To The Rescue

3.4 To The Rescue

     Daddy had been transferred to Jabalpur and was to be my first day at the new school. I was reluctant to go because I had no friends there.
     I was still dawdling over breakfast when I heard mother shout, “What’s the matter with you, Anu? You will miss the bus.”
      “Ma, my leg.....”
     “I understand, Anu, your limp makes you self–conscious. But you are the brave girl. I’m sure your classmates will understand.”
     “But, Ma, I don’t know anyone and they might laugh at me. You know how awful I feel when people make fun of me.”
     “I don’t think it’s going to be all that bad. Here’s some Kaju barfi for your classmates. Remember to share it with them. Now run along. Daddy will take you to school.”
     On reaching school, my father took me to the principal’s office. Later, the school peon took me to my class. On the way I noticed some children staring at me and giggling. I was miserable. My limp become more pronounced and I wanted to go home. But, with mother’s words in mind, I managed to walk to the class.
     The teacher was there already. She introduced me to the class and said, “Anuradha, go and sit on that chair in the front row. The girl next you is Mala.”
     “Thank you, Madam,” I said and took my seat. I was happy to get a seat next to Mala. She was good looking and I liked her. A little later when the bell rang for the lunch break, I asked Mala, “Where do you live?”
     Mala did not answer. I thought she had not heard me. I was about to repeat my question when a group of girls gathered round her desk. They were busy talking and Mala was telling them how she had learnt to swim. I moved closer to her and asked, “Do you swim, Mala?”
     “I also swim.”
     “Oh!” She turned to her friends, again ignoring me. I felt insulted. When I reached home that afternoon, mother’s first question was, “How was your day, Anu?”
     I burst into tears and, between sobs, said, ‘I’m not going there again. The girls are not friendly. In the morning some children laughed at me. Nobody spoke to me in the class.”
     Mummy gathered me in her arms. “Now, now, Anu, Don’t cry. Give them a couple of days. Do your work well and be friendly and you’ll see things will work out differently.”
     The next morning after a talk with Mummy, I was ready again. Walking to my class, I noticed nobody had giggled. I felt slightly better.
     The last two periods were for games. Mala and her friends were going to play badminton. I love watching others play. So I asked Mala, “Can I come along too?”
     “What’ll you do there?” Mala said curtly. “You cannot play.”
     “I cannot play, but I can pick up the shuttlecock,” I asserted.
     Mala thought for a second and said, “Not today. We’re going to play a match. May be some other time. Bye, bye.”

She picked up her racket and breezed out. One by one they all left the classroom. I sat there lonely and depressed. I tried to read a book, but my mind was not in it.
     At dinner that evening my father and I were discussing my day at school.
     “How is your games teacher, Anu?”
     “I don’t know. I don’t go for games.”
     “But you are a good swimmer. Why don’t you go swimming during the games period? You’ll enjoy it. I’ll ask your teacher to give you special permission,” said Mummy.
     “That’ll be great. Oh Mummy, will you really?” I jumped with joy.
     The next day I took my swimming kit and Mummy’s letter. As soon as I reached the class, I gave the letter to the teacher. She immediately agreed.
     During the games period everybody went off to play, and, as usual, didn’t bother about me. Felling a little bad, I picked up my swimming kit and left for the pool.
     The sight of water always makes me feel calm and relaxed. I went to the bathroom, took a shower and went and stood near the pool. I noticed bubbles in the water. ‘What could it be?’ I wondered. Then I saw a clump of hair. Two hands were hitting the water wildly. “A girl is drowning,” I shouted looking around. But since I did not see any one, I jumped into the pool to save her. I just about reached her when she went under again. I moved fast and grabbed her hair. But her short hair slipped out of my hand and she disappeared.
     I dived, shot my hand out and grabbed her tunic. Almost simultaneously she seized my hand.
     Soon I found myself being pulled down. I spluttered and shouted “Help! Help!” I kicked my legs as hard as I could. Her tunic slipped out my hand. She too lost her grip and began to drift away.
     I swam after her and grabbed her hair. Then dragging her, I swam towards the side of the pool.
     Reaching the filter vent, I held onto it with my free hand. After regaining my breath I pulled her and held her up against the wall.
     With all the energy left in me I shouted, “Help! Help!”
     Soon I heard voices. “Help!” I shouted again. Two girls came running. Seeing me in the pool one of them asked, “Anuradha, what’s happened?”
     “Help me to get this girl out, please, Mala.” Mala knelt immediately.
     “It’s my sister Kala,” She exclaimed. Sprawling on the ground she stretched her hands and tried to pull Kala up. But she could not. I couldn’t help either because Kala was too heavy for me. Mala shouted to her friend, “Neela, give me a hand, quick!”
     Mala and Neela together pulled Kala out and laid her on the ground.
     “Run, get the doctor, Neela. Hurry!” cried Mala.
 As soon as I scrambled out of the pool, Mala looked at me accusingly. “Why did you push Kala in?” she demanded.
     Her words hurt me. “I did not push her. She was drowning when I came,” I said curtly.
     Soon the doctor came. She gave Kala first-aid and wrapped her in blanket. After some time Kala opened her eyes. By this time the principal had also joined us. A peon brought a glass of hot milk for Kala.
     The Principal then turned to me, “Anuradha, what happened?”
     “I came to the pool to swim, ma'am and found Kala drowning.”
     “But, madam!..”. Before Mala could finish what she wanted to say, Kala still dazedtugged at the Principal’s saree. Pointing at me she said weakly, “Madam! This girl saved me.”
     The Principal patted me and said, “That was very brave of you. Go and change your cloths, dear. Otherwise you will catch a cold.”
     After I had changed, I came and sat down near Kala. My legs were aching and I was massaging them.
     Soon Mala came to me. “You must be tired. Let me help you,” she said began to massage my leg. “Are you feeling better now?”
     “I’m all right and I can see that Kala is feeling better too,” I said.
     “She would have drowned but for you,” said Mala. We all walked home together.
Prabha Chandrashekhar