Under the blinking lights of a monstrous city, they came to me. She looked 14, pushing a worn-down wheelchair carrying her brother, aged around 10. Tatterdemalion in a yellow frock, she stopped on the driveway and looked imploringly at me. The brother raised his eyes and mumbled, “Apa, duita taka bhikka den!” (translate: “Please give me two taka!”)
I make it a rule to discourage begging, especially when it comes to children. Almost reflexively, I asked him whether he goes to school. His expression dropped and he took a better look at my exterior. This was common reaction – street children don’t expect genuine questions from the more privileged social class. His sister, whose attention has now grown intense nodded her head. I could not conceal my joy! It’s been quite a while I met a tokai who attend regular school. I queried about their whereabouts. Suddenly, the brother stopped me midway and asked,
“What is your name?”
I felt electrocuted. His question was in English and my face broke into a joyful smile. Above me, the sunken Kozmo lights and glitters of shopping malls seemed sullen. The twinkle gleaming in his eyes shone like a million heaven-sent stars.
In a moment of truth as the one described in the aforementioned incident, you cannot help but feel optimistic. You’re suddenly swept off your feet under the epiphany of social progress, however minute it may seem to the superficial visionary. Over the past two years, I have come across uncountable children with humongous potential, and it’s difficult for me to believe with such great talents, Bangladesh is in void. Their dreams, aspirations and spirits are applaudable, and I have been remarkably fortunate to meet them. They have opened a third eye in me and they have made me believe the skies aren’t too far away. All one needs to do is dream big enough to touch the high blues.
‘Finding Tomorrow’ is a celebration of youth empowerment and young heroes. 1° Initiative (1di) proudly presents to its enthusiasts a publication that salutes those innumerable children who’ve shown us how to smile through the toughest battles of life. It doesn’t take a sweeping revolution to change society; it can start very small and virtually anywhere with a speck of laughter. It can begin at a dilapidated, tin-shed school at the corner of a reeking slum and end up a national award ceremony honouring young achievers.
A dream is all it takes to change the world.
Sabhanaz Rashid Diya
September 2008, Dhaka