Social Stigma & The Painting

 by Gunjan Singh Khandpur

pic socialstigmaI got pushed around quite a lot in my childhood. In my school, I was always bullied by the other kids. They would hurl racial abuses at me and would insult my religion. They made provoking gestures and faces at me. They called me by several offending names. It seemed that they enjoyed abusing me. Their sole intention was to make me feel bad.

I often returned home with tears in my eyes. My parents always taught me to be a gentle and a kind person. My mother would hug me and ask me what had happened. On hearing my story, she said that I would continue to meet many such people in my life. She told me not to feel disheartened and not to lose faith in people. She advised me to ignore such people as they were ignorant.

I continued to be abused by many such people. But, I never retaliated. After some time, these people realized that there words were not having any effect on me. I would just hear these people calmly and ignore them. This maddened them and they would just feel frustrated and leave me alone after sometime.

I soon noticed that there were many good people around me. These people started standing up in my favor and would chase away all the bullies. These people would treat me with dignity and never judged me by my appearance or my religion. They were curious nonetheless and would ask me about the reason behind several things that they found unfamiliar. I felt happy to clear their doubts. These people earned my respect and friendship.

One fine evening, when I was riding back home on my bicycle from my school, I was stopped by a group of students from my school. I recognized these boys. They were the same bullies who used to trouble me everyday. I sensed that something was wrong, as some of these boys were holding baseball bats in their hands and were looking at me menacingly.

I thought of simply riding away. But, a big boy came over to me and pushed me from my bike. I fell down and my shirt tore away in the process. Seeing this a few boys laughed. But, the big boy looked angry. He kicked me hard in my belly. I gave out a cry in pain. He continued to hit me. I tried to block his blows and begged him to stop. But, the angry boy continued to hit me. The other boys cheered his every blow and my every shriek.

I thought that enough was enough and picked up a stone lying on the ground and hurled it at the boy. The boy gave out a cry in pain and his forehead started bleeding heavily. I was in a state of panic. I had never intended to hurt him. But, I had only acted in instinct for my self defense. The other boys also panicked and fled the scene. I got up and ran straight to the big boy. He was holding his forehead with his hands and blood was dripping heavily from the spot where I had hit him. The big boy was weeping inconsolably.

I took out my handkerchief and tied it tightly around his forehead. I asked the big boy to sit on the crossbar of my bicycle and took him straight to the doctor. The doctor immediately cleaned and stitched his wound. I was very upset and ashamed at my behavior. I cursed myself and asked the big boy for his forgiveness. The big boy was himself feeling very sorry for his behavior.

He said that a couple of days ago his Dad had died in a remote land fighting for his country. Since, his Dad fought against some people that followed my religion he developed a sense of hatred towards me. He hit me to avenge his Dad. I felt very sorry for his loss and asked him to forgive me. He hugged me and asked me to do the same.

After all these years, when I look back at this incident, I reflect at the Social Stigmas which exist in our society. We have divided the people in the name of religion, race, caste, sect, culture, language and appearance. We have spread so much hate around us that not even our children are safe from it. We need to take urgent steps to quell this hatred and spread love, tolerance and peace. Remember that there are several children being misled who need proper care, attention and guidance. We all need to take a collective responsibility to ensure a better future for our children and all the generations to come.

The End

The Painting

By Gunjan Singh Khandpur

Sally Adams was a writer in a Children’s Magazine and worked from her apartment in Manhattan. Her apartment was in a high rise in the posh locality of Chelsea. The high rise had ten floors and each floor had four apartments. She stayed in apartment 220 on the second floor of the building. The remaining three apartments in her floor were owned by a popular television actress called Elizabeth Styles. The actress was out of the city most of the time for her television shoots and very rarely spent more than a couple of days in her apartments. So, essentially Sally had the second floor to herself. She enjoyed the quiet atmosphere of her floor which helped her to write peacefully.

One evening, Sally was busy writing in her room, when she heard the lift door open in her floor. The house keeping staff had already left and as she was not expecting any visitors. So, she thought that maybe Elizabeth had returned from her television shooting. She did not want to look nosy by going out and saying, “Hi”. But, she was curious nonetheless and peeped out of the door eye. She was surprised when she did not see anybody in her floor. She looked hard and suddenly out of nowhere a lady’s face stared back at her. Sally got afraid and she fell back in fear. She heard the person knock on her door. Sally was thinking whether to open the door when she heard the person say, “Hi! I am Lizzie’s cousin. Do you mind if I have a coffee with you?”

Sally thought she was being foolish and got up to open her door. She opened the door and invited Elizabeth’s cousin inside. Elizabeth’s cousin was a stunner. She was tall, slim and had very beautiful blue eyes. Her black hair were cut short and she wore a knee length black color skirt and a silver top. Sally couldn’t help admiring her and said, “Wow! You are so beautiful.” “Gee! Thanks! By the way my name’s Alice” the lady said smiling and shook hands with Sally. Sally prepared coffee and the two of them sat down on the sofa. Sally asked Alice if she had come to visit her cousin. Alice answered that her cousin was out of town and she had come to Manhattan on a modelling assignment. Since, her cousin was away, she had asked Alice to stay in her apartment till her modelling assignment was completed. Alice said that her modelling assignment would get over in a couple of weeks. Sally was glad that she had a wonderful new neighbor like Alice.

The two of them got along very well. They would go out jogging in the morning and would have also have dinner together. Alice usually came over to Sally’s place and the two of them would talk for hours together. During their conversations, Sally came to know from Alice that Elizabeth had gone to Dubai for a new movie assignment and would not be returning for another couple of months. Alice also mentioned that her modeling assignment was almost done so she would be returning back to Los Angeles the coming Sunday. So, Alice wanted to throw a party for her friends before she returned home. She invited Sally for the party.

Sally rarely went to any parties. But, she did not want to disappoint Alice. So, she agreed. The party was on a Friday evening. Sally put on a beautiful red dress and gold earrings and went to Alice’s apartment. She had never been to her apartment before. The apartment was beautiful and big. Elizabeth had combined her three apartments to make one big apartment. It was beautifully furnished and Sally just could not take her eyes off the beautiful chandeliers. Alice showed her around the house and introduced Sally to her friends. Alice showed her a painting in the drawing room and told her that it was worth One Million dollars which made Sally’s jaw drop in awe. Alice said that Elizabeth had received the painting as a gift from her rapper boyfriend on her last birthday. Alice told that her cousin had installed a world class burglar alarm system to protect it. She said that only her sister’s finger prints and a secret pin code could deactivate the alarm. After the party, Sally thanked Alice for the wonderful evening and took her leave.

Once, Sally returned to her apartment she could not help thinking about that expensive painting. Sally thought if she had a million dollars she could clear all her debts and live the rest of her days enjoying on a remote Caribbean Island. She thought about the painting for the entire night. The next morning, she came up with a plan. She decided to steal the painting. Alice had informed her that she was flying back on Sunday, so she invited Alice to her place for dinner on Saturday evening. When Alice came to her place for dinner, she drugged Alice’s drink. After Alice fell unconscious, she took the house keys from her purse and went to her apartment. She opened the door and quietly sneaked into the drawing room. In the drawing room, she saw the painting. She took out her camera and took few pictures of the painting. She took out a tape and took measurements of the painting and its frame. She then took out soap from her purse and pressed the key to take an imprint. She then closed the door and returned to her room.

She waited patiently for Alice to wake up. Alice woke up after a couple of hours with a heavy head. Sally told her that she had a bit too much wine and helped her to return to her apartment. The next day Alice returned back to Los Angeles and Sally once again had the second floor to herself. Sally got a duplicate key made out of the soap imprint and also got a life size replica of the painting done with a similar frame. She bought a few microphones and spy cameras and installed them in various places in Elizabeth’s house using the duplicate keys.

Now, she waited for Elizabeth to return. Elizabeth returned to her apartment after about couple of weeks. Sally could monitor her every activity from her computer. She recorded her every activity and checked if she could get some clue about the secret pin code. One evening, she finally got what she was wishing for. Elizabeth had called some people from the art gallery to curate the painting. She entered the secret six-digit pin code and pressed her index finger to deactivate the two stage alarm system. Sally recorded the sequence using her spy camera.

A few days later, Elizabeth left for her television shooting. Sally sneaked into her apartment that night and managed to collect her index finger print from a wine glass. She imprinted the finger scan on a sheet of plastic and used it to deactivate the alarm. She then cleverly replaced the fake replica painting and once again re-activated the alarm. She took the original painting and hung it in her apartment. A few days later, she managed to sell it off in the black market for about 800,000 dollars using a fake identity. She sold off her apartment to Elizabeth for 200,000 dollars who was glad that she owned the entire floor now. Sally bought a small property on the Caribbean Islands and spent the rest of her days writing peacefully and sipping red wine. As for Elizabeth, she still thinks that she owns a million dollar painting.

The End

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