Who’s the Real Winner?
“Who’s the Real Winner?” is one of the outstanding stories of the first biannual International Short Story Contest 2018 written by Svetha Mahadevan, DPS International School, Singapore.
Who’s the Real Winner?
My 18th birthday present was a Nikon D3400 DSLR camera which sparked my interest in photography. Since then photography has become my passion and I began to consider every scenic sight and every unique incident as an inspiration for my photos. I could rarely be seen without my camera. My teachers were very encouraging and published the photos in our school’s annual magazine.
Karuna has been my best friend since high school. Her parents lived in a village and being farmers, they struggled to pay her school fees. But Karuna received scholarship which helped her to pay for her studies and hostel fees. She was always optimistic and encouraged me to follow my dreams. She was extremely busy during weekends and used to come back to the hostel very late. Every time I asked her to accompany me for a photographic exhibition, she used to tell me that photography was not her cup of tea and that she neither had the patience nor the time to waste on it. She was confused at the fact that people stare at the photographs in an exhibition for hours together. She used to say that life is too short to waste on such useless things. I used to wonder what she did every weekend for her to come so late and get scolded by the warden. I asked her a couple of times to which she replied that she was going to meet some of her friends from the village.
After completing high school, Karuna and I got seats in the same college. My passion for photography intensified when I took up journalism. Three years rolled by. It was our final year in college and our city faced the worst floods in decades. I was on my way to the hostel when I saw a little girl about four years old crying outside a hut which was destroyed by the rain and floods. I stopped my car and captured the entire scene on my camera and returned to the hostel. I sent an article with the photographs of the flood and the loss suffered by the little girl to the local newspaper. The local newspaper published the article and asked me to send such articles which could help to generate public awareness. After noticing that Karuna was absent for all classes for two days, I tried calling her, but she could not be reached on her phone. She returned to the hostel after 5 days. As usual, she received scolding from our warden, she told me that she was tired and went to sleep. The next few days were very busy as we had to give our final exam.
After graduation, we both confessed that we were very sad to be separated from each other, but promised to keep in touch through emails and WhatsApp. After few months of keeping in touch, we lost contact with each other as I was busy with my first job as a journalist. I received a courier from London saying I won the first prize of 1000£ for the photograph which I sent to them titled ‘Flood and Devastation’. My colleagues congratulated me and asked me for a party. We all decided to have lunch at the nearby restaurant. I called up the restaurant and made a reservation.
The restaurant was very crowded as there was a party going on in one corner. It looked like a kids’ birthday party. I went to wash my hands before eating. I was pleasantly surprised to see Karuna wiping the hands of a child. She was also surprised to see me and asked me how I was. I said we were having a party as I won first prize for the photograph I sent to London for a competition. She congratulated me and said that they were having a party and asked me to come for a few minutes. I told my colleagues to have lunch and went to the corner where party was being held. Karuna and ten small girls of different age groups were singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to a little girl in the centre. Karuna introduced me to the girls and said “Girls, this is my best friend who is a famous journalist and photographer. You can become like her if you follow your dreams and work hard. Now, Lily make a wish and cut the cake.” When I saw the little girl cutting the cake I was shocked. She was none other than the crying girl in front of the destroyed hut who served as the subject for the photograph for which I had received the first prize.
The little girl hugged Karuna and said, “Karuna aunty, I do not wish to become famous. I wish to become just like you and take care of other little girls like me whose parents become angels.” With tears in my eyes, I took out the prize money from my handbag and gave it to Karuna. I told her it was for the home she is running for the girls. I also promised to do more for the home. I came back to my colleagues, had lunch with them and left the restaurant with great satisfaction. Lily opened my eyes and made me realize how I can really win in life.
Life is not about winning prizes and becoming famous. Life is about winning hearts by helping people.