Arjun was a 11 year old boy studying in class five. A puny boy with a round face, he always wore a pleasant smile on his face. Though a bright kid in the class, he was seated in the last bench. One may ask what is wrong with that except that this boy was affected with polio in one leg and used a crutch to walk. Though amiable in disposition, the other students never mixed with him. When all the others were playing, Arjun would be sitting on the bench alone watching them play or reading a book. Some of the mean students hurt him by calling him names like one legged horse, a halt or a crutchy. Some even derived sadistic pleasure by dislodging his crutch as they walked to make him trip. Arjun never lost his cool on such occasions and made light of them by laughing along with them.
The class teacher one day asked, “Arjun, why don’t you sit in the first bench.You are short and not visible.”
Arjun said, “Sir, I would like to sit in the last bench as it is convinient to keep the crutch against the wall away from the legs of others. I can see the black board clearly.”
The teacher had a look of worrry but remained silent though not satsified with the reply. There was an annual sports meet falling within a week and names were invited from the willing participants for events like running race, long jump, high jump, marathon race, lemon and spoon race, musical chairs, obstacle race and sack race. The boys huddled in groups, discussed amongst themselves and filled the forms with the events they wished to participate. Arjun was sitting alone in the last bench. No one came near him or invited him to join.
In the last hour of the day the teacher collected the forms as each student went to his table. When Arjun as the last boy limped his way with his crutch and handed over his form, the class broke into laughter.The teacher was angry and hit the table with the ruler and asking”What is there to laugh about, you silly boys?”
When Arjun gave his form the teacher put his arms around the boy and told him in kind tone”Dear boy, it is not compulsory for all to participate in the sports. If you wish, you can watch the events along with others.”
Arjun replied,”No, Sir. I wish to be like anybody else a normal person and I have given my name for the sack race. My friends will all be handicapped with their legs tied in the sack.God has already endowed me with a handicap. I think sir we are all evenly placed.Please permit me to join.”
The teacher rubbed his eyes with his handkerchief as he accepted the form. There was a pin drop silence in the class.
It was the sports day and sack race was the last event.The entire school was there watching the event. They knew Arjun was particpating in the event.Fifteen boys along with Arjun ran the race. No special handicap was given to Arjun even though he took the help of his crutch. The whole crowd watched with bated breath Arjun leading the pack unafraid of his falling down. As he breasted the tape the whole crowd gave a standing ovation and the thunderous applause took along time to die down. As the Principal rose from his chair and went near Arjun to pat him on his shoulders, there was again a deafening applause.
“How do you feel Arjun on winning the race?”asked the Principal.
“I feel normal like any other boy and happy to be part of this meet” replied Arjun. All his class mates thronged around him and shouted “hip hip hooray Arjun.”