He sold his gold medal for mothers treatment ( Akhtar Abbas )
Written By Khalid Irshad
While ceremonies were being held in schools across the country to mark the Iqbal Day on November 9, where students would give rendition to Allama Iqbals poems, The Mountain and the Squirrel and A childs wish, and some would be giving rendering of following lines;
O Lord! To the Muslims heart grant that live longing,Which may warm the heart, which may restlessness to the soul grant and;
Elevate your ego (self) to the extent, that before every destiny, God should himself ask Man as to what he desires? and while declamations were being held to highlight Iqbals Philosophy of Self, The True Believer and Eagle (Shaheen), on that sunny day, I was driving my vehicle on a dusty road leading to Dharmywala village in Deepalpur tehsil, some 200 kilometers away from Lahore.
Contemplating the following lines by another poet;
Dont fear the intensity of headwind, O Eagle
It only blows to help you fly even higher!
I have reached these fertile lands to meet an Eagle of Iqbal who had to brave the harshest of hostile conditions in his early age. This boy had to engage himself in manual labour and cultivation when his age-fellows lived in the realm of fantasy.
The poverty had taken a heavy toll on his tender feelings. The hunger had wiped out the glow of innocence from his face. He passed chilly nights while watering fields and sizzling days while harvesting crops. He had become a breadwinner for his entire family before reaching the threshold of adulthood. However, he never succumbed to wretched circumstances and continued studying with zeal and zest.
And then the God rewarded him for his hard work and toil and bestowed him with such an honour thousands of youths born with a silver spoon in their mouth simply yearn for. Akhtar Abbas stood first in the Lahore Board of Intermediate and Secondary Educations matriculation examination of year 2002 in Arts Group by securing 745 out of 850 marks and also secured second position out of 108 position holders of all the eight Boards of the Punjab province and the Federal Board.
I met Abbas for the first time during awards distribution ceremony arranged by the Urdu Digest for position holders of matriculation examination of all the Boards of the province.
He came little late, and by that time all the students had taken their seats.
He headed towards me and introduced himself. I saw a handsome youth donning simple dress and whose eyes were turning red unusually. He told me that he had no money to pay as fare to reach Lahore and he had to dig soil for a construction companys tractor-trolley and thats why he could not turn up on prescribed time.
His words absolutely shocked me. I wondered as to how this poverty-stricken youth had been able to achieve such an outstanding triumph in academic field while thousands of students of posh schools fail to merely qualify their exams every year.
A few days after that ceremony, Abbas in a letter, informed us about soreness of his eyes he had developed while sowing rice over the years. We invited him to Lahore and got him examined and treated by renowned eye specialist Dr Yaqeen.
After Urdu Digest sent him stipends, he again wrote a letter, informing us about the utilization of that money. His letter compelled me to meet him and know more about him and it was against this backdrop that I had reached his village on that fine morning.
As I applied brakes in front of a worn-out wooden door, overjoyed Abbas and his family members rushed to receive me. They all took me inside one-room mud house to be seated on cots in middle of the courtyard. In the meantime, Naib Nazim Muhammad Akram Tahir Advocate and Abbass teacher Arshad Nadeem also showed up.
Abbass father Khushi Muhammad is a patient of asthma. Poverty prevented him from getting proper treatment. The disease also rendered him unable to get himself engaged in any manual labour. At home, he makes cemented stoves to earn paltry wages.
Describing his sentiments over Abbass achievement, Khushi Muhammad said they did not deserve this reward from Allah Almighty. I also wanted studying in my childhood but financial constraints spoiled my dreams. I had to work with my poor parents in fields in extremely harsh weather that caused me asthma in young age. I battled with this disease until I became totally unable to work any more. Abbas was in Class-V at that time. I also asked him to leave the school. However, my wife said that she would work to finance Abbass studies.
Abbas said that he would also work with his mother besides studying. Thereafter, my wife and Abbas left no stone unturned to run the household until she also contacted intestinal cancer.
On my query, Khushi Muhammad said that his stoves was sold against Rs35 only while its cost was Rs: 25, thus each stove gave him Rs10 profit. He prepares 15 to 20 stoves in a month.
Then I invited Abbas mother to shed light on how she pulled through her entire family, especially her son. She said: When I heard the news of Abbas securing top position in the Lahore Board, I forgot all my afflictions.
The memory brought a tear to her eyes. The ambiance was now no more relaxed as was in the beginning. Glumly, the woman of virtue recollected how she had worked from dawn to dusk to run the household. She baked bread in earthen ovens across the village as well as working along with her male counterparts in fields.
Muhammad Akram Tahir Advocate is naib nazim of Mangerian UC-59. In recognition of Abbass brilliant performance, he got released Rs20,000 financial assistance from Tehsil Council for the young man. He also persuaded his colleagues in the legal fraternity to help out Abbas.
This is a greatest honour for us indeed that a poor familys son had secured the top position in the Board. Abbas has set a benchmark for other students and youths are now inclined toward working more hard and breaking his record.
Advocate Tahir said that though a science block existed in Govt High School, Dharmaywala, no teacher had been posted there to teach science subjects.
Similarly, the village had an elementary school for girls with only seven teachers on the payroll and they were struggling to get a college established there. The village had no dispensary and post office as well.
Arshad Nadeem indeed contributed enormously to Abbass bagging the top position. He has been instrumental in schooling Abbas to prepare himself for the big task not only by teaching him selflessly and relentlessly during school hours but also by giving him free tuitions in the evening.
He said that when he knew that Abbass talent was being spoiled owing to meager income of his family, he started giving him extra time from Class IX besides special classroom attention. And by the grace of Allah, he said, his hard work had paid him dividends in the end. He said that districts best teacher award was conferred on him after Abbass outstanding performance that now serves as a benchmark for other teachers to work with maximum devotion and dedication.
He said that only five teachers were posted in their high school with over 550 students on the roll. In spite of this acute faculty shortage, the school gave 100 per cent result in the matriculation examination of year 2002.
About his untiring journey, Abbas said that he started working with his parents in fields since he was in Class-V.
My father was unable to work hard owing to asthma. Later, my younger brother and mother also contacted asthma. I am the eldest one among my siblings, so I and my mother began sowing and harvesting different crops to earn livelihood. Wages for one-acre wheat harvesting was 100kg produce. I and my mother would harvest three to four acres of wheat in a season.
The collection of 300 to 400kg grain was adequate for us to consume during next year. Similarly, wages for sowing paddy were Rs700 per acre. I also worked as a labourer with masons in construction of houses and buildings in Deepalpur since I was 13.
After taking my matriculation examination, I went to Lahore on April 21 and there I worked as labourer in construction works in Johar Town locality. I retuned only five days ahead of my result.
I was in seventh heaven when I saw my result card. However, I was not aware that I had clinched the top position. A couple of days later, my headmaster informed me that I had in fact topped the Board.
My success is primarily and largely an outcome of Sir Arshad Nadeems persistent nurturing. He not only taught me exceptionally well, but also supported me financially. My eyes had developed soreness while sowing paddy every year and it was Sir Nadeem who along with the headmaster got me treated. The headmaster not only waived half of my tuition fee, but also paid the entire enrolment fee of the Boards examination out of his pocket.
The Lahore Board bestowed upon me a gold medal besides Rs15,000 cash award. In the meantime, my mothers condition deteriorated and I admitted her to a hospital for treatment of intestinal cancer. Soon, I ran short of bucks. Then I sold my gold medal too to collect more money so that my mothers treatment went on unhindered. I dont feel remorseful because my mother is very dear to me and her life is much more important and precious than any thing else.
I wont hesitate even in sacrificing my life for my mother who brought me up in extremely unpleasant and unfavourable conditions. God willing, I will bag another gold medal in the intermediate examination.
I also started the treatment of my father and brother with the Rs20,000 financial assistance presented by the Tehsil Council. Now I badly need an employment so that besides running the household, I could be able to carry out my academic pursuits with utmost devotion.
This brilliant young man is now studying in Government Commercial Institute, Deepalpur. He said that areas renowned social and political figure, Rao Ajmal, paid his college fee, the colleges book bank provided him with books while the Principal bought him uniform and this way his studies were going on without any interruption. He also said that if any philanthropist individual/organization financed his studies, he could be able to contribute more to the development and betterment of this country. He said that he badly needed a computer to quench his academic thirst in this ear of information technology, but he had no money to fulfill this desire.
Dusk was approaching while I was returning to Lahore after hearing an ardent young mans epic tale.
Night was falling. A dawn was to definitely defeat the darkness a few hours later but I was thinking as to how and when the ills of poverty and hunger, which had darkened the today and tomorrows of Iqbals thousands of Eagles, would be eradicated from our society. The standing crops alongside the road were testimony to the fact that these chunks of land were no more the barren acres as bemoaned by Allama Iqbal and required blood and sweat and tears to get startling yield
(zara num ho to yeh mitti buhat zarkhaiz ha saqi).