HOPE- Part 3
Today he stands in front of his father, with clothes not dirty and torn, but too fine; who is tidying him up for his first day at school after struggling to arrange for everything required for his first day. A small act of kindness of someone his father had sold a snack 20 years ago the first time has changed his life completely. Now in school, he is entering a new chapter of his life as a school-going boy. He is now among those kids with a bright school bag, a nicely pressed uniform running with fellow kids.
But is he truly from them? Now that he has entered the phase that he always dreamed of, life would present him with new challenges different from the rest of the kids. Something he is quite unaware of, but the reality is that even at this young ripe age, he is going to face the brutal reality of painful class differences. How he tackles this reality will mold him in the future and will surely make a difference. A child belonging to a humble family background yet studying with rich kids. He looks at his neat and well-pressed, but second-hand clothes and his patched-up bag, and then glances at the others who are buzzing with excitement as they brag about the new bag and stationary they got for the new semester. In this glance, there is a reality subtly sinking in as his heart silently craves for the kind of life he is still so far from, yearning for a life akin to the rest.
He cannot relate to their ecstasy. All they speak about is different from what he knows. He tries his best to understand the conversations, but he has never heard of the English words they use so casually in their speech. He is not ready to face how far apart their realities are, but he holds on to the straps of his bag firmly, as if reminding himself that they might be one step closer. At least now, he is a school-going boy. He remembers the generous man who has brought him closer to these kids and feels blessed and thankful for his kindness. So what if he looks a little different? He hopes to get along with the rich kids and befriend them.
Yet his first day is a strange concoction of feelings too diverse-happiness obscured by the feeling of longing he can’t seem to shake off. The first day passes, and he enjoys the unfamiliar domains of school, which he could only imagine while standing outside the school. And after the first bell clang, he grabbed his bag and rushed out of the classroom door. After leaving the school compound, he was still running towards his father who for the first time was not standing behind the cart, but in front of it, his eyes lit up proudly as he faced the school. He was oblivious of all the children coming and grabbing stuff from his cart while only some handing him the money because all his attention was focused solely on his son. The son keeps the strangeness of the day all to himself, but the father knows the realities of life.
As the days pass by, and the son to starts to realize that the differences between his upbringing and his classmates cannot be overlooked. His expectations were that the kids of his age would be friendly, but the rich kids studying in elite schools had inherited the snobbish attitude of their parents as he has observed the way their parents looked at him and has also heard some parents clicking their tongues and claiming that him being in the same school shows how the quality of education of the school has dropped.
These comments immensely trouble him as he knows did nothing wrong to those kids and only wants to be friends with them. How come his crime is that he belonged to a poor family?
He is devastated by the injustice, unfairness, and class distinction he cannot escape from. He muffles his cries in his blanket as he falls asleep every night, dreading getting up and facing all of it tomorrow. He feels despair and as the nights seem harder, he has the urge to run away from all of it.
It was that moment when his decision to leave school was becoming firmer when that generous man showed up at his father’s cart. The father explained to the man how his boy wants to leave school and begged the man to change the boy’s mind. Upon asking the poor boy why he wants to leave school, he couldn’t word why and only kept on saying that he didn’t want to go to school anymore, but the man understood why the boy was feeling such. The man told the boy his own story of how his life was when he was a kid himself. Hearing the man’s story, it made sense why he had helped the boy out, for both of them had a similar childhood. Now he is living a far better lifestyle, but even after becoming a man of good stature, he couldn’t forget his roots. He had decided that he would dedicate his life to making the lives of others easier as he wanted to have fewer and fewer children go through what he had.
The boy, upon hearing encouraging words from the man, feels relieved and has renewed hope. He makes up his mind and promises himself to work extremely hard and become a man of good stature that can ease the life of others like him. He realizes not all rich men are snobbish and he will have a choice of being better. He will not fall into the black hole of pride and superiority. Rather, he would be a ray of hope for those stuck in the darkness of poverty.
Graphics- Areeba Ali