Vishal had been absent from 4-5 days. Nilabh, Rajeev and Aniket could not understand why, as Vishal was a very sincere student and never skipped his school and studies. Their group was incomplete without him.
On the 5th day of his absence, they all reached Vishal’s home thinking he might be ill. He lived in a small house. Curtains were ragged but clean. Only two wooden chairs, a table and an old cupboard comprised the drawing room.
A strange kind of silence was stretched out in the house. Vishal leaned on the table.
“Hey! What’re you doing?” Aniket almost shouted.
Vishal turned to hear the familiar voice. He was shocked to see them.
“Studying as usual. Mr. studious you know.” Raajeev said smiling.
“How’re you yaar? Are you alright?” Aniket flooded him with questions.
“Yeah, I’m okay. What about you all?” Vishal managed a weak smile.
“Then why aren’t you coming school? We thought you were sick or something like that. Are you really alright, you look pale?” Nilabh said as Vishal’s jovial face was grim.
“I can’t come henceforth. I’ll have to leave my studies perhaps.” Vishal said. His eyes welled up.
“But why?” his friends screamed together.
A long pause crept inside the room.
“Hey c’mon, we’re friends okay. What are friends for? Tell us if you have any problem.” Aniket said affectionately.
“Act… actually” Vishal hesitated but continued further. “My father lost his job three months back. He anyhow managed to pay my fees for three months, but now it’s getting difficult. You know our financial condition is not very sound. For my future only my father dared to pay this big amount of fees. A huge amount of money has been spent in my sister’s marriage. He is searching for another job but we all know finding a job is not so easy for an aged man with an ordinary degree.” Vishal’s voice was very depressed.
“C’mon be practical. You can’t leave your studies at this stage. You must be aware that board exams are approaching very shortly.” Nilabh said agitatedly.
“But I can’t ask for my fees in these circumstances. He is already distressed. I don’t have any option.” Vishal said disheartened.
“But you have friends. You remember what we promised to each other? We’ll always share our happiness and sorrows as well. And we all abide by our promises. Aren’t we?” Nilabh said.
“Of course! And yes, you can take tuitions to help your family.” Rajeev said.
Next day they all collected their pocket money and deposited Vishal’s fees and convinced Vishal to attend his classes.
But they all knew this was not the solution. So, they decided to talk to the principal.
“You all are the real gem boys. But I’m not a stone either. I can’t spoil the studies and future of such a brilliant student for mere few bucks. I exempt him from his fees until his father gets another job. He is allowed to attend his classes.” The principal said smiling.
“Thank you sir” they all shouted together and ran. Outside the principal’s cabin Vishal stood waiting for his fate. His friends came out jubilantly and hugged him. Two drops of tears rolled down his cheeks. He was heartily happy and today he understood the essence of friendship and humanity.