"But they will kill you!" A potent silence pierced the sheer bliss of dawn as the celestial, twilight colours were quickly drained at the presence of the ascending East-Pakistani sun. Rofique glared at his father, dismissing his every word. "I will go to University today and that's final! It is my first day. I don't care if there are dangers!" he howled.
His mother was at a loss when she creaked open the kitchen door to find out that Rofique was quarrelling with his dad. It was a rare event. He was, like the rest of his family, a person of peace, and he'd never refuse to obey his parents. But on this occasion Rofique stood adamant. He stomped up the stairs and slammed the door shut to the flat roof. It was a balcony. And their only room. At times the owner would allow them to wander downstairs, only if the family would cook them lunch.
Rofique had left an infectious trail of anger and soon the parents began to argue. He sat down on the bed, which was only a blanket, and read the only book his family could afford. He had it read more than a hundred times, at least, but every time he learnt more, understood the novel better. It was called 'Stories in the Quran'. However, today all Rofique did was -- staring at it. Then he looked up at the sky. He didn't look for pleasure but he looked for hope. He looked for God.
Rofique felt isolated, especially when he would go to school half dressed. No shoes, no socks, not even a half sleeved shirt. He would go wearing the same tattered top and ripped trousers. Every day, at break time, he would weep with his eyes swimming with tears. He would get pushed around at lunch and the same group of boys would bully him after school.
As the sun shone its last rays, Rofique's misery would turn fortune; although he did not know it. The moon was a spectator that night, observing the gruesome games people played all over the world, one of which included Rofique. He was on his way home after a terrible school day of preparation for the tests ahead. Suddenly, out of the dark, approached the very students who would greet him with their harsh words every school day. However, this time he would be greeted with their harsh fists. Rofique was beaten and left to rot. Cold, wet blood cascaded down every part of his body, pinning him to the ground. In a way Rofique felt better. He felt that now he would become more noticed. More taken care of. Hours passed and the sign of a new day was displayed by the scorching rays of the special sun. The spectator had left its seat and gave it to the referee to decide the Rofique's destiny. But, no one came to help. People ignored him like he was a dead rat in a cat's playground or a crummy beggar on a wealthy street. Isolation swelled of Rofique's thoughts. Once again he had been captured by the deprivations of life in which the feelings of hope were only momentary and would surrender while depression conquered. For a moment he thought he was dreaming, and he had heard a familiar voice and the sound of heavy footsteps. He was almost convinced that it was his mother.
"Rofique!" At the tone of the voice, Rofique immediately opened his eyes and stared. It was Arman, his school friend. "Are you okay?" Arman trembled. Rofique signalled him to go to school but Arman was willing to help, so he helped his good friend to walk back home to the good hands of his parents.
A few hours later the two boys arrived safely at the front door of Rofique's home. Rofique's mum gasped. The sense of relief subsided in her mind when her eyes met with the dried blood which overwhelmed her only son. Rofique was immediately treated by the doctors and Arman was rewarded with some of the meagre coins the family had.
It was test day. Rofique was now cured and had prepared well after the calamitous encounter with the bullies. The start of the test was signalled by a deep and loud voice mouthing the words "The test has now begun!" Rofique examined the question paper and began answering the questions rapidly. Once he had finished he even had time to watch the birds, flap their elegant wings, outside the window! However, he didn't waste this spare time. He let his mind go back to the day of the incident. Arman had come to help. If their positions were reversed would he have helped? Suddenly, he realised the generosity Arman had showed him. He knew he had to give something back and wondered, for the remainder of the exam time, about what he could do. Two weeks later, the results were finally about to be revealed. Rofique mumbled under his breath, "I wish Arman and I could get similar, good results..."
Rofique had taken into account that the result system displayed the best students with only the top 20 being listed on the merit list. So, essentially, every student was fighting to reach the top 20 out of the country! Suddenly, he felt embarrassed to have such high thoughts for himself and knew that he could never be one of those best students. He knew, that his poverty would curtail his potential. Not a pin drop could be heard in the classroom, as school reached its closing stages. Everyone waited for the arrival of the head teacher, that is if he did come, as that would mean some of the students had earned their place in the top 20! Suddenly, the quiet was broken by the creak of the classroom door, as the head teacher walked in. Without a word, he placed the sheet, that held all the successful candidates of their division, on a table. The stomps of hard footsteps filled the silence once more, as the children rushed to the sheet like a herd of buffaloes. Every single person searched through the list of names to find their own. Rofique and Arman simultaneously looked through the names but could not find their own. Top 10? No. Top 15? No. Top 20? No. In fact they could not find their name anywhere. They sighed in disappointment as they did not make it to the top 20. Abruptly a roar of cheers and laughter echoed across the room. Everybody's eyes were directed to both Rofique and Arman. Finally the head teacher announced, "There are two people who have achieved outstanding results and have earned their place into the top 5 on our merit list!"
(To be continued)