Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Worth of Education

The children of Hadipur village fell sick one by one. There had been a fair in the village recently and the sweetmeats were not fresh. After eating the mithai, the children suffered from stomach cramps, fever and diarrhea.

Umar looked at his little sister who lay sick on the charpoy with concern. His mother was fanning the little girl’s face and tried to keep the flies away. Just then there was a knock at the door of their little mud house. Umar opened the door and Mai Sakina walked in.

Mai Sakina was the village sage. Everybody was afraid of her because she claimed to possess spiritual powers. She could talk to jinns and cure people by magic. Umar did not like the dirty woman. He knew that Mai Sakina was a big fraud but the poor, illiterate people of the village held the fat woman in great esteem and contacted her for help every time a calamity struck

“Hoho, look at the poor girl,” said Mai Sakina, sitting on the charpoy which sagged under her weight. “She has been touched by black magic. Look how pale she is.”

“She has been vomiting all night and has fever too. She has diarrhea…”Umar said.

Mai Sakina looked at him with dislike. “Your son’s brain has been addled because of books he reads,” she told Umar’s mother.

“Now Umar, be quiet and do not interfere.”

“Mother, if we take Guriya to Dr. Ahmed, he will prescribe medicines and she will be alright but we must not waste time,” Umar argued.

“Haha! what can a doctor do in when faced with black magic. Now Razia, you must give me your silver bangles and six eggs if you wish Guriya to recover. I must work hard to drive the bad devils away,” the greedy woman said.

The poor woman took off her bangles and handed them to Mai Sakina who took off promising to send a cure later. Umar was enraged. He was a student of class nine and the first boy from their tiny village to go to high school. Almost all adults in Hadipur village were illiterate. His own father thought that his only son was wasting his time and health. The village did not have a senior school so Umar rode for five kilometers everyday on his pet donkey to a nearby town.

The hard working boy worked in the fields after school and studied his books in the light of the lantern after dark. He was determined to go to college and become a doctor. He had witnessed too many unnecessary deaths in his village due to lack of knowledge and proper medical care.

Meanwhile, Mai Sakina visited several houses and by midday, she had collected quite a few items from the simple villagers….live chicken, eggs, half sack of rice, a pair of sandals, new clothes, some jewelry, money, a box of mithai and some mutton. Every household was promised a cure for the disease.

By nightfall, there was no word from her. Umar’s mother implored her to go to Mai Sakina’s house and get the medicine for his sister. Umar did not want to go but seeing his mother’s tears, he rode his bicycle and went out. Midway, he changed his mind. He rode quickly towards the village’s dispensary and went to Dr. Ahmed for help.

Dr. Ahmad thought for a while. He knew the village people will not accept his help so he thought of a brilliant plan.

“Umar,you must do as I tell you. Nobody must know that you have not been to Sakina mai. Come on . We don’t have a minute to lose”

They went to his tiny pharmacy and worked quickly. Dr. Ahmad ripped open some oral salts sachets and told Ali to pack them into brown packets. He also crushed some other medicines and made small paper wads.

“Take these home. Tell your mother to boil water and add these when it cools. Make Guriya drink this water all night. Tell your folks these are Sakina mai’s magic potions.”

Umar went home as fast as he could. He relayed the instructions to his mother and took some magic powder to Chaudhary Sahib's and his uncle’s house as well. To his immense anger, they were all very grateful to Sakina mai and praised her skills. Umar bit his tongue and said nothing. He went home and made sure all the instructions were followed.

The children were a lot better next morning,. They were no longer dehydrated and the diarrhea was better too. The villagers gathered in the village square under the old banyan tree and thought of ways of thanking Sakina mai

Umar could bear it no longer. “Listen everyone. I did not go to Sakina mai last night. I went to Dr. Ahmad. Your children are better today because for once they have been drinking boiled water. It was Dr. Ahmad’s medicines that I gave you that saved Baloo’s life and Jamal’s and Fareed’s and our Guriya’s.

The villagers were stunned into silence. They could not believe their ears. “But she took my two hens as payment,” cried Khair Baksh.

“And a pair of leather sandals from me. She told us she’ll bring the medicines later,” added Jamoo, the cobbler.

“And half a sack of rice from me. Where’s the old rogue?” thundered Chaudhary sahib.

Suddenly everyone was very angry. In a large procession, they went to the old woman’s hut which was at some distance from the village.

They found Sakina mai on her cane bed. She was groaning and clutching her stomach. She looked at the angry crowd with a frown.

“O villagers. Help your Sakina mai. I am very ill. Tell your women to make some broth for me. And you boy, go to the doctor and bring him here. “

“Why Sakina Mai,” answered Umar, with an innocent look.” What happened to your powerful spirits? Surely they can cure you at once. Why don’t you call them? And where’s your magic powder which cures all diseases?”

“Yes, take you what you have prepared for our children. We’ll see how quickly it cures you,” added Chaudhary Sahib menacingly.

Mai Sakina had no answer. She did not want to take her own medicines which were powdered roots and dried dust. She looked at the crowd and knew her game was up. She could sense their anger and did not want to get beaten up. Just then her stomach rumbled and she moaned.

“Leave me alone. Argh. Leave me alone. Go away,” she whimpered pitifully.

“Not without my mother’s bangles, and give back all the other things you took from us, “Umar added fearlessly.

The villagers quickly stripped the hut of all their belongings. They found a large wad of money as well and took it too. Clutching their hens, vegetables, earthen pots and other things, they marched back to the village.

“What shall we do with all this money, Chaudhary Sahib?” Kareem Deen asked respectfully. It belonged to the entire village but nobody could decide his own share.

“Let your son decide. He has shown more pluck and sense than all us old folks here,” he said.

Umar thought for a while. “I know! Why not give this to our new dispensary and ask Dr. Ahmad to stock it with necessary medicines and supplies. Then our children, women and elders can have proper treatment and care when they are ill and we will never have to depend upon bad rogues like Mai Sakina for our troubles.”

Everybody agreed. They clasped Karim Deen’s hands in respect and told him what a fine son he had. Karim Deen’s eyes filled with tears of pride.

                            He finally understood the worth of his son’s education.


Guriya: girl’s name meaning doll.
Mai : old woman
Chaudhary Sahib: village elder


Carolyn Noblett said...

Hi there old Helium pal. I'm glad to find your blog, I don't know why I didn't find it before. Good to see your writing again. Hope you are doing well and have found a new writing home.

Best Wishes
Carolyn Noblett

Dawnwriter said...

Thank you so much Carolyn for your kind words. My blog is rather new and I am still learning the ropes. I hope to see you here more often.

Bill Kasman said...

Knowledge is indeed power and the value of education cannot be over-estimated.

Anthony Davis said...

Umar was the hero of the village. He alone brought back trust to the people and insured their future health by revealing the truth of the old lady's bad intent.

I was impressed by this story to the point of feeling actual pride in the boy and his determination to get the medicine his family needed due to having a proper education.

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