Rudra was chilled to his bones. In fact, he was even more chilled than the frosted chocolate ice-cream he was licking.
“You are so cold, even your hands are shaking. You should throw away the ice-cream and wrap yourself up properly in the jacket,” Anand was worried about his friend falling sick. If he caught cold, their camping sir would surely find that they had sneaked out of the camp in the late evening.
“Don’t worry. I won’t catch cold.” No way was Rudra going to give up his chocolate ice-cream, that too after taking so much risk in sneaking out of their camping ground.
“Then at least be fast and finish up. We need to return before anyone realizes that we are missing.” Anand kept on looking around furtively. Even though it was his idea to slip out of the camping ground for ice-cream, he no longer wanted to have it. He realized that it was his craving for adventure and not ice-cream that had led him to convince Rudra to accompany him, but now he was scared. What if the sir came into their tent to check on them and found empty beddings instead? What if he called his parents back home and reported him missing? Currently his parents weren’t amused by their 13-year old son’s list of pranks. The last time he was caught putting fire crackers in their neighbor’s car, they had threatened to ground him for weeks. Just the thought about what would they do if the sir complained made him blench.
While he was shifting from one foot to another, waiting for Rudra to finish his ice-cream, his gaze fell on a small boy sleeping on the side of the road. He was scruffily dressed in grimy short shorts and torn shirt. Even though the temperature was 5⁰ C, he was bare: without any sweater or blankets. Even his feet were naked, without any socks or shoes. He was sleeping alone.
Seeing him, he remembered his grandfather. Once when he had went out for a walk with him, they had come upon a poorly clothed woman and her child. His grandfather had immediately removed his jacket and given it to them. Anand knew that his grandfather loved the jacket and so seeing him giving it away was astounding.
Seeing surprise in the eyes of his grandson, his grandfather had chuckled. “Why are you surprised?”
“Didn’t you love that jacket? Why did you give it away?”
“If your mom needs clothes and if you have it, won’t you give it to her even if you like them?”
Anand had been baffled by the question. Why would his mom wear his clothes? She was a girl and he was a boy. When he said the same thing to his grandfather, he laughingly asked again. “What if she can wear it and she needs clothes?”
“Of course I will give it to her.”
“Why? Don’t you love your clothes? Don’t you need them for yourself?”
“Yeah, but she’s my mother, my family. I have to help her.”
Bending down to Anand, his grandfather had looked into his eyes with a smile. “Same way, beta, this woman is my family. She’s a fellow human in need. Shouldn’t we try to help her as much as we can?”
“I am done. Let’s go.” Anand was startled out of his memory by Rudra.
Both Anand and Rudra started returning to their camp site. After walking few steps, Anand asked Rudra to go ahead and said that he will join him in few minutes. “But where are you going? You were the one to make me eat fast and now you want to waste time?”
“Hey, I will just take few minutes. You move on, I am joining you.”
Rudra didn’t know what had got into Anand. Giving a shrug of dismissal, Rudra started walking away. True to his words, Anand joined him before he completed his 100 steps.
“That was fast.” Suddenly Rudra noticed that his friend was without any jacket. “Where’s your jacket? Did you lose it?”
“No. Let’s run to the site. We will reach fast.”
“But what about your jacket? Wasn’t it your favorite one with Iron Man’s symbol on it?”
“Yeah, it was. But never mind that. Let’s reach before anyone finds us missing.” Saying this, Anand started running with exuberance. He felt happy and proud. His grandfather was right: there’s nothing more joyous than helping out your family.