By Maliha Iqbal
A solemn boy of seven was busily writing away without a thought about the world. He was perspiring and his clothes were damp. There were beads of sweat on his forehead as he knitted his brows in concentration.
Suddenly a woman in her thirties came into the room and looking at him said “Samad! Take a break! You ought to be tired by working like that since morning and that too with a power cut! It’s so hot!”
“Mother! Please don’t worry about me, the heat doesn’t bother me” replied the boy with an earnest look on his face.
His mother merely stared at him, mumbled “what a child!” and left.
She rushed to a quiet corner of the house with tears welling up in her eyes. Once she was out of earshot, she began weeping and muttering over and over again, “Oh! How the child loves to study! If only I could give him a better future! His books are his only solace from the grief and miseries of his life!” She soon stopped herself as she recalled her husband’s last words before he left the world. “You should be a source of inspiration, courage and love to Samad, never show your sorrow, face your troubles with a smile.” Yes! That’s what he said and that’s what I’ll do! She thought and smiled suddenly which lit up her face.
Samad lived in a war-torn country. Many had rebelled against the government and the country was at civil war. There was an epidemic of poverty, and all had fallen prey to this.
It was nearly 9 O’clock in the evening when Samad silently slipped out of the back door of his house and hurried through the lonely streets to a tiny, dilapidated building tucked away in a corner. A contented look came over his face as he entered the building and greeted his educator.
Ah! That was his school! How he loved going there! Samad went to school in the silence and aloofness of night — most children in the country did because of the fear of rebel attacks. Samad had few children in his school, only seven and he was the brightest among them.
They had recently started learning English and today their teacher had an interesting idea.
“All of you have to write your favourite word of English language on your slates and then one by one you will come out and tell the whole class why it’s your favourite. You have ten minutes,” announced Mr. Blake, their teacher. He wanted to test the children’s vocabulary and spellings.
Soon the room became silent as each child began to write. Samad finished his work much earlier than the given time and stared idly at the light bulb in the room which was flickering occasionally. It gave a dull glow and swarms of insects had gathered around it. Out of nowhere a loud explosion was heard followed by shouts of terror. The rebels!
The teacher shouted, “Keep calm! Don’t be frightened! Hold my hand and don’t let go of one another.”
Everyone slowly began walking out of the building in a single file but suddenly the lonely streets seemed to have come alive, and people bustled about. In the chaos and confusion, Samad was separated from everyone.
He did what any wise person would have done and began running towards his home which was nearby, the slate still grasped in his hands.
He was out of breath, but he wouldn’t stop at any cost. Finally, the front door of his house came into sight, and he ran faster still.
Suddenly there was a loud explosion and Samad saw large flames before he fell to the ground. Bruised and bleeding, he got up, limped a few steps and collapsed.
An agonized mother found her son the same night with a slate gripped in his lifeless hands. On the slate was the word “HOPE” written in a shaky handwriting. Isn’t it the best word? Doesn’t it provide you with the courage to strive towards your goal? Hopelessness itself is the end of life. Even insects are attracted towards a source of light for navigation and warmth, or should we say a source of hope?
Maliha Iqbal is a student and freelance writer based in Aligarh, India.
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