Suhana heard someone calling out to her . She turned back and saw her childhood friend Pakhi who stayed just some buildings away .
‘What’s wrong with you Suhana ? Couldn’t you hear me ?”
“No Pakhi. I ‘m sorry I didn’t hear you .Where are you coming from and what is it in this huge sac that you are carrying ?”
“It is just some rice that I ve purchased ? You pretty well know my mom, isn’t it ? She gives me such odd jobs once in a while. I remember our childhood days ,when your mom once asked you to purchase a kilo of rice. The shopkeeper ,too chided you when you were unable to say chawal (hindi word for rice ). You went on repeating Cha Cha Cha Cha and all present at the shop had a hearty laugh. “
Suhana remained silent. Pakhi continued , “ Now ,is there any improvement or are you the same stammerer Suhana ? You know , I’ve won many elocution competitions and the college had also recommended my name for a debate in Russia where many other countries were participating too. Everything was finalized but I refused.”
Suhana was aware of Pakhi’s boastful nature but she chose to ignore it.
“Why Pakhi ? This was such a wonderful opportunity to showcase your speaking abilities..Why did you let go of it? If I were in your place, I would have accepted it without even a second thought.”
“Well Suhana, you may have accepted but who on earth will take the risk of sending you for such debates. I so well remember that day in school when you were booed by the audience as you could not even start a simple speech, You were stuck up in Dear La La La La . You were unable to pronounce the word ‘Ladies’. It was I who helped you out, don’t you remember that ?”
Suhana was a calm, quiet and reserved type of girl. She would never blow her own trumpet. In fact, she never missed an opportunity to praise others. That particular day in school, which Pakhi was talking about was one of the most miserable days for Suhana. She recollected how she had felt very guilty for having let down her parents, teachers and all her classmates who had helped her train for that speech. Pakhi’s timely help had definitely saved her, but till date, Pakhi never missed an opportunity to remind her of it.
“ Yes, I very well remember that Pakhi. I ‘ll be indebted to you throughout my life for that help of yours. “
“ Oh ,thanks Suhana. By the way, how is your job ? You are working with a computer firm , isn’t it ? Their payscale is not so good. Why don’t you switch over to another company ?”
“Well Pakhi, their payscale may not be up to the mark, but it gives me a lot of experience and job satisfaction and at the end of the day that’s what matters the most, isn’t it ?”
“What exactly is the kind of work you do, Suhana ?”
“I give lectures in seminars and do teaching ,too. Not a big deal, Pakhi but imparting knowledge gives me immense joy. “
“I can’t believe it, Suhana. How do you teach or give those lectures ? Don’t they criticize or chide you for your stuttering? Do they understand what you teach ?’’
Suhana had faced a lot of criticism in her life from friends and so called well wishers of which Pakhi was one of them. But these criticisms were what gave her the strength to always see things in a positive manner and move forward in life. After a pause, she replied,
“You see Pakhi, everyone enjoys my teaching and that’s what keeps me going. I may be a stutterer but students who are really interested in gaining knowledge overlook such petty issues. I’m really lucky to have friends like you who keep on reminding me of my shortcomings. That gives me some more room for improvement. By the way, the debate in Russia which you were talking about was the turning point in my life. The college approached me with that offer which you had declined and I was adjudged as the best speaker. That gave me the much needed confidence and I never looked back after that. Your loss was my gain .So in a way, I should thank you, Pakhi for all that you have done for me. In future ,too, I would always like you to be my critic.”
Pakhi remained speechless. She felt a sense of guiltiness as she had always tried to act superior. She held Suhana’s hand and gave her a tight hug.
“Forgive me, Suhana. Till now, I ve never missed an opportunity to pull you down. But you are a very strong girl and you have proved it. The courage and force with which you rose with your shortcomings was much greater than the force which I used to pull you down. At the end of the day, it’s only the hard work and the sincerity that matters. I’ll always remain indebted to you ,for you have taught me the biggest lesson of my life.”