Read Part I before going any further.
Some propositions have rankled mind all night without any hope of being answered.
When Ray woke up the following morning, the day light was already getting brighter by the minute. He was getting late for his school. It was the last year of high school before stepping out into the world of colleges and universities. The pressure of the academic year was directly proportional to the weight of their school bags. The bags looked like huge gunny sacks clinging on to their skinny backs and they walk with a bent spine as if the weight pushed them further. As Ray got ready for his school, he remembered that he had to show his report card at home. He let out a silent groan. He consciously tried to look normal and was afraid his dad might read the tension in his face. He had failed in four subjects and his teacher had specifically asked him to get his father’s signature on the report card. It was a common practice in his school to get the signature of the parents on the report card before submitting it back at school. And it was the last day to return the report card at school. He gave a stealthy glance at his father to judge his mood before venturing to show his card. His father was a busy man with little time for trivialities. His balding head and small reading glasses gave him a look of an intelligent college professor but he was a hard headed businessman who counts his money every night before sleeping.
Ray took the report card and slide it into between a long textbook and ventured out of his room cautiously, carrying the textbook almost carelessly. “You are late.” his father declared without even looking up. The voice itself shook the little confidence inside Ray and he just managed to mutter “yes... yes...” before picking up an empty bottle and started filling it up with water. As the water from the filter started filling up his bottle slowly, he gave another quick glance at his father. His father was immersed in his newspaper. Ray couldn’t muster enough confidence and silently went back to his room. Wearing the heavy bag to his back, he waved a silent bye to his mother and started walking towards the door. His father was sitting right outside the door on a plastic chair with a coffee cup and a newspaper. Looking at his father, he thought of his teacher at school. Either way, he was trapped. If he didn’t take his father’s signature, his teacher would punish him or worse he might call his parents to school. If he showed the card, his father would beat him up mercilessly. He cursed himself for not studying during exams. As he stood thinking, he didn’t realize he was standing at the door with a quizzed look on his face as if some insect had gone right through his ears and fiddling with his brain inside. “What’s wrong?“ his father thundered in a booming voice.
Ray shuddered and came back from his vague thoughts but he didn’t say anything.
“What?... Tell me.” He repeated, slowly folding the newspaper and put it aside. His voice wasn’t gruff and it wasn’t smooth either. It had a tinge of irritation as if Ray had disturbed his peaceful morning by standing at the door.
“Nothing... I was just thinking if I forgot anything.”Ray said very fast, gulping a few words in his nervousness. “Do you remember anything at all?” his father taunted and opened his newspaper again dismissing him figuratively.
“Dad...”Ray said slowly in a whisper. His father didn’t react or look up from his paper. He mustered all his courage, took a long breath and said “Dad...”a bit more loudly.
“You won’t get any more pocket money, Ray. Go to school. You are late already.” His father said in a monotone which had finality in it. If he had looked up from his paper, he would have noticed how red his son’s ears have become. Ray walked away furiously. By the time he was out on the road, he was shaking with rage and his eyes sparkled because of the tears.
School was a different world. The world of friends seemed lot brighter than the world of discipline and studies. Ray walked into the huge gates of his school. They were open just a slight ajar and would have been completely closed when the clock stroked eight. As he entered his classroom, he saw Sid was already inside and was sitting on the bench with a group. Saber was sitting on a chair with his feet on the bench as if he had no care for anything in life. Ray gave a grim smile to them and threw his bag near his seat. His shoulders felt relieved and his shirt was already sweaty.
“Did you get your report card signed?”Ray asked immediately. Sid gave an impish grin and nodded. Saber gave back a blighted look and said,-“What’s in a signature mate.” philosophically.
“Cut the crap, man. Did you? I am screwed royally. I didn’t even show it to my dad.” Ray said with a worrying look on his face.
Saber shifted his legs on the bench and grinned broadly. Sid left the group he was with and joined them. He had a poetic look on his face and was smiling viciously much to the chagrin of Ray.
“You guys are lucky. Presumably, I am sure you got your report card signed too.” He winced which sounded like a groan. “ Well, yes. I have it signed. So?” Saber replied dismissively.
“So? So you are a lucky imbecile.” He said with feigned admiration. Sid put his hand around him and said “I guess Saby baby got some philosophy brewing in his head for your outburst.” Sid’s poetic look didn’t leave him yet and Ray was sure, in due course his over exhilaration would be getting on his nerves. Saber laughed aloud at his remark and said in a jovial voice-“As I said, what’s in a signature mate? “
Ray got his scorned look back in full action and retorted back-“Ha! You got your card signed. You will say anything...”
Saber smiled and said in a monotonous tone-“That’s true. But I don’t see a point. You love chocolate. You really love dark chocolate. Someone gives you a huge bar of chocolate and says, it’s all yours. You don’t have to share it with anyone. It’s completely yours to flaunt it, save it, see and own it. But that someone forbids you to eat it. You can only hold it. How excited will you be to have that chocolate, mate?”
Ray blinked at him and unconsciously led his left hand behind his head and his fingers dug into his hair, scratching away the puzzled philosophy. With an incredulous look, Ray looked at Sid who started laughing uncontrollably. “That’s our Saby baby!” He muttered amidst stifling laughs. Laughter is one of those infectious diseases which can spread very easily even in dire straits. The three of them began to laugh together, when they heard a huge bang. The bang jolted everyone in the classroom. The boys shivered at the sound. It was their class teacher who had announced his arrival by banging his hand to the door. The classroom fell silent and everybody scrambled to their seats immediately. In matter of those few seconds, the change which the room had undergone, defines school life.
The class teacher was definitely not a benevolent man. He was an intelligent teacher but impulsive. Not many students dare taking on him during his class. They know, he doesn’t think twice before slapping any student very hard if found in the wrong. He was a stout man and looked very much like a man with little regards to his body shape. He quickly settled down and after the initial ‘who is present and who is not’ routines, he began calling them one by one and started checking their report cards.
“I am a goner.” Ray whispered with a dread. Ray could feel his heartbeat, twiddling with his nerves and letting out a fresh sheen of sweat and dread. “I should have told my dad... Damn man. I am such a fool...”he lamented in a gurgling voice.
“Silence!“ The teacher let out a huge shout, without lifting his head from the report cards he has been looking at.
Ray fell silent and gave a cautious glance to Saber. Saber beckoned at him to take his report card out and Ray promptly took it out. Saber looked at the card with fixated look which slowly turned into a knowing smile. Ray had failed in four subjects and merely just passed in two others. Twiddling his pen in his fingers, he looked at the card with concentration. Ray looked at him and mouthed “what?” without it saying it loud. Then, in a flash, Saber scribbled on the card furiously and pushed it across to Ray. Ray just couldn’t believe his eyes. He was looking at card with an incredulous look and his heartbeat had increased its speed to few more knots. Saber had forged his father’s signature and he had done it easily.
When the teacher called out his name, he was already a nervous wreck. Amidst the entire din in the classroom, he was sure the teacher would be able to hear his pounding heart or read his nervous creases on his forehead. He felt naked as he walked towards him and handed over the report card. The teacher peered into the card with sharp eyes and said “So... What are your plans? Are you going to fail in your finals too?”with a taunting and jeering voice. “This is pathetic, Ray. You fail in all your exams.” he continued in the same jeering but commanding voice. Ray just stood like statue and looked at the floor. “What did your parents’ say about your performance?” The teacher asked enquiringly. “Nothing...”he muttered with his eyes never leaving the ground. He started observing the designs on the marble in his deplorable state. “Nothing? So happy! Isn’t it?” The teacher made another passing remark and continued-“Anyways, Did you get the card signed by them?”he asked and glanced back at the card.
“ Yes...yes. That’s my dad’s signature only.” Ray blurted out. On hearing the last word, the teacher lifted his head and sat straight with his back completely on the chair behind him. He put both his hands to the back of his head and gave a grim smile. That smile had twenty years of teaching experience behind it.
“Boy, I am sure it is. But he didn’t do it properly. Let’s call him to school and ask him to do it properly. Shall we?”
The final piece-Part III is on its way...