THE PRICELESS SMILE
Seemingly ordinary people sometimes leave behind an everlasting fragrance when their lives cross yours.
Ramji entered my life when I was a lad of ten. He was around for only a year but he left an indelible impression which I still carry around.
Those days, poverty was always hovering around us, seeking a foothold. My father had to start conducting home tuitions for a living.
One day, a tall, stocky youth walked in,introducing himself as an inter student who had just completed his first year. He handed dad a sheaf of papers-his most recent Mathematics evaluation paper.
Papa said, “Three marks out of a hundred and fifty, in Mathematics-- I see! What do you expect me to do? I am a teacher, not a magician.”
“Sir, I am Ramji..Made my mama weep with that wretched answer paper.”
With that, he literally fell at my papa’s feet and said, “Please help sir- I must make her smile next time.”
My papa who had seen many varieties of young rascals by this time, looked quite unimpressed with the theatrics; “That’s all very well, but you need to work a lot, and.. ah, pay my fees in time.”
It killed him to talk about payment to a youth like that, but he had seen many who cheated even on that paltry amount of a few rupees.
Ramji , however proved to be a different sort of person.He simply wanted to bring back the smile to mom’s face.
He would turn up without fail every single day at 4 AM and knock at the door of the rear portion of the house where Papa and I used to sleep.
Papa used to tell in wonderment that in order to reach our place at 4 AM on his ancient jalopy of a bicycle, Ramji would have to get up at least by 3AM.
I would sometimes, from my adjoining bed behind a make shift half curtain watch the tuition proceedings slyly through one half open eye. Except for the krr ..krr of chalk on slate and an occasional exchange between teacher and taught, there would be no other noise whatever. I would then lazily go back to sleep.
Ramji’s commitment was total. His plans were only for a year. Between them, papa and he tackled almost every possible Mathematics problem that could stand in the way of Ramji and his mummy’s elusive smile. And then revision!
I had not seen my father putting such effort either. It was almost as if both were possessed.
Needless to say, Ramji scored hundred percent in Mathematics in his twelfth. What to say of such an achievement!
When he prostrated full length in front of his Guru- typical Indian style, my papa’s eyes were moist.
“How can I ever repay you for helping me make my mother happy?” asked Ramji.
My father gave his typical good humored smile and answered, “You have already paid me in full by demonstrating to me the awesome power of unselfish love.