But…but Mr Moore, what…. Why.. How does that even benefit you? Why would you cheat on behalf of a student? It just doesn’t make sense. Why.. Why are you dong this?” I cried out.
The answer I received was one that I remembered for years to come, for it changed my entire perception of the world in the blink of an eye.
“Sarah, I like you, you’re a good student so I’m going to let you in on the way this world works,” Mr Moore stated, peering at me over his glasses, “Money makes the world go round, it’s as simple as that. Remember this because it’s a reality. If you’re rich, you’ll have the world at your feet and if you are not, and want a chance to live even a slightly luxurious life, then when an oppurtunity comes along, you grab it. Oh, and one more thing, you don’t say no to a millionaire.”
“So you’re saying that you were bribed,” I state narrowing my eyes at him.
“Now, now, Sarah, when you put it like that, it sounds so uncouth. I prefer to use the words incentive or mutually beneficial deal. You like to write so you should know the importance of using the right words,” Mr Moore says snarkily.
“No! No! I won’t do that. I can’t!” I whimper. “Then I’m afraid I can’t write you that letter.”
My heart was bursting with insurmountable desperation. What was to become of me if I lost this chance? I’d pinned all my hopes on this. Could I really go against all my values for this one chance? Then again for all my values and always doing the right thing I’ve never gotten far in life, have I?
Maybe it was time to take the plunge. I mean, it’s only one essay. There’s nothing to lose and so much to gain. I need this chance. I’m losing hope. I can’t remain in the orphanage for the rest of my life. I need to make something of myself and time is running out. My chances just seem to be getting slimmer and slimmer.
But I couldn’t just give in like that. My moral code simply wouldn’t allow it. It was unethical, and downright cheating. In my desperation I tried one more ploy, “Mr Moore, If you don’t write my letter, I’ll, umm I’ll go to head and report exactly what you’ve asked me to do.”
I grimaced internally, why did I have to be so terrible at talking to other, I hated how shaky my voice was. It was possibly due to that reason that Mr Moore didn’t take me seriously. He simply laughed at me and told me to stop being so naive and that I should know that between a teachers word and an orphan student’s, whose will hold more weight. “Go ahead!” He said cynically, “I’d love to see how you embarrass yourself .”
“I’ve already explained to you how this works. I’m higher than you on the status chain so whose word do you think will be believed? But since you seem to need more incentive, I’ve been generous in marking your papers and essays, do you really want to test me? Because the way that you are acting, it seems that you don’t deserve my generosity.”
I deflated then, faster than a popped balloon. A stabbing hurt filled my heart and tears began pricking my eyes. How was I supposed to do anything when the entire world was against me. It was as if everyone was just waiting for me to slip and fall for the sole reason that they would get the chance to laugh and jeer at me.
My whole life, I’d never been handed anything on a platter so why had I expected this to be so different. Maybe I should just agree, it was just one paper after all. But what if..
Although my heart and mind were still at war, my tongue seemed to have made its own decision and I found myself saying, “Fine! I’ll do it but only one. I’ll hand in the essay to you next week and I expect my recommendation as soon as I hand it in.”
A smiling Mr Moore objected, “A short story and we have a deal.”
All my will to fight was drained out of me so I simply nodded in agreement before promptly spinning around and walking out, my heart and mind full of turmoil. Was I doing the right thing?
Feeling like I couldn’t breathe and unable to suppress the feeling that I’d just done something dreadful, I broke into a run.
When my doubts still continued assailing me, I ran faster and pushed myself harder, trying to drown out my conscience. Faster and faster I went until I was full on sprinting. But still, my inner voice wouldn’t shut up.
Pound..pound.. I shouldn’t have done that…thud.. thud… What if I get cought?..Pound.. pound.. Why did I agree to some thing so silly.. thud..thud… maybe I can still get out of this.. thud..thud.. But how will I get this opportunity again?
By now, I was panting and out of breath but I continued to push myself to go faster, refusing to slow down. The exit staircase came into sight and I began slowing down, when something hard banged into me and I went flying down the staircase, my flailing arms and legs doing little to slow my fall.
Nani-Jaan smiled indulgently as all the children groaned and begged for her to continue. Shaking her head, she explained that it was getting late and perhaps they should get going back to their homes. That day, she left them with an important lesson, one she hoped they would remember for as long as they lived. “My dear children, always in the history of mankind, bullies have existed. In fact even Qabil (Cain) the son of Adam, bullied his brother. We have to be very careful not to turn into bullies. And yes my children, you get adult bullies too, mummies and daddies also sometimes bully others, but this is also wrong. Just like how Mr Moore is wrong to be bullying Sarah like that as he’s her teacher, any type of bullying is unacceptable and should be stood up against. Now before you go children, I want each and every one of you to promise me to never bully anyone ever again.”
All the children obediently complied with a loud chorus of promises and even though Nani-Jaan never showed it, she noticed the red, shame-faced boy in the back who just mumbled it, his eyes cast downwards. She felt a jolt of satisfaction at seeing this, Alhamdulillah! It seem that the morals were driving home and the lessons were being learnt.