It was a whimsical urge, almost an inexplainable feeling, that pulled me out of bed and made me put on my warm slippers that day. It was a cold, chilly morning, I remember, and I fought with myself to not fall back into bed. I was going to do something completely different, and excitement got the better of me.
It was one of those things I always wanted to do, something my mind couldn't wrap itself around because of the distant impression it formed on me; something everyone talked about and spread so-called awareness on but mostly failed to make an impact on our thought processes: poverty.
It was time. I called up my friend and headed for the Rail-station. Through rough planning and deep fervor we decided it was time. We were going to teach the homeless children there.
The entire place sent chills down my back. There were people, some merely wearing a shirt, dispersed in different platforms, shivering and staring with longing eyes, as I averted mine with shame. Yes, I felt shame. I was ashamed of how ignorant I could've dared to have been all these years.
Some almost looked inanimate as they lay on the side of the rail tracks while little kids of three trotted around them barefoot.
It took me a minute to gather the valor to ask one of the children there if he wanted to join Lucio Bhai and us for a few hours of studying. Some said 'no' while others' faces lit up by the sound of his name. He was the man who started this initiative; a man so dedicated that he even took to living in the slums to help street kids. His very presence was humbling. Soon enough we brought back almost fifteen streets kids to our little school, some skipping about hand in hand.
There was this one child, not more than seven years old, who really caught my eye. There was a spark in him that I only saw in my Dad: a thirst for knowledge. Every time I spoke about an interesting topic, he'd look up with such deep concentration that it was hard for me to stop speaking. He'd go on to tell me how he loved going to school and how the English language really fascinated him; and his favourite days were the ones when the teacher would read out a passage from a storybook. Eventually the inevitable happened: his parents pulled him out of school because they were short of money. Now he was going to start a job as a helper of a pick-up truck. I tried to talk him out of it, but I was lost of words. What would I have said?
His own best friend died because of a pick-up truck accident. What shocked me was how impassively he said it. Like it happened everyday. What I did not understand then, was that it did. Little kids of seven and eight become drug addicts and take up dangerous jobs. Their parents don't give them proper guidance and they fall out of school. The consequences of failing to understand the importance of education become profound. So much so that it makes me wonder if we live in two entirely different countries. Us and them. When did this gap form? Were we so caught up with our desires that we forgot about our own people, the same people whose fathers fought for our very freedom, side by side ours?
The saddest part was how none of them knew how important education really is. How they can escape the viciousness of poverty if they could just stay in school. And how exciting acquiring knowledge is! As I sat beside that boy, I wanted to shake him by the shoulders and scream "wake up!"
I know one thing though. I know how thrilling a single novel can be, and how it can make you shed tears and forget time. I know if they got a taste of the beauty of reading and creating magical worlds with your own words, they'd be amazed. That single thirst for knowledge would've created the power to put warm slippers under their feet, a life that wouldn't be scarred by cruelty. And that, will be my cause; my sole reason to go back to that desolate rail station and help children like Shajib and Nupur to understand that life does not conform to pulling luggages for passengers or losing yourself to nasty drugs.
Education will change everything. And if no one strives to help these kids around me,
I promise I will.