Lt. Nawang's aunt (mother's sister) Sheela Jaywant is the author of 'Quilted - stories of middle class India'. In this book she features a fictional story of Nawang and his brother Sonam during their school days. The story is titled 'The Magic Marble' is given below
THE MAGIC MARBLE.
Nawang , I know you don’t believe in these things, but I tell you , this is a charm that really works. Where’s the harm in trying it out? ‘I never imagined such superstitious nonsense could come from you, Sonam."
I say it isn’t superstitious nonsense. it’s just something … well, it works , that’s all. It worked for me and it’ll work for you ."
‘I can’t understand how a bit of glass- and a chipped one at that –can ever make those fancy physics formulae easy to learn.’
‘Nawang it will not harm you .surely you understand that? Well, then , just keep it as a favour to me. okay?’
‘It certainly can’t make them any worse, can it?’
Reluctantly, Nawang agreed that his marks could not get any lower. He fell silent, then reached out and picked the gaudy, green marble that his brother held in his open palm. It had a chip and crack on it.
‘That makes no difference,’ Sonam assured him. ‘The good luck inside it is still intact.’’ Sonam, it’s just an ordinary marble that you’ve picked off the road.’’
‘No, indeed,’ said Sonam, sounding very hurt.’it was given to me by a very special friend.’
And who is this very special friend , may I ask?’ That is none of your business, really, but I’ll tell you this much .I have known her for along time and I trust her a lot. ‘’And this beloved one comes up to you and presents you with this wonderful charm, eh, that brings you marks from heaven? ‘’Yes, something like that. .Anyway , stop being so sarcastic .I say it works. That’s all. Just keep it.’
And he walked out of the room .Nawang watched him stride away , then turned
to inspect the charm .It certainly looked like an ordinary marble. It had bubbles inside it, too. He rolled it around in this palm. He tried to do the same with it on his study table, but he chipped part prevented a smooth movement .He bounced it,
stroked it ,looked through it at the bulb, peered at it through his magnifying glass and finally put it away in his pencil-box.
‘I don’t believe in all this rot.’ He thought. But his marks in the half –yearlies had been so bad that the Principal had called his parents to the school and warned them that unless he did very , very well in his finals he will have to repeat the year. That was something scared him silly. He dreaded the thought of being in the same class as those younger than him. Worse was the thought that Deepak, Saurabh, Santosh and the others would be in college the following year whilst he would be still in school. Father had also threatened to give away his brand new cycle. Or keep it locked till his marks improved.
‘I wish I could rewind the last few months.’ Thought Nawang miserably.’wish I had done my homework every day.’He remembered with a guilty pang that his classwork consisited of playing noughts and crosses with his neighbour, Abhay. Their bend heads and moving pens didn’t let the teachers suspect a thing. They thought they were smart to have escaped getting caught.
‘I think that was a dumb thing to do." Thought Nawang gloomily. ‘But honestly,
even if I had paid attention , I doubt if I would have solved the mysteries of trigonometry and waves and energy levels. Oh, what a pain these studies are.’
For two months, Nawang had taken private coaching from an expensive tutor. Yet, his marks had not improved. That was because when the tutor did the explaining , Nawang daydreamed. And when the tutor said is that clear?’ he just nodded and mumbled ‘yes’. Most of the time he did not know what he was talking about.
‘Ma and Baba have spent so much money on the fees, too, ‘he thought. He opened the pencil-box and toyed with the marble again. Suppose, just suppose it worked? It was well worth taking a chance. Promptly, He went to Sonam’s room
And asked him.’What are the do’s and don’ts involved in making this thing work?
‘You mean you ‘re going to try it out after all, are you? Nawang embarrassed, shuffled his feet then squeaked , Yes, Not that I really want to. But since you insist…’Sonam had a twinkle in his eyes as he made a list of the rules to be followed. ’Firstly "he said ‘The marble has to be kept on your person all the time. Secondly , every time you talk , its intensity is reduced –and that includes any conversations that you may have in your dreams. key? So be careful not to talk to anyone, even in your thoughts."
What rot! snapped Nawang. Then a vision of the red lines on his report card floated before his eyes and he quickly calmed down.’That’s all, eh?’He thought.
But it was tougher than he imagined.’Absolute torture, ‘ he thought. Keeping it from getting lost is bad enough, but not talking to anyone, I think I’ll go mad.’
He couldn’t play because he couldn’t converse. He couldn’t meet anyone , couldn’t call anyone over, couldn’t phone anyone. What the hell! He often thought of chucking the magic marble into the gutter but didn’t because he badly wanted to do well. This was his only hope. Since his parents had banned all library books and video cassettes, the only way he could spend his days was flipping through those boring stupid dreadful textbooks, for lack of anything else to do .He couldn’t sleep either, because the moment he closed his eyes, and thought of a person, he’d talk…. In his dream, that is …and promptly wake up, afraid that the marble ‘s magic might diminish. Staring at those hateful books solved the problem, and scribbling down things at random helped even more.
He noticed one change though the books began to seem less boring. The magic was working ……or was it his imagination?
‘Sonam ,he confessed to his brother one day.’I don’t know if this thing works .what if I fail in spite of it?’
‘You won’t ,’ Sonam replied confidently.
‘How can you be so sure?’
Because I have used it myself, ‘ he said
When was this?’
"No talking, ‘ Sonam reminded him, turned around and walked away.
The exams were only a week away and Nawang was very scared .He had this awful feeling in the pit of his stomach that nearly made him throw up his food at times .He clung to the marble and prayed with all his might whenever he could .His friends were making plans for admissions into colleges, and that upset Nawang even more .He kept to himself, and quietly stuck to his books and notes instead. Every time he felt the marble in his pocket he felt reassured that nothing
Bad would happen to him .The magic really had worked .In the two unit tests, his marks had improved considerably. Sonam was right. There certainly was some truth in this abracadabra stuff.
Then an awful thin happened. The day he got the exam time-table , he lost his marble. It had been in his blazer pocket, he had felt it on the way from the school and now it was gone. ‘It’s gone, ‘ he squeaked tearfully to Sonam .
‘Too bad’ said Sonam and nothing more.
Nawng searched frantically for the marble .He tossed everything out of his drawers and carefully put each thing back in place after inspecting it.
He was so pale that his mother almost send him to the doctor.
What am I to do? What am I to do? What am I to do?
Finally, he decided to cheat. Painstakingly, he made tiny slips of paper on which he copied down all the important formulae and the answers. Secretly, of course.
But he was caught ‘That interfering brother of mine has been rummaging through my bag.’ He thought angrily when he found them missing from his diary.
‘Where are those slips Sonam ? ‘ he demanded of his brother, ‘I know you’ve taken them .’
‘Yes, I have .You will not cheat Nawang. ‘ ‘But I’ve lost the marble and I need those slips desperately.’
‘Listen, the fact that you have made those slips means that you have revised your work …’’
‘What do you mean? You always come up with some daft comment like this….’’
‘Well, if you knew what was important, that means you’ve been through your work once. If you copied it down , that’s revision number two. Go through it once more and you’re ready to fill up and answer related questions"
Nawang always suspected that his brother had a mean streak and this confirmed it, he thought .He wanted to ask him for those slips again but their parents returned from the market just then and any talk of cheating was out of question. How that week crawled by only Nawang knew. Each paper seemed worse than other. But yet, he found enough to write for two and a half hours each day. Perhaps some of the marble’s magic had stayed with him.
The holidays were no fun either, for he endlessly worried about how he might have fared. Strangely , Sonam and Ma seemed quite sure he had done well.’ Go and see a movie, ‘they’d say, or ‘go and play’.
But Nawang did’t want to. He missed that magic marble.’It would have worked wonders.’ He thought .If only he had taken more care of it. If only……’
On the day of the results, Nawang was so nervous that he had an upset stomach.
I can’t go to school, Ma, ‘ he moaned. His mother was behaving most unusually that day.
She seemed to have no sympathy at all. On the contrary, she kept ticking him off.
‘If you’ve done well, why are you scared? If you’ve done badly, better have the courage to face up to the fact and make amends . Only cowards behave like this. And I will not tolerate cowards in our family. ‘
‘Call me what you will. But don’t force me to go .’
‘Quiet! She ordered. Whatever had come over her, he wondered. She next asked Sonam to accompany him to school .
Nawang slowly changed into his uniform.
‘Hurry up.’ shouted Sonam , you’re late as it is.’
I don’t want to go…’
‘YOU have to …’
Suddenly he heard his friend Abhay’s voice outside the front door.
Nawang! I say Nawang, where are you?
Mrs.Apte wanted to meet you personally. She was thrilled with your results .In the finals your percentage is amongst the top ten, yaar! .If you hadn’t flunked the half- yearlies , you stood a bright chance of getting the prize for Sanskrit .’
What on earth was Abhay jabbering about? He could hear him excitedly shouting some nonsense to his mother .’Yes ,Aunty , seventy-nine percent in science…no … I couldn’t believe it either….
Mrs. Apte said she’d seen how serious he’d become in the last term and she said she was proud of him and she said see what a bit of hard work could do and she said to tell him to meet her and she said…’
Nawang stepped out of his room and as he hurried towards Abhay, Sonam slipped something in his hand . It was the Magic Marble.
‘Where did you find it? ‘he asked .
Oh, I had it with me all along," smiled Sonam .
‘Well, you’d slogged through the term , hadn’t you? No talking, no story books, no movies, no games, no friends, no…..’
‘You tricked me into it. All that rot about magic and the stuff.’’
‘Naw…hard work is magic , actually works miracles and all that……..
‘But why did you take the marble away from me? ‘
‘Because you needed a break and your desk needed tidying up. Tidying up is wonderful remedy for settling mind.’
‘But I went almost mad with worry. ‘
‘Almost? Grinned Ma. ‘You mean you knew about it too?
‘Of course! I’d given it to Sonam before his boards last year. It worked. Now you can pass it on to someone else, if you like.’
Nawang stared at her, then at Sonam , then ran out with Abhay to go and collect his report card. He hadn’t felt so happy, so relieved, ever before. On the way he kept fidgeting with the marble, wondering whom it could cast its spell on next…..