Thursday, May 4, 2017

Chapter 5: Innocence and Foolishness

The Geometry Box
Author: Rizwan Ahmed Memon

While casually walking to school one foggy morning, I wondered what I should say to my primary school teacher if he asked about the geometry box again. Mr. Nasrullah was our teacher. He was a one-eyed man with mustache. He wore long, loose kameez and salwar. I decided to tell him the truth, even if it’d cost me a beating.

Mr. Nasrullah asked all of the students that hadn’t brought their geometry boxes and drawing books to stand. In a gruff voice he shouted at me, “I told you not to come to school without them!” I meekly responded that my brother had only given me enough money to just buy the drawing book. Seeing that my teacher was not impressed with my first excuse, I quickly told him that my older brother said I wouldn’t need the geometry kit.

“You all have to buy geometry boxes, and they are available at my shop,” said an adamant Mr. Nasrullah. “Look at Abbas and Asif. They have already purchased the boxes from me!”

“Sir, I will purchase one tomorrow,” I replied to the teacher as I shyly looked down at the drawing book on my desk.

“You all must have a geometry box by tomorrow. I will not accept any excuses,” he said glaring at all the frightened students. Then he asked us to sit. He started the lesson by deftly drawing an olive shape on the board for all to see. “Does this olive drawing look beautiful?” he asked the students rhetorically.

“Yes, Sir!” replied all the students in unison.

“This will look even more beautiful in the future. I will tell you how once you all have purchased the geometry boxes from my shop.”

Mr. Nasrullah asked us to draw the olive in our drawing book. I liked drawing it; it was interesting and fun. In the evening, I opened the jar where I saved my pocket money. I counted all of the coins one by one. I had fifteen rupees.  I went to Mr. Nasrullah’s shop. “So your brother finally gave you money to buy the geometry kit, huh?”

“No, Sir. I am going to buy it with the pocket money that I’ve been saving for two months,” I replied with a soft tone. “How much is it, Sir?”

“Only twenty rupees!”

I grew worried and told him that I will have to buy it in another two or three days because I had only fifteen rupees.

“No problem. I will give you a discount of five rupees. Tomorrow never comes,” he said as he quickly took money from my hand. I brought the geometry box home and hid it in my school bag. I feared my brother might get angry upon seeing the geometry kit. At night, I took it out of the bag and checked every single tool in it. I didn’t know their names, especially the one that looked like it had legs and some kind of needles. I could only recognize the standard, unsharpened pencil with an eraser sitting on top of it. I was curious to know how to use the other tools in the kit.

The next day was chillier than the day before, so my mother told me to just wash my face instead of taking a bath. I wanted to take a bath because I had dandruff in my hair. I took a shower with cold water from the hand pump. However, it warmed up after a few minutes as more water flowed through. Before I left for school, I put on my lucky half-sleeve sweater. Mr. Nasrullah always said that it was a lilami (cheap) sweater and that he had better sweaters available at his shop.

All the students were showing their geometry boxes to each other. They all had the same size and color boxes. It was obvious that they had purchased them from Mr. Nasrullah’s shop. As the teacher entered the class, he asked the students who didn’t have geometry boxes to stand. Nobody stood; they had all somehow purchased the geometry boxes. Even the poorest student of our class, Nadir, didn’t stand. The teacher was very happy. “Abbas and Asif, go to my home and bring lasi and roti for me,” he said it every morning to them. He then looked at the olive shapes on each student’s drawing book.

“Now that you have purchased the geometry boxes, I want to tell you how you can make this olive drawing look more beautiful. Actually, if we fill it with colors, it will look more beautiful. And you know what? The colors are available in my shop.”

I got tense as he said the sentence “The colors are available in my shop.” I knew he would force us to buy them. I didn’t have any pocket money left, and I was sure my brother would say I don’t need them. Every day Mr. Nasrullah ate his breakfast in the classroom. After eating breakfast, he would read the newspaper, and leave for the city to buy the merchandise for his shop on his old bike.

Our teacher made us stand every day and scolded us for not buying the colors from his shop. Everyone else had purchased the colors within a week. I still didn’t have the colors. I thought about the geometry box that had been long-forgotten by the teacher. He never talked of the geometry boxes after we purchased them. I didn’t want to be embarrassed every day, so I decided that I would sell my favorite duck.

I told my mother that I am going to sell my favorite duck. She said it was a beautiful duck that laid eggs, so it was a shame. I didn’t tell my mother why I was doing so. I purchased the colors and it was fun to fill the olive shape. Mr. Nasrullah never talked of colors after I purchased them. All the things he had made us buy were just sleeping in our bags. The promise of summer vacation made me feel relaxed. I wouldn’t have to hear the phrase “Available at my shop” for at least two months.

“Dear students, the summer vacation starts on the first of June, so I have to give you some work for the holidays,” said the teacher. “There are times table booklets available at my shop. Buy them and memorize the times tables during the holidays.”

In my culture, birthdays are not celebrated much. I wished I could’ve gotten all these things as my birthday gifts. We all were happy to go on vacation on our last day of school. Mr. Nasrullah said, “I don’t like vacations much. Well, if you need anything during the holidays, you know everything is available at my shop.”

Hoping to learn how the tools in the geometry box were used, I kept the box in my school bag from primary school to high school. Unfortunately, no teacher ever talked about the tools. When I asked some of the teachers, they silenced me by saying the tools were not for me. Perhaps, my brother was right—I wouldn’t need them.

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