Rohit Practices 'Non Co-operation'! when he was in prison!

Rohit Practices 'Non Co-operation'! when he was in prison!

Rohit Practices 'Non Co-operation'! when he was in prison!

One more test had gone by. And as always, Manish, seated behind him, had copied from his answer sheet. The results would be out tomorrow and Manish would once again get by, not with marks as high as Rohit's…but an A grade, never the less.

It was not Manish's falsely acquired marks that made Rohit sick. It was his own role in this quiet battle that had been playing out over the last 5 months. Ever since Rohit had moved into this school, from Chennai. 

Rohit was so quiet and uninteresting, that most of his classmates would probably never recognise him if they saw him somewhere away from school. But sly Manish had noticed that this mousey boy seated in front of him, got very good marks. So it had started.

"Lean to the left, you fool!" breathed a voice from behind Rohit one day. It had sent shivers down his spine. And for the last 5 months, he had 'leaned to the left' through all the tests, so that Manish could get a better view of Rohit's answer sheet to copy what he wanted. And after every test, Rohit swore to himself that he'd NEVER let it happen again. But of course, he would.

There was a play being practiced on stage, for Independence Day. As always, Rohit had made sure he was totally invisible so that he wouldn't be picked for any part.

But today, for a change, he actually followed the play. The usual boring stuff about civil disobedience and non-violence…all Gandhiji's clever ideas for Indian Independence. But here was poor Rohit, feeling like he was in prison, in a free India... trapped under the iron grip of Manish.

But something in the play sparked a thought in Rohit's sharp mind. He sat up, alert. And one thought led to another. By the end of play practice, Rohit had decided to follow Gandhiji's advice and practice 'non co-operation'!

The next test date arrived. And instead of starting off diligently, like he always did, Rohit slumped over his table, on a blank answer sheet. He heard that dreaded whisper, that was tinged with an edge of panic, "Lean to your left, you fool!" Rohit leaned to his left, but didn't write a word on his paper. Instead, he slumped over on his arm and pretended to sleep. Half-way through the test, he got up to ask the teacher if he could leave…he felt like vomiting, he claimed.

Rohit later wrote a re-test alone in the staffroom and got top marks, but Geography teacher was smart enough to wonder why Manish, who normally got an A…got a zero! On the next Geography test day, 'non co-operation' was practiced again! Rohit skipped school, altogether.  Again, Manish somehow managed a 5, while Rohit got an A-plus after writing the retest during games hour.

All the while, Rohit acted quiet and mousey around Manish…not for a moment letting the bigger bully realise that all this was part of a plan. But Geography Ma'am had figured it out, and she made Rohit sit up front during the next geography test, wondering aloud that since he was so tiny, how could he see the board over the tops of all the taller boys' heads? So 'non-co-operation' had worked for Geography! Rohit now needed a plan for the other subjects. Could he claim bad eyesight and move to the front? What if Manish managed to move too?

One day, after class, Rohit got a jolt. Waiting for him in the corridor, was Geography Ma'am. Falling into step with him, she said, "Rohit, I know what's been happening, and I can see how frightened you've been. But you now have to speak out."

Rohit was stricken with fright. "No Ma'am, I can't!" he blurted out, even though he had felt a little shame-faced about sorting out his problem, without confronting Manish. Deep down, he'd felt like a coward, and sadly, felt as dishonest as Manish. Finally, Geography Ma'am convinced him that he would feel better, once everything was out in the open. So, Rohit's parents paid a visit to the Principal.

The class teacher was spoken to and then, finally, it was Rohit's turn to tackle Manish. But Manish seemed to have vanished. A whole week went by, with Manish absent from school.

Finally the next Monday, when he reappeared, Rohit decided he had to speak with him and tell him to stop copying from his papers. But before he could do so, he got a call from Principal's office. As he entered, his blood froze. Standing by the window was Manish! Had he twisted the tale to make Rohit look like the villain? Apparently not! After a week spent thinking about it, Manish had walked into Principal Sir's office and confessed! And now, with his chin up, he wanted to apologise to Rohit!

And that was the beginning of a long friendship!

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