Perumal is the little boy I befriended during Diwali. He was rummaging in the heap of burnt fire crackers for the unlit ones which were lying in small heaps in front of our house, thanks to our neighbour who indulged in lighting crackers.

Perumal is a puny little guy with a cherubic face, around 11 years with a sparkle in his eyes. My heart went out to him when I saw what he was doing and I dissuaded him from doing so, fearing that it may be dangerous for him. Why should I feel for this boy whom I knew nothing about. What was it that was drawing me to him ?. I do not know. I felt very sad he could not get crackers for Diwali so I offered to help him in getting them and he stopped his search.

Perumal was happy when I handed over him a box of sweets and some money to buy crackers. I asked him about his where abouts. He told me his father is running a small idli shop and he has 5 siblings. I was also afraid to give him money lest somebody may accuse him of theft. I asked him to meet me again next time I was in Chennai and we fixed the day as November 20th as I didn’t want to miss him.

On 20 th Perumal didn’t turn up. I was disappointed. But he turned up just two days before I left Chennai. One evening, I could a hear a soft voice at my gate. I peeped out and could see Perumal in school uniform, as he was returning from school. I took him inside and made small talk with him. I wanted to know how he was fairing in his studies and he told me “Nan Maths supera pannuve” ( I am good in Maths) .He told me English is a problem for him and I told him I can help him out in that during summer vacation when I would be visiting Chennai again.

Before he left I asked him if he needs any note book or pencil and for that he replied “all that is supplied by the school” and only thing he would like to possess is a geometry box and an ink pen. I liked his straight forwardness so I asked him to come over the next day. As I could not move out of the house because of fever I asked my son to get one Geometry box on his return from office. He got the box and forgot the pen.

Next day Perumal appeared and I handed over the box to him . His eyes twinkled and he was overjoyed. But I didn’t have the pen with me hence I again handed over some cash to him to cover the cost of the pen reluctantly, as I feared the money could be misused or land up in wrong hands. But, promise is a promise hence I took a chance and handed over the money to him.

Again I saw Perumal near my door next day and he proudly opened his box and showed me a pen. I knew he would have been the cynosure of the class that day flaunting his new geometry box and fountain pen.

On the first day when Perumal came I had offered him some biscuits, next day again when he came to collect the Geometry box and his pen, I didn’t have any snacks to give him so I told him “Onnume illeyappa”. (I don’t have any thing to give you ) For that he replied, “Madhyanam nalla sapatten. Vayar fullayirukku” ( I ate in the after noon and I am full) He is a beneficiary of noon meal scheme. I was surprised by the child’s modesty.

I was sorry to see Perumal’s torn uniform and tattered bag which held his heavy books with only few strands of the bag. I restricted myself as I don’t know any thing about him other than what he has told me. I also asked Perumal to perform well in school. As regarding today’s situations and things happening around in our society, I don’t want to go over board, lest his parents or somebody else should come and put me in problems. People should not accuse me of something when my interests are genuine.

I also asked Perumal to bring his mother along, next time when he visits me so I can know him better. He has left his father’s mobile number with me. I am looking forward to my next MEETING with Perumal. Hope and wish I will be able to help him.