It was another beautiful spring morning in Maple Town.
The sun was shining brightly. The grass was still wet with due. The birds were singing. A perfect day to be outside. And that was what the students of the neighbourhood school were doing.
They had all gathered to take part in a race, in their colourful sports uniform.
All the participants stood at their mark, waiting for the green signal to race toward the finish line.
“On your mark, get set, go!” shouted their sports instructor, and all the students began running.
Gopal was watching from a field surrounding the race track.
He was six years old, elder than many of the students in the race.
Gopal began sprinting, too.
He was ahead of all the students, and finished well before them.
He raised his arms in celebration. There was no one around to applaud Gopal, but when the race finished, everyone gave out a loud cry of excitement for the student who won.
The headmaster of the school made all the students sit down to tell them how proud he was. As he began his speech to the students in presence of their teachers, Gopal listened intently in the field.
“So, dear students, will you be disciplined in your life like you were disciplined today?” asked the headmaster.
“Yes, sir,” shouted Gopal, before anyone could reply.
One of the teachers present there overheard Gopal. His name was Saleem, who had been teaching for twenty years.
He looked around and spotted Gopal.
“Who are you, son? What are you doing there?” asked the teacher.
“I am sorry, sir,” Gopal whispered, his head lowered, as he tried to run away.
Saleem ordered him to stop.
“Do not be afraid. I will not harm you,” said Saleem.
Gopal looked at him. He was about to weep.
“My name is Gopal. I was just sitting there and watching the students of your school.”
“Why are you not in school?”
“I do not have one. My parents cannot afford to send me to school. I work with my father in our field.”
Saleem paused for a moment.
“Do you want to go to school?” he asked.
Saleem paused again, and went to speak to the headmaster.
Gopal’s heart was beating fast as he saw Saleem returning.
Saleem had a smile on his face. He put his hand on Gopal’s head.
“Come to the school tomorrow with your father. We will enroll you,” said Saleem.
Gopal didn’t seem happy.
“But what about the fees? I told you my father cannot afford it,” he asked.
“You will not have to pay anything. You will study for free,” said Saleem.
Gopal jumped with joy. It was a dream coming true for him.
And for a moment, he thought he was dreaming.
He turned to share the news with his father. But Saleem stopped him.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“Home, to tell my father,” Gopal said.
“No. Join the other kids. You are a part of them from this very moment,” Saleem said.