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A dirtless coup to capture hearts

All the beautiful sentiments in the world weigh less than a single lovely action.’

James Russell Lowell

This quote took me back in time to an incident that happened years ago when I was a kid. A fancy dress competition was announced at my school, and my little brother was so excited about it. After a family discussion, a unanimous decision was taken that my younger sibling would be dressed as the great young Indian freedom fighter Kumaran, or, to put it rightly in Tamil, Kodi Kartha (the one who saved the national flag), Kumaran. For those who don’t know, he was a thorough patriot who, when shot by the British, didn’t let the Indian flag touch the ground. He had kept his hands raised with the national flag flying high, even as he fell dead.

My kid brother, who was in first grade then, was given a lot of training on Kodi Kartha Kumaran’s last words when he was knocked down by the foreigners. He was to fall down after uttering these words, which he had enacted to perfection during umpteen number of rehearsals at home. The day arrived, and he was dressed in a new white kurta, pyjamas, and cap. He was given the national flag and reminded that he should fall down after delivering his dialogue but keep the flag raised. His excitement was palpable. I prayed quietly for his success.

Later that day, when his name was called on the roll call, he majestically stepped up on the podium and delivered his dialogue to perfection, much to my mother’s relief, and walked off the stage majestically, much to my mother’s disappointment! He didn’t fall down! Though this was a minor competition, a lot of effort had gone into enacting Kodi Kartha Kumaran’s last minutes.

My mother had led him to a room nearby and, with some frustration, changed him. My little brother, with a lot of innocence, had questioned my mom about her disappointment. He believed that he had enacted his role to perfection. Finally, when asked about his not falling to the ground, which was the climax of Kumaran’s heroic act, his reply left us spellbound! He didn’t want to get his impeccable white dress dirty, as he had seen the efforts mom was making to wash his school uniforms and keep them tidy. (Washing machines were not yet popular.) In return, he had wanted to help her by not soiling his spic and span Kumaran’s costume. My mother was moved by her child’s innocence, gave him a tight hug, and shed a tear of happiness!

Well! He had decided to prioritise his mother’s comfort and well-being over his success in the competition. An endearing moment of empathy indeed!

(Published 27 October 2023, 19:28 IST)

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