By Mushtaque B Barq
In the middle of lecture Andrew changed his seat, from his usual front row to that unusual back bench wherein geniuses are created. Something moved him badly. A verse of the poet or the feeling infused in it by his teacher, he only knew. His face was not all looking jovial, a serene pain in his eyes made those innocent cheeks look as naked mountain tops without vegetation, without life and without echo. He could hardly raise his head to look at the board which like his own emptiness was dull and divested of words.
Hellen was yet again humiliated before the entire class for her tattered uniform, worn out bag, lack of note sheets and newly changed English book. She looked exhausted and insipid. The words of teacher perforated her confines. Her little heart was battered as all her classmates laughed at her when she was asked to stand outside the class.
She walked slowly; her steps were over burdened with poverty. She passed by Andrew, who was petrified by the remarks of a teacher. As she left, the unkind door was closed. Andrew was curious to share a word of sympathy, but he could not because her demand was beyond mere words. She was in need of monetary support and Andrew was well acquainted with his own limitations.
For Andrew, the class and concept, books and brutes, teaching and teasing all appeared meaningless. Life outside the class was too hard-hitting; a vivacious heart was forced to bear the wrath of limitations. Andrew buried his face. He was perhaps in commune with the Lord, something struck him and he opened his eyes and the joy once again cemented its glory on his cheeks.
He immediately rushed to staff room to seek Mr. Daniel, the house teacher.
‘Sir would you like to come to the class for a few minutes,’ Andrew begged.
Mr. Daniel responded, ‘Why not.’
Andrew motivated Mr. Daniel to help him in raising fund for the poor. Mr. Daniel was stunned by the idea of Andrew.
‘But how,’ Mr. Daniel asked.
‘Sir, you need to announce that absentees must pay Three Dollars per day as fine.’
‘But how that is going to help you Andrew,’ Mr. Daniel asked.
Andrew narrated the tale of Hellen to his teacher that motivated Mr. Daniel to announce:
‘Every absentee has to pay a fine of Two Dollars from tomorrow.’
The silence broke in the class, no one spoke. Hellen looked into the eyes of a teacher and could find nothing favoring into those sparkling eyes in which she had always seen sheen, a hope, but this time those eyes were narrating something never seen. She was broken beyond recognition.
Andrew was the first causality as per the mission. He remained absent for three days and on the fourth day Andrew happily submitted his fine.
Next week Andrew motivated two of his classmates who easily realized his need. Next week five of his classmates remained absent. Next week almost entire class helped Andrew for raising fund for the poor except seven , included Hellen. The class teacher was shocked to witness the decline in attendance. Andrew continued to motivate more friends to help his cause. Mr. Daniel himself donated ten dollars after he submitted his leave for two days in the same week.
Andrew gradually came into the notice of authorities for spoiling his studies. Every teacher started to blame Andrew for spoiling the entire class. Andrew was warned, but he hardly took notice of warning and continued to motivate his classmates.
It was just before the final exams when Andrew was thrashed by the Principal and the rest of his classmates were dealt seriously by the authorities who immediately thrust aside Andrew.
Hellen before the exams was informed through a notice to submit her fee. The notice for her was a not a mere sheet of paper, but a decree of Death. She looked pestered and bushed. Andrew was waiting for her at the school gate.
She looked at Andrew and moved sideways to avoid him. Andrew tried to follow her, but she ignored him. Andrew was trying hard to convey that her fee has already been deposited, but she was so down and dejected. As Andrew tried to stop her, she raised her voice and humiliated Andrew before everyone. Andrew was beaten by a group of students from the other class for mistreating Hellen. His cheek was tortured with few blows and he started to bleed and was taken by his classmates to health bay where he was further tortured by the concern doctor for molesting a girl.
Next day Andrew was not allowed to join the class. All his classmates called their house teacher who motivated the concern authorities not to treat Andrew harshly.
Finally , it was decided to call Andrew’s parents. Andrew was shocked to see his parents in the cabin of the Principal who slapped him mercilessly for spoiling the entire class.
Helen was called into the cabin to narrate her account, her words were feeble. Andrew’s mother hugged her and apologized. Andrew was tortured by all till his house teacher dashed in and stopped the ruthless drama.
Helen, he narrated: ‘Who paid your fee.’
‘I don’t know, Sir,’ she responded.
‘Would you people like to know whom you are punishing and for what,’ the house teacher announced.
‘It is Andrew alone who paid for Helen,’ He mutilated everyone.
The Principal stood up: ‘How Mr. Daniel, kindly explain.’
‘Andrew raised the fund by remaining absent as fine and motivated his classmates as well and even I paid a bit,’ the teacher explained.
Hellen cupped her face in shame, sat down and wept bitterly. Andrew’s mother stood up and hugged Andrew and his father went out of the room and felt ashamed. His chest swelled with pride ,but his eyes were speaking volumes.
The Principal lowered his face and sank into his chair as if he buried once for all.
Andrew was requested to join the class and the Principal himself along with other teachers followed Andrew to his class. Hellen was the only one left alone in the cabin, she was not attended. The broad daylight to her was once again, poor for she was alone in the cabin waiting for someone to take her in the class. Her strength was exhausted; she was extremely ashamed of her behaviour.
‘Poverty’, she started to address some unknown audience, perhaps all those who were bitten by poverty. She blamed her limitations had made her rude, her humiliation has turned her soft folds of the heart into a metallic sheet, devoid of feelings and care.
Andrew got a standing ovation from his classmates for helping a poor girl to submit her fee. Andrew felt unhappy for Hellen was missing from the class.
Andrew sought permission from teachers to call Hellen into the class. As Hellen saw Andrew she felt ashamed and could hardly look into his eyes. She was carried to class by Andrew.
The Principal announced full fee concession for all poor students and Andrew was selected as the Head Boy of the school.
At the school main gate a feeble voice stopped Andrew, he looked back, Hellen was waiting with a page in her hand, she was silent but presented a page which Andrew took and left. ‘Sorry Andrew, I am a tiny little bird with broken wings, but you provided a nest, thanks …. Stay Blessed….Helen’
Mushtaq B.Barq is a Columnist, Poet and Fiction Writer. He is the author of “Feeble prisoner, “ Wings of Love” and many translation works are credited to the author like “ Verses Of Wahab Khar” and “ Songs Of Sochkral”