years ago, surrounded by marshy land and a thick growth of trees, stood
the only school catering to the children of the nearby villages which
were under developed. All the students walked to school, some, short
distances and some, long distances. The buildings were not well
constructed, though the extent of the land was large.
There were cadjan sheds, with only the basic facilities. The
Principal’s office, and a few other class-rooms were made with bricks.
The staff was small, and there was a separate room for them.
It was here, that Amare, who lived in the vicinity, received his
education. He was about thirteen years old, dark, appearing bigger than
his age. He was well-known in the school for his stubbornness, callous
behaviour, and for bullying his fellow students who were, very often of
a smaller stature than him. The complaints about his to the Principal
and class teachers, were many, specially with regard to his use of
abusive language, and threats of assault to his classmates.
Amare had a tendency to be arrogant, and adopted a ‘no-care’ attitude
towards the teachers who were rough with him. His teacher in his new
class at the beginning of an academic year was Mr. Dhanapala, who though
a strict disciplinarian, was kind and understanding, and had a deep
knowledge of psychology.
So many were the complaints he received about Amare, as class
teacher, that it made him feel he must do something to reform this
There was an underlying problem to Amare’s behaviour, and it should
be looked into tactfully, and solved, thought Dhanapala Sir. The day
Amare assaulted a student in his class, punching him in his face with
his fists, till he bled from the nose, the Principal was determined to
punish him severely. But this was averted by Dhanapala Sir, who believed
he should be dealt with in a different manner. “We should listen to
Amare’s explanation too, and give him an opportunity to do so”, he
after, when the other children were in the playground, Dhanapala Sir,
summoned Amare to the class, and spoke to him with affection, winning
“Have you any brothers or sisters, Amare?”
“No Sir, I have no one.”
“What about your parents?”
He was silent for a while. Sir noticed his eyes welling with tears.
“My mother died a few years ago, Sir.
She loved me so much, and I feel her absence every day”. He looked
down, and sobbed silently, wiping the tears with the palm of his hand.
“My father too loved me, Sir, but he married again, and she does not
like father being close to me”.
“What makes you feel that way Amare?”
“Amare, whom so many thought was a thick-skinned bully, broke down
again, sobbing like a little child. Sir got up and closed the door so
that no one would see him.
“She makes all sorts of allegations against me, unimaginable ones,
and complains to father, who sometimes believes her.
“He then thrashes me. He has hit me mercilessly sir, for deeds I
never did.” He looked up sadly - “If Amma had lived.”
“What are the lies she says about you?”
“Father once lost some money, and step-mother said she saw me giving
it to Sethan who is my father’s enemy. But I saw Sir, with my own eyes,
her taking the packet of money and giving it to Arnolis Mama, the
Village Headman, who comes when father is away at work.”
“Why, to the Village Headman?”
Amare looks around, and utters softly, “People say, he has a love
affair with my step-mother. It’s true. I’ve seen them together Sir. She
thinks I sneak to father.”
“So, what did father do?”
“He thrashed me with a leather belt till I fell in a faint.”
Dhanapala’s heart was filled with grief. Here is a boy just beginning
his ‘teens’, torn between conflicts, from a broken home, a victim of
circumstances which have had a drastic impact on his life, and at whom
everyone looks as though he is a hard-core criminal.
Dhanapala had a son of his own, the same age, who got everything he
asked for, and the one thing he received without asking was parental
love, which Amare lacked. Hate, revenge, resentment, were slowly and
steadily taking hold of Amare, in place of love, kindness and
“Why did you hit Pala?”
“Sir, he called me by a nick-name, which made me feel that everyone
despises me. No one likes me Sir.”
“Don’t say that. I’m there for you. I love you like my own son.”
His face lit up. His teacher was determined to pull him out of the
“pit” he had fallen into. He realised Amare had a longing for love,
concern and kindness.
On Tuesday, mid-morning, during the school interval, when the
students were out in the school compound, a loud thud was heard. Someone
had aimed a big stone at the mango tree, and it had fallen heavily on
the roof of the Principal’s office, breaking a few tiles. The boys ran
helter-skelter, and, as usual, Amare was labelled the culprit, though he
denied his having even been there at that time.
The Principal was furious. He locked him up in a room stacked with
broken desks, tables, chairs, and decaying planks, with hardly any space
to move. Amare was to be there till school was over.
A short time later, walking past the closed room, the Principal heard
Amare was pushing and jumping on the broken furniture, and even
banging on the door. “Hm”, muttered the Principal, “even this type of
punishment won’t calm him. He’s such a hardened boy.”
Just half an hour before school was over, the sounds in the room had
“Well”, thought the Principal, “Amare is such a crafty person, he
knows to be quiet now, so that he will be let out soon. I’ll keep him
for an extra while to teach him a lesson.”
When the Principal finally opened the door, while those who wanted to
jeer the “big bully”, looked on, Amare was lying on top of the broken
desk tops, unconscious, and what more, to everyone’s horror a huge snake
slithered away from near him.
Amare was pronounced dead on admission to Hospital. The whole school
mourned his death. The villagers were furious. The Principal was
interdicted, and dealt with appropriately.
The snake was killed. The saddest of all was his class teacher, Mr.
Dhanapala. He looked at the corpse, his heart beating with sorrow. If he
had not taken leave, Amare would have been alive.
Life is full of second chances for everyone, and failure could be
changed to success through new endeavours, or different attitudes. Why
wasn’t this realised, by at least those who were moulding his education,
he mused. He was too late. His heart cried out in remorse.