The background of the story is a small village filled with paddy fields, streams, rubber estates, coconut groves and huge rocks on top of which lots of families are dwelling in small huts made of mud bricks and coconut leaves. Other houses, including Sharon’s house are far since each family owned acres of lands and built the houses in the middle of their properties.
Sharon was the youngest of 7 children from a middle class family. Her house was situated at the center of 7 acres of land filled with rubber plantations, coconut palms, Jack fruit, mango and other trees and vegetable plantations. They had bulls, cows, goats, chickens, pigs, rabbits and dogs. There was a huge paddy field too. So their closest neighbors’ lived half a kilometers away.
This incident took place when Sharon was studying in 9th grade. One day the usual bus in which she used to travel broke down and the next 2 buses didn’t allow the students to enter in due to overcrowding, so she had to take a later bus to return home from school which is 10 kilometers away. By the time the bus reached her home village, it was 7.30 pm and was dark everywhere except in few shops which had gaslights. By the way this was long back in 1979 when there was no electricity or telephone in the village.
She was really scared to go home which was 2 kilometers walk from the bus stop. The paths were not visible in darkness and Sharon knew there were poisonous snakes, scorpions and centipedes everywhere; but somehow she gathered all her courage and went to her father’s friends shop to fetch a candle. The shop keeper wrapped a paper around the candle, lit it and put a coconut shell as cover to protect it from breeze and gave it to her.
Suddenly a young hefty, rough-looking man who was standing near and watching everything, Sharon had never seen him before asked her, “Shall I come with you to reach you home?” She looked at him and looked at the shop keeper again and again because the man looked very serious and frightening; any way after few moments of hesitation she said, “yes”. The man took the candle and Sharon’s school bag and asked her to follow him. He walked in front of her with the candle light and Sharon walked behind him silently trembling with fear. They climbed over a huge rock to take a short cut, crossed over small streams and fields; found some water snakes passing by and huge frogs jumping off their way, Sharon wanted to scream with fear but pretended to be brave.
After the fields came their coconut and rubber plantation; in pitch darkness everywhere, they walked in the faded little light of the candle without uttering a word. The sounds of crickets and owls were terrifying, the light of the candle was as tiny as the light of a fire fly and she could not see anything except the man’s shadow. Somehow they reached home and her mother and siblings were surprised to see her coming home with that man and asked, “Did you not see your father and brother?” she said, “No”. They had gone to the bus stop to fetch her. They thought since she was alone she wouldn’t take the short cut which was dangerous so they went through the straight road which is a longer way.
Her mother asked the man to have dinner before leaving as a formality, but he refused and she gave him a bigger candle, thanked and sent him away. The moment he left their courtyard, she went to Sharon and said, “Why did you come with that man in this darkness? Couldn’t you wait at the bus stop or in the shop, where everyone know us? Anyway your father or brother would come to fetch you. Thank God you reached home unhurt, do you know who he is? He is a criminal who stabbed and killed Mr. Chacko and put his small intestine around his neck like a garland, he was behind the bars for all these years and now is on parole”. Sharon said, “I didn’t know all his past, I only saw that he is a man who is ready to help me reach home, there were so many other people but no one was ready to help me”.
By the time her father and brother came running home all panicky, hearing from his friends that Sharon left the shop with that man; they feared that he must have done something to her on the dark lonely way. Only when they saw her safe and alive their breath became normal. And her father said, “Even a criminal can be kind and good at times”.
Now when Sharon has grown up and when she thinks back, tears roll down her eyes thinking how each one of us judge people. Once a criminal always a criminal, even if he changes his life and try to live as better human beings, our society would put a black seal on him and prevent his peaceful living. Sharon too might have done the same if she knew his past before the incident. Since she was unaware of that she blindly trusted him and he was her savior on that particular day.
Sharon always remembers him and prays for his soul since she came to know that he hanged himself after some months because of the treatment of his society. No one was ready to see him and accept him as a normal human being who in his weakest moment committed some crime for which he had already undergone punishments and changed his life.
Moral: Never judge people looking at their past life, past is in history and are far gone. No one is the same every day, every human being is changing moment by moment. Don’t think every one is thinking the way you think. Even the worst criminals can have some ray of goodness in them.
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