The Local Heroes
by Awais Leghari
Most students like me have the tendency to waste their long summer holidays, and then fret about the wasted time. This time, I thought it would be a good idea to do something productive, not only for myself, but for others as well. One of such opportunities presented itself a few days ago, when my mom’s friend just invited me to go with her to a special children’s school, where she worked. As the special school ‘Amin Maktab’ was operating due to their annual summer school, the idea sounded good – ‘the boring days will at least go away’, I thought to myself.
Today was my first day, which already became more interesting as surprisingly, one of my best friends seemed all set to start out with me. The weather was absolutely lovely; black, thundering clouds towering the little van we were travelling in, we didn’t feel it necessary to switch on the air conditioner as the air outside was so chilly itself. This lifted my mood even more, and it felt as if today was going to be a really good day.
We reached there after a journey of twenty minutes. Sitting around for a while, me and my friend were soon assigned ‘duties’ to help the children play physical sports. The children out there weren’t so old – I can safely guess that the age bracket was about 4 to 13. These children were bursting with life, were so active that I can definitely claim that they looked more lively than normal children. Yes, they are a little slow towards learning, but with time and proper dedication, things do work out, and this is not a joke, they actually do work out, as it was proved today.
While chatting away in the break with my friend, a young man with a rough beard adorning white shalwar kameez (traditional local dress) and a topi (hat) came around to sit with us. He introduced himself as Suleiman, and claimed that he worked in a local mosque near his residence. As he told us more about himself, we also started to feel comfortable around him and started to interact more warmly, but then Suleiman’s mother arrived and told us to take care of him, as he was a special ‘child’ and that he was a graduate of ‘Amin Maktab’. I was shocked. He never really looked like someone who could be deemed as mentally impaired. Here’s his picture:
What was even more interesting than his cameo appearance were the things he tried to explain to me.
“I do not support Imran Khan – I support Nawaz. Imran is a pathan and pathan should not run a country”
Although his assessment of a popular political figure was based on a stereotype, the very fact that he could still make a judgement on political issues in Pakistan was quite astonishing. Here, just a few minutes ago, I worked with children who were mentally impaired and did not understand the simplest of instructions. And right there, sitting with me was a man who gave me proof that hard work, validation and dedication towards these special children can really work. I felt moved.
And then Suleiman moved me close to tears once more:
“I now work in a mosque and earn my own money. All my life I’ve seen my siblings work hard and achieve a good reputation. They now have children, so naturally, their responsibility towards their children is more than towards me. I don’t want to be a burden on anyone. I don’t want them to ever taunt me or ever make me feel that I am just a man wasting on their pockets.”
With time, he had grown the ability to analyze social matters around him, and now he had learnt to adequately respond to them. This in itself was an achievement on his part, and his efforts to earn money with self dignity earned my respect from the heart. Such people are the real heroes in our society.
Later, I was introduced to another man of almost the same age as of Suleiman, who now worked in the school’s admin staff. He was also a graduate of Amin Maktab, and now worked perfectly in his role as a member of the admin staff.
More importantly, I was also inspired by parents of these special children. At some point, the depression about having an abnormal child must have a serious effect in these parent’s lives, but despite that, they looked as lively as their children. They gave the same amount of love to their children, if not more, had they had normal children. These are true heroes – fighting the harsh realities of the world everyday with so many sympathizers around them. You can help make a difference too, by working with these children and giving them your love. If you have a special school in your local community, do give these children some of your time, as they deserve every second of it.