I really like a quote, which keeps showing up on my Facebook news feed, goes like this- “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”I always keep this in my mind. When I look at people, I wonder to myself, I think to myself- they have no idea what a battle I fought to reach this point of my life and still fighting. Then I again think, each of them has their own battle to fight.
My battle started the day I joined high school.
Before getting into the main story, I must tell you about my childhood. As my aunties and relatives described, I was an intelligent kid. I was fast learner and learned almost all necessary playschool stuffs at home. Therefore, when I joined school I could already do small additions and subtractions, make sentences in both English and Bangla, knew names of fish, birds, fruits, months, seasons, etc. My aunty taught me as much as she could during my preschool time. I was admitted to the municipality school, which was the best in my area, and only the most brilliants went there. I finished Class I, II, and III as the first in class. In class IV, the result day. Everyone was so sure that my name would be called first because that position is mine. However, when the name was announced, I could not believe my ears. My place was taken by a girl and I got the second position. I clenched my fist. I made a promise to myself.
I studied harder next year and not only won back my position as first in class, but also the best scorer in that area. All my teachers adored me, for they found me meritorious and hard working. Mathematics was a piece of cake for me.
Finishing class V meant end of primary school, and time to secure my place in one of the three best high schools in Chittagong then.
Due to late arrival, I was not allowed to for the entrance exam of Collegiate School. Then two others left. I scored highest in one of them, but chose the other, which was Muslim high school due to its reputation and my grandfather’s affiliation with the school. My aunties always told me and discussed with everyone that I will choose to be a doctor when I grow up. I had the same belief.
Days went on, everything was perfect, but then we had to change our home and moved to a new area. It was just the beginning.
I had to let go of my house tutor. My mother was diagnosed with Lymphoma. My grandfather died. I had to change school because of inconvenience, a decision which I was strongly against. In Muslim High School, I had friends who pushed me to be better than the best. I had teachers who wanted the best for me and loved me. I did not want to leave all these. However, I had to leave it all and join a day shift school.
I tried to start over— but since I joined in the middle of the session, I was caught by surprise by the midterm exam…and I failed in seven subjects. It was in grade VI. I failed in Maths and English in grade VII. The failure continued to my Secondary School Certificate exam, which I passed with good grades in all subjects except for Maths. I made new friends who were more into bunking classes, women, porn and drugs. I was no longer the old me.
Another contributing factor to my SSC exam fail was the new education system introduced by Bangladesh government in 2001. Due to the new implemented system, government colleges decided to give students like me, a second chance. I was allowed admission to college on the condition that I will retake the Maths exam and pass.
I was all prepared and entered the exam hall. I kept my eyes towards the floor to avoid looking at my fellow examinees. I took my sit, and the bell rang. I started to write. I looked at the question paper, but the lines were blurring. I kept having a feeling that everyone is staring at me with a smirk. I looked around— everyone seemed to be busy with their own papers. All around me were my juniors, who used to respect me as a senior in school. Now, here I am sitting for an exam in the same room as them. What a shame! I felt as if the walls are closing in on me. My hand trembled, and I could not stay still any longer. I ran out of that room, and never went back to that college.
My family, relatives, well-wishers all suggested I should try getting admission into Open University Bangladesh, but my self-esteem was too high for that. It would be a mistake to say I never tried. I did. I did get admission into Bangladesh Open University, Chittagong. Again, self-esteem came in the way.
It was a big class, and the teacher was teaching some long Maths problems. I could not understand his way of solving the problem, so I did it in my own way. He noticed me scribbling something in my notebook, and called my name to ask what was so important that I was not paying attention to him. I enthusiastically told him that I found another way to solve the problem. He looked at me as if I had just slapped him. He cursed me in slang Chittagonian Bangla and scolded me for acting too smart. That was it. I could not stand there for another second. I slammed my notebook on the table, and left the campus.
Again, never went back.
These incidents, sudden decisions—people call them my mistakes. To this day, my life seems to have every sort of trouble because of this unfinished chapter. I never could apply to a job because even before they see me, they want to see my certificates. My uncle bestowed a small work as salesperson at his food shop, with a very small salary, and never forgets to remind me of his mercy on me.
Father died of cancer in 2011, since then my younger brother is the breadwinner of the family, because I am not educated enough. I have numerous diploma certificates on computer, IT programming, leadership etc. I can assure I can work hard in very adverse conditions, and have good accounts, communication, management skills. The proof is my uncle’s business flourishing.
Nevertheless, none of them is of any use. Despite all his taunting I am never able to resign from my uncle’s job, because no one will ask for my talents or capabilities, all they will ask for is certificates, which I will not be able to procure.
I left all my old friends, started hanging out in a completely new area—only one reason—they will not know about my academic background so will not look down on me. I rarely meet my cousins or family because I do not match their status. They are doctors, lawyers, professors—and I am uneducated. I am a burden on my family, cannot even buy medications for my cancer patient mother. I love my girlfriend, and wish to be with her, take her to meet my family, and ask her to marry me. But all I could do was stare at the look of hopelessness on her face, when we talk about a future together.
Fourteen years passed since I dropped out, still have not been able to make life better by any means. They all blame me; they say my arrogance was why I never could get back on track. It was all my mistake. But no one ever gave me a chance to correct it.
Every day I wake up, ready to fight anew. I wear my shield to ignore humiliation from work and shame of inability to earn for the family. I kept fighting, but never told anyone why I never dine out, why I skip travel plans, why I do not like shopping malls and why I prefer walking to rickshaws. Sometimes, when I feel sad about my fate, I remind myself— there are people out there who are fighting tougher battles than me. I should be grateful for what I have.
Source: Mistakes- The Story of a Survivor