Chitra Gupta, Workshop 3
Rita had been waiting for three days, wondering why a candidate selected for a job would not join it. As it is, jobs were hard to come by. There must be something wrong. Very wrong.
She had a special bonding with this candidate, Alia. She called her up. After many calls, Alia agreed to come and meet her.
Alia was one of the brightest students in Rita’s school. Rita knew that Alia’s mother was doing petty jobs to pay for her education. Alia was determined to start earning as early as possible to support her mother.
When Alia finished her schooling, Rita advised her to take admission in a Nursery teachers training program. She passed out with flying colours. On the basis of Alia’s meritorious result, Rita appointed her as a guest teacher in her school.
“Ma’am I cannot join as a teacher.” Alia started crying. “My father had deserted us a long time back. But he continues to reside in the same house with his new wife. He says that he will allow me to work only on two conditions. One, that I give him half my salary; two, I have to cook dinner for him and his new wife every day.”
Alia was outraged at her father’s atrocious demand. How can her unsupportive father take away her hard earned money? Why should she cook for her father and her woman when he has done nothing for her or her mother in the past except making their life miserable and humiliating?
Rita was shocked. She knew that Alia was right. She would have had the same feelings as Alia, under the same circumstances. But she knew that if Alia refused the job it would not improve her situation.
“Look Alia”, said Rita, “If you remain jobless, you get no money whatsoever. But if you work, you will get at least half the salary and support your Ammi. You will also gain experience in teaching which will help you in getting a permanent job.
Rita was trying to show Alia the big picture. Sometimes you have to lose a battle to win a war.
“Your Ammi will be able to relax a bit and feel proud of you. Just think of it this way, that you are donating money to a poor person and cooking food for someone who is unable to do that! Think that you are feeding hungry and good-for-nothing people. Allah is watching. HE will reward you in the long run. Remain focused on your future. Save enough money to rent a house and then stop giving half your salary and cooking food for them. Move out and live with dignity.”
Rita saw a faint smile on Alia’s lips. She saw her brightening up like the morning sun rising behind thick black clouds on the horizon. Alia found herself silently repeating what she had just heard from her school Principal.
“Ma’am, can I join today?” Alia heard herself saying.
It has been five years. Now, Alia has a permanent job. She is happily married. Her mother spends her time playing with her grandchildren.
Chitra Gupta, Deputy Director of Education (Retd.) Delhi, and a recipient of ‘National Award for Teacher’. She attended SHort Story Writing Workshop 3.