Sunday, May 31, 2015

Let's Make A Difference: A short story

“There is no happiness except in the realization that we have accomplished something.” Henry Ford 

Ibraheem sat alone in his classroom with an open book in front of him. It was recess time and all the other children were outside. He heard their chatter and the thump-thump of a basketball being dribbled in the playground. Then a shrill whistle from their sports teacher pierced the air as he tried to line up the boys. But Ibraheem’s mind was on the poem they had just read in the Urdu class. 

The poem was about little raindrops. Each raindrop feared that it was too small and insignificant to bring any relief to the dry, parched earth. They all hesitated while man and beast suffered alike under the scorching sun. But their leader told them that if they all fall together, they could ease the suffering and bring respite to the people. When the raindrops fell together, the sun-baked earth rejoiced and the people celebrated Allah’s bounty 

Ibraheem’s mind reflected upon this story and an idea began to evolve in his mind. His pencil beat a steady staccato against his desktop till the ringing of the bell signalled that the recess was over. He hastily ate his lunch and gulped down a mouthful of water as there was an onrush of footsteps. The boys came in and Ibraheem hastily brushed away the crumbs from his shirt and got ready for the next class. He was ready to put his idea to test.

The next class was Social Studies. Their teacher, Sir Imtiaz was a young, idealistic person. In their last session, he had asked the students to come up with ideas for their social work project. Such projects were initiated and funded by the school to create social welfare awareness in the students.

“So, does anyone have any ideas that would bring about a positive change in lives of people around you? 

As Ibraheem hesitated, Saad’s hand shot up in the air. The students groaned in unison. Saad was the class clown and his suggestion was sure to be an outrageous one.

“Yes, Saad. Let’s hear your idea.” 

“Well Sir, I think it would be a great idea if our school remained open for only a couple of days per week. It is such a simple idea and would surely bring happiness to many of the students,” Saad suggested a little cheekily.

Amongst the laughter and the applause that followed, Sir Imtiaz said gravely, “I will forward this idea to the principal with your compliments, Saad.” 

As Saad’s cheeky grin faded away, he added a little kindly “Let’s hear some more suggestions“

Sir Imtiaz looked at his class. A few of the students yawned and looked bored. Some looked at each other for inspiration while others had a vacant expression on their faces. Slowly, Ibraheem’s hand went up.

“Yes Ibraheem. What do you have to say?” Sir Imtiaz asked.

“Sir, there is a vacant plot of land at the end of Jauhar Lane. It was once a park but now it is abandoned and in terrible shape. I think, that if we all work together, we can restore that land into a children’s park…..”

His words were greeted with a chorus of dissent and protests.

“Are you crazy?” objected Hassan. “That ground is being used as a dumping area for trash and rubbish for years.”

“My father says it is a haven for drug addicts at night,” added Sohail.

“”What about all the muck and slime? How do you propose we clean that up, Ibraheem?” Ali asked sarcastically.

“Boys, boys,” Sir Imtiaz intervened. ”Let us at least hear what Ibraheem has to say.”

“I know that the plot is in a terrible shape. That is why we will try to clean it up. Instead of being a breeding place for flies and mosquitoes or a sanctuary for drug addicts, it will be a clean and fun place for the children,” Ibraheem added a little diffidently.

“I think it is a perfect project for our Social Work Week. But how do you propose to go about it?” asked Sir Imtiaz

“Well, Sir, if we all work together, we can clean the debris. Saad’s father owns a plants’ nursery. If his men help us to cultivate the grass and plant a few trees, we’ll have a nice park in no time. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy,”

“If the broken fence is fixed and painted, it can provide a secure boundary,” Haider piped in.

“We can ask Ghulam Ali to build a few see-saws and swings,” added Fawad. ”We’ll all help.”

Ghulam Ali was the school handyman. He repaired the broken desks and chairs, mended windows broken by sailing cricket balls and prepared the backdrop sets for their school‘s Annual Drama. He was an extremely skilled craftsman and could make anything out of wood.

All the boys sat up and looked extremely excited. They started discussing the project in earnest and in no time they had evolved a clear strategy. Lists of jobs were prepared and all duties were relegated according to interest and aptitude.
The students were given one week off from studies. 

Next day, they arrived in old, plain clothes and the school bus took them to the vacant plot. It was littered with old newspapers, discarded shoes and clothes, cans, broken bottles, cigarette butts, pieces of junk and a few syringes. The boys donned protective gloves and overalls and attacked the debris with gusto. They used brooms and rakes to collect the trash and put them in huge trash bags. There were a few groans and grumbles but on the whole everyone was rather enthusiastic. Most students were happy to be outdoors instead of pouring over boring school books. 

Five hours later, they had got rid of some of the worst debris. They boarded their bus and went back tired but satisfied. Next day, Saad’s father sent some of his expert gardeners to help the boys. First they mowed the wild, overgrown grass. Then they raked and weeded the land and spread a new layer of fertile soil. They pruned the existing hedges and planted some new rose bushes. Pesticides were sprayed where needed and some decaying plants were completely uprooted. Everybody worked hand in hand and an amazing change could already be seen as the land transformed before their very eyes. 

Meanwhile a group of students worked under Ghulam Ali’s guidance to mend the fence and set up the swings. Others cleaned the green and slimy fountain in the centre of the park. Their efforts paid off when a smooth, white structure emerged. 

People from nearby apartments came out to see what was happening. They were amazed by what they saw. Where there was once filth and rubbish, now there was a vast expanse of freshly mowed land with neatly trimmed hedges. The newly painted bright green fence gleamed in the sunlight. The tree bases were also painted white with a little red border to give a neat and orderly appearance. 

Like little raindrops that quenched the thirst of the burning earth, the boys worked in unison to provide the children of the area with better and safer playing facilities. At the end of the week, the park was opened for public. All the students received medals for their hard work and efforts but their best reward was the laughter and shouts of joy of little children as they scampered about in their new park.

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