In the morning, we woke to a world turned topsy-turvy. Trees lay uprooted and some houses had lost their roofs. Everything was under water. Our school was closed for the day so we could all help out our parents in cleaning up around the houses. We had an additional damage. The boat that we used to take pilgrims across to Dhanushkodi and back had been swept away into the sea. My father was upset and at the same time calm as he planned to get a new one. In the days that followed Jalaluddin helped him build a new boat that lasted many years.
In this way, the days of my earliest childhood went, filled with many moments of happiness and some sad days. I kept the faith in my parents and teachers and looked forward to days of hard work and learning. I realize now that it was a happy and contented time.
‘Vanakkam, Aiya! I have some good news for you!’
It was my Mathematics teacher from class 4 and he was standing just outside the house and calling out to my father. He looked quite excited, so we all rushed out to greet him and invite him inside. My father offered him a seat and then looked on expectantly.
‘Abdul, come up here, to me,’ my teacher beckoned to me. I was standing with all the other children, peeping from behind my elder brother. I came up shyly to him. He pulled me close affectionately, then turned to my father and said, ‘Abdul has scored full marks in Mathematics in the exam! And not only in Mathematics but in Science as well, and he has done very well in English and Tamil too! We teachers are very proud of him.’
I was so pleased to hear this result. But I was even more pleased because my teacher had taken the trouble to come all the way to my house to tell us about this. He had finished his work at the school, and then instead of hurrying back home he had come here, to share his pride and happiness with my family. Our school was small, but it had many such teachers like him. They taught us with love and care and felt the same joy in our achievements as we did.