(A boy, who is very naughty and unruly and whom the teacher has given up as hopeless, is certain to fail in life, right? Wrong.

"Prerna", a short story by Munshi Premchand, tells about how responsibility can bring the best out of a person.

The narrator of the story is a school teacher. Among his students is Suryaprakash who is very naughty and unruly. Suryaprakash is so troublesome that the narrator is certain the boy when he grows up, would find himself either in the jail or in the mental asylum.

The narrator is transferred to another place; he is quite happy to be transferred because he would no longer have to deal with Suryaprakash.

Years fly by. The narrator becomes the principal of a college. But he later faces many difficulties and is eventually driven to quit his job and move to a small village.

The narrator starts teaching children in that village. One day the district deputy commissioner comes to him while he is teaching, and touches his feet in reverence. The narrator is surprised. The deputy commissioner is no one else but Suryaprakash. How did this transformation come about? How did an unruly boy become a high-ranking officer? Suryaprakash reveals his story.)

Suryaprakash was the naughtiest boy in my class. During my ten years of teaching in a school, I had never come across a more unmanageable pupil. He took immense pleasure in making fun of the teachers and disturbing the serious students. He played unimaginable pranks.

He had built up a faithful band of followers and ruled in the school. Even the chief superintendent's instructions could be disobeyed, but no one dared to disregard Suryaprakash's orders. The school peons trembled in fear of him.

The school inspector was scheduled to inspect the school. The chief superintendent instructed the students to arrive 30 minutes earlier; he wanted to brief them on certain important matters about the inspection. It was 10 am, the inspector had arrived, but not a single student came for the meeting. At 11 am, all the students rushed out as if the gate of a cage had suddenly been opened. "The discipline is very bad," the inspector wrote in his report. The principal felt humiliated and all the teachers hung their heads in shame. It was the work of Suryaprakash, but even after persistent enquiries, not a student as much as mumbled his name.

I considered myself to be a strict disciplinarian and had topped in the "school discipline" subject while in the teachers training college. But all my discipline-enforcing skills came to naught here. My brain refused to offer any suggestions as to how I could make the unruly boy follow the straight path.

The teachers held several meetings to discuss this issue, but it remained unresolved. There were suggestions that Suryaprakash should be rusticated, but we did not dare to take that step since it would have amounted to an acknowledgement of our own incompetency. It was indeed frustrating that about 20 experienced teachers could not reform a naughty boy who was merely twelve-thirteen years old.

As such, the whole school was harassed. But I was at the receiving end the most because Suryaprakash was a student in my class. It was I who had to bear all his pranks and mischief. I arrived in the school every morning worrying about the fresh troubles in store for me. One day I opened my desk and was startled beyond words to find a frog leaping out of it. There was an uproar in the class. It did not require much investigation to discover who was the culprit - I spent the whole hour sermonizing, but the boy merely stood with his head bowed, grinning all the time.

I found it surprising as to how Suryaprakash could have passed the lower grades and reached my class. One day, in a fit of rage, I told him, "You will never pass; you will remain in this class forever." The boy replied unflinchingly, "Do not worry about my passing. I have always passed and will pass this time too."

"Impossible," I said.

"The impossible will become possible," he said.

I could only gaze at his face in astonishment. Even the most brilliant student would not have been able to assure about his success with such confidence. I thought he must be cheating in the examination and resolved to keep a hawk's eye on him. Let's see how long he remains in the same class; he will leave school on his own accord in the end.

During the time of the annual examinations, I took extra precautions to ensure that no one could cheat. But when I saw Suryaprakash's answer-sheets, I was dumbstruck. He had top-scored in both my subjects. I was certain that Suryaprakash could not have answered the questions correctly on his own, but there was no way I could prove he had cheated.

Perhaps I am over-pessimistic. I did not find the other teachers to be so much concerned about Suryaprakash; they carried on as though it was usual to have such boys in school. But for me, the issue was of grave concern. If Suryaprakash continued in this manner, then one day he would find himself either in the jail or in the mental asylum.


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