“I want to be a famous writer” was my quick reply, to the question Raju, the newspaper distributor posed to me, as he saw the eagerness with which I helped him distribute the newspapers early in the morning in my village before leaving for school. I earned a newspaper everyday and a good sum for the work I did.
Unable to read the newspaper, I carried it to the school and my friend Mehnat read and explained to me all that was happening around the world and that is how I learnt to read and write in English. Mehnat was a brilliant lad, his aim was to become an IAS officer and therefore he was working hard – reading newspapers, articles, quiz books, in a way equipping himself. His parents were unemployed, totally dependent on their older son, Mehnat’s elder brother, Rehmat, who was a manual labourer.
Our school, on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanthi, was organising many competitions. The class teacher found Mehnat qualified to participate in the quiz and therefore without a second thought she asked him to get ready for the event.
“Thank you,” said Mehnat gratefully, “this will be my first stage appearance and I will do my best, by your grace, teacher!” the teacher blessed Mehnat saying, “May this be the beginning, may your dreams come true… all the best, my son”. Simultaneously I was noting the success story of Mehnat (my friend), in my small diary.
On this day, “Quiz” was the main event and the other competitions followed, such as Short Story writing, Poetry competition, Elocution. These events were open to all, So I decided to participate in the short story writing. But the problem was the timings of the quiz and short story competition overlapped. Both of us were disappointed at this. “Mehnat” I said, “this time I shall give up the idea of participating in short story writing as I am keen to watch the competition you are participating in.
“No” said Mehnat in disagreement, “let’s be bold, opportunity knocks at the door only once, you do your best in short story writing and I shall do my best in the quiz, but one thing we mustn’t forget is, to pray for each other’s success”.
Mehnat was a great inspiration and motivation for me. We both proceeded to our respective locations for the competition.
I began with an invocation to my muse and then the teacher announced the topic, “Dear students, the topic for the short story writing is open-ended. You can select your own, be creative and write” it sounded quite amusing to me and I decided to pen my friend’s (Mehnat) success story.
Suddenly, my friend Mehnat, was “leading with 25 points”, I could hear the quiz master say. I wrote the story as quickly as I could and ran to witness the quiz and there… was the quiz master asking the last question of the final round to Mehnat, “who was the first President of India?” I scratched my head to draw the answer, but before I could, Mehnat on stage quickly answered, “Its Dr. Rajendra Prasad,” the audience and gave him a standing ovation.
He was then awarded a trophy and a cash prize of a thousand rupees. Then I saw the teacher who conducted the short story writing competition going onto the stage, probably to declare the winners of the competition.
Mehnat peeped into the paper the teacher was holding and stared at me from the stage astonished. He broke down with tears of happiness or sadness, I didn’t know. The teacher then announced, “the winner of short story writing competition for this year is, Younis Shaikh” well, that is my name, I ran onto the stage immediately and my friend gave me a hug though the tears were still flowing and he said, “we’ve done it”. That was the beginning of our success story…