Chhotu

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“Hello… Is this Mrs Makhija? I am Sister Carol the Principal of Mount Carmel International School, This is regarding Rahul, Can you come to school tomorrow? It would be great if you could get Mr. Makhija as well. It is better we speak in person”

“Rahul what are you up to? Why has the Principal called? Did you do some masti? Why don’t you answer me? I can’t stand this house. Don’t become like your father.” Not a word from little Rahul.

Things were not OK off late in the Makhija house hold, Akhil and Anushka were going through a troubled marriage, The tiffs started with finances or the lack of it, Debts, Akhil being away most of the time, alcohol, one leading to another.The secretary had sent a notice on behalf of the housing society about the noise in their house. The entire building avoided the Makhijas.

At the school…

“Mrs Makhija where is Mr. Makhija?” Anushka let that pass… “Is everything OK at home Mrs. Makhija? We have seen a sudden change in Rahul’s behavior off late. Last year he was one of the most energetic students in the entire class. In the last 3 months all teachers have noticed that Rahul has suddenly stopped talking. He always seems preoccupied with some thought. How is his behavior at home?” Anushka took a gulp, her face became red, eyes clouded & exactly two droplets rolled down her cheeks, as if they had somehow just sneaked through a big barrier, “Can I have a glass of water? Sister there have been some issues at home, I never realised they have started affecting my child.” The Principal said “Mrs. Makhija, the resident psychologist of the school has told me Rahul is showing signs of clinical depression. I suggest you discuss this at home and meet a counsellor.”

On the way home no one spoke a word.
As usual Akhil came home in an inebriated state, and as was the custom of the house another big fight ensued, the decibel levels went up, crockery broke, the TV was having a tough time with the things hurled at it. The word Divorce came up for the first time in today’s argument. Rahul did what he knew best he turned the volume up, saw his cartoon and pretended everything was fine.

Nothing changed…

One month passed.

“Hello is this Mrs Makhija? I am sister Carol the Principal, Could you please come to the School tomorrow? Let’s discuss in person.”

Sister Carol was beaming, “Pls have a seat Mrs Makhija, What transformation!!! Rahul is back to his energetic best, his class participation has gone up, How did you do this? after our discussion, did you meet a counsellor?” Anushka was stunned.
“No miss I don’t know. We didn’t do…Also I noticed he is coming home late…”

The silence… Palpable.

“Mrs Makhija, I don’t know what Rahul is up to in that case, with my experience it could be two things. A. He has found a way to reconcile with the issues at home. B. This is another symptom of clinical depression, we must meet a psychologist. I suggest you don’t confront Rahul and observe him when he is alone, Does he go home by himself? Yes. OK. Just observe him in that case. Don’t let him know you are watching.”

Anushka stood diagonally opposite the school and observed Rahul as he got out from School. He was running, cracking jokes, an absolute departure from his self at home, like Jekyl n Hyde, two different personalities. He was however not taking the usual route home, He walked and stood by an old woman sitting by the Street selling Vegetables, both of them were talking like they knew each other for long. Rahul was speaking in chaste Marathi. When did he learn Marathi? Then she saw something that could not be explained. Rahul went and cuddled a small puppy, gave it food, caressed it, started talking to it. ” Chotu aaj pata hai kya hua, aaj class me running competition tha, main 1st aaya, teacher boli main class ka best student hu, tera din kaisa gaya? Aaji ko tang nahi kiya na, nahaya kya? Kya khaaya aaj? He went on an on…while saying this he kept rubbing the puppy’s temple. The puppy kept listening and kept stealing glances..

Anushka could not stop herself and went to the woman as Rahul went a little far with the puppy, she bought some vegetables and generally asked “Ye ladka koun hai? Aap pehchante hai use?” The old lady: ” Arre ha Rahul ahe khoop changla porga, tya divshi mi rastyat padli, are vay zhaalena.. Hya porrane mala paani paazhle, tya diwsapasun roz bhetto mala, dev rakhel hyaala(translated: He is Rahul, That day I had a stroke and fell on the ground, I am getting old you see, he came and gave me water, from that say we are friends, may god bless him)

“Aur ye kutta kiska hai ???” Anuskha queried. “Kutra naahi majha porga aahe, Chhotu mhanto aamhi tyaala, Are eka divshi ek gaadichya khaali yenaar hota to, Rahul la sapadla maajhya kade gheun aala, mala bolla aaji Chhotula tu aaplya ghari thevsheel??? Maajhe aai baba aiknar naahit. Mee bolle are mhaateerichya barobar aahe tari kon? Leka sarkha aahe na to. Bas tya divsanantar chalu aahe aamchi rojchi maja. Mhatareeche janu 2 por, 1 Rahul ani 1 Chhotu. Tu kashala vichartes??”.(Translated: He is not a Dog, he is like my son, His name is Chhotu, One day he almost came under a car, Rahul brought him and asked me whether I will keep him? He said his parents won’t keep him? I said fine anyways I have no one. from that day on we are having a blast, I have 2 children Rahul and Chhotu. Why are you asking?) Anushka didn’t say anything and went home before Rahul could look back.

On the way back Anushka called Akhil and narrated the entire episode. There was an eerie silence after she narrated the entire story. Then she asked Akhil.” Akhil where did we go wrong? Are we bad parents? What did Puppy and that old woman give Rahul that we couldn’t. After a pause Akhil replied….             “They listened to him”

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