November 04, 2004

SUNSHINE THROUGH SHADOWS…

~a story by Sandhya Ramachandran

It was an autumn morning. The sun slowly spread its golden beams to herald yet another dawn. The birds chirped away in the sweet ecstasy of dayspring. The air ripened in the aroma of pines and maples. Drenched in this play of light and smells stood ‘Orchis’- the stately home of the Sealanders.
The cobbled path to ‘Orchis’ was adorned with maple leaves of the ‘reddest’ of hues. A tiny iron gate opened from the back of ‘Orchis’ to reveal a stretch of pine trees, which formed an archway.
Draped in faint yellow paint, ‘Orchis’ stood majestically and yet had such a welcome air about it. Its cobbled path was worn out and its huge gates were forever wide open- as open as the hearts of its inmates.
Bryan Sealander was the proud owner of Orchis. The son of a postman, he underwent many a trials before becoming what he was now- a renowned business tycoon and that too at the age of forty-two!
He had a dear little lady for a wife- Cynthia Sealander. Her light brown eyes revealed her soft, patient and loving nature. The poor were always welcome into her home and she helped more than she talked.
Then… There was also Craig, their only son… Presently studying in a good college. He would do anything for everyone’s joy. Totally selfless, he was a ‘hit’ amongst his friends and teachers and totally devoted to his parents. Adventurous, playful and yet caring and concerned- that summed up the lanky handsome teenager.
Suppertime at ‘Orchis’ was a pleasant affair. The three Sealanders and all the housekeepers discussed what Southey called ‘the days that are no more’. And today was no different.
The cook was complaining about ‘that pesky cat that keeps loitering in the kitchen’. The gardener needed a rake. But there was something absent or… someone rather! Craig was not there!
‘Cynthia, where is Craig?,’ enquired Mr.Sealander.
‘Must be in his room. I’ll go get him,’ replied Mrs.Sealander and rose to go.
‘No wait! Let me go,’ he said.
He got up and went towards Craig’s room. The door was open and he could hear Craig speak over the telephone, ‘No… Mark! It won’t do. It just won’t! Listen, I need at least two more phials. The amount of cocaine you gave last time was not enough have just one phial left now. Ok Mark…Yeah…’ He paused and then continued, ‘No… money won’t be a problem! Tomorrow? Fine! See ya!’. And he hung up. He turned around and found his father looking intently at him.
‘Oh… Hello Dad! Had to attend a call. I am coming right away!,’ Craig tried to cover up.
‘Give me the phial!,’ Mr.Sealander said firmly.
Craig appeared to look puzzled. ‘What…phial dad?,’ he asked.
‘Cocaine…’
‘No Dad, I don’t…,’ Craig protested.
‘I heard you Craig. Give it!’
‘Dad, no… I won’t do it again dad…Sorry!’
‘Give it! Now!,’ Mr.Sealander was firm.
Craig took out the phial of cocaine from his draw and gave it to Mr.Sealander. Mr.Sealander threw the bottle out of the window. It broke into a million pieces.
‘Craig, come for your supper now. After upper you and I are going for a walk. Is that clear?,’ asked Mr.Sealander very composedly.
‘Ye…s Dad,’ replied Craig.
They had their supper and everybody else ate their supper in total oblivion of what had happened between Craig and Mr.Sealander.
‘Craig, come with me. I want to show you something. Let’s go for a walk,’ said Mr.Sealander.
They set off through the little gate into the shadow of the pines. The smell of the pines was wafting in the air and yet that drench of beauty was to stand testimony to a scene of confrontation! It was a disgusting moment… a moment which nobody likes to face for fear to look at the ‘real us’! The ‘us’ that others perceive, the one so full of all the bad things the world has! But now Craig had his moment. He was jittery and really tensed but nothing could be done about it. ‘Oh! How awkward and depressing,’ he felt.
There was a silence in the air only to be troubled by the soft rustling of leaves or the distant call of the nightingale. And suddenly Mr.Sealander began,
‘It’s long since I told you a story. Right, Craig? Almost five years! Well, I guess it is time now. I am going to tell you the story of a boy almost your age. Well, let me call him… Mike Fillmore. Mike was an orphan. His mother had died during his birth and his father when he was stepping into his teens. He had only an old grandmother to call his own.
Mike was a popular boy. Too popular, in fact. He hogged the limelight. He was everybody’s pet and a nice down-to-earth boy. Mike had many friends. His closest was a… well Lynda Marwick. Lynda and Mike were to be married as soon as college got over. Lynda was beautiful, good and loving and Mike adored her.
Mike had another friend- Jim. Jim was rash and adventurous and Lynda hated him. But that didn’t stop Mike from being chums with Jim. He personally found Jim a ‘great guy to be with’.
It was their last year in college. It was one of those evenings when Mike and Jim hung out with Jim’s friends. There was one amongst Jim’s friends who was daring Jim to do something.
‘Hey chap; you just can’t do it, huh? Yeah, you can’t and won’t! I dare you to do it, but I know you won’t!,’ he said and laughed aloud.
‘What weird ideas that swollen head of yours has! I tell you I’ll do it!,’ said Jim.
‘Inject this! It’s heroin! Try it. Bet you can’t!,’ he said and laughed again.
‘He… roin?,’ gulped Jim.
‘Said you can’t kid? Knew you’d be afraid,’ he teased.
‘I will take it. Give it to me,’ Jim mustered courage and said.
‘Jim no…Don’t,’ gasped Mike.
‘Hey you! Mind your business. Just because you don’t have enough guts, don’t try to stop him. You… are a spineless fool! Get away. I bet you’d never try,’ Jim’s friend tempted Mike.
Mike was quiet.
‘Look at the dog. It is lying down and low. No bark to call it’s own. Oh dear! How so soft of our dear Popular Mikey! Dear Mike! Sweet Mike! Doesn’t have guts! No Courage! Poor poor Mikey!,’ the friends jeered and laughed.
‘Mike1 Let’s do it! It’s just once and it will shut them up,’ said Jim.
‘Yes… Let us,’ gave in Mike.
And that… was just the beginning. The poor kids did not know the habit was ‘catching’. Once your resistance to temptation fails, it fails once again and so on. It continued… the habit. ‘Just this once’, ‘One Last Time’ and Mike was ‘hooked’ or ‘addicted’, you could say! He grew weak.
One day as Lynda was passing by the games room, she heard Jim telling one of his friends, ‘Mike the popular! Huh? We succeeded in our little plot to trap that guy! Now he too is one of our best clients! Next is that Crawford thing! Soon we’ll be BIG time dealers! ‘The Heroin Heroes’- we’d be! Hey, that’s cool man!’
Lynda was drenched in a cold sweat. Her Mike had let her down terribly! She ran in an effort to save him before he was so totally lost! She ran like she had never in her life had- dashing into people, not bothering to apologise and running again. The Marwick sense in her wanted her to stop… stop her dear Mike from falling prey to the trap any more. But her inherent pride also wanted her to stop… to stop from reaching out to a weak, mean creature who had so far lived an illusionary life of hollow ideals and who had no mind to call his own! But her love for him overcame these thoughts. She wanted to help HER Mike. She ran… tears streaming down her soft pink cheeks.
And there… near the library, he was standing as if all was normal!
‘Mike…Could you… come he... re for… just a moment?,’ stammered Lynda. They went to a secluded corner.
‘What’s the matter, Lynda dear?,’ Mike asked full of concern to see her so upset and disturbed.
‘Mike… why did you do this?,’ she cried.
‘Do what?’
‘D…drugs!’
‘Ly…Lynda. How did you…?’
‘You’ve let me down terribly, Mike. Let all of us down. You have no heart? No mind? Don’t you ever think? Why didn’t you think of all of us, Mike? Why didn’t you think of ME? The whole college believes you are a fine, young lad- dependable and strong but… oh you are a weak-minded, corrupted, directionless fool. Oh…how I hate you!,’ she cried.
‘Lynda… look… I didn’t know! Didn’t think this way! I’m sorry. Really sorry. I never. Never Thought, Lynda. No I won’t do it again. Lynda look at me. Please Lynda, forgive me! Oh Lynda please!’, he pleaded hysterically.
The next day one could hear police sirens screaming in the college. Two police jeeps screeched to a halt within its gates. The college Principal came out to have a look. The whole college was out in the open.
‘Edward Miller- Special Agent, Drugs Control Squad, FBI,’ one tall imposing policeman announced.
‘Neil Mason- Principal. What can I do for you, sir?’
‘Mike Fillmore of your college has informed that he has been a drug addict supplied with drugs by Jim Taylor, Jack Hill and Roger Ludwig and well… there are more!’
‘What? Mike! Mike Fillmore- a drug addict? Sorry inspector, but there must be some mistake somewhere…I can’t believe HE did such a thing…’ Neil Mason tried to explain.
‘No Mr. Mason. No doubts whatsoever! It is a fact he himself consents. He is here. I would like to arrest the rest,’ Mr. Edward informed.
Mike came out of the police van. Lynda was crying. The whole college was looking at him with contempt.
‘Mike. You…? Mike, the popular, responsible and good? You have stooped so low? My god! And you Jim, Jack and Roger- why have you been so mean and horrible? You have betrayed the trust we all had on you.’ Mr. Mason was dejected. ‘Take them away,’ he said.
‘Mike. Don’t worry. You will be tried for having been quiet about this for so long. You haven’t committed any crime. So they will let you off lightly. Father said he would arrange for a lawyer. Just remember your promise- don’t touch that wretched thing again. I am always there for you, Mike. Always!’ Lynda comforted.
‘Yes, Lynda. I promise,’ replied Mike- a mist of tears clouding his eyes.
It was long- the trial. The jury decided for Mike- a year’s imprisonment for ‘not having reported the drug suppliers in the college before and indirectly helping others become addicted to drugs’ and suggested rehabilitation. Jim, Jack, Roger and others were dealt with severely as they were found to have spread this not only within their campus but outside too. A huge Drug ring was busted.
Mike lost his friends. His grandmother and Lynda were the only support he had. Lynda and her family stood through all the trying times. His whole college including his teachers shunned him. It took him a year to get rid of heroin. Two years of his youth and a million happiness was lost to the menacing drug.
He never gave up his fight against drugs and his strength revived. In the meantime, his grandmother passed away, but only after seeing her grandson become the same man he had been two years back.
He worked very hard to catch up with the one year of education he had lost. Day and night he studied. He applied for the scholarship offered by the government for pursuing studies abroad and he got it. He went abroad, studied hard and returned a totally new Mike. One- adept in business, confident in his actions, strong and tough in the mind, faithful and helpful to all! He married his dear Lynda. He worked hard to establish a business empire and proved to the world that he has the strength of mind to emerge unscathed from his pitfalls.
The very world that jeered at him, mocked at him and isolated him from its affairs, now welcomed, lauded and supported him. He won back everybody’s faith. He was the star again. But it was a painful comeback for Mike. He had lost so much in his lane to victory. His grandmother was not there to see him at the top of the world again. He only had Lynda for comfort. He never looked back without regret but he converted that very regret into a reminder- a reminder to never stoop, to never bend to lift the dust laden! He wished he had had a life that did not have any incident that would stand out as a dark gash, a deep wound and a scar that would remain to haunt him. Nevertheless the cut was there and so was the permanent pain. He had learnt a lesson and in a very hard way too. But well… who doesn’t learn it that way! Mike rose high and is now as famous as he ever was… maybe more! He is successful and happy and is presently walking in his pine grove with his dear son who has repeated his father’s mistake!,’ ended Mr.Sealander.
‘Dad! You… were Mike? I don’t believe it! Mom was Lynda? God! You have suffered a hell lot!,’ exclaimed Craig with utmost surprise and he shuddered.
‘Do you want to loose all that you’ve got? Do you want to be trampled upon by those scheming ‘friends’ of yours? Think, son! In everybody’s life a time comes when one has two roads to choose from. Both look the same and one feels what waits in the end is happiness and joy either way!
But we are deceived! One way leads us to where the Evil Doer resides and the way, though it might appear blooming, has a million thorns hidden! The air seems fresh when we enter. It is so because not many have chosen that path! There are evil vines in the middle in which, once we get entangled, it is too hard to ever go back. I took this road but realizing my folly, turned back before being caught by the vines!
The other road looks thorny but they are the flowers in disguise- to fool you, test you and see if you are made of the stuff that this road demands you to have! The air might smell stale. It is stale because many great people have traversed the path. Millions have thronged its lanes. Each step springs out a surprise. Each moment lands you in a heap of treasures. There are thorns strewn in between but they are only to challenge you for a battle to prove your might. This road is not as thorny as the other! And it is this road that I want YOU to take my son! I took this road once I turned back from the other repenting my mistake and I’ve been in this lane of joy ever since. So have all others you know- my grandmother, your mother, why… even the gardener and the cook! So should you! Will you my son?,’ asked Mr.Sealander.
‘Yes dad! I WILL!,’ replied Craig and he meant it.
And on walked the father and son, with their arms interlinked and talking so gaily that their past was buried and all that lay was that elusive part of time, christened Future that had loads in store- loads of good. And… a pinch of bad and that made her spicy and nice. This they knew and with eyes abrim with hope, the two walked on…

1 comment

Ravi said...

Hit upon this when searching the web!
Very nice story.. expected a story from Chennai, but how come the setting is foreign? Are we all more aware of foreign settings and situations than our own, for writing a story?

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