When the day finally arrived, Kevin and Sarah set aside their commitments for the day and made sure that they took Pia to school and left the school gate only after they made sure that she had got into the Bus and they proceeded for the excursion. Kevin even suggested to his wife the idea of hanging around near the National Park gates for the day, which was refuted by her citing the same valid reasons, which he finally had to agree.
The day seemed longer than ever for Sarah and Kevin who were just waiting for the evening, when Pia would return back from the excursion. Sarah just finished her daily assignments at the kitchen that afternoon, when the telephone bell rang. The ring never bothered Sarah who had been used to these calls since noon from Kevin who had lost track of time and had been calling up from office every hour to enquire whether she had already left for school to collect their daughter.
Sarah felt the earth slip beneath her feet when she heard the voice on the other side inform her that some children on the picnic from Pia’s School had met with an accident. The telephone receiver just dropped from her hand as she sank to the ground. She could hear some feeble sound emanating from the receiver and the person at the other end was trying to communicate with her. But she just could not muster the courage to pick up the phone to listen any further.
By the time Kevin and Sarah reached the National Park gates, there was already a huge commotion there. Many parents had already assembled there.
No one really knew what exactly had transpired but the only information that they could gather was that the school principal and some other teachers were already led in by the park officials and the police personnel.
Kevin and a few other parents tried to persuade and negotiate with the officials at the gate to allow them inside or at least provide them with the exact information. Fearing uproar, the officials gathered into a quick deliberation and it was not long before they decided that it was more prudent to allow them in rather than face the public retaliation.
The students had gathered at a waterfall site for their picnic. The students were playing under the falling waters when suddenly some students were drifted away by the strong current. Though they were supposed to be under the watchful eyes of the teachers, these students had ventured a bit too far and before they realized, they were being swept away. Their cries for help were dimmed in the sound of the people and it was then that Pia and another two of her friends sitting and chatting nearby saw them drowning.
Realising that their dear classmates were in danger, it took not more than a split second for Pia to decide and plunge into the water with her friends following suit. The strong pull of the water current however was much more than Pia and her friends had anticipated and her friends could hardly go any further.
Pia was thanking her dear parents for the hours they used to sit and watch her swimming, encouraging her at every stroke, when they used to take her for swimming classes when she was just five years old. Being an expert swimmer now, soon she was pulling out the students to safety, in the meantime, explaining to them as to how they should be clinging on to the rocks and stay there till they would be rescued.
All of sixteen, her tiny arms and legs could not withstand the pressure for long and she saw her body giving way. She had reached all her friends to safety but she herself was not able to muster enough strength in her body to swim across. She could see the smiling face of her dear parents before she could not even lift her eyebrows and she felt complete darkness all around.
When Pia opened her eyes, she was surrounded by the School Principal and her friends, who were all around. Pia had managed to save all the students and by that time the lifeguards had arrived who could pull Pia out of the beastly waters.
Once inside, the parents were making frantic enquiries at all junctions before they reached the site. Kevin and Sarah were frantically eyeing for a glimpse of their daughter in the crowd when almost with synchronized precision, they both saw Pia sitting with the Principal and the teachers along with a few other students.
Before even they knew, they were near their daughter, running as fast as their legs could carry them. No sooner did Sarah reach her daughter, she was hugging her daughter who was clinging on to her mother and she hardly bothered what Kevin and the other parents were discussing about the incident. For Sarah, the fact that the apple of their eye was safe and sound was more than anything else.
When the School principal saw Kevin and Sarah, she could not contain her emotion. She was folding her arms in submission and thanking them profusely. She briefed the parents as to how Pia had saved the lives of her many friends.
It was a great moment for Kevin and Sarah when they saw Pia’s photograph with the news brief of the previous day’s incident at the school picnic in the morning newspaper. Their chests puffed with pride when they read the news article referring to them not by their names or their positions, but as Pia’s proud parents.
Life was usual as ever for Pia when she left for school the next morning. Once inside the School, she realized the difference when many students were rushing to congratulate her or just have a glimpse of her. The School Assembly announcement about the previous day incident and a brief felicitation by the Principal for Pia was something she had never anticipated.
For Pia it was not anything unusual or extraordinary. She had been taught by her parents that life was worth living only when you live it for others. For her, helping her classmates when they were in trouble was her foremost duty. And she had just did it.
No marks would be awarded to Pia for her deeds and no grades would be given. Her act would be forgotten by the time she passed out of the 10th Standard and it would not be reflected in her report card anywhere. But Pia had achieved much more than that. She had done something no scholar could do, only a simple human could.
A story by Sanjay Thampy, a dad from Carmel of St. Joseph School, Malad West, Mumbai.
I am a Chartered Accountant having my own independent practice in Mumbai. My wife is a teacher and i have two daughters studying in school. I have a passion for writing short stories and articles and love reading whenever time permits.
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