• Kishore’s father, Mr Keshab Sharma, was always hard on him. Ever since his early school days, his father had always expected him to perform very well academically. But Mr Sharma’s overbearing attitude was borderline pathological
- Dipesh Karki

Mar 14, 2015-

Look at that Agendra and look at yourself!” Kishore’s father said, snapping at him. “We all thought that boy was a loafer, and now look, he is in Australia.” Seething, his father continued. “Look how proud his mother is. And you! You have disappointed me again!” His father spoke sternly.

 “Come on, dear. He has scored 85 percent. That’s not bad. He came second,” Kishore’s mother pleaded.

 “Not enough,” his father snapped back. “My son should top the class and score at least 90 percent. Without good grades he can’t get into a good college and without that he can’t become a doctor. And besides, during the entrance exams, he will have to compete with thousands of other applicants and no one will give a damn whether he stood second in ninth grade or not.”

“From now on, no more hanging out with friends or football practice. I want you to remain in your room and study hard,” his father warned him further.

Kishore’s father, Mr Keshab Sharma, was always hard on him. Ever since his early school days, his father had always expected him to perform very well academically. It was natural for any father to wish that his son would excel in his studies, but Mr Sharma’s overbearing attitude was borderline pathological.  This could be attributed to the fact that, despite being good at his studies, Mr Sharma was never able to become doctor himself. The one dream that he had always harboured. As a result, he carried a chip on his shoulder.  Time and again, he used to tell Kishore his own story of how he failed to live up to his own dream. He had repeated the story so many times that Kishore could recite each word line by line.

“Listen boy, when I was kid I didn’t have luxuries like you guys have. I used to plough the field and I had to walk two miles, barefoot, to get to school. I never had money to buy books or anything to write on. In spite of that, I was one of the best students. I always stood first in class.  But I could not get the Colombo Plan scholarship because your grandfather passed away around the time when I had to take the entrance exam. The entire responsibility of my family fell on my shoulders and I had to forgo my dream of becoming a doctor. I don’t want you to face similar problems. I will provide you with everything, so that your dream won’t be dashed like mine.”

Kishore hated that. He had never wanted to become doctor; instead, ever since he first watched Jurassic Park in second grade, his dream had been to become an archaeologist or a paleontologist someday. Even while playing with his younger brother in the empty yard adjacent to his house, he used to dig in the dirt and pretend he had found a relic of some extinct Silurian fossil from the Paleozoic era. He used to spend his free time perusing the chapters from books about ancient Egyptian civilisations and read stories about Greek mythology. He used to fantasise that he was indeed the one who opened Tutankhamen’s mummy or the one who discovered the Rosetta Stone. But his father would have none of it. All he wanted was to fulfil his own dream vicariously through his son. Sensing that his son was drawn more towards a field that he considered a mere playing with dirt, Mr Sharma grew worried. He constantly monitored what Kishore read and barred him from reading any fiction.

“I don’t want you wasting your time reading such nonsense,” his father repeatedly told him.

“You should read human biology instead. How neurons function and how the heart beats. Those are the topics that should interest you.”

This overwhelming pressure from his father and the feeling that his own dream was fading away soon made him depressed. He suffered from insomnia, lost his appetite and could hardly concentrate on his studies. His confidence was shaky and his spirit dampened. Despite this, he neither shared anything with his parents nor with his friends. He kept all the anxieties bottled up inside.

One autumn, when the exam routine was released, Kishore started to get scared. He knew deep down that he would certainly flunk this time. The thoughts of his father holding his report cards scribbled with red ink were too much to bear. He was especially afraid of optional math. The portion on height and distance seemed too arcane for him, and the formulas of compound angles seemed too confusing. He did practice the problems, but something was still off. And the fear finally started to overpower him. He needed to do something to pass the exam at any cost. And he knew exactly whom to contact.

“So you want me to give you the exam questions,” Mukund said, staring intently into Kishore’s eyes.

“Yes. And in return I will give you five thousand rupees,” Kishore stammered.

“Hmm. No good. Too much risk, “Mukund said, trying to blow him off.

“Just name your price, man.”

“Ten thousand rupees,” Mukund asserted.

“That’s too much. I don’t have that kind of money!” Kishore said.

“Sorry, kid. I can’t help you.”

“Ok! Ok! Let’s settle for eight thousand rupees. That’s the money I had saved for buying an Xbox and that’s my final offer,” Kishore said.

Mukund thought for a bit and said finally, “Fine, it’s a done deal. But I want you to pay me upfront and I will send you question on Snapchat. By the way, why would a good student like you need to steal papers?” he asked.

“That’s none of your business. Just make sure you are careful,” Kishore said sternly.

Mukund was a computer operator at the school. He was a high-school dropout and a notorious junkie. He was always on the lookout for his daily dope and was invariably short on cash. He would have never gotten the job if it hadn’t been for his uncle, who was the vice-principal at the school. All the boys knew he leaked papers for money. And after striking the deal, Kishore felt that he had just made a bargain with the devil himself.

The day before the exam, Kishore was extremely nervous. It was already 9 in the evening and he still hadn’t received the message. “Damn that crackhead! Must be sniffing brown somewhere,” he thought. After waiting for half an hour more his patience wore off. Putting on his jacket, Kishore stole out of his house surreptitiously and went straight to the room that Mukund rented. It was about a fifteen-minute walk from his house. Upon reaching the place, Kishore found no one inside the room. Instead, he saw everything turned upside down and stuff strewn all over the floor, as if someone had rummaged through them. A chill went up his spine, and as he turned around to walk away, someone grabbed him by his wrist. It was a police hawaldar. The policeman yelled at the top of his voice, “Sub-Inspector sahib. Here is that Mukunde’s accomplice. Must be here to deliver the snuff!”

“No, I’m not his accomplice. I’m innocent,” Kishore stammered.

“Yeah, right! Then what the hell are you supposedly doing here at this time?  Whatever you have to say, say it at police station!” the hawaldar screamed.

Without any further inquiry Kishore was then pushed into a police van and taken to the station for questioning.

Kishore cried all the way to the station. He couldn’t believe what he had gotten himself into. He was hungry and tired and he felt hopeless. Upon reaching the police station, because of all the crying, he could hardly speak. Seeing him hyperventilating, the inspector in charge felt sorry for him and ordered the hawaldar, “Sherbahadur, take him to the prisoner’s mess, and give him something to eat. Then we shall interrogate him.”

Sherbahadur took him into a large hall inside the prison. The ceiling was made of galvanised roof that hung above the metal rafters. “Sit here, kid, while I bring you soup,” said Sherbahadur. The place was crowded with all kinds of prisoners. Kishore sank on a wooden bench in the corner. He felt as if everyone was eyeing him. He couldn’t even fathom how his father would react once he heard the news.

Suddenly someone patted him in his back, yelling, “What’s up kid? You too a fellow inmate?” As he turned around there stood Agendra, beaming. Flabbergasted, Kishore exclaimed, “Agendra Dai. What are you doing here? But I thought you were ...”

“In Australia?” Agendra interjected, smiling. “Well that’s something my mother likes to tell everyone, doesn’t she? Old hag must be real proud of telling lies.”

“So you were in prison all this time?”  Kishore asked incredulously.

“Yep. Welcome to the real world.”

Published: 15-03-2015 08:52

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