From the childhood

It was a sunny day, I was busy studying flowers and the bees flying around them, there were the chirpings of different kinds of birds and to the extent I remember I enjoyed every minute of my childhood I spent in the wonderland ( the bushy garden filled with various types of trees, plants and herbs and animals living in it). Well I was touching the rose, feeling the thorns and trying to catch the bee sitting on it. I heard “Haron(Aaron)” call my name, he stopped near me and begin to say good things about his new school which he called a private school, where all the subjects were in English language. Aaron went in there with his brothers and sisters. I left the garden and ran toward home, I went straight to my father’s room, and he was reading a book. I knelt down near him and grabbed his knees and asked him to take my admission in one of those private schools. Because all I heard from my friend was pretty exciting. So on the very next day my dad called my uncle and told him to take my admission in one of the private schools. Well we went in there, the admission process was good. I was given books, uniform for school. The time I was walking through the hall I noticed some children looking at me strangely I was so much embarrassed from the way of their behavior. One of them whispered to other: look he has green eyes, the other said oh look his hairs are yellow then I heard the laughter’s. Well I ignored the bad coincidence. I followed my uncle on the next day through the big door of junior Cambridge high school. The school where my admission was taken, it was 8:10 o’clock in the morning and the hall was empty. I stared at the coats hanging on hooks outside the grade four classroom door. There were so many of them. I swallowed and hung back, uncle feeling my hang tug at him, turned and saw the panic in my eyes. He smiled at me and paused long enough to murmur words meant to be comforting. Your teacher’s name is Mr. Sikanadar, he knows we’re coming. I’m sure you’ll like him. What he did not seem to understand was that it was not the thought of Mr.sikandar that was frightening me? I had no doubt that my teacher & I would like each other. I had not yet me a teacher who had not liked me. 
The sound of children voices came from behind the door. It was those children who worried me the first day. How would they feel about a White Boy with green eyes and yellow hairs joining their class at the end of august?  Uncle knocked once, opened the door and propelled me gently but inexorably into the classroom. The buzz of conversation stopped at instantly. In knew without turning my head that every child in the room was staring at me. Out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed what seemed like 50ths of boys and girls seated in long straight rows. me later learned that there were only 32 students in Mr. Sikandar’s room. But compared to the twelve students in Miss Sadia class, thirty two seemed like a multitude. Mr. Sikandar came to meet us, smiling a welcome. You must me a new comer “he said, speaking directly to me. We have a place ready and waiting for you. Boys and girls! This is the Essa the newest member of our class. There was silence as he escorted me to an empty desk in the front row. Our footsteps seemed to make a deafening clatter on the tiled floor. I slid into the seat, my head down, and my cheeks flaming. See you at noon of the break Essa! Uncle said his tone casual. I held onto the word “noon” the way a drowning man would clutch at a rope. Noon was only three hours away, the teacher and my uncle walked together to just outside the classroom door and stood talking in voices too low for anyone inside the room to hear. From across the aisle, I heard a sharp whisper. He has green eyes and a yellow hair…he looks like a cat! I did not look to see who had said it. I was struggling to control the tears that were threatening to well up and spill over. Even though this was my first day in a regular private school classroom in Pakistan, I knew that crying right then would be a fatal mistake. I did not dare to blink. I gazed straight ahead. Mr. Sikandar came back and the whispers stopped. He smiled down at me. The warmth of that smile dried up the betraying tears. I smiled tremulously back. I did not know yet that being teacher’s pet was almost worse than being a green eyed yellow haired crybaby. Essa will have lots of interesting things to share with us. Mr. Sikandar told the class: Essa was born in Baghlan, who knows where Baghlan is?? Nobody knew. Nobody liked not knowing. The teacher went to the board, reached up and somehow released a map of the world so that it hung down over the blackboard. He got a pointer and indicated the faraway island that my homeland was located. Baghlan was the place where I was born, and where I had lived for the three years of my life under the Russian war. As he did so, I saw that there was something wrong with his left arm and hand he held it awkwardly and did everything with his right hand. My new teacher was handicapped like my little cross-eyed brother was. My poor lil brother also had hard time with paki kids calling him with names like Cross-eyed red headed Monkey. But there was no time to think about this now. Okay the teacher said: here it is right off the coast of Caucasia Mountain right next to the Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Essa has also lived in Baghlan, his pointer moved to another invisible speck. Can you speak Persian? He asked me. I was feeling happier, I nodded proudly. It did not cross my mind with this introduction. Mister Sikandar was giving the bullies in the class added ammunition. Could you say hello? He asked, & I hesitated. When people greeted each other in Baghlan, they used the sentence “Salam Manda Nabashi” .  I knew that muslims in Pakistan used a different salutation. I decided to use the word my family used. These pakis would not know the difference.  Salam manda nabashi – I said.  A muffled titter sounded all around me. Too late, I realized that I should have kept quiet. Mr. Sikandar frowned at the noise and the class hushed. I head him sigh. He would keep trying to help. But nobody, least of all the teacher, could make them like me.  Well we are very glad you joined us Essa, “he said to me looking at the others, he added “I know you all will do your best to make Essa feel welcome here in our class. I stood up with the rest singing “Pakistani national anthem”. And mumbled my own country anthem so nobody else could hear me, I sang my country anthem and hoped for its freedom from Taliban scum. When I slid out of the desk, however, the hinged seat flipped up. I had never sat at that kind of desk before. It took me a second to find out how to make it drop down again. In my hurry, I let it go with the resounding bang. There were more muffled giggles.  When the teacher gave me my reader, I opened it eagerly. I had to hold it up close, as usual. To see the words I have no idea how odd I looked when I read, since I had never seen myself doing it. My nose touched the pages, as always, and I moved both the book and my head back and forth. As I followed the line of print along, I caught more smothered laughter, but I was too pleased with the new book to pay attention.  As the others took turns reading aloud. I realized with relief that I read as well as any of them, better the most. It was my turn. I would show them.  Good “Essa” you read with expression, “Mr. Sikandar said as I came to the end of the page, I glowed. Then it was time for the writing lesson. Printing was easier for any child to read than cursive writing which was taught in upper grades. Because of this, I was not supposed to write with all the letters joined together, but to go on printing. Where Mr. Sikandar class got out the lined notebooks in which they practiced routs of loops and squiggles, I had to be given a different activity. That morning Mr. Sikandar should have had me do extra arithmetic problems. Since I had skipped grade one I was extremely shaky when it came to knowing my time tables. But Mr. Sikandar gave me a box of colored chalk instead and sent me to the board to draw a picture. I loved doing it, ofcourse. I drew a huge castle with a flag flying from its tallest tower. I put in trees; I felt I drew trees especially well. I used all the colors in the box.  I did not feel the hostile glances aimed at my back. I was drawing while they worked. No wonder, before the first recess bell had rang; I had thirty-two enemies. They never knew that I practiced “real writing” like theirs at home and envied them their chances to use to use those specially lined writings.  When we went out for recess, nobody spoke to me. It was though I had suddenly become invisible. Everyone else knew what to do, where to go. I stayed close to the door, sweating in august heat and wishing recess would end. At noon, Aaron my friend told us all about some boys he had met, they seemed to be from Afghanistan. I listened to stories about Sadiq and Farhat with a pang, never mind. Perhaps I would make a friend that afternoon, but nobody except Mr. Sikandar spoke to me. When I got back to the school, we had a spelling bee. I was one of the best spellers in the class. I was slowest at arithmetic, though and I could not see where the historic people lived on the big map. To tell the truth Pakistan’s history was one person: Qaide-Azam and the books was written about him, Pakistan had 52 or more or less year’s history while Afghanistan had more than 6 thousand years history. Okay when 1:40pm came, I was very glad it was time to go home. The name callings began the instant I left the shelter of the playground. Boys going in my direction started up the chant as soon as they knew Mr. Sikandar could not see or hear them.  Kitty kitty kitty  Green eyed kitty  Yellow haired kitty  Teacher’s pet  Roar baby roar…then meeewowww!!!!  Knock knock  Who goes there?  Little white rabbit  In his underwear!  Every of them were calling me with different names. However, I begin to run, but they swarmed after me, I hit one of them but there were many of them so I had to go away from them. They were running, screaming taunts. I ran faster, my heart thudding, my eyes blurring with tears.  Cry kitty cry! Stick your finger in your green eye and tell your mom it wasn’t I. cry kitty cry! Some were shouting: pilgrim go back to your infidel country.  As I fled, each pounding step jarred my whole body. What would they do to me if they caught me? Home was only five short blocks away, but even though I positively flew along the sidewalk, it seemed to take hours to get home. In my breathless dash, I slipped on a patch of mud and went crashing down on the knee. There were shrieks of delight; they sounded so menacing that I did not take my time to inspect my wounds and cloth, which was covered with mud. But I was up and running like a fox with a pack of wild dogs after it. Well I always called them wild dogs, sometimes hyenas, because they were acting so much like hyenas.  I had not realized how fast I could run, and I also had not realized before how much I had depended on my brothers and cousin for protection when we lived in that colony.  Junior Cambridge was a two story building with seven rooms that had classes from first to seventh grades. Aaron was student in grade one in the first floor. My 2 brothers and 2 cousins were studying in Afghan School which was located some streets away from home. They weren’t here to fight my battle, no longer were the boys to help fight my battles. And no longer could I threaten the bullies with what my big brother would do to them. Sobbing with relief, I reached our home at last. The cat calls died away as I pulled open the big front door and stumbled inside. Then I stood still and wailed “Maather (mother)”. She came running and gathered ne into her arms, what happened?, she demanded, holding me close”. U displayed my thorn pant and my scrapped knee. She led me into one of our rooms. She gently peeled off my socks, and rolled up my pants and cleaned up the smear of blood. As she tendered my hurt knee, mother listened to the stories of bullies chasing me home and calling me names. She did not gasp or shudder. Her calm helped to quiet my storms of tears.  I want you to walk there with me, I finished up, “they’d leave me alone if you were there.” She did not answer at once, when she helped me change into another socks, she sat down in the rocking chair and took me on her lap. O was a bit big, but neither of us noticed. “I’m so sorry you had such a bad time, she said as she slowly rocked the chair back and forth. Her cheeks rested against my head; little by little peace filled me. I n drowsy content I listened as she went on, “but you’ll have to learn how to laugh at teasing, Essa. If I walked you to school each day, you would never make friends. Remember the rhyme…..” I remembered it, and I didn’t like it. It was not true. I gave a wriggle of protest but she repeated it anyway.  Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me. “But names do hurt me, I growled” and I want you to walk with me. I don’t want them for friends, I hate them. “it’s hard not to hate people when they’ve made you so miserable”. She agreed but you’ll just have to laugh it off. they won’t tease you when they see that you don’t mind. “but I do mind!” she laughed softly, gave me a last hug, and tipped me back onto my own two feet. Didn’t she care? I knew the answer; her calm, steady words did not fool me. she hated anyone being cruel. She loved me very much. If she could fix things she would. But this was something even my mother could not fix. I would have to work it out myself. And I didn’t know how? Then why wouldn’t she fight my battles for me? Because she could not win them for me anymore than Mr. Sikandar had helped me when he had told others to make me welcome.  The doorbell rang. “maybe it’s for you, mother said” run and answer it! She was trying to distract me, I knew, but I went.  Shakir (one of our kin whom I barely knew was living some blocks away from our home. He was average with wide shoulders; he had brown eyes and brown hairs. From what I remember: he was wearing red shirt and had white sport shoes on.) okay shakir stood on the steps and smiled at me. He lived across the street and was almost as old as my elder brother. I waited politely to see who he wanted to see.  Hi essa! He said “your mum says you like to read. I wondered if you’d like to come to our home and see our library with me. You can get some books, plus you can practice your school subjects with us if you want.  I stared at him blankly for a long moment. Then I totally forgot the name calling and my sore knee.  I’d love to “I said. I’ll tell mother” as we walked side by side down the rainy muddy sidewalk, I felt too shy to start a conversation with such a big boy. I hoped somebody from my class would see us. If they found out shakir was my friend, it might make a difference.  Starting school in a new town can be pretty rough at first, “shakir said gently” I shot a startled look up at him. Did he know or was he guessing? He knew.  Living right across the street, he travelled the same route as I did, he must have seen me fleeing from paki schcool boys. 
Yes “I said, comforted”  We went in a friendly silence. Then he took my arm and steered me into the right.  “we’re here”. He said. It’s our home and our Library is downstairs, the door is at the back.  once we were inside, we went down a flight of stairs and entered a large room filled with books, shelves ran around three walls and there were extra bookcase in front of them. In the center of the room some low labels with big picture books spread out on them. Windows at ground level let the last light of afternoon pour in. right inside the door was a corner walled off by an L-Shaped counter. Behind it, a woman was repairing books, don’t really know who she was but she was working in the library. At the other side there was a beautiful girl who had long blonde hairs stood at the long desk, checking out books for a couple of boys. She was shakir’s sister. When they left, she smiled at shakir. Susan! “This is Essa” shakir said to his elder sister, he wants to join our Library.  How old are you, dear? Susan Asked.  “Nearly Eight”  Can you write your name?  I felt indignant. Of course I knew how to write my name. then I realized she might mean “write” with the letters all joined together the way the others were learning to do at school. I thought fast. There were several letters I did not know how to make yet. Z and K and Y and a small J. but none of those words were in my name. “Essa” was easy, but my full name and last name was trickier with the capital. ERM I tried practicing it. I went up and around in a loop, swept down as looped again in the opposite direction, didn’t i? I could do it, I nodded. I had hesitated a little too long. Miss Susan studied me. I nodded again, emphatically this time. Come over here! She said. She led us over to a smaller table with a huge book on it. Beside it was a big ink bottle and a straight pen, the kind you had to keep dipping. I had never used one of those before. It was not till grade six that you had an inkwell in your desk and learned to use a straight pen. Mr. Sikandar’s class was doing their writing letters with a pencil. I had written with my parents fountain pens, though. I know you have to be careful not to press down on it. You weren’t supposed to grip the pen too tightly, either. It was complicated. Breathing hard and biting my tongue in order to concentrate i picked up the long pen, dipped the nib onto the ink bottle and began to write. I had not known to let the excess ink drain back into the ink bottle. The first thing I did on that tidy page was make a black dot. The librarian tut-tutted. My face burned, I was gone red. I stared down at the stain and it looked gigantic. “never mind dear” Susan said in a kindly but faintly disapproving voice. “go ahead”. My hand shook, I wrote “Essa” and paused for breathing, and then I did the E-R-M carefully. I started at the bottom and drew it rather than wrote it. But when it was done, it looked all right. I signed with relief and finished signing the register without any further mishaps.  My name was in the book, a few minutes later, susan handed me my first library card, I took it reverently. “you can take out 3 books aday” she rhymed off. 2 white card books and 2 blue. or if you like all four white. Never more than 4 cards in one day, though. You must take good care of them. If you keep them out longer than 2 weeks, there is a fine of 1 rupees per day. Remember to be quiet because other children are reading. I liked the way she made reading sound important. I understood, from the way the librarian spoke, that the library was a place sacred to books and the people who read them. Readers mattered here and I was a reader.  I followed shakir to the nearest set of shelves. They had the label letters on them. I ran my glance over the backs of the books. They did not have bright paper covers. Most of them had been rebound in dark wire or brown or blue. Their names of the people, who had written them, were printed on the gold spines. 
There were many writers both Afghan and German and some French and some Russian and many other American. I stared at them greedily. So many!  “which are white card ones? I whispered to shakir”. I sounded mysterious, a secret language only taught to children possessing library cards.  Shakir explained, also in a whisper. what the difference was white cards were in the back of story books. The secret Garden, Rustam which was famous on that time. And other fiction books had white cards, the tale books and other fiction books had White cards on them. The non-fiction ones filled with facts every child should know had blue cards tucked into the card book pocket inside the back cover. 
I had not head of some books, but I knew right away that white card books were what I wanted. Shakir did not think to tell me that books of poetry also ha blue cards in the back, and so did biographies. There really were some good books in the shelves of non-fiction in time, I found them. I wondered up and down, staring at hundreds of books I could from. Shakir went off to get books for himself, I took volumes down and flipped through the pages, looking for books with lots of conversation in them. With so much passion in my head, it was easier for me to read short paragraph than long, solid ones. I also liked books with people in them and people tended to talk. I left clutching the war stroked village. Some books were about famous hero’s in Afghanistan. They were all about the country where I belong. It told tales about how people lived, how did they cope with bad times and the warmongers who went in there. Mean how they were kicked off eventually. and it also did expressed the beauty of all Afghanistan provinces which was very interesting and heartwarming for me. 
Well the name calling did not stop. I did my best to laugh off the teasing, ignore it and believed that names could never hurt me. But I was not much of a brave boy….i was a silly down to earth boy. And what was worse, I was a cry baby. I knew that I could manage to look as though I did not care. My tormenters would find another victim, but I could not manage to appear other than a terrified and humiliated kiddo. I always cried, however had I tried not to, and I always ran. This went on and on till one day I hear my uncle telling my Grandma and mom to pack their stuff because we were to go back to our country. The Taliban scum were washed off from our land. It was a very happiest moment to me, I climbed up the truck and sat on the couch that was placed over the equipment’s. I enjoyed the entire trip to the hometown, and we were welcomed to our town by a herd of kin. I finally found peace in my own country. Nobody called those names that paki kids used to tease me with. Because they were same as me  I loved our new town, new home, new barn, and a peaceful new environment. That’s all! Thanks for taking your time and reading my short story. 

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