Rana was one of the best students in our class last year. In fact, he came out second overall, losing only to the class bookworm. So it was a great surprise to all of us this year to see the drastic change in him.
I began to notice the change right at the beginning of the first term. First of all, his hairstyle had changed. The usual crewcut was replaced by long hair. His physical appearance then began to look slovenly. He developed a growl in his voice. Where he was pleasant to talk to before, he was now surly-mouthed.
Rana started getting into trouble with the teachers and prefects. He often came late to school. The prefect could do nothing because they were afraid of him. The teachers too had a hard time controlling Rana. It seemed that he had learned all the bad manners and foul language in a space of a few months.
His performance in school took a huge dive towards the lower end. He no longer paid attention in class nor bothered to do his homework. After a while, even the teachers gave up scolding him. He just could not be bothered Anyway the brooding silence that he had developed made even the teachers afraid to cross him. So he was left pretty much on his own.
I tried to talk to him a couple of times to find out what was bothering him. He would not talk much except he kept saying tt at I would not understand. I told him that if he did not tell me at all then there was no hope of me understanding at all. He nodded his head, but he still refused to tell me what was bothering him.
Once in a while, he would tell me certain things but nothing about his problems and why he had changed so drastically in such a short time. It was as if the old Rana never existed, only the quiet angry young man who sat at the back of the class every day.
One day the cause of his troubles became known to me. It was due to effort on my part, and also because he had asked me to help him. The help was supposed to be fifty ringgit that he needed badly. I was not exactly rich but I had some savings tucked away. So I agreed that I would lend him the money if he would let me come to his house to give it to him. Actually I wanted to see his family and perhaps get an idea of what his problems were.
I was shocked when I entered his house.
He was the breadwinner of his family of two younger brothers and a younger sister! His father had left home after his mother ran away with another man. So these four kids were left on their own without anyone to look after them. Rana, being the eldest, had to do part-time work as a waiter in a restaurant to keep the family together, and he was having a hard time doing so.
The next morning I reported the matter to my teacher who then took me along to see the headmaster. They were both shocked, but they promised to do something about the situation.
A week later, one of the bachelor teachers of our school offered to be the foster parents of Rana and his three siblings. In addition to that, the teachers made a collection of about two thousand ringgit among themselves to give to the afflicted family. Finally, the Welfare Department sent some officers over to check the situation.
Things are looking up again for Rana and his brothers and sister. They are at present staying with their foster father and I must say that Rana is beginning to be his old self again. He shed tears of joy the last time he came to thank me and I must say I unashamedly shed some too. Anyway, it must have been a real ordeal for him. I am glad it is over.