Everyone in Batra House was jubilant today. The youngest person in the household, Atul, Mr.Batra's son had stood first in social studies for the first time. Sweets were being distributed and everyone was showering praises on Atul. Atul was feeling very happy. More than all the praises, what he was enjoying most was the thought that he will now get a bicycle as his father had promised. Atul had been asking his father for a bicycle since long. All his friends had one, and it made him yearn for a bicycle when they zoomed past him while going to school. He had put up a lot of tantrums pestering his father for a bicycle. Finally his father had promised to get him one on the condition that he comes first in
Social studies was Atul's least favorite subject. While he always excelled in Maths, Science and English, he only managed to scrape through Social Studies every time. During his study time in the evenings, he hardly took out the Social Studies book to study, except for the times when his father would come and monitor him and specifically ask him to study the subject. Mr. Batra was concerned about his son's lack of interest in the subject. So one fine day, two months ago, he decided to do something about it.
Calling Atul to his side, Mr. Batra said, “Come Atul. Let's go for a walk in the beach today.” “Hurray!” yelled Atul, because he just loved the beach. So father and son started walking towards the beach. That day being a Sunday, the beach was very crowded. Mr. Batra looked at his son and asked “Atul, you see so many people here. Have you ever wondered where they are came from, who their forefathers are?” Atul thought for a moment and shook his head. He knew that his father and grandfather preserved their family history dating up to 4 to 5 centuries back, but it had never occurred to him how things were before that, or that everyone would have some history of their own. Mr. Batra pressed on, “How do you think it is possible that people from so many different cultures, speaking so many different languages, live together in harmony in our city and the whole country?” Again, Atul did not have an answer. He looked around. Any crowded place in Mumbai looks like the Mumbai bhelpuri, a confusing mixture of so many tastes, colors and ingredients. Atul looked up to his father for the answer. “This is what you learn in Social Studies, Atul. The events that occurred in the past to make the world what it is today are taught in History. The laws and rules that make people live peacefully and in harmony is taught in civics. The knowledge about the very earth we live on is taught in geography. In fact more than other subjects, social studies is more relevant to us since it is a study about ourselves and things around us.”
Atul realized how correct his father was. Holding his father's hand, he told, “I see your point dad. I will put in a real effort in doing well in Social Studies and enjoy what I am studying. I will come first in the next Social Studies test in school, I promise.” Mr. Batra stroked his son's hair lovingly and said, “That's my boy! And I promise you that I will get you a bicycle if you come first!” “I want a red one!” yelled Atul, jumping in joy at the thought of getting a bicycle.
This was two months back. Few days back Atul had given his quarterly examinations and today the results had been announced. As Atul had promised, he had stood first in Social Studies, along with all the other subjects, making him the class-topper. Atul was ecstatic. At night, tired but contented, Atul went to his room to sleep. Before getting into the bed his eyes fell on the Social Studies answer sheet. He took it in his hand and beamed with pride at the marks written on the first page. Teachers usually write the marks for each answer on the margin beside the answer. Atul started adding the individual answer marks casually. That was when he saw it. For one of the long answers which carried 4 marks, his teacher had awarded him marks twice. Which meant his mark was 95 and not 99 as his teacher had calculated.
Atul was in tears now. 95 marks meant that he not only lost the first position, but in-fact slid down to the third, because Pradeep had scored 97 and Sowmya 98. His promise had also been broken, so there was no way he was going to get that bicycle now. Atul thought hard. He had options though. He could be silent about this whole issue and go on as if nothing happened. After all, only he knew that his teacher had put extra marks by mistake. Or he could go to the teacher and bring this discrepancy to her notice and change the marks, thereby losing the first position and the bicycle. After thinking for a long time Atul decided what to do and went off to sleep.
The next morning in class, Atul walked up to his teacher and handed her the answer-sheet, telling her that he had been awarded extra marks and asking her to change it. The teacher was surprised and looked at Atul and asked, “Are you sure?” Atul said, “Yes ma'am”. The teacher patted on his back and changed the marks and gave him back the paper.
That evening Atul went to his father. Mr. Batra was reading the newspaper. Looking up from it, he asked, “What is it son?” Atul went near him and sat down. Holding his father's hand and looking down, he explained to his father all that had happened. When he finished, he finally got the courage to look at his father. He was expecting sadness, disappointment or anger in his father's face, and so he was confused when he saw his father smiling! “Your teacher phoned me in the afternoon itself and told me what happened and how you bravely owned up. These are the values I want you to learn! I am proud that you have learnt your morals properly. You can always try to do well in the subject next time, but morals are much more important to a man than mere textbook knowledge. I am happy that you have good morals, son”, he said. “Thank you Daddy!” said Atul, “I will work harder and stand first in Social Studies next time for sure. Then you can get me the bicycle”. “Are you sure?” his father asked and winked. He took Atul to the window and asked him to look outside. There, standing in the lawn was a brand new, shining, red bicycle. “Marks are important, but not at the cost of losing one's values. This bicycle is for the honesty and sincerity you have displayed, my dear Atul” said his father smiling. Atul gave his father a big tight hug.