This story is about Ravi and his new drum.
The Maths Teacher was making preparations for his Quest. The headmaster had agreed to let him take as much leave as he needed, but he asked him to stay on till the term ended.
Ravi begged his mom to go too, everyday. To give him something else to think about she bought him a nice new drum set for his birthday. Ravi was very excited. He kept on playing with it. He kept it very close to his bed when he went to sleep and slept with a happy smile on his face.
Ravi wanted to take his drum set to school to show his friends. His mom was not for it. She said it might get spoilt or lost and it was not a good idea to take drums to school in the first place. Ravi was adamant. He said that he wanted to be selected for the school band and he would be sure to be picked if he took his new drum along.
Ravi found the Arts teacher at school. The arts teacher was in charge of the school band too. ‘Sir, can I bring my drum to school and practice it with my friends? I want to be selected for the school band’, he asked. “Sure kid,” the teacher said, “nothing to it.”
Ravi brought his drum to school the very next day. Siri was charmed by the drum. She wanted to play it. She said, “please give me the drum sticks, please”. Ravi was pleased that his drum was much admired. He looked at her pleading face and relented. He was just about to give her the sticks when the P.T. teacher swung by on them.
“What is this? Why are you hitting Siri with the drum sticks? Who allowed you to bring the drum to school in the first place? You bad and naughty boy! If I let you get away with this, tomorrow you will hit even your mother!” he snatched the drum and the sticks straight out of Ravi’s hands and dashed off to the staff room with Ravi and Siri in tow.
Ravi was shocked, upset and puzzled. But above all he was very concerned about his precious new drum. “Sir, please give me back my new drum. I was not trying to hit Siri. She wanted to play and I was letting her take the sticks., you can ask her if you want to”.
The P.T. teacher turned on Siri. “Oh! so you are also a bad girl, playing drums in the playground are you? I will tell the headmaster!” Siri was scared. She was terrified of a beating or even of a scolding. “Sir, it is all Ravi’s fault. I never asked him for the drum sticks. Please don’t beat me. Please don’t tell my mother”.
Ravi was shocked beyond words. He had thought that Siri was his friend. Veer came running there. “Sir, Ravi did nothing wrong…” The P.T. teacher yelled at them. “So you also want to see the headmaster, do you? Get out of here!” Veer left and waited outside the staff room for his friend Ravi to come out. Poor Ravi, he never teased children and little animals like the others did. Why was he so unlucky that he got caught for something he did not do? And how cowardly Siri was! To save herself she was letting her friend take the worst of it. It was important for Thatha and Ravi’s Amma to know what was going on. Thatha knew how good Ravi was and the headmaster respected Thatha. Veer sent Siddhu to tell them while he waited outside.
Amma talked to Thatha about it. “Thatha, will you talk to the headmaster?” she asked. Thatha said, “Don’t worry Amma. Everything is for the best. Ravi will learn to obey you better in future and will not be so obstinate in having is own way. The head master is a good and wise man. You can talk to him. He knows Ravi too and he knows that Ravi brings me food everyday. I trust him to do the right thing. Ravi will also learn that the world includes all kinds of people and he will be more careful as he grows up.”
In the meantime, the P.T. teacher sent for the Arts teacher. He said, “Ravi says that you gave him permission to bring his drum to school. Did you?”. The Arts teacher sensed that something was blowing out of proportion and he decided to duck for cover. “Of course I did not give him permission,” he said. “What a liar you are!”, the P.T. teacher turned on poor dazzled Ravi. Then for about one hour, the P.T. teacher and Ravi’s class teacher scolded him without break, for breaking rules, bullying small girls and telling lies. All Ravi could say was “Can you please give me my new drum back?”
In the meantime, Amma went to meet the headmaster. “Sir, Ravi took his drum to school today to try out in the band. His friend Siddhu came and told me that Ravi is being blamed for all kinds of things including hitting Siri. Sir, I will never let Ravi tryout for anything again. He will just come to school and come home. Siri is his friend. She comes home sometimes to play. I know her. They must have been playing together as usual.”
The headmaster reassured her, “I will talk to Siri and then I will talk to Ravi and I will find out what happened. Ravi should have taken my permission to practice drums in the school. But he always asks the friendly art teacher. If the art teacher denies giving him permission, then that means Ravi broke the rules, because everyone will trust the friendly art teacher. What Siri says is important. Why don’t you talk to her?”
Amma spoke to Siri. Siri said, “Aunty, Ravi and I were just playing, I will tell the headmaster that. Don’t worry.” Amma went back to Thatha. Thatha said, “Have Faith. Everything is for the best.”
Ravi came home in the evening, sad and shocked. Veer walked with him part of the way. “Amma, I am sorry, I took the drum to school and that I did not listen to you.” Amma gave him some milk to drink and then she spoke sternly to him. “You are lucky to have this bad experience so early in life. Now you know that many people cannot be trusted. I want you to stay away from bands, sports and all fun things in school. You can only go to classes and come straight after school”. Ravi said sadly, “Yes, mother. Do you think that they will expel me from school? Amma, Siri lied. The arts teacher lied, and I got scolded by a group of big teachers and they took away my new birthday drum. Oh mother! The liars are free and I am good and pure and I have been blamed. My new drom has been taken away. The teachers look upon me like I am a bad boy. What did I do wrong?”
Amma said, “The mistake was the P.T. teacher’s in that he acted on an assumption and impulse, without a thought for how he was affecting a young child’s heart and mind. He was so sure he knew., and what he knew was an error. The mistake was the Art Teacher’s in that he gave you permission to do something that was not in his power to do, and that he denied it what he did. The mistake is in our culture and society, where what people think is more important than the truth. But you made a mistake too. The mistake of innocence that is almost naivety. Every day, dear, you see that it is the innocent bystanders who get caught in riots, the poor people who die. Innocence and poverty are crimes. Toughen yourself, whatever happens we’ll face it bravely. It is only life after all.”
Then she smiled,”I will let you go on the Quest with the Maths teacher. And Appa will go and meet your class teacher”. Ravi smiled. Appa was the best. He went and told Appa all that happened. Appa smiled at him kindly, “Well, let this be a lesson to you in the ways of the world. Let me guess both Siri and the Arts teacher have let you down right? They will go down in history as the world’s cowards.” Ravi actually laughed.
Appa went to school to meet the class teacher. The class teacher re-assured him. “Oh, I am sure that the Arts teacher gave him permission and went back on it, because he is afraid the headmaster will take him to task. I found out from others that Ravi never hit or intended to hit Siri, but it is no longer in my hands sir, it is in the head-master’s hands.”
In the meantime, the Maths Teacher went to meet the head-master. “Sir, Ravi is a good boy. He deserves to have his drums back. He did no wrong. Didn’t Siri tell you the truth?” The headmaster spoke, “The girl Siri backs the P.T. teacher and not Ravi. She does not want to get into trouble with teachers, perhaps. I will meet Ravi next week.”
The Maths Teacher asked. “What about his drums sir? What about justice for Ravi? Why is Siri’s word more weighty than Veer’s? Why is the P.T. teacher’s word worth more than mine and Thatha’s?”
Amma went to the temple next day and prayed for Ravi. And she thought of all the ancient stories. When bad things happen to normal people, they learn a lesson. But when bad things happen to very pure people, the world learns a lesson and the world order changes. Because Gandhiji was thrown out of the train, a country became free. “My son is pure,” she thought. “The world must change, to atone for the pain caused to Ravi. Oh Janardhana, we have no refuge but you, please protect Ravi”.
Thatha came to the temple to reassure Amma. “Amma, have faith, Ravi will get his drums back. Everything will be allright. There is a time for everything. Remember, I have the magic grain. Come, I want you to sing today as everyday. It is only life after all!”
The arts teacher went to see Amma. “Please tell Ravi, not to say that I gave him permission, they will never let me take care of the school band any more..”, he said. Amma was disappointed. He does not care about Ravi, she thought.
The headmaster called Ravi. “Hi Ravi, how are you feeling today?”, he asked. Ravi said, “I miss my drum sir, very much. Everyone is calling me and giving me advice. I am not in the school band anymore. My teachers think I am a bad boy. I am a good boy sir. I asked the arts teacher whether I could bring my drum, it was Siri who fussed for the drum sticks, now both of them are fine and I am the one who got the punishment”.
The headmaster spoke kindly to him. “Ravi, does Veer have the right to lend your drums to Siddhu?” Ravi said, “No sir, how can that be? The drums are mine!”. “In the same way, the arts teacher cannot give you permission to bring your drums to school. Only the headmaster can. It is harder to get permission from the headmaster, but he is the one to ask, is that clear?” he asked Ravi. “Yes, sir, Mr. headmaster., I know that now.” said Ravi. “I will give you your drums back, but you must not bring them to school again, the noise may disturb others. I have approved the purchase of a drumset for the college. So the school band will use that. If Amma lets you, you can try out for the school band still, but she is the one who can decide that” he said. Ravi nodded.
“Now about Siri. I know you and Amma and Thatha. I don’t think you were trying to hit her. I think the P.T. teacher scared her into complaining. That is the problem with small girls. She is too small to understand. I don’t want you you to play with her anymore. Please play with good boys of your age.” he said. Ravi understood.
“Finally about the P.T. teacher. It was wrong of him to scold you without finding out the truth. That is why in our country, we have the police to catch suspects and the judges to decide whether the suspects are actually criminals or really good people. In that way, even if the teachers complain that someone is a naughty boy, I am the one to judge the truth and decide”, he said. Ravi said excitedly,”The story teacher was telling us about Maryada Ramanna and King Solomon. So you are like Maryada Ramanna and I am like the man who was wrongly caught”. The headmaster could not help smiling ..”Yes, young man. Now while the judges will find out the truth and free the good people, don’t you think that it is better for good boys not to be caught at all?” Ravi agreed,”I have had a really awful time, sir!”
“OK, now for you not to be caught, you have to do something too. Look at what others are doing. And if you want to do something that your friends are not doing, then, you need permission and advice. In a school that would be from me. In the society that would be from the government. That is why you need permits. You need to find out what the rules are. Not knowing the rules, is not an excuse!”.. explained the headmaster.
“But, sir, sometimes the govt. can be wrong too. They put Gandhiji in jail because he wanted freedom for India, then what must I do?” Ravi asked.
The headmaster thought and spoke carefully. “We make rules to make sure that everybody has a fair free and good life. But even grown up human beings are just boys like you and Veer. They keep improving the rules with time. As the rules get better, the society gets better. Sometimes individuals, make the society better. Do you know about Raja Ram Mohan Roy?”. “Yes, yes!” said Ravi, “He was a social reformer, he helped Indian women. He changed the rules!”
“Yes, my dear child! Freeing a country and reforming a society are things that very, very great, good and wise and strong people do. They are the ones who change rules, and show us that life can be different and better. The society and govt. learn from them…I would be very happy if you become a great and good man like Gandhiji or Raja Ram Mohan Roy… but first, you must learn the rules and follow them”. The headmaster gave Ravi his drum set. Ravi gave him a smile.
When Ravi came out of the headmaster’s room, Veer, Siddhu, Amma, Appa and the Maths teacher were waiting for him. Oh yes, and Thatha was there too, with the magic grain in his hand. It was story time and music time and time for love and joy. “O Janardhana! O Satya Sankalpa!”, Amma said, “Thank you, thank you!” Ravi gave her a hug and Appa ruffled his hair. There were sweets all around!
Authorship and Copyright Notice : All Rights Reserved : Satya Sarada Kandula