1 Wider Window by Raju Mandhyan Ravi sat by his favorite window, looking out, staring at the branches of a largetamarind tree. Sitting by the window and hearing the wind whistle through the branchestook away his mind from the pain and bitterness he felt whenever he thought of all thescolding he’d been receiving from his mother lately. Scolding that oftentimes seemedunnecessary. Reprimands for the silliest little things; things he never thought would deservethe ire of anyone, least of all his mother. His mother was taking a nap as she usually did every afternoon. Didee, his eldersister, was out running some errands. He was enjoying the quiet and the solitude, balm tohis young aching heart. Their apartment was on the topmost floor of a 3-storey building.The open windows allowed in the cool and breezy November air. He soon dozed off with hischin on the windowsill. “Ravi, Ravi, get up from there, will you!” “Look at you dozing off! Will you everlearn to do something on your own, or do you always have to be prodded like an animal?Run down and help your sister up with the groceries!” His mother’s irate yelling rudelyawakened him. He dashed down the three flights of stairs to meet his sister who was carrying bagsof rice and other groceries. He threw two of the heaviest bags on his shoulder and trudgedup the stairs. There were tears in his eyes from the sudden, uncalled for insults. His motherseemed to pick on him all the time; he felt he could not do anything right. But his motherhad not always been that impatient and irritable. Three months ago after a majoroperation, she came back looking like a different person – weak, her eyes sunken, her facegaunt face. But it was not only her looks that had changed; something inside changed too.Something inside her that screamed all the time. Maybe being stuck in bed gave her nochoice but to run most of the household affairs through her shrill commands. He dumped the grocery bags on the table and sneaked away to his favorite spot bythe window. Mother, he realized had also been tough on Didee, but not as tough as she wason him. He was the youngest. And this was his age to play, laugh, and have fun. His friendsplayed all day long, why couldn’t he?www.mandhyan.com A World of Clear, Creative and Conscientious Thinkers!
2 Many times he’d contemplated on running away from home. He thought, “A childlike me shouldn’t be burdened so much, a child like me should not have so manyrestrictions.” More than anything, Ravi felt that a child like him should be treated with loveand kindness. Lost in thought, he did not notice when Didee slowly walked up & stood behind him. “What are you thinking about, Ravi?” asked Didee very gently. He’d almost forgottenher presence behind him. He quickly wiped his face, turned around, and met the eyes of hiselder sister. Had she read his mind? Did she know that he wanted to run away? “Oh! Nothing, I was just wondering if I should iron my school clothes now or later”he lied. “Let me iron them for you.” Didee offered gently. “No, I’ll do them myself; Mother might get mad at you for babying me” In the corner of the room he set up the ironing table and brought out his only whiteschool shirt. He turned the iron on very high, sprinkled his shirt with water, and startedpressing the back when he heard sounds of laughter from the street below. He shuffled overto the window and saw his friends playing on the tree. They had lined up on a high branch,taking turns swinging down to the lower branches, and then landing on the ground with abig “Whoopee!” It was an amusing sight, and Ravi’s heart went out the window. His eyeswere glued to the scene below he smelled something burning. Before he could turn around,he suddenly felt someone pinching his ear from behind & drawing him back to reality. It washis mother. “You have burned your only white shirt! How careless can you be? Now you will havenothing to wear to school.” His mother glared at him. “Perhaps it’ll be much better if youstop going to school altogether.” The pressure on Ravi’s ear was killing him, and he could not think of anythingsensible to utter in his defense. The shirt and its ugly brown triangular hole mocked him andtold him he has done something utterly wrong. That night, under the sheets, with tears rolling down his eyes, Ravi could not sleep.He finally made us his mind--tomorrow he will go away forever. He slowly sneaked out of hisbed to pack his best shorts and shirt. From one of the shoeboxes, he pulled out an oldpicture of him & Mother. He put the picture in his shirt pocket.www.mandhyan.com A World of Clear, Creative and Conscientious Thinkers!
3 Next morning he dressed up and walked towards the door. From the kitchen heheard his Mother move about. There was also someone in the bathroom, must be Dad, hethought. His heart was beating fast as he slowly and soundlessly started down the stairs. He was halfway down when he heard his sister call “Where are you going, Ravi?” He froze; his heart almost jumped out of his throat. He looked up, and his eyes metthose of his elder sister. He realized that his sister was surely a mind reader. At that veryinstant, he knew that she knew. He stared at her for a long time, open mouthed, scared,speechless. Her face turned soft, and her eyes seemed to mellow. Tears were welling up inhis eyes, but he blurted out “I’ll, I’ll be back soon!” Then he lunged down the last few stepsand ran out into the street. Shivering & trying to suppress his tears, he had just cleared the first two blocks oftheir neighborhood when he saw a silhouette running towards him. The silhouette advancedwith an awkward gait, moving fast and swaying from left to right. Ravi slowed down and tried to make out the disjointed figure. It was a boy about hisage whose arms and legs were badly twisted, probably from a childhood polio affliction. Theboy came closer and was running towards something behind Ravi. As the boy came closer,Ravi saw a face covered with tears, twisted in pain, crying out loud. It was as if someonehad given him a thrashing and he was running away from that someone. Ravi was shocked, and he stood frozen on the spot. He pondered how someone could have hurt this person when he already seemed tobe suffering so much. How much pain could the boy have suffered to make him want to runand cry the way he was doing right now? How could his own pain and sorrow be anythingcompared to what the boy was probably going through? The boy was crying & running as ifhis life was at stake. And, what a life it must be! Twisted arms & legs, barely covered bytattered, filthy clothes, a dirty face that must have cried many times before. Ravi slowly looked at his own self. His clothes were clean; his legs were strong, notoddly shaped. His arms were healthy and brown. His face, though a bit sore from crying,felt smooth and nice to the touch of his hands.www.mandhyan.com A World of Clear, Creative and Conscientious Thinkers!
4 He walked to edge of the pavement and sat down. He pulled out the picture of himand his mother and stared at it for a long time. In the picture, his mother was holding hishand and smiling down at him with eyes soft and loving. He was looking up at her withearnestness and with a large smile on his face. The picture had been taken the same day that he and his mother had been to seeher doctor several months ago. He remembered only parts of the conversation between hismother and her doctor. The good old Doctor Narayan was describing the after affects of amajor operation to his mother. He was telling her that after such an operation, she may ormay not live. If she lives, she will have to take drugs that can make a person physically andspiritually weak. A person, he was telling her, also tends to become temperamental andundergoes sudden and severe mood changes. Ravi stared at the picture for a long time. Images of the polio-ridden boy runningand crying flashed in his mind. A tender tear rolled down his cheeks and fell upon thepicture. He slowly wiped the picture clean and put it back in his pocket. When he finally stood up, the sky had turned a bright crispy blue and hisneighborhood seemed to take on a pleasant hue. He turned back towards home with hishead held high & his heart feeling much lighter. As he approached their building, he saw thetamarind tree, its branches swinging welcoming him home. Under the tree stood his Mother& Didee. There seemed to be tears in his mother’s eyes. Didee was smiling and sobbing at thesame time. He ran straight into his mother’s arms, and Didee hugged them both frombehind. Back at his window that evening, Ravi realized that he had learned something new. He had learned that the beauty of an open sky must be appreciated from a widerwindow, not a narrow one.www.mandhyan.com A World of Clear, Creative and Conscientious Thinkers!