ASHA (From On the Journey of Life)

Pritam Saha lived at a small village named Sonapur in a needy family with his parents and his younger sister. His father was a rickshaw puller. His mother used to work at other's house as a servant. His sister Banani was reading in class eight. Only at the age of twenty Pritam obtained the Degree, B.A. with first class and started to teach few students at their house. Somehow his father Paresh Saha would maintain his family. Pritam already applied for the post of an assistant teacher in Secondary School. He had appeared in several examinations - bank, post office, rail and primary school before he completed his Graduation but he qualified no examination. Then he prepared himself for the School Service Examination. He studied for ten hours for the examination since he applied for the same. Everybody of Sonapur knew Pritam very well for his talent. He won many prizes in different fields- like reciting, debating, painting, swimming, sports, etc. Pritam would hardly come out of his house. He continued his studies day and night for qualifying the examination. He knew very well that only one success might make his family stand.

Only seven days were left. He was fully prepared for the School Service Examination.Then he continued to revise his books. The day came to appear at the examination. He set out at 6 am to reach the examination centre, Kolkata which was 60 kms away from his home. The examination started from 10 am. He sat for the examination and wrote all the answers confidently. Ultimately the result was published and he qualified. He was called for an interview. He was prepared for the interview. The interviewers were satisfied with his knowledge, attitude, manners, etc.

When the final merit list was published he was very happy to see that he was empanelled with good rank. It was the first time that Pritam was so happy and excited. After seeing the list he quickly reached his house and informed his mother of his success. Within few hours the people of Sonapur could know that Pritam was a would be Teacher in English in a Secondary School. His father cried in joy of his son's success. His friends, teachers, relatives all were happy. Pritam felt for the first time - "The earth is so beautiful". Pritam was selected for the post of an English Teacher in a Secondary School but he did not know the name of the school and its whereabout. After ten days he got a letter and could know that he had been selected as an Assistant Teacher in English at Mayapur High School which was just fifteen kms away from Kolkata. So Mayapur High School was seventy five kms away from his home. Very soon he joined the school. As it being Saturday he expected that he would come back home very soon from school but he returned home at 7:00 pm. He had to take four periods as the instruction of the Headmaster Manimohan Bhattacharya. Then he was to be engaged in official work.

After getting a received copy of his joining letter and few other papers at 4 pm he started for home. All of his family were waiting for him. He spent Sunday with his friends, neighbours and family with joy. The next morning at 7 am he started for school. His mother Renu got up early morning for making breakfast and tiffin for her son. Pritam reached school in time. He was given weekly class routine. One by one he took seven periods. The students were very happy to learn their lesson from their very young new teacher. Pritam too was satisfied so much with his teaching and the students' response. The 8th period was over at 4:30 pm. He came back home at 8 pm. In this way he spent three months. Summer Vacation started from 2nd May. He spent the Vacation joyfully. The school opened after Summer Vacation.

Day by day his journey became unbearable to him. Then he felt that he was on the journey in a new world. He started to taste life. Life seemed to him a liquid medicine - mixture of light and shadow, sweetness and bitterness, happiness and sorrow. His family started to run smoothly. His father became a grocer leaving the job rickshaw pulling. His mother did not work at other's house. She used to help her husband Paresh. His sister, Banani was in Class IX. So in their family a sea change happened. Pritam had to decide then how he would lead his life - like running upon the same rail as a tram moves or flying in the sky for the new world as a copter flies. Finally Pritam chose the later. Just one km away from his school at Mayapur he rented a house which was suitable for a single man like him. Then there was enough time in his hands. He started for school by scooter at 10:30 am and came back at 4:45 pm. He would come to home every Sunday. In this way he spent two months but he faced some problems like cooking, washing clothes, and doing other household works. He was habituated to do the work. Then he became fully self dependent.

Pritam was a laborious, determined and highly ambitious man. He used to love teaching but if an opportunity of better job came to him he must try. He decided that he would be an ICS Officer but it was not so easy for him as he was engaged in work almost the whole day. He needed someone who would do household works like washing clothes, fetching water, helping him in his petty works. He had been looking for a maid servant for many days.

Almost six months passed. One day in a village fair he met a girl of about twelve years. Her name was Asha. When he asked her her whereabout she told him that she lost her parents at very early age in a car accident and after that she used to live in a ashram as a maid servant. Pritam wrote down about her. Saturday passed and Sunday came but Pritam didn't go to Sonapur. He took his scooter and set out for the ashram which was almost thirteen kms away from Mayapur. At last he reached the ashram in the afternoon. He asked the ashram men about Asha. They informed him since how long she had been leading her life there. Then Guruji came and Pritam was introduced with him. Pritam said to Guruji, ''I need Asha for my household work. I will teach her. I will guide her. I will do monetary help to her''. At first Guruji did not agree. When pritam humbly requested him, he gave the permission to take Asha with him. Guruji handed over Asha and all of her documents to Pritam.

Pritam came back his rented house in the evening. The expression of his face and eyes indicated as if he conquered a new world. Then life seemed a sweet pill to Pritam. Pritam taught in school and started to study for the ICS Exam as Asha would do almost every household work. She would help him in buying and cutting vegetables, cooking, washing clothes and in many works. Pritam purchased a TV set. He watched TV for enjoying news regularly and sometimes for movie. Within few days Pritam could understand that Asha was really an intelligent girl. Asha used to lead such kind of life because of her fate. Pritam started to call her 'Hope' in stead of Asha. Whenever he called her for helping him, she responded to him quickly and did almost every household work like bringing water, washing floor and clothes.

Few days passed. Pritam saw that Asha had completed her daily works before he called her. So Asha was a new chapter in his life. Gradually Asha heard everything regarding his village, family, etc from him. Whenever Pritam would tell her about himself she would behave as if she reached another world on the wings of imagination. One day Pritam said to her, " Will you go to school? Will you study?" Asha responded to him, "Sir! it is not for me. I am an orphan. Who will teach me? Who will give me books? I am only a maid servant. I have no right to study." The next day Pritam went to school. He took his regular classes. But he could not teach so well. He looked worried. He could not sleep at night as every moment he could heard Asha's words which compelled him to spend a sleepless night. Pritam learnt during his childhood, " The teachers are the makers society."

For few days Asha's words had echoed in his mind every time. One day in the evening Pritam called 'Hope' and said to her, "Will you study? I will teach you. I am sure you must learn everything very quickly." Asha remained silent. The next evening when Pritam requested her to study, she agreed. Asha started to learn alphabets, words, sentences and many more. In this way Asha took almost one year to prepare herself to the level of class six. Pritam used to go to Sonapur just single time in a month. He had then only three major works - teaching Asha at his rented house, studying lessons for ICS exam and teaching in his school. Asha was then of twelve years.

When January came Asha was admitted to class Six at Mayapur High school. Within very little period Asha learnt many things and got prepared herself for being a good student. Asha would go to school with his teacher Pritam by scooter. Pritam taught her every morning and evening and studied for the ICS examination. In this way three years passed. Pritam took leaves for seven days for the marriage purpose of his sister. She was married off with a Station Master in Rail Way Department. The Saha family became rich. Asha enjoyed seven days with the Saha family. Asha didn't get any opportunity to go to Sonapur though she visited Sonapur and its people probably more than hundred times on the wings of imagination. Asha was in class X. She changed herself so much. She learnt how to identify reality and life, how to observe reality and life, how to travel on the mountain of reality, how to swim in the river of life. She gathered much experience at Sonapur. The moments of spending seven days at Sonapur probably must never be wiped out from his memory.

After seven days were over Asha had to return Mayapur with her teacher Pritam. Pritam appeared at the ICS examination and he was confident of qualifying the same. Asha was the second girl of Class X. She appeared at the Test Examination. She passed in the examination with good marks. Only three months were left for the Madhyamik Pariksa (Final examination for Class X). Pritam taught Asha almost all subjects. For better result he appointed for her Ananda Babu who taught her specially Mathematics and Science Group. Asha was fully prepared for the Final Examination. She appeared at the Madhyamik Pariksha (Final exam for Class X). In the mean time Pritam could know that he passed in the ICS Exam. He had to qualify only Personality Test. After ten days he appeared at Personality Test. He was hopeful of getting the job.

Two months passed. The result of Madhyamik Examination was published. Asha passed with Distinction. She got 89% marks (in aggregate) which was the highest marks in Mayapur School in Madhyamik Examination. Asha was delighted with her result. She got scholarship. The Govt. declared that the Govt. had taken the responsibility of Asha regarding her education, health and other facilities. Asha returned home but his teacher was not at home that time. In the evening Pritam came back home. No sooner had he seen Asha, he congratulated Asha for her excellent performance in Madyhamik Examination. Asha became surprised. She said to him, "Sir! How did you know the result?" Pritam said, "I knew - you must succeed; you must get the highest marks in our school." He also added, " You are a genius; go ahead."

Asha observed that her dearest teacher looked unhappy. The time came to go to bed but Asha could not close her eye lids. She thought again and again why her dearest teacher looked so unhappy. She tried to remember whether she had insulted her teacher. She found no reason for her teacher's unhappy look. She was then over sixteen. She became much mature. She faced many incidents which made her experienced, which made her so mature. The very next day Asha went to school with her dearest teacher by Scooter but then she was driving the scooter. The Headmaster arranged a programme for newly passed students and also for a special reason. Pritam Saha, the most talented teacher of Mayapur High School submitted his resignation letter to the Headmaster three days ago as the final merit list for the ICS Exam was published ten days ago and he was empanelled. He was going to work for the country holding one of the most prestigious positions. But only the Headmaster and few of the teachers knew it. The stage was nicely decorated. Many honourable persons and teachers were on the stage. Manimohan Babu announced Asha's name and requested her to reach the stage. When Asha arrived at the stage, her dearest teacher Pritam Saha gifted her his most favourite pen and a diary in which few principles on success were written. And then he unfolded the matter regarding his resignation as well as his next job. The many honourable persons awarded Asha and others. Every one became unhappy and surprised at the announcement of Pritam Saha regarding his next job but tears continued to roll down from the eyes of Asha. Only her dearest teacher Pritam Saha and few of her friends could read her mind.


More by :  Dipankar Sadhukhan

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