Tuesday, September 10, 2002

I'm sure we all have our own instances in life when we just 'click'; that is something deep within us instantly changes us for the rest of our lives. In my life there were two such instances and both of them had to do with girls. One of them was little cute girl and the other was Anjana. I stopped speaking with Anjana nearly two years back and have never got back to her and I don't think I ever will. One sentence that she spoke changed my view on her forever. But leave that aside and the story that I narrate now is about this circa ten year old girl, whose name I confess I don't know.

A very early morning sometime in December 1995, when I used to regularly practice basketball with my friends, I headed towards the town stadium. No one in my family were particularly happy with my habits or my daily go-abouts because of my performance at college. My parents had spent a fortune to give me good schooling and had packed me off to Kodaikanal, but now I had returned to my small town to do B.Com. I had passed the first year with only 10 marks credit, followed by an even more dismal performance in the second year when I passed by just one mark in a crucial subject. Despite this I used to spend more time at the canteens and movies with my friends, than at the study desk.

That morning, the clouds were spitting. As I dribbled the basketball towards the stadium, the spitting turned into a slight drizzle. I continued to head towards the stadium and half way through the drizzle eventually became light rain. I realised they were passing clouds and that rains would stop eventually. As I took shelter under a large tree I noticed a young girl, a rag-picker by profession, sitting in a pile of garbage along with her mother. In her hand she held a broken slate (the kind the kindergarten kids use) and a piece of wet chalk. As her mother sieved through the garbage for valuables, the girl was learning to write by copying the headlines of a discarded local newspaper. She gave scarce attention to the rain or for the fact that her writing was being erased by the constantly dripping water. She just wanted to learn how to write.

I played basketball half heartedly that morning. For the rest of the day the image of that poor girl trying to learn to write kept haunting me. Something inside me told me how lucky I was to be born in a well-to-do family where I didn't have to worry about where my next square meal would come from; that to be educated was a gift and not something to be taken granted. Few days later I told my friends I will no longer be playing basketball. I had missed lots of classes and hence had to catch up by myself by using the library and so I did. Months passed, exams were over and when one day the prinicipal of the college called my parents to tell them that I had scored highest marks for the University, I thanked that little girl, whom I had never spoken to, for changing my life.


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