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What A Treasure Box

Student Stories

I am not sure if human nature normally discounts goodness. But it seems so common in practice for me to crave or covet a wealth of some proportion. Which bears an unreasonable assumption of future satisfaction.

Currently I am on my way to Makhdoompur Slum to inquire on the welfare of our children. This is not a deed I frequently undertake. Apparently time has no space for such trivial activities! I had forgotten what it is to be at the slum. So needless to say, I am pretty excited to meet the children. But there is a dark cloud of hopelessness that has invaded my thoughts… I don’t think I matter much. My worth is nothing as I have nothing in this world. I have not acquired or saved anything for myself. In the eyes of my friends, I am a pauper: a failure that amounts to nothing. I reach the school with a gloom on my face, tortured by these thoughts.

Reaching the slum a little early, there were only a few students at the school this morning. I sat a little away from them so that I don’t embarrass myself; I think that my age has advanced way beyond any possibility of simple interactions with these little ones. I muster my courage and approach one of the little ones. She is shy and bears a constant smirk, which pricks my ‘embarrassment bone’. She had her hair affluently oiled, with redundant number black clips tightly tying her hair to the ponytail. You could see a lavish flow of oil escaping into her proud forehead which should have disappeared after her toddler years, but instead it gave the rich imitation of infant innocence. Her beautiful eyes stood perfectly apart impressing on us a sordid but beautiful story. The margin under her eyebrows weighed heavily over her eyelashes. Baby fat, as many call it had not left her face, though her stature displayed just grim poverty. Sitting before on the ground she has a disk like transparent box, which holds some very amusing things. It has piqued my curiosity.

As I look at these treasures she has stored in the box, I am amused. Though the box is flimsy and buckled when I lift it up, I realise that these collectibles have been carefully chosen from the other trinkets she would have owned. There is a childish pride candidly operating under her mask of timidity, as if she has finally been discovered. Inside the box are two or three chosen sketch pens, which she informs that she just keeps the ones that are ‘working’. There is a black eraser, but I guess it isn’t really one. There are an abundant number of crayons, only a few disintegrated to the stub. Then there is a 10 Rupee note, as if it was crumpled in her fist only minutes before. As I glance around, other collectibles include a sharpener, a star-like decorative item, an almost dead pencil and a complete one. The most interesting is the ‘diary’, which is rather a discarded ‘Receipt book’. Did she mean this is to be a school diary?

In awe, I carefully spread all her trinkets out on the mat and look carefully at her treasure. Its too meagre! If my daughters had met such scant numbers, they would have complained by then demanding an immediate refurbishing. I too had been complaining about my state of affair only an hour earlier. I had counted every treasure she owned and valued. Involuntarily I too started counting the blessings I have and things I keep as my treasures. When I put back the treasure, I smile at her. She had no idea how she was making my day.

Later that day, I was told about Reshmi’s life. She lives in a small hut under the bridge of Makhdoompur. Reshmi lives with her mother and father who are both coolies, who daily carry luggage at the railway station. Along with her, are six other siblings. One morning, her teacher found her sitting in front of her home, under the bridge. This little girl was waving her hands to all who walked by her house. Sudha ma’am was on her way to school, when she reached the spot where this little girl sat, Reshmi waved her hand and said’ Bye, bye’ to her. Sudha Ma’am said bye and continued on her way to school. Later she started thinking about this little girl and decided to call her for school. Sudha Ma’am went back to her house the following two days to invite her, but Reshmi was nowhere to be found.

After two days, as if it was an answer to her prayers, Reshmi showed up at Makhdoompur school along with her younger sister. Reshmi is fine girl, who is always on time and loves her teacher. She smiles... always... That’s what Sudha Ma’am tells me. I wonder if her treasure has something to do with her constant smile!


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