Short Stories >> Vichoro >> Truth on Gallows (Suree'a Sach Charyo)
Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani
And lost within himself, he quietly came and sat in the teachers' room. How loud the teachers were all talking to each other. For some moments this noise felt like a flock of crows hovering around a dead crow to Sachanand.But as he lifted his face and saw faces of the speakers, he felt as if certain statues in a cave had come alive, and were creating a song out of the President's recent speech.
Sachanand had already read in the newspapers about the President's call that the "future of the country rests on the shoulders of the teachers." In the discussion a reference was also made regarding the teachers of Russia and America. Suddenly one of the teachers remarked, "Why is Sach sir silent today?"
A female teacher answered jokingly in a melodious voice, "The truth has been sent to the gallows. People were quiet".
Only Sachanand was aware of the fact contained in this thoughtless joke. That is why a bitter smile appeared on his face and disappeared. All the teachers, through gestures or raising of eyebrows kept asking each other about the reason for his sudden silence. A sparrow from the fan came out and flew out of the window. The bell rang and it echoed in Sachanand's chest and grew silent and the recess got over. All the teachers proceeded towards their classes. Sachanand too habitually walked towards his class". What attachment is this?" A last flame lit up in Sachanand's melted mind. He stood at the table and quietly watched .The students' faces. All the students had already come in the classroom. For some time all was quiet but then there was restlessness. Finally one student got up and said, "Sir, we have got to write three chapters of science three times, so please don't take up History today".
Although the question was asked by one student the request was on many faces. Sachanand smiled faintly and nodded his head in affirmation and stood silently with folded arms.
Yesterday's history period was running through his mind. It was in this class itself. Sachanand said, "In the last lecture where we had read about machines of England and inventions of electricity etc because of which the machines and factories grew in our country. There was a big change in the way goods were manufactured. They were made by machine and not by hand are a result of which they were cheaper.."
An intelligent boy got and asked, "But Sir, in India everything became expensive after the factories and machines came in.."
"Yes Sir" a girl got up and said, "My mother says that previously ghee was for one Rupee and pure milk was available for one fourth of a rupee. Although she did not go to school she would drink enough milk every day.."
Somebody cracked a joke from the backbenches, "So sad the poor lady doesn't even get milk".
All students suppressed a laugh. Sachanand said, "I am not talking about all those. I am referring to things manufactured in factories and machines. For example paper was made and books became cheaper. That is why education and knowledge grew.."
The clever boy suppressed a sigh and murmured, "We find the books very expensive".
The teacher heard it and said, "You find the things expensive because the people who own the machines and factories keep a big profit on them in order to grow rich very fast.."
"Then why doesn't the government control that?" The class monitor asked.
"The question that you are asking was also in the minds of the laborers of England because that the goods that they manufactured with their hands did not come in to the hands of their own children".
These conditions were the same in Germany, Russia and France. Laborers were becoming poorer and the owners were becoming richer. Finally the laborers asked. The government to control the profits of the owners and a new system came into being which was called Socialism which believes that the machines, factories and businesses and every other source of income should go into the hands of the government and the government should be responsible for the people's food, clothing, shelter, education and health." At that time uproar took place in the class and the students soft and suppressed voices were heard, "Head Master.. Head Master". As if it was yesterday, Sachanand gave a jerk and looked towards the door but there was no Head Master there. There was just the bad sight of a white-washed wall that was speaking of the poverty of the school. Sachanand was busy with yesterday's incidents and he turned and went and sat on the chair at the table.
The students were all busy writing the Science paper. Some were yawning and Sachanand's mind once again went back to yesterday's chapter.. The Head Master had gestured him to follow him and they went and sat in the office. Making him stand like a guilty student the Head master had asked him, "I had told you in the beginning itself to please keep your Socialist ideas to yourself and don't influence young children's tender minds but you.."
Sachanand forehead had a frown and he had replied sternly, "I have only taught History. I have not tried to impose my thoughts on the children..."
The head master had said sharply, "Just now I have been hearing your whole lecture from the window. I don't need any further proof.."
Sachanand had calmly said, "But all that was from the History textbook.."
The Head master again said sternly, "I've received some other complaints also. You are stopping the girls from wearing the ritualistic red wrist threads. How can you play around with anybody's believes. It is not the work of schools?"
Sachanand had felt angry at the obstacles created in the path of progress of wisdom but he patiently had said, "I have not played around with anybody's belief system. Perhaps during the Moral Science period I might have said that illnesses do go away through threads etc, in order to save the children's minds from the weaknesses of superstitions. But I have not cut anybody's thread and thrown it away".
The Head Master jerked his head like a snob and hit him with yet another stone, "But you have stopped the girls from putting garlands and lighting incense sticks before photographs hung on the classroom walls. Can you deny that?"
Sachanand could handle this attack there was sharpness in his voice. "The girls are lying"
The Head Master's gaze became distrustful, deep and conclusive.
With a bitter face Sachanand said, "Do you know about the girls and boys of that class? From the first to the last, every student ahs copied in the Terminals. So in the Moral Science period had made them confess and then I had asked them,"Why then do you put garlands and offer prayers to pictures of Krishna, Ram, Nanak and Meera? Don't their sharp eyes watch you when you copy in the exams? What kind of respect are you giving them through flowers and incense sticks?"
"But Mr. Sachanand we have to run our schools. We cannot shut them Where is the truth in boys and girls that we should give the so many sermons?"
Sachanand's eyes grew wide in shock. His mind gave a sharp shout - ‘Sachu the owners of these private schools don't believe in the progress of man. Don't expect anything about the future from them..
As Sachanand looked at the door and was about to take a step forward he heard the decision of the Head Master like a big judge in the Court, "There is no truth in the world anywhere. Your principled thoughts are not right".
"I completely trust my ideas".
"I don't have time for any arguments".
At that time the bell rang and the school was over. He came home with a heavy heart. He did not feel like eating food and a question repeatedly arose in his mind, "If you have to look at goodness with a bad vision what will be the future of humanity? Leaving the world aside, how can such distrustful thoughts arise in the pure world of schools! Sachanand felt that these thoughts were piercing through his heart.
The day was over and it was night. But like the darkness of these distrustful thoughts he was repeatedly thinking of the four months of his teaching career in which there were rocking boats of so many students and there was the presence of budding flowers. There were seeds of the community's identity and on these were drops of feelings and the friendships of other teachers and in each one there was the bright heart. In those lamps of bright hearts Sachanand had thought of putting oil made from his blood. At times he had also thought that so many Buddhas were sitting in his classes in which he wanted to burn the light of the soul of the Buddha.
Dreams..dreams.. The dreams dreamt in the sleepless nights and when the dreams would fall on the children's ears their eyes would become bright lights and in those bright lights Sachanand would see some Shakespeare, some Gurudev, some Gorki, some Mahatma, some Marx… Apart from all these things was his innocent and pure love. Sometimes a rose flower, sometimes his vision of devotion would fill Sachanand's heart with an ocean of love. At that time he would forget the dirty benches, messy walls, dusty floors, the complaints of his wife about his small salary. He would forget all this and all his unfinished dreams would burn in his passion for work..
On coming to school early next morning Sachanand had thrown off the distrust of the Head Master from his heart like dusting off some small specks of cotton. He had full trust in the interest in truth of the educated class, "I'm not doing anything wrong. I'm only teaching the habits which are fit for living in the palace of free India."Thinking this Sachanand had tears in his eyes but he bravely overcame that. To experience this free India he had left his college in Sindh and had gone to jail and there he had firmly decided that when India would become free he would become a professor and teach the youth of India love for their country. If not a professor atleast a teacher.Love for the country had to ne awoken in the students and his other friends too had the same passion hidden in their hearts. But now what was this happening? A gardener who is watering his own garden has been made to feel guilty. There is something wrong somewhere...
When the Head Master had called him during the recess he had thought that he would tell him, "The builders of the structure of New India, is in the hands of the laborers and these students are the bricks. Please have trust in this.." But before this itself, the clerk came and handed over a paper to him. On reading the paper he folded it and put it away in his pocket..
Now, in this History period, sitting before the students writing the Science paper Sachanand's mind was burning and that burning was the attachments for the students of the school and passion for the future of the country. But his children had been thrown on the stone and he helplessly stood like the Krishna Pita Vasudev quietly.
There were five minutes left for the period to end. The children had completed writing the Science paper and were fed up. One student got up and said, "Sir, our hands are paining writing. Now tell us some interesting and fresh news of the country.."
The Master got up, looking at the students' faces went towards the door and with folded hands he smiled and said, "The fresh news is that after today I won't be available in the school to give you the fresh news.."
"Sir.." the students shouted in unison and that shout freshened the truth that had gone to the gallows.
- Translated by Arun Babani