Pebble On The Beach
There was once a man named Satya. He was gentle, kind and honest. The motto of his life was to spread happiness.
Now Devil, sitting in Hell, really hated him. Why? Well, the answer is simple. Satya was exactly the opposite of what Devil stood for. Devil symbolized Evil. Satya epitomized Good. Devil's ambition was to strengthen the forces of hatred while Satya worked to harness the power of love. While Devil's aim was to undermine God, Satya's goal was to spread His message.
Suddenly, one day Satya died. His soul moved towards Heaven. Devil who had been watching the developments on the earth swooped down and picked up Satya's soul.
"You will suffer for being so noble," he said. "In a few days, you will forget about being good and start following my evil ways." Devil had a wicked grin on his mean face. "You are mistaken," said Satya's soul. "Nothing will make me stray from my path whatever you do or wherever you throw me."
"All right, we shall see about that," Devil fumed. He then thought for a moment and spat out, "I will turn you into a pebble and throw you on a beach. You will be stepped upon and kicked around, day and night. That will teach you a lesson for being good. It will make you forget your precious God and his goody-goody ways."
Devil lowered his head and mumbled a few words. The next moment, Satya found himself on a beach.
�k -k -k
It was late evening. Twelve-year-old Debu was walking along the beach with his basket of groundnuts when somebody beckoned him. Three young men clad in jeans and T-shirts were sitting on a mat having a picnic.
One of them yelled, "Hey, you! Give us some groundnuts."
Debu happily walked up to the men and measuring five cupfuls in a packet, gave it to the fellow who had shouted.
The young man put a few in his mouth and started munching. He nodded, "Quite tasty." He then looked at Debu. "Why are you hanging around? Get lost!"
"My money, saab," Debu said boldly.
"Money? What money?" the man asked, looking at his friends in mock surprise.
"Money for the groundnuts, saab. Five rupees."
"You rascal, how dare you ask me, Joe Mathai, for money?
Do you want a whack on your silly head?"
"Saab, I am only asking what you owe me."
"Don't you know me, boy? I am the Police Commissioner's son. How dare you ask me for money?"
Debu was not a fellow who could be bullied easily. "I will not move till I get my money."
Joe stood up.
"You stupid scoundrel! You are arguing with Joe Mathai. Wait, I will give you your five rupees," Joe slapped Debu hard sending him flying in one direction and his basket in the other. As Debu scampered to pick up the basket, there were peals of laughter. The groundnuts were now lying scattered on the sand.
Debu was seething with rage. He walked away and sat under a palm tree. That part of the beach was quite lonely. Apart from Joe and his howling gang no one else was there. To his right, partially hidden by the trees, was a grey- coloured car. As he watched, he saw one of Joe's friends walk up to the car, unlock it and take some eats from the car and run back to the group.
Suddenly an idea came to Debu's mind. He decided he would smash the windshield of the car and run. It would serve the great Joe right. He waited till Joe's friend had settled down.
Debu got up from where he was sitting. He looked around.
He saw a pebble. It was oval in shape and just the right size. He picked it up. It was sparkling white and silky smooth to his touch. He placed it against his cheek. It felt as cool and gentle as his mother's loving hand on his forehead when he slept. Debu felt all his anger and frustration ebb away.
A few moments later, he noticed a movement near the car. Someone was crouched near the door. The man got up slowly and moved forward keeping himself hidden behind the trees. As Debu neared the car and peeped from behind a tree, he saw a figure, tinkering with the lock of the car. Debu hesitated for a second and then took a decision. He put the pebble in his pocket and then slipped
away without making a sound. He ran as fast as he could, straight to the place where Joe and his friends were still busy chatting.
"Joe saab! Joe saab!" panted Debu.
Joe looked up irritated. "You! You have not had enough?" bellowed Joe getting to his feet to thrash him once more.
"Please listen, saab. A thief is trying to fiddle with the lock of your car and..."
"What! Oh, no! come on," Joe said jumping up and setting off immediately, followed by the other three.
Joe and his friends made such a racket that the thief was startled. When he saw them racing towards him, he fled, disappearing from the sight in seconds.
Joe was the first to reach the car. He scanned the interior.
"Thank God! Nothing is missing. The stereo is a brand new one. It cost me almost thirty thousand rupees. My Dad would have skinned me alive."
Joe turned towards Debu. "Hey, thanks. After what I did to you, anyone else in your place would have helped the thief rather than rush back to inform me."
He removed his wallet and took out a five hundred rupee note. "Here, take this."
Debu shook his head. "No, saab. Only Rs. 255."
"Rs. 255?" Joe asked puzzled.
"Rs. 250 for the groundnuts which you spilled and Rs. 5 for the ones you ate."
Joe patted him on his back and handed him the money.
"You are a very honest fellow."
As Debu turned to go, Joe asked him, "By the way, what is your name, boy?"
"Debu Maharana," he said shyly.
"Where do you stay?" Joe Mathai asked.
"In Nayabasti, saab."
"Okay, come with me. I will drop you home." Joe was
eager to do something for Debu.
Joe parked the car in the garage and looked at his watch. It was past midnight.
'I hope Dad is not awake,' Joe thought to himself.
As he got out of the car, he saw something shining on the front seat. He picked it up. It was the pebble, white in colour, oval in shape and very smooth to touch.
That kid must have dropped it. It is cool,' he said to himself as he held it in his hand and walked out. He felt a sudden surge of happiness and a feeling of contentment coursing through his body.
He unlocked the door of his house and went in. It was dark. As he tiptoed his way to his room, the lights came on suddenly and he found himself staring right into the eyes of his father, James Samuel Mathai. He was a tall man with broad shoulders. He had a thick moustache and a gruff voice.
"Is this the time for a civilized young man to return home?" he thundered, his face turning red with anger.
Joe was not scared of his father. He considered him a pompous fool. Normally, Joe would have reacted in as insolent a manner as possible. And soon there would have been a big fight ending with Joe's mother coming in between them and crying her heart out. But today Joe felt different. He felt a deep sense of guilt and shame.
"I am really sorry, Dad," Joe found himself telling. "It...it will never ever happen again." He looked at his father and seeing the surprised look on his face continued, "I mean it, Dad. I swear. I have decided to mend my ways. I will give up all my bad habits. I will turn a new leaf, Dad!"
Joe then told his Dad about Debu.
"A child growing up in a slum is exposed to the worst crimes imaginable," Joe explained. "Yet, Debu exhibited such ideal values today. Isn't it a lesson to people like me who come from educated and cultured families? Should we not try to rise above the level of animals?"
For a couple of minutes, James Samuel Mathai just stared at his son, unable to believe his eyes. Then reaching out he grabbed Joe and enveloped him in a bear hug. "Joe, my child, I am so happy that you have decided to change...I...I love you, son," James said, his eyes wet.
"I love you too, Dad." Joe's voice was choked as he felt his father's tears.
-k -k -k
Devil who was watching all this, suspended between Hell and Heaven, was furious.
"At this rate this goody-goody fool is going to turn everybody into honest and God-fearing specimens. I better despatch him straight to Hell before he does more damage," Devil mumbled and then paused, scratching his head. "Wait, that fellow is such a good man he might even turn Hell into Heaven. I think I will get him up here and then send him packing to his lord and master, Mr. God himself.
Devil mumbled something under his breath and the pebble came hurtling at him. He caught it in his hand and opening his palm looked at it.
It was really a beautiful pebble-cool, smooth and pearly white. All of a sudden, Devil felt a strange sensation, a kind of peace he had never experienced before.
"Why should I despatch it to Heaven? I will send it to Hell. All the people in the Hell will turn good. Then I will go and make friends with God. He is quite a nice fellow... I wonder, why should I keep picking up fights with him...!"