The Unsung Heroes

  • 09 Dec - 15 Dec, 2017
  • Ayesha Adil
  • Fiction

Very few things impressed her, not status, not wealth, definitely not a display of luxury. But what impressed her most was human nature and all of its idiosyncrasies. She was in love with people and at times she also hated them the most.

She derived great joy in observing people at their finest and even at their worst. I think being a teacher was the best decision she made because she could really empathise. She could look at a student and understand their struggle, their joy, and many times their pain.

So when she was happy many times I knew it was because of her kids and when she was sad, I knew again something had happened to her kids. They were always her kids. Her bachas as she referred to them.

She could move mountains for them if that was what had to be done and she could become the softest and gentlest human being on the planet if that’s what was needed to ease their pain.

Many times she was very tough on them. She had to wear a mask of steel for their own good. That hurt her most and she would soften just as quickly. But she had to do her job. Their future depended on it.

That’s what drove her mad several times. It was their future that she had to worry about. But then that’s what being a teacher meant; especially, if you were doing it for all the right reasons and not just to make money.

Besides, as she often said that the emotional burden that she carried all the time cannot be reciprocated by a pay cheque anyways. That was an occupational hazard so to speak, but also the reason why God had chosen her and not another person to help a ‘particular’ child at a ‘particular’ time.

She was very good at clocking out, I felt that because whenever she was home she gave me and our home all the attention it needed; late night corrections did happen of course but only around result time.

However, today I felt that she was particularly distracted. I knew it had to do with work so of course as an ice-breaker that was my first question.

“How was work today?”


“Your day? How was it?” I asked again with a helpful smile. I rarely saw her so depressed. I began to get worried.

“You know, it’s just work. The usual. Do you like what I made for dinner today?” As she spoke, she stuffed her mouth with a fork full of pasta.

Hmm. Using food as an excuse to avoid the situation. I would expect that from Saima. But I began to think that this was indeed a drastic issue because more or less she evaded all my questions.

I thought I would give up for now and we went about having dinner in silence.

I wasn’t used to silence, especially not around her. She was the one who always cheered me up with her anecdotes and stories and ‘fun things’ like she put it.

We cleared up the table and sat in the TV lounge aimlessly surfing when Saima spoke up.

Finally, I thought. The suspense was killing me.

“They break their wings and leave us to mend them.”

“What happened?” I asked showing my support and understanding.

“It’s just that. Is it my job to mend their broken wings? They did it to them. Their families left them unloved and insecure and now it’s my job to mend them. Put the broken pieces together and expend myself in the process doing it.” She was clearly very upset.

“It’s not strange that kids are doing drugs, or self-harming, or worse committing suicide these days.”

This was a lot to handle. I swallowed taking it all in.

“Are we talking about one kid or more?” I know my question was stupid but seriously at that time I couldn’t think of anything else.

I don’t think she heard me because she just went on, “I’ve been teaching long enough to know that a kid is not a bad kid. It’s what happens to them that makes them ‘difficult’ or ‘just another label that society puts on them’. But who is expected to save them?”

I knew she meant teachers but I just stared in silence. The end of the day, as I expected, was turning out quite differently.

“I mean they might take them to psychologists and doctors but they won’t open up to them. A kid will only open up to a teacher whom he or she trusts, or with a person whom they are sure will help them.”

My wife was tired. She was exhausted. Years had been spent trying to heal these young souls. She always took her work too seriously but she often told me that she doesn’t deal with numbers like I did; she dealt with human beings who will become the future of the world. She had to ‘take her work seriously.’

I understood. I knew completely. But I only wanted her to relax at times and be easy on herself.

It was a long journey and a continuous one. If she kept getting so emotionally involved than it would consume her completely.

“Saima,” I began. “I understand where you’re coming from. But asking yourself why something happened is a futile endeavour. Why they turned out like this, or why they were hurt, will not help you.”

I think I sounded convincing. I knew I was convincing. I have this pep talk with her after every few months. She relied on me for that.

“God chose you. God put you in their lives because He knows you can help them. I mean I know this is not what they tell you at the teacher conferences. It would sound like a religious sermon but the fact of the matter is that a higher being has put these kids in your care. They speak to you because you are the only one who can help them.”

I could sense Saima looking more relaxed and less tense after that. She knows all of this but needs to be reminded. I didn’t blame her. The constant pressure and then the stories of heartache can only burden her further.

There is a person for all of us. Just like Saima is their person I feel that I am hers. And of course she is mine. If, as a couple we can’t understand and share our true feelings, our insecurities and shortcomings and also celebrate our joy and happiness then there is no reason in the world for us to be together.

We are all bound by an invisible thread. This link will always keep us connected and also give meaning to our connections. A person alone is nothing, but together we are a team – a great team.

I admired my wife even more after this. Her sensitivity made me realise once again that the world needed more people like her. She was selfless and caring. She was empathetic and genuine. It seemed as if all the horrors of the world had not touched her. But I knew better. She was the way she was because she had suffered. She was kind by choice, she wasn’t bitter by choice.

“Now, what are you thinking?” she asked with a kind, slightly tired smile.

“Let’s go out for a drive. I feel like having ice cream.”

“Let’s,” she said. •