Raju was very excited. Yesterday, his science teacher had announced that they will start a new chapter in school. This chapter was about stars. Raju knew what stars were, but he was really curious to know more about them. What was their size? How many of them were there? How did they give out light? That morning, as he sat down for breakfast before leaving for school, he decided to ask his father.
“Father,” said Raju. “What are stars?” His father, a dedicated farmer, was not entirely happy with Raju joining school. He wanted Raju to help him out in the fields. “Don’t you see them at night?” he asked gruffly. “Yes I do, but what exactly are they?” questioned Raju. “They are the lights which guide us when we are lost,” replied Raju’s mother, as she entered with the food. Satisfied with that answer, Raju quickly ate his food and ran to school.
When the time for the science class came, he was very eager to learn. “A star is a massive, luminous sphere of plasma held together by its own gravity. The nearest star to Earth is the Sun, because of which it is the biggest, and also is the source of most of the planet’s energy,” read the teacher from the textbook. “The device through which one can study the stars in detail is called a telescope. It presents a magnified version of stars, thereby, allowing us to study it carefully.”
That day, Raju took down notes attentively and was very interested in the subject of stars. He wanted a telescope to view the stars in detail. There were so many questions in his mind, which couldn’t be answered by the textbook. After dinner, that night, he went outside and sat there. The sky was filled with stars and at that moment, Raju wanted a telescope so badly. He ran inside and went to his father.
“Father, can I have a telescope?”
“A what?” his father asked.
“A telescope to see the stars,’ replied Raju.
“You can see them right now,’ said his father.
“But with a telescope I can see them more clearly and study them,” said Raju.
“No,” said his father shortly.
Raju was dismayed. “But why, father?”
“We are farmers, son. We cannot afford expenses like that. I let you attend school because you wanted to, but it stops there.”
Raju was close to tears. “Please, father? I really want this.”
“Enough!” His father yelled. “Go sleep now.”
“But, father –“ Raju’s father came up to him and interrupted him with a slap. “I SAID GO SLEEP!”
That night, Raju cried himself to sleep. There was so much he wanted to do. The topic of stars fascinated him beyond measure. He didn’t dare ask his father again. Out of sheer desperation, he decided to approach his headmaster. The headmaster was a kind man and Raju had always heard from the teachers about how helpful he was. He sneaked off at lunch time by making excuses to his friends, and knocked on the headmaster’s door.
“Come in,” he said.
Raju entered nervously. “Sir.”
“Which class are you in?” “Eighth standard.”
“What do you want?”
“Sir, I want a telescope.” The headmaster regarded Raju for a second. Then, he said, “Tell your father.”
“My father cannot buy it, sir.” He looked at this young boy. All he wanted was a telescope. A rather unusual request, but he could see that the telescope meant the world to this young boy.
“It costs Rs.5000, you know. It is very expensive. I could give you the phone number of a dealer who supplies such devices for children’s use, but you must arrange for the money first,’ explained the headmaster.
Five thousand rupees! Raju had perhaps never even seen five thousand rupees in his life.
Looking at Raju’s crestfallen expression, the headmaster felt sorry for him. Suddenly something struck his mind. “Why don’t you try applying for the Sarkari Inaam award?”
“What is that, sir?”
“It is an award which is given to the highest scoring student of each class in the final exams. The award is for Rs.3000. Your father could arrange for the remaining Rs.2000, maybe?”
Raju was thinking about all that happened in the headmaster’s office. He decided to try.
“Father, if I win the Sarkari Inaam, can you give me the remaining Rs.2000 to buy the telescope?”
His father laughed aloud. “The Sarkaari Inaam is for brilliant scholars, whereas you are just a mediocre average student.”
Unfazed, Raju said, “No, father, I will work hard for it.”
“Go ahead,” said his father. “If at all you do win, I’ll think about it.” Those were the magic words Raju needed to hear. He checked the calendar. There was exactly a month left for his final exams. From that day on, he started studying hard. However, what Raju’s father said, was true. He was no extraordinary student to win that award. One day, he was trying to solve a maths problem, when his friend Hari called him out to play. Raju was just about to close his book when he remembered what the stakes were.
“No, I have to study.”
Every night he sat outside gazing at the stars. With every look, he wanted to reach out and bring them closer. Life was unfair, according to him. From what he had seen, the city people seemed to get everything easily, whereas he had to work so hard. But then, nothing which is easily acquired is worth it, he thought.
One afternoon, on a Sunday, he was trying to solve a maths problem, but he couldn’t find the answer. Out of frustration, he tore the page of the book and sat crying. He decided to give up. Outside, he could see his friends playing cricket and God knows how much he wanted to go out immediately and join his friends. He bent down to put on his slippers and his gaze fell on his science textbook. The page was opened to the chapter on stars. Reluctantly, he removed his slippers again and went back to studying.
Finally, the day of his final exams dawned. Raju had practically spent the last month studying. Even his teachers agreed that he had improved remarkably. Raju knew what the prize was, and day by day, his determination had increased. He wrote all his exams well, and waited for the results.
Over the holidays, all he could think about was his results. What if he wasn’t able to win the award? What if his dreams got shattered? What if he never saw the stars?
On the day of his results, he rushed to his school. He could barely contain his excitement and tension. He was waiting in line as the headmaster handed out the results. When his turn came, the headmaster gave him the piece of paper with a smile. Raju walked away and mustered up enough courage to look at the result. This one second will decide his future – whether he will achieve his dream or not. As he looked at the paper, his mind was spinning.
He had scored 95.2% and was the first rank holder in that school. Raju cried out of happiness and knelt on the ground. His headmaster came up to him and said, “Congrats, son. You deserve it.”
When his father came to know of his results, he wept with joy and showered Raju with a lot of fatherly love.
“I’m sorry for being so rude, my son. I will pay the two thousand rupees. Go get your dreams.”
Two days later, a package arrived at Raju’s place. His mother was wiping away tears of joy as Raju’s shaky fingers slowly removed the packaging. That single moment in Raju’s life felt like he had all the happiness in the world. He felt like his life was perfect. His dream was standing right in front of him. I’ll never experience such happiness again, he thought to himself, as he smiled and touched his dream. That entire day, he spent assembling the telescope as per the instruction sheet. At night, he took the telescope outside with his parents. His father hugged him and said, “Live your dream.” And for the first time, Raju knew how it felt to have a dream come true as he looked through the telescope.