THEY WILL ASK thee as to what they should spend on others. Say: "Whatever of your wealth you spend shall [first] be for your parents, and for the near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer; and whatever good you do, verily, God has full knowledge thereof." - Al-Baqarah (2:215)

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Shah's teenage life vs my teenage life

I visited Mr. & Mrs. K’s family last Saturday morning after my usual Pasar Tani shopping. When I got there, the couple’s 5 year old girl opened the door for me. I’m already a regular by now, so she’d open the door for me even if her parents are not around. Mrs. K just got back from work (she was on night shift) while Mr. K was helping to clear the mess at their home (I didn’t tell them I was coming!).

I noticed their 2 older children were not around. Apparently their 12 year old daughter was at school for extra classes while their eldest son, 16 year old Shah was out doing odd jobs to earn extra income for the family. That’s his normal routine on weekends.

I pity Shah. He doesn’t seem to enjoy his teenage life. While other teenagers his age tend to either relax at home or go out to enjoy themselves on weekends, he instead had to work to help his family. No, his parents did not force him. He himself couldn’t bear to see his mother being the family’s sole breadwinner. Mr. K is no longer in a position to work. Looking at his supply of medication (for TB, hepatitis and HIV), if I were him I think I may need a HUGE mug of water (just slightly smaller than a jug I think) to get all the pills in without getting stuck in my throat!! BURP!!!

What kind of odd jobs has Shah been doing? Most of the time helping out food caterers; and if the catering job is for a night function on a Sunday, he’d usually come home very late and miss school on Monday. That’s normal for him.

Shah is also usually my contact person with the family. He’d be the one calling me or sending me messages when the family needs anything. When his mother gave birth to the youngest child in January this year, Shah came down and waited for me downstairs to make sure I didn’t have any trouble looking for the room where his mother was warded. That week he and his sister missed school the whole week. While Mrs. K was at the maternity ward, Mr. K too was warded at the men’s medical ward. So Shah spent the week at the hospital, day time accompanying his mother and night time sleeping on a chair besides his father’s bed in the men’s ward.

His 12 year old sister had to stay home to look after the 5 year old girl – just the 2 of them at home. Thank goodness a kind neighbor dropped by from time to time to send them some food to eat. Otherwise, the 12 year old would just cook some rice and fry some eggs, or they’d just eat instant noodles.

Things seem better now. Although at times they still run short of money to buy food and household necessities, at least things weren’t as bad as when they were almost chased out of the house for not paying their house rental. Shah’s income from the odd jobs he’s been doing is usually used to buy foodstuff or any schooling needs. I don’t know, somehow some school teachers like to force them to buy all sorts of additional books without taking into consideration that some of the students may not be able to afford it. Some of the books listed under the school’s list of compulsory workbooks bought at the beginning of the year are not even used, and yet additional books are to be bought at the decision of the individual teachers. Can’t they just use the books which were listed by the school?

There was once when Shah didn’t buy a particular book which his teacher had been telling him to buy. He didn’t tell his parents about it as he knew they were broke. He didn’t tell me either as he thought I had already helped too much. All his other classmates had bought the book by then. As a result, Shah got a spanking from his teacher, right in front of his other classmates. And we're talking about 16 year olds here... what kind of psychological effect do you think it would have on Shah? Being penalized for not being able to afford the book is simply unacceptable (to me at least!). If they had included the book in the booklist the school provided earlier then it would have already been covered by my NGO’s CEF!

I can really understand why Shah is reluctant to go to school but I must make him understand the importance of education. But his teachers are not helping at all…

Thinking about it, I had such a blessed teenage life. Oh yes, I complained about a lot of things, but back then I never had the opportunity to see the sufferings of the unfortunates. I never had to work when I was a teenager. I never got a spanking for not buying books and other schooling necessities. I forgot to be thankful for all the things I had. I took them all for granted. My parents may not be rich but they could still buy whatever necessities for their children, albeit on a tight budget.

But Shah’s family doesn’t even have a proper budget to start with.

If I had to go through a teenage life such as Shah’s, I don’t know what would become of me by now. But I didn’t have to go through all that. And for that I’m so thankful!

To show my gratitude, I must now try my best to make sure that these unfortunate children be given the necessary assistance to make up for all the things that had been lacking in their childhood and teenage life.

Care to join me anyone?

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why couldn't Shah tell or explain to the teachers that his family couldn't afford it?

Pi Bani said...

Anonymous,
Shah has given up on explaining things to his teachers. He has been marked as a problematic student since last year when he missed school quite a lot, and he has also been looked down upon as many of the teachers knew his father was once involved in drugs. I guess they concluded that if the father had disciplinary problems, then it's only natural the son would follow his footsteps. Now Shah is a very quiet boy who'd most of the time keep things to himself. If I want to get him to open up, he'd only talk when nobody else is around. Even then it's not easy. That's why we usually communicate via SMS... I get more info from him that way. I guess it's easier for him to explain things when he doesn't have to talk face to face. Very poor level of confidence.

Daphne Ling said...

I'll join you anytime Kak Pi!

Pi Bani said...

Daph,
Yeah, you would for sure... no question about it!

winniethepooh said...

We are indeed more fortunate than most of these kids...Sometimes, these kids grow up being more responsible and resilent too depends on how each of them take it in their stride..

When people complaint about having no branded shoes on the feet, I'll have to be thankful I have feet to put my shoes on and to be thankful and grateful for everything that I have.

thanks for reminding me once again Pi Bani...you have a great day!

J.T. said...

Hi Pi,

I have been tied up with stuff the past two days. I will return to read your post.

Have a great weekend. :)

Pi Bani said...

Winnie,
I do hope the kids will grow up to become more responsible and resilient. What I'm afraid of is they may become wild and irresponsible if they are being treated irresponsibly by us now.

Pi Bani said...

JT,
Seems quite a number of us are pretty tied up these days. We just have to do what we have to do... you have a great weekend too!

Elween said...

i guess he will grow up stronger than he was. we are like flower in the green house, everythingis being taken care of. maybe it's a good experience too.

thx for your comment on my post take care :)

Pi Bani said...

Hey Elween,
Yes, I do hope he will grow to be stronger. But he still need lots of guidance.

Thanks for visiting Elween. Have a great weekend.

eduardo waghorn said...

Hey, your blog very informative!
Really, very interesting...
I want to say you hello from Chile!
You can visit my spaces whenever you wish...
A hug...

Pi Bani said...

Eduardo,
Thanks for visiting my blog. I read your post in WUB... and I notice you have quite a number of blogs yourself. Will try and visit soon... but I guess I will have to use the translator to read your postings...

Kerp (Ph.D) said...

puan Pi,
it would be awesome to get to join you on doing voluntary work since i have all the time at my disposal.

I tried my hand on giving talks to new patients with spinal injury down at the ward but the last time i did that, we ended up smoking under a shady tree at the rehab's garden. i know its not a good way to get back on their feet but atleast its a start. some just refused to budge from their bed into the hospital's wheelchair.

anyway Puan, just to thank you personally for crossing over to my humble blog. i really admire the contribution you're doing towards the society in general. you guys really moved me to give another shot at it. thank you.

Pi Bani said...

Kerp,
It's never easy giving encouragement to new patients of whatever ailments or diseases. It will take time... as I'm sure you yourself had gone through that before. It's great if you are willing to continue giving talks to new patients with spinal injury. You've gone thru it and you can tell them you know how they feel. In my case, talking to the newly diagnosed HIV patients is a bit tough as some of them just tell me off, "How would you know? You don't have HIV!"

Good luck to you and thanks for visiting my blog.