Short Stories » The Brave Little Boy
The Brave Little Boy
This is a short story from India, originally written by the English Author, Norah Burke, during her stay in India during the early twentieth century.
Kunal, Veer Singh’s little brother lay in the hut, burning with fever and shooting pain in his stomach that was getting worse by the minute.
Veer Singh was only about 11 years old, but was a happy and cheerful lad. He was a child of the jungle and his brother was about six years younger to him. He had other brothers and sisters, who unfortunately had died due to cholera or malaria.
His mother brought some hot water, dipped some towels inside, and placed it on Kunal’s stomach to reduce the pain. Veer Singh could see that she was in great pain and fear of losing another child, but she was trying hard not to show it.
However, the towels were of no use. Veer Singh mother said that he ought to be carried to the nearest hospital. Veer Singh’s mother knew that Kunal was critical, and needed medical attention at the earliest.
The people in the village considered that the hospital was the last resort, and those who were sent there, rarely returned alive.
Veer Singh told his mother that he would go and call his father, who was out hunting for food. His mother asked him to stay back, as it would take days to find him.
Veer Singh’s father was well known far and wide as Veer Singh Bahadur or Veer Singh the Brave. He was a famous hunter and hence the title. He had survived two tiger attacks and saved a comrade from a tiger attack. He had big scars on his back, head, and shoulders, where claws had opened his flesh. Whenever there was a hunting expedition in the village, people wanted Veer Singh Bahadur to be with them. His mere presence gave them tremendous amount of confidence and courage.
Now he, along with the other strong men from the village were in an expedition. It was unlikely that Veer Singh would find someone to help him to take Kunal to the hospital.
Kunal lay on the ground, crying in pain and Veer Singh knew that something had to be done immediately. Otherwise, he might lose another brother.
Veer Singh told his mother, “There are no men in the village, and I will take Kunal to the hospital.”
His mother knew there was no other choice, as she had to stay behind and look after the cattle and fields. Otherwise, they would all starve. His mother took a piece of garment and made a sling for Veer Singh, in which he could carry his brother to the hospital.
His mother said with tears, “You may never get there. Go slowly and be brave.” She gave him some food and water to have on the way. Veer Singh lifted Kunal and his mother helped put the sling on his back, and he set off in the orange glow of the evening.
Veer Singh slowly started his journey. He was unsure, whether he would ever reach the hospital, given Kunal’s weight. So high was Kunal’s temperature, that he could feel the heat through the sling.
The hospital was about 50 miles away, and Veer Singh hoped to take a shortcut through the forest and wade through two rivers. This might reduce the distance by half. He also hoped that he might get a lift along the way in a bullock cart.
He was afraid to cross the forest. It was dark, and the animals of prey would be searching for food. Night fell and there was a full moon that night. He saw bear and tiger tracks and avoided them, and proceeded carefully. He was afraid and started walking fast.
Finally, he nearly reached the end of the forest, and he just couldn’t go further. He put the sling and lied down beneath a tree. His muscles shrank back to his natural position and he felt a piercing pain. He thought he would rest for a few minutes and he lay down. Soon he was fast asleep.
Suddenly he woke up with fright. He looked around to see a herd of elephants at the riverside. However, they had not seen him. There were bull and cow elephants along with their babies. Although Veer Singh was petrified, he knew he could not run with Kunal’s weight. All he could do was to keep quiet and pray.
Finally, the elephants left and Veer Singh quickly crossed the river on a week bridge built from bamboo poles. He reached the other side and saw there were fresh tiger footprints. Yet, he still plodded. He cried in pain, but he did not stop. Towards midnight, he reached the second bridge.
He looked for the bridge, but it had been washed away by a flash flood. He could feel the rivers sound and sound of trees churning. He sat down and wondered about how he would he cross this river.
Kunal asked for some water, and Veer Singh brought some cold water from the river. Kunal wanted more as he was thirsty. Finally, Kunal went to sleep.
Veer Singh lifted him and put him on top off his head. With the help of a bamboo pole, he began to cross the river. The deluge deafened and bruised him, yet he kept moving on. However, despite that he kept Kunal on top of his head and above the water. He finally, reached the other side, fell down on the grass, very exhausted, and drained of any energy.
He was wet and it was icy cold. Yet, Veer Singh kept moving on.
Suddenly, he saw people, and he passed out.
The next thing he knew was that he was in a bullock-cart, and then a truck.
Finally, they reached the hospital. The hospital staff and the people around could not believe that he had carried the little boy for over 50 miles.
He felt shy, when they started calling him Veer Singh Bahadur.
The Doctor came and asked for Veer Singh Bahadur and Veer Singh replied, “My father is not here.”
The Doctor smiled and asked him, “Are you the little boy who carried his brother for over 50 miles?”
Veer Singh replied, “Yes.”
The Doctor then said, “You are not Veer Singh, but Veer Singh Bahadur. Come in and see your brother. He will live.”