"Rex Patrick Randell," said Mrs.Lalitha Sebastian, the seventh class teacher of Holy Mary High School in Colaba, "You are going to be the writer, director and lead actor in the skit about Mahatma Gandhi. Don't go as per the accepted norm, delve deeper into the character and come about something original. Mind you it should not be more than three minutes. President Obama will be here in the school for only fifteen minutes, and we have other items to showcase."
"Yes teacher," replied the fourteen year old Rex.
Holy Mary School in Colaba was selected to be a part of the President's itinerary, when he visits Mumbai, on November 7, 2010. This private school is just a two minute drive from Taj Mahal, where the President would be staying. The Taj Mahal hotel was the scene of deadly carnage when more than hundred people were killed on November 26, 2008.
Rex, reaching home, waited for his mother, Mrs. Juliet George, a librarian in Bombay Teachers Training College.
"Mom, as you have prayed, I've been selected to play the lead role. But Mrs. Sebastian said that the skit should be a different one."
"Why don't you make a visit to Mani Bhavan at Laburnum Road? It has books, personal letters about Mahatma Gandhi. You may find something interesting. Ask dad to drop you before he goes to work."
Entering the six feet twin paneled front door of the unassuming Mani Bhavan, Rex was greeted by a mix of heady scent of sandalwood and incense sticks, burning near the bust of Mahatma Gandhi. Heeding to Rex's request, one of the office bearers, led him through the front room, which were adorned with sepia tinted photos of freedom fighters, to a room filled with 50,000 books about the life of the Mahatma Gandhi.
Within an hour, he completed the skit, but he was not happy about it. It has that not "Something Original" as his teacher mentioned it should have. Frustrated, he tossed the notes on the table, and suddenly became aware that he was being watched. Turning towards the corner of the room, he noticed a lone foreigner, who got up and walked towards him.
"Hi," the foreigner wished in a well modulated voice, and introduced himself, "I am Ernest McAllister."
"Hello," replied Rex, "I am Rex Patrick Randell."
"You are reading a lot of books."
"Yes," said Rex smiling, "I am doing a skit on Mahatma Gandhi."
Rex showed him the notes he had prepared. Taking it, Ernest asked, "May I?"
"Please, you are welcome."
"Write a skit on the theme 'Courage'. A letter written by the jailed Mahatma Gandhi to his sick wife Kasturba, on courage, i think should be your main them."
Reading it, Rex was happy, and thanked him.
The next day at the school, when he along with his mother walked in, he was stunned to see the transformation, as the entire school was cordoned off with police, interspersed with a few Americans, wearing black suits and goggles. After the presentation of the skit, Rex was discussing with his teacher about the contribution of Ernest, when to his stunned surprise, Ernest himself came from behind and wished him. Rex introduced his teacher and his mother to Ernest. After the introductions, Ernest excused and left.
"He is from the Secret Service," said Mrs. Lalitha, "They have been visiting the school from the time the Presidents' itinerary was announced."
"But I met him in Mani Bhavan also."
"It's also in the Presidents' itinerary."
"Mom, why did you suggest that I go to Mani Bhavan for preparing the skit?" asked Rex as they were sitting in the living room, after having dinner.
"Rex, I prayed," replied Mrs. Juliet, "That you do the skit all by yourself. I would have helped you in preparing it, but you wouldn't have had the satisfaction of doing a good job."
"But mom, will the President like it?"
"He will. It's about courage,and President Obama is also a man of courage, because he never thought about his skin color or other aspects, he just believed in his God given abilities. We'll pray about it. Come let's pray."
Victor Jasti lives in India and is passionate about writing short stories based on the Bible and real incidents. He also writes Christian fiction and poetry. Five of his poems were published in Temporal Currents compiled by an American author, Ms. Christine Tricarico.
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