True Story of Murugesh (part 4, final)
I went through long rehabilitation drill with physico-therapists and social workers. They became my friends and were very kind to me. Some even took me to their homes during weekends. In about 18 months I abandoned, one by one, my calipers and crutches. Only one caliper remained for a few more months, but I was walking almost like a normal boy. Hema Akka was very pleased with my progress. Then one day she got a note from the head of the school saying that the school was unable to keep me any longer. Akka came to talk with him. The complaint against me was that I was a ‘ring leader’ teaching my classmates ideas on Christianity not in keeping with the church, and I had collected a large number of followers. The Father complained that when he remonstrated with me, some 50 to 60 students staged a sit-in opposite his room.
(Hema laughed; ‘a convert converting his converters!’) Such ‘blasphemy’ was unacceptable to them. On Akka’s persuasive pleading on my behalf the school agreed to keep me as a day scholar. But I had to leave the hostel the next day.
Akka asked me, “I admitted you in the school to finish tenth class, but you are trying to become a messiah? What is all this?” With an innocent face I told her that I never did any of those things. Father is only imagining. They are against me because I am neither a sheep like follower nor a zealous enough Christian. “Amma, do you think I know enough to start a cult?” I asked. Akka was puzzled, but she laughed. She did not want to install me in APD so she said, “I think the best place for you to stay is in my house. You can go to school by bus.” I agreed. Next day I moved in with my baggage. There were two other boys staying there. They had graduated from APD and were getting some additional practical training. We three had a wonderful time together. But we did make pranks that vexed already exhausted Akka. Later at night, we would press Akka’s tired legs.
Hema-akka always worried about teaching us marketable skills and in most cases she succeeded. Finally when I passed tenth class Akka asked what I would want to do next. I said “I want to be a tailor.” She mulled over the idea and readily agreed that it was a good idea. She found a place where I could learn the trade.
One day when I was sitting on Akka’s bed and drinking tea, she asked me, “Murugesh, I smell tobacco. Do you smoke?” I denied it vehemently saying that I would never do such a thing. But I was lying. This was the second time I had lied about my smoking.
There was a beautiful young girl also under Akka’s care. Her name was Revati. I fell in love with her and started writing little love letters. Word reached Amma but Revati neither complained nor disclosed anything. Amma thought that there was probably nothing serious between us even though both of us had come of age. A kind lady known well to me wanted to adopt me. But Akka advised that she should help me all she wanted without the legal adoption tangle. She wisely felt that young people she brought up should be let go. One day Hema-akka gave me some money and advised me to go and look for my parents. I agreed and left. I could not find them. Even my old grandfather in our ancestral village did not know where they were. She sent me again to further follow some of the leads.
One day as I got off a bus in a small town I saw my mother. She too recognized me and started to howl with joy. She embraced me hard and asked where I had gone. She took me home where I met my brother and sisters and also my father. We were all very happy. I brought my mother to APD to meet Hema-akka. Both were thrilled. My mother told Akka that a real miracle had been performed by her.
Someone again informed Akka of my smoking addiction. As I returned home she noticed something suspicious in my breast pocket. She asked me to take it out. It was a match box. Then she made me empty my pant pocket and a pack of bidis (country cigarettes) came out. Now I was caught, and there was no way of denying it. I was quiet. “Why do you lie, I won’t kill you for smoking.” She got so agitated; she hit me across my face. A visitor was there. He said to me to apologize to her. I kept quiet. “I know what to do with you. You have sprouted wings. You should fly off. You can stay for four months and finish the tailoring course. I will provide everything but you are no longer my charge. Tell me what you wish to do.” I said I will think and tell the next morning. I did not eat that night. Next morning I told Akka, “I want to leave now.” She did not object. She told me not to come barging in next month. “Find a job, stay put, and keep informing me how you are doing. It will make me happy to hear that you are doing well. God be with you.” I loaded my possessions on my bicycle and left.
Akka is genuinely concerned about our bad habits. She worries that smoking or chewing of tobacco will make us sick and this and other bad habits will hinder our progress. But we were being molded by other influences also. For instance, I was a leader type and smoking gives upcoming young leader credibility, for it is a mark of adulthood and daring. Outside the house I smoked quite openly, and did not see much wrong in it. After leaving Hema-Akka I went to find my parents and lived with them for about a year. I organized the laborers and tried to defend their rights. Then I returned to Bangalore, got a job, and am still working. I have gone 4 times to meet and inform Akka.
Like a good mother Akka still worries about us. She also wonders if she raised us with enough love and was not overly harsh at times. In my twelve years in her association she was mildly angry with me three times, perhaps four. Only once did she really loose her cool hit me. It was only because I had been blatantly lying to her about my smoking habit. Even real mothers of one or two children often feel stressed and complain about the difficulties of bringing up children. My own father wished I was dead! Akka has been raising scores of children in her care for decades, none of them her own, and all with handicaps. How much more difficult is her work compared to normal parents? I think she deserves highest praise.
It is difficult for her to shed the emotional ties. I understand and appreciate her love; but, I feel she should more easily shed attachment and offer us to LIFE after we are healed. It was no easy task for her to have my arm and leg joints functioning again. Strong attachment is needed to suffer the toil. But when the work is finished she should be brave enough to let us fly on our own wings. I am sure she tries, but the motherly instinct in her is too strong. I feel sorry for her. This is the way life works.
January 20, 2007