Thursday, February 2, 2017

An Early School Dismissal

Author: Rizwan Ahmed Memon

Shouting and screaming, everybody ran out of their classes. The bell had rung earlier than usual. My heart was beating a little fast because I would have a chance to go to the tube well along with my brother and nephew. Abbas, a boy who sat next to me in the class, said with a hostile frown, “Have a good day, Camel Jockey!” He was always jealous of me. Moreover, he and his cohorts kept picking on me because of my tall height. I did not pay attention to him and happily ran home.

As the burning sun beat down on my face, I took a book out of my bag and used it as an umbrella. By the time I reached home, my kameez was drenched with sweat. “Will you take a shower or shall I bring your lunch?” asked my sister, Shehnaz.

“I would rather have lunch 'cuz I am gonna go to the tube well,” I replied with falling and rising intonation. Raising her eyebrows, my sister beamed with joy. I went to my brother, Saeed, after eating a meal of cooked rice flour with spicy lady fingers. “You must have run away from school,” he said doubtfully. At my school, students often went home after recess. They either gave their books to their friends or they took their books from them through the window of the classroom, and they ran via the back side of the classrooms. They were so truant that they sometimes even crossed over the walls. School was like a prison to the village boys.

“I love school. Don’t you trust me? We got leave early,” I replied. “So now are you taking us to the tube well or shall we go on our own?”

“Swimming in the tube well is not safe. You know that. I will punish you if you ever go alone,” he warned me. I never went alone. My threat of going alone always helped me to persuade him, though. The tube well was near my home. Dani, my nephew, joined us, and we went through the olive gardens. My village was famous for its olive trees. As soon as we reached the tube well, Dani and I jumped into the cold, fresh water. When our body temperature went down, we went to pluck the fruit from the trees around the tube well. All the villagers could eat fruit from the gardens for free. We plucked the purplish berries from the jamun tree and some raw mangoes from the mango tree. We enjoyed the afternoon and went home in the evening. I did not know I would have to pay for a mistake that wasn’t even mine at school the next day.

I reached the school on time, just before the morning assembly started. Once the national anthem was over, the headmaster ordered the students to wait. “Who rang the bell yesterday?” he shouted looking at all the rows of the students. He repeated the same question over and over while walking to different class lines. As he approached my class line, Abbas confidently remarked in a smooth tone, “Rizwan, sir. It was Rizwan who rang the bell.” No sooner did he finish saying this, the headmaster appeared before me like Zakoota in Anak Wala Jinn, a drama on PTV.

“So, you innocent looking boy. What do you think you were doing when you rang the bell?”

“Sss Sir, I, I was, I, I did not,” I hardly finished my sentence when he slapped me hard on my right cheek and without giving me time to bear the first one, he slapped me again on the left. My cheeks went red, and tears started flowing like the water from the tube well. All I could see were blurred lines of the students as if I had dived into the bluish water of the tube well with my eyes open.  I wasn’t crying outloud because I knew many of the boys would pick on me making all those voices like a baby crying. The headmaster ordered the students to go to their classes.

I just sat at my desk while all of my classmates were looking at me. I wanted the class teacher to come quickly so that they would not have a chance to tease me. I peeped out through a window beside my desk to see if any teacher was coming. I saw our class teacher was scurrying towards our class. Abbas approached my desk, and whispered into my ear, “It was me who rang the bell.” No sooner did he say that, our teacher entered the class, and all the students immediately returned to their desks. Silence prevailed.

“I never knew you could do something like this,” Mr. Nasrullah, the teacher, said to me looking at me so angrily. “Stand up!”

“No, not, not me,” I was trying to tell him the truth, but I could not complete my sentences.

“Oh come on! Stop lying,” he shouted coming towards my desk. I knew that I had to tell him the truth before he slapped me like the idiotic headmaster did during the assembly.

“Sir, Abbas rang the bell; ask him to tell you the truth.” Abbas looked at Mr. Nasrullah and the students pretending that he had done nothing.

“Stop! Stop blaming others,” he roared. “I will get you rusticated if you do anything like this again.” He made me sit and started reading the lesson on page 34. On that day, I wished I had lived my life without going to school. I wished there were no schools; instead there were tube wells for youngsters. And that I had one of my own, where no people like the headmaster or Abbas were found. My cheeks were red and my eyes were watery all day. I had been punished for what I had not done. And nobody was willing to listen to me.

“What happened to your cheeks?” my sister inquired sympathetically. I looked at her silently and the tears rolled from my eyes. At night, I told her everything. She advised me to defend myself, develop confidence, and speak up to Abbas if he ever bullied me again.

The next day, it was 1:00 p.m. The last class was still there, but the teacher was absent and no one came to engage the class. Abbas started to call me names. He drew a cartoon on the board and wrote my name beside it. “Look at yourself on the board,” he said in pride. I went to him, near the board, and slapped him so hard as if I were King Kong.

He got so angry and called out his friends, “Aasu! Aabu! Anu!”

All of a sudden a teacher came into the class. I thanked God. I put my books in the bag and waited for the bell to ring. “Tin tin tin,” the bell rang. I flew out of the class like Superman. Abbas and his friends ran after me with stones in their hands, but I was as fast as an ostrich. My tall legs helped me, and I reached home safely. That day, I learned that in life many people won’t understand you. Many will make fun of you. Many won’t trust you. However, people like me through their positivity do change things. Today after 15 years, they all understand me, trust me, and respect me.

All Rights Reserved

No part of this story should be printed. Photocopying is strongly prohibited.

If you like this story, you will love Rizwan Ahmed Memon's book THE REFLECTIONS. Contact Rizwan Ahmed Memon to order the book. The book can be sent via courier throughout Pakistan.
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