Monday, March 6, 2017

Chapter 4. Innocence and Foolishness

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. There were several tube wells in my village, but we went to the one in the orchards. Abbas, a boy who sat next to me in 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 I was tall. I did not pay attention to him and happily ran home.

The burning sun beat down on my face, so 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. “Are you going to take a shower or shall I bring your lunch?” asked my sister, Shehnaz. She had come to visit us for a few days.

“I would rather have lunch 'cuz I am gonna go to the tube well,” I replied with a 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 while looking at me. At my school, students often went home after recess. They either gave their books to their friends or they took with them through their classroom windows which were at the back of most classes. Some truants even scaled over the school walls. School was like a prison to most village boys.

“I love school. Don’t you trust me? We’ve got to 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 because I was afraid of snakes. My threat of going alone always helped me to persuade him, though. The tube well was at 20 minutes’ distance from my home. My nephew Dani joined us, and we went through an olive orchard. 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. After cooling off in the waters, we plucked some fruit from the trees around the tube well. All the villagers could eat fruit from that orchard for free. We plucked the purplish berries from a jamun tree and some raw mangoes from a 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 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 through different class lines. As he approached my class line, Abbas confidently remarked with 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 opened eyes.  I wasn’t crying outloud because I knew many of the boys would pick on me making all those sounds like a crying baby. The headmaster ordered the students to go to their classes.

I just sat at my desk while all of my classmates looked 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 approaching. 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 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. I wished that I had one of my own, where no people like the headmaster or Abbas were allowed. My cheeks were red and my eyes were watery all day. I had been punished for something 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. That 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. Feeling bored, 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 with pride. I went to him, near the board, and slapped him as hard as if I were King Kong.

He got became furious and called out his friends, “Aasu! Aabu! Anu!”

All of a sudden the teacher came into the class. I thanked God. Towards the end of the lesson, 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 many people won’t understand you. Many will make fun of you. Many won’t trust you.

Purchase Rizwan's book The Reflections.
Available at:
1. Sagar Book Depot, GPO Road Larkana
2. Mumtaz Bookstore, Lahori Muhalla Larkano
3. Rehber Book Academy, Bunder Road Larkana
4. Afnan Super Mart, Galib Nagar Larkano
5. Abdullah Bookstore, Bunder Road Larkano
6. Rabel Kitaab Ghar, Station Road Larkana
7. Noorani Bookstore, Bunder Raod Larkan
8. National Book Store, Bunder Road Larkana
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