he handed over the copy to him and asked for permission to go to the bathroom. There he daubed a cotton wool full of red ink and returned back to his room. He found his master correcting his copy attentively. He walked slowly inside and smeared the back rest of his chair with the cotton ball daubed with red ink and sat down silently. It was not until Raghav returned home that he saw the awful red stain marks in his shirt. He tried to think how he got them. Maybe, it was in Raja’s place that he got the stain and he needed to find out.
Raja tried removing the traces of the red ink from the backrest of the chair with spirits, soap and water after Raghav had left but couldn’t fully cleanse it. Next day when Raghav came to teach him, he looked around for traces of red ink. And to his horror he saw a faint red stain mark on the back rest of the wooden chair. He was aware of his notoriety and knew instantly that it was his brainchild. He called his parents and told them about yesterday’s plight. Raja was beaten and kept locked in his room without lunch that day and when it was evening it was through Radharani Devi’s persistence that he was finally let off and given dinner.
Radharani Devi was eighty years old when she suffered a huge heart attack which left her paralyzed and bedridden. Every day Raja would sit near her bed and narrate animatedly everything he had done throughout the day. He would often read her stories and wanted to see her like before. She could no longer tell him tales . With a great deal of effort could she speak and that too couldn’t progress beyond a sentence or two. On. one unfortunate day she breathed her last. Her death and watching her being burnt to ashes in a funeral pyre brought a change in him. He became quiet, obedient and a sincere student who spent hours studying. Nobody now needed to goad him like before.