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Aparna Subramanian

Inspirational Tragedy


Aparna Subramanian

Inspirational Tragedy

Guru Dakshina: A Gift Of Life

Guru Dakshina: A Gift Of Life

8 mins 18K 8 mins 18K

Thirteen-year-old Resham Khan entered the premises of Victoria High School in San Francisco California. She was shivering with excitement. It was her first day at school. Some of the students looked at her with pure hatred and contempt. She was wearing her traditional dress with the headscarf. Others gave her a scornful look and moved away. She managed to find her way to the class. She was in eighth grade. Ms. Emily Parker was her class teacher. She taught English to the class. Resham cleared her throat to announce her arrival. "May I come in, teacher?" asked Resham in her most polite voice. The entire class giggled at her Indian accent. They had always called their teacher as Ms. Parker. Emily loathed her from the moment she saw her. She hated Muslims as she thought that they unleashed terror and violence. She asked her to enter the class. Resham sat next to an Afro-American girl Julie Lawson. The teacher asked Julie to help her. They exchanged smiles and introduced themselves.

Julie said," Welcome to the land of racial prejudice. Don't worry if these people ignore you. It is a blessing in disguise as long as they don't assault you. I have got used to their snide remarks on my colour and my nationality. I am from Kenya. My parents moved here four years ago in search of greener pastures. What about you?" Resham replied," My father Ashraf Khan is a project manager at Aneja Group of companies. He has been assigned a special project. We will go back to India after its completion." Emily threw a piece of chalk at them. She said, " You can have your chitchat during the lunch break. Why don't you introduce yourself to the class?" Resham stood up and addressed the class," Hi. I am Resham Khan. I am from India." The entire class started whispering amongst themselves.

Emily asked the students to be silent. She found a golden opportunity to insult Resham and India. She said," Let us forget our textbook for the day. We will have a lively chat on India and its culture. Please raise your hand to voice your opinion."

A girl named Jennifer Wilson raised her hand. Emily asked her to start the discussion.

Jennifer spoke in a high pitched voice. She said " India is an overpopulated country. It is the rape capital of the world. Women and children are not safe in the world's largest democracy. They are uneducated and superstitious. They spend lavishly on weddings and drool over film stars. They lack discipline. They don't realise the value of time. The Indians living in The US have deprived us of our jobs. They have no right to live in this country." Everybody clapped except Julie and Resham. She got up and reacted to Jennifer's nasty comments. She said," I think you are an ardent admirer of Mr. Donald Trump. He must be your role model. I hope you know that every coin has two sides. You have only focused on the negative aspects. You are ignorant of some facts.

1. India is one of the oldest civilisation in the world.

2. India never invaded any country. It was never greedy for money and power.

3. Our uniqueness lies in unity among diversity. We may speak different languages or follow different religions. When the national security is at stake, we set aside our differences. We fight as a team on the border. We are not scared of anyone.

4. We respect our elders. We do not abandon our parents in their old age.

5. India has produced many Nobel Laureates like Rabindranath Tagore Sir C. V. Raman Mother Teresa Amartya Sen Kailash Satyarthi etc.

6. We had women as a president and a prime minister. We also have women as chief ministers of various states. The US never had a woman president.

I could keep on talking about its glory. You would think that I am vain. I would like to complete my speech with a famous quote of Saint Kabir:

बुरा जो देखन मैं चला, बुरा न मिलिया कोय, जो दिल खोजा आपना, मुझसे बुरा न कोय।

Saint Kabir says that he ventured out in search of an evil man. He couldn't find anyone evil. He searched within his heart for an answer. His heart pointed him out.

We have some good qualities with a few bad ones. We should not find fault with others. Life is very unpredictable. Why should we waste our time by focusing on the bad habits of people? It is a matter of your perception of the world. Don't encourage negative thoughts. They will make you miserable. You may point out the annoying habits of people without offending them. You should appreciate their good qualities. You will make a lot of difference in their lives. Learn to respect your fellow human beings. Let us follow the religion of humanity. Let us speak the language of love and compassion." The entire class applauded her. Emily had tears in her eyes. She couldn't help liking Resham. Jennifer left her seat and hugged her. She also apologised to Julie for her rude behaviour. Julie was pleasantly surprised at the sudden change in her attitude. Julie thanked Resham for the effective and emotional speech. Emily addressed her," Well done, Resham. I liked the way you defended India."

Resham suddenly became very popular in her class. Her jovial nature and helping tendency earned her too many friends. She proved to be a brilliant student scoring full marks in almost all the subjects. She became the favourite student of all the teachers.

Six months passed peacefully. Resham loved going to school. Her father was proud of her academic achievement. She actively participated in sports and debate.

One day she noticed Emily crying in the staff room. She was carrying the notebooks of her classmates. She approached her and said," Ms. Parker, I have brought these notebooks for checking. I think you are upset right now. May I come back later?"

Emily replied, " I am alright. Thank you for bringing the notebooks. Leave them on the table."

Resham asked her," Is there anything else that I can do for you?" Emily smiled at her and said," No. Thank you. You are a sweet girl."

Resham went back to her class. During the lunch break, she observed Jennifer sitting quietly and twirling her spoon. She did not touch a morsel of her food.

Resham sat beside her. She touched her hand gently and asked," What's wrong with you and Ms. Parker? Both of you seem to be upset. Please have your food." Jennifer ate her lunch and said,"I am feeling much better." Resham finished eating her food. She said," Why don't you tell me your problem? Perhaps I can help you. Don't hesitate to confide in me. I won't tell anyone about our discussion."

Jennifer said," Ms. Parker is my maternal aunt. Her only son Samuel is suffering from a rare heart ailment. The doctor has advised immediate heart replacement surgery failing which he may not live for long. Ms. Parker already lost her husband in a car crash. She is afraid of losing him. I don't know how to help her." Resham consoled her by saying," I am sure Sam will recover from his illness."

When she went home after the school, she told her father about Samuel. She requested him to help her in finding a heart donor. Their efforts went down in vain. They were unable to find any donor. Jennifer called her in the evening. She told her about Sam's hospitalisation in San Francisco General Hospital. His health was deteriorating. He needed an immediate heart transplant. Resham told her not to worry as she had found a donor. Jennifer was delighted on hearing the good news.

Emily had given up the hope of saving her son. She cursed herself for not being able to find a donor. She received a message from Dr.Megan Morkel stating that Sam's surgery was underway.

Emily rushed to the hospital as soon as possible. Dr.Morkel came out of the operating room after an hour. She smiled at Emily and said," Congratulations, Ms.Parker. Sam is alright now. You can see him after an hour."

Emily thanked her for giving a new lease of life to Sam. She wanted to meet the donor's family and thank them in person. She learned from one of the nurses that they had already left the hospital. She was disappointed by their sudden departure. She thought of asking their contact details from the receptionist. The latter gave her two letters from the donor's family. Resham's father Ashraf Khan had written the first letter.

He inquired about Sam's health. He apologised for his inability to meet her. He mentioned that he was going back to India for Resham's funeral. He told her about Resham's death. She had committed suicide by hanging. She had given her word to Jennifer that she will save Samuel. She had ended her life for the sake of heart donation. Emily was in tears. She couldn't read any further. She cried her heart out mourning over the loss of her favourite student. She started reading Resham's letter.

She had written:

Dear Ms.Parker.

On the auspicious occasion of Guru Purnima, I am offering you my heart as Guru Dakshina. A student pays Guru Dakshina to his teacher in the form of cash or kind. He considers this as a token of appreciation for his teacher. You have taught us how to face a tough situation in life. I felt miserable when I heard about Sam from Jennifer. I had promised her to help Sam. I am glad I could keep up my word at the cost of my life. I hope you will forgive me for taking this drastic step. I could not find any other way to save Sam. I would you miss you all.


Resham Khan.

Emily's eyes were red from crying. She couldn't believe that Resham sacrificed her life for Sam. She felt that she got back her son and lost her daughter.

Emily joined her duty after a week. She addressed the class," I am deeply aggrieved to inform you about the untimely demise of Resham Khan." The entire class was shocked. Jennifer could not control her tears. They mourned her loss and moved on to their lesson. They missed her very much. She taught them how to live gracefully after her death.

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