For everyone at school, that Friday was the best day of the week. Their school was taking the students to an art gallery in the afternoon. Exams were over and the teacher distributed the corrected answer sheets.
“I’ve done my test well, I think I will get more than twenty out of twenty five in this paper,” Niket whispered to Ruman. Ruman smiled.
“Niket, you failed in history, five,” said the teacher handing him the answer sheet.
Niket was shocked. He quickly took Ruman’s paper and started cross checking the answers. He then walked up to the teacher’s desk.
“Mam, they are all correct but I have written the wrong question numbers. You can see the sequence of answers,” he said to his teacher.
“Niket, this is an objective test. So there is nothing like wrong question numbers,” the teacher replied. “You will have to retake the test on coming Monday when the holidays commence.”
Niket went back to his desk. “I’ve forgotten everything. I’ll have to study this weekend once again,” he sighed. Ruman patted his back.
The art gallery was filled with all sorts of beautiful paintings. There were natural sceneries, portraits of women, a village scene and many more. Each painting had a touch of elegance to it, and seemed to be carved out of reality. “Now I know why mam said that we were going to have a surprise at this art gallery,” Ruman told Niket. Niket smiled. He still could not apply his mind to it as he had to study over the weekend while his friends would gear up for their vacations.
A young man entered from one of the doors at the side. There was something so unique about him that grabbed the eyes of all the students. He had no arms, but his eyes were relaxed and his face was calm. He wore simple clothes and Hawaii slippers. He walked across the room and took the chair near the door. “I think he is the watchman,” said one student. “Poor guy,” said another. “Look at that man. He looks so calm in spite of having no hands,” Niket told Ruman. Ruman did not reply. He could not take his eyes off the man.
The teacher clapped her hands to draw the attention of the class. “Let me introduce you all to the artist who made such remarkable paintings, “she said. The young man walked up to the podium and started to speak. The students were awestruck.
“Hi, everybody. Great to see you here,” he said smiling. “I am Shakeel, and it’s by God’s grace that I painted all these pieces that you see around you. I am not that good at giving speeches, so I would like each of the students to stand up and ask me one question. If your time permits after every student has got a chance, anyone who wants to ask me more can do so, but let’s finish one round first.”
The first student asked him,”Sir, what happened to your hands?”
Shakeel replied, “Well I lost them in the earthquake that rocked Gujarat in 2001. It has been twelve years since then.”
The second asked him,” Since when have you been an artist?”
“Right from my childhood, but in my early days I wasn’t a great artist,” Shakeel said.
“So are these paintings very old?” asked another student.
“No. I have painted them in the last few years,” said Shakeel. “With my foot.” And then he picked up a brush with his toes, raised his leg and made a few strokes on the canvas behind him.
The students’ jaws dropped wide open. They looked at him in amazement. “This was the surprise,” said Niket in Ruman’s ears.
The session continued. Shakeel made some jokes and the students laughed heartily in between the questions.
When it was Ruman’s turn to pitch in a question, he stood up and said, “Sir, if you can draw so well with your feet, you might have even drawn better with your hands, isn’t it,” he said.
Shakeel smiled. “Definitely not. You see, before the earthquake took away my arms, I was a very small artist, and made a living by painting posters and banners on buildings. The day I lost my arms, I thought my life was over and wondered how I could earn without them. That’s when I started using my feet. Only after a few days, I realized that I could paint as well, with them. Within a few months, the paintings which I made with my feet were much better than those that I had ever done with my hands. Today, I thank god for taking away my hands, if He hadn’t, I would have never known that my feet could do something so remarkable. Everything bad that happens is actually a blessing in disguise.”
The students clapped for the answer. Finally it was Niket’s turn to ask a question. He had run out of thoughts. He stood up and stuttered,” Hmm sir, I failed in my exam because I had mismatched the answers. I knew all the correct answers, but still...Do you think that was also for good?”
Some of the students giggled as they found the question funny. The teacher stared at them. Shakeel replied, “Of course it was for your good. It is not the problem, but your attitude towards the problem that matters. Think that it’s a chance for you to brush up what you have forgotten. Remember, you never know what a blessing in disguise is, until you really try something.”
Niket smiled, yet he still wasn’t very convinced. However, he had immense respect for Shakeel and his attitude towards life just as the other students had.
Niket passed his re-exam. And a few days went by. He joined a camp when the vacations started. The children at the camp were of all ages, some younger to him and many older. The instructor walked in.
“Before the introductions, I would like to give you folks a small quiz, and the winner of the quiz will get a refund on his camp fees,” he said.
“Which famous personality proclaimed himself as Fuehrer, the leader?”
Niket raised his hand, “Hitler.”
“What is the title of the book written by Gandhi?”
Once again, Niket raised his hand,” My experiments with truth.”
“Tough one now. In which year did India fight her first war of Independence?”
“1857,” Niket replied.
“Remarkable,” said the instructor. “You have just won yourself a free camping experience.”
Niket remembered Shakeel and his wonderful advice about the blessing in disguise. “Yes, I rewrote my history exam for good,” he said to himself.