Aamir was really excited since he knew how much he had slogged and how hard his parents had worked to make this dream come true…Two weeks later the results were declared. Aamir had topped and could now join TPS.
He took a puff and then another. He coughed a bit, spluttered a little and then felt himself floating…
“Aamir, be careful this is the first time you are going alone to Hyderabad. This bus will take you directly to…..”
“I know abbu, this bus will take me directly to Secunderabad Bus Depot. Ashfaque chachu will be waiting for me at the bus stand. He will take me home. I’ll freshen up a bit, have some food and then go with him to my new school,” Aamir laughed. “Come on abbu, you act as if I’m a baby. I’ll be thirteen four months from now and I can take care of myself.”
“To us, you’ll always remain a baby. I still feel you should have allowed your abba to accompany you to Hyderabad,” Aamir’s ammi said, a worried expression on her face.
“Ammi, can I not go alone from here to Hyderabad without you and abbu worrying yourself sick? See, I remember all your instructions by heart: ‘Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t get down from the bus on the way, keep an eye on your suitcase,” Aamir said, imitating his ammi’s tone and his parents laughed.
Aamir was sitting in the window seat in the second row of the bus from Warangal to Hyderabad. Warangal is a dusty town around eighty miles from Hyderabad.
The driver got in and after a few loud honks, the bus started. Aamir waved goodbye to his parents, making sure he avoided looking into his ammi’s eyes.
Aamir was going to Hyderabad to take admission in class VII in Telangana Public School (TPS) – the best school in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, and easily one of the best in the State of Andhra Pradesh. He was really excited since he knew how much he had slogged and how hard his parents had worked to make this dream come true.
Aamir was thin, fair and short for his age. He had large expressive eyes, a sharp nose, and thick, unruly hair. His father, Rashid Hussain, was a technician in Balaji Industries and his mother, Saira, was a housewife. They had always wanted their only son to get the best education. However, in Warangal, the standard of education was not all that good. If Aamir had to be sent to Hyderabad to study in a good school then it would mean a lot of money since he would be staying in a hostel. And Aamir’s parents could not afford this expenditure.
Just after his final exams in April Aamir was told by his father that TPS had launched a scholarship in association with the government of Telangana. As per the scheme an exam would be conducted in English, Mathematics, General Knowledge (GK) and Computers. The top three students would be given admission in TPS and also selected for the award of scholarship in Class VIII, IX and X. If the gross income of the parents was less than three lakh rupees per year than the child would be given free education till Class X. If it was more than one lakh the student would still get admission to the prestigious school but would have to pay the fees.
“Beta, this is a great opportunity. The exam is in the third week of June. You have two full months to prepare. You know if you get selected your entire life will change. You will never get an opportunity like this again. My salary is less than the amount specified so the tuition fee will be free; I’ll only have to pay the Hostel fees which I am sure I’ll be able to manage.”
“But abbu, it won’t be easy. I shall have to compete with the best in Telangana since no one would like to miss the chance of getting admission into one of the best schools in the State.”
“I know it will be tough, that is why I am asking you to work hard. But at the same time, I am confident you’ll do well. You have always been brilliant in Maths and Computers, and your GK, too, is good.”
“What about English, abbu?”
“You have two full months to brush up your English.”
Aamir started working really hard. Rashid requested Aamir’s principal, Mr CR Ganapathi, who himself was a Maths expert, to take some special classes for him and he agreed. For English, Aamir went to Mrs Anupama Chary, the wife of Rashid’s boss Mr Sanjeev Chary. He managed to work at Computers and GK on his own.
The exam was in Hyderabad. Rashid accompanied Aamir and they stayed in Ashfaque chachu’s house. Ashfaque Ali was his father’s cousin and owned a medical shop.
Maths and Computers exams went like a breeze and in General Knowledge, too, Aamir was confident he had done very well. However, English had been tough and Aamir knew that it could be the deciding factor. Two weeks later the results were declared. Aamir had topped and could now join TPS.
Rashid and Saira were thrilled to bits. However, their enthusiasm was dampened a wee bit when they came to know the Hostel fees.
“How do we manage?” a worried Rashid wondered.
“Don’t worry. The other day Mrs Uma Chhabra had called me. She is planning to start a boutique. She heard somewhere that I used to work for a boutique earlier and wants me to stitch clothes for her.” Mrs Chhabra was the wife of Mr Rajesh Chhabra, the Finance chief of Balaji Industries.
“But Saira, will that not be a strain on you?”
“After Aamir goes to the hostel I’ll feel very lonely. I’ll be missing him. If I take up Mrs Chhabra’s offer it will be a productive way of keeping myself busy. I’ll sit at home and stitch the clothes. Mrs Chhabra will arrange the clothes to be picked up. I’ll just have to make a trip to her boutique once a week or so.”
“That’s a good idea. I too have decided to do some overtime.”
“You can’t do that. Just now you were talking about me not exerting myself. You know how exhausting it will be on you.”
“I’ll do it for only two days a week. That extra money will come in handy. And if I want our son to achieve our dreams I should be prepared for these sacrifices.”
It was past midnight and Aamir was in the next room.
They thought he was asleep but he had heard every word and his eyes were moist.
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