Anurag remembered the stories his grandfather had told him about the fight for freedom. It motivated him to want to do something for his country.
Lakshmi peeped into the out-house. She saw the old man sitting by himself. She knocked and the old man opened the door.
“Lakshmi, Grandpa”, she smiled. Her bright smile revived the spirit of the old man. “By the way our school declared a four-day holiday for Pongal. So I came home today,” she said.
“How are you Grandpa?”
“The pain in my knees has increased. It kills me,” he said.
“I’ll massage your legs,” she said and reached under the cot where he used to keep the oil bottle.
“Why is there a lot of bustle outside? What’s happening?”
“Didn’t they tell you? Your grandson has finished his education and is coming back from the U.S. tonight. I came to know about this from the watchman.”
The old man became silent. How strong he was once upon a time! He had given up his job after listening to Mahatma Gandhi’s speeches. When the British struck him, with each blow he shouted, “Vande Mataram”. Then his son married a rich girl. Slowly he was pushed to the out-house. The khadi clad old man was unwanted. His grandson Anurag was his only support. Often the cook’s daughter Lakshmi accompanied his grandson. The old man had helped them with their studies, told them stories, created in them a reading habit and shared his memories of the freedom struggle with them.
At one time his grandson had wanted to join the fancy dress competition. “Grandpa, I want to participate in a fancy dress competition. Whom should I dress up like?” he had asked. “Subash Chandra Bose”, said Grandpa.
“And I grandpa”, asked Lakshmi. “Shall I dress up like Bharatiyar?”
Grandpa prepared a speech for them and coached them.
“If there is no food even for a single individual let us destroy the world.” Lakshmi’s eyes flashed and she repeated the words loudly with Grandpa.
In the evening Lakshmi came visiting. She was filled with excitement. “Grandpa, I’ve won the first prize”. She had a book in her hand. Bharatiyar’s big moustache was still there on her face.
“Where is Anurag?” Grandpa asked. He’s hiding behind the door. He’s scared. He thinks you’ll shout at him.
Anurag stood in front of grandpa. His eyes were full of tears. “I…I forgot the dialogue…I got stage fright,” he sobbed. Hugging his grandson affectionately grandpa consoled him. “Next time you will do better.”
Lakshmi gave the book she got as a prize to Anurag and wiped his tears.
“Take this. The prize that I got for the fancy dress. It’s yours.” The book was Gandhiji’s Experiment with Truth.
“I want to become a doctor, Grandpa,” said Anurag one day.
“And I want to be a Cardiologist,” whispered Lakshmi in grandpa’s ears. Anurag finished his medical degree and went off to the U.S. for his higher studies.
Lakshmi’s dream was shattered, as she was poor. She became a teacher in a kindergarten. She visited Grandpa frequently and tried to cheer him up. She was always there to support him. But the old man was lonely. He missed his grandson terribly.
Suddenly the door was opened. The old man woke up with a start.
“Oh Grandpa, I’m back,” he said. Grandpa looked at him. His face was expressionless.
“How many times I tried to talk to you over the phone but my parents never let me,” he said unhappily. He kissed the old man’s wrinkled cheek.
“Three years! Three long years! What a lot of difficulties and unhappiness. But, finally I’ve come back to you Grandpa.”
He sat at the feet of the old man and continued. “I’m your grandson — the great freedom fighter’s grandson. I was offered a good job in the U.S. Grandpa, but I came back because I want to serve our country. The patriotism injected by you is still in me. You know how the Americans respected me when I told them that my grandfather was a freedom fighter?”
“Come Grandpa, hereafter you are going to stay with me in my room. Take grandpa’s things to my room,” he told Lakshmi.
Grandpa stood up. He usually walked with a stoop, but he was upright now. He caught hold of Anurag’s hand and marched forward. It was a march as happy as the Dandi march, when he had accompanied Gandhiji.