Highly Commended Story - The Hidden Letter
“The Hidden Letter” by Adhithya Anand, Gopalan National School, Bengaluru, India, is the Highly Commended story in the senior category of the second biannual Short Story Contest 2020.
Adhithya Anand is an 8th std student at Gopalan National School, Bengaluru, India. He likes writing poems and novels. He had started writing from the month of March 2020, when Covid lockdown started. While he was not able to go out for playing and decided not to spend time on video games, he started to explore writing. His ambition is to become a Cricketer. His other hobbies are reading books, watching movies and baking.
The Hidden Letter
It was a summer morning. Me, along with my friend Ram were going to our final year of our collage. We used to ask questions to each other from Ram’s book. Then we boarded the train and went to our institute.
Both of us were from the lower middle-class family. So, we both wanted to get a good job. I was asking him questions when a letter fell down from his book. I picked it up. I was about to read it when Ram started chasing me.
I started to run, and while running, I read the whole letter. After reading it, I tore it into pieces. “Why did you tear it?” Ram asked me. “Why are you hiding this?” I asked him. On hearing this, Ram started sobbing. “What to tell you……. My brother, he wasted all our money on buying alcohol and tobacco. Now I do not even have money for the fees of this year. So, I decided to commit suicide and hence wrote this letter.” He said in a feeble voice.
I was thinking what to do when I got an idea. “Well, no big deal in that. Take this. You can return this to me whenever you feel like.” I said, giving him two and a half thousand rupees, the fees for a year.
“Thank you so much. I will never forget this.” He said from the bottom of his heart.
We went to the institute, finished the studies and both of us passed the exams. Both of us got a good job. We were in touch for almost thirty years after this exam incident had happened.
I was fifty-five, and he was fifty-seven. We both shifted to Chennai to see our children. Both of my children were mid-twenties. One day he came to our house. “How are you, Ram?” I asked him once he came. He replied that he was fine. “Why don’t you come to our house one day?” He asked. “Sure” I replied.
We discussed about our career. I asked, “Where are your children working Ram?”. He told that two of them are in America and the youngest son works in an IT company in Chennai.
After sometime, he left and after a week, I visited his house.
Ram, his wife and his daughter-in-law were the only ones in the house apart from me. All of a sudden, he said pointing to me, “I would not be present here today, if not for him”.
I was petrified. Why did he tell my name? When did I actually save his life? I was thinking when he said, “In the final year of college, I did not have the money to pay the fees. My brother was not helping me either…” He said as he coughed.
Then he continued, “He was the one who gave me the money to pay my fees”.
“But Ram…. You paid back the money right?” I asked him. He nodded a ‘yes’. “Then how did I save your life?” I asked him again. “If you hadn’t given the money that day, I would have gone back home, without the degree. Without the degree, no job. Without a job, no family. On top of that, I would have committed suicide. The 2,500 rupees you gave me that day saved my life.” He said.
Now I understood and was happy that I had transformed one’s life completely. An hour later, my son came to pick me up and I said bye to Ram and his family.
Two months passed, no call from Ram. Neither from any of his relatives. One day, I decided to call him to check if he was alright. I dialled his number and his wife picked up the call. “Hello, Ram’s childhood friend speaking, is Ram there?” I asked. “Sorry sir, but he passed away a month ago.” The voice replied. I was dumbstruck. “Oh, okay madam, it’s all going to be fine.” I consoled her.
Then I hung up the call. I could not just think about it. The loss of a childhood bestie was not an ordinary thing. I wiped a tear and continued my normal life; Going for a walk in the morning, looking after my grandchildren and so on.
I still remember the day I got that dreadful news.
I learnt a lesson that very day: ‘A friend in need is a friend indeed’
Note: This story has been inspired by a true incident happened in my grandfather’s life.