“Please! Please! Madam, last chance…laaas chance, madam,” a 10-year old lad was pitifully pleading the librarian. He was caught stealing five different books in my office’s library of Department of Youth and Sports. Lean and pale, the lad looked very nervous, shivering so vibrantly. The librarian even threatened him to call his school principal regarding his theft.
Each time he pleads that I discovered something… matter of concern and genuineness in this lad. I told the librarian, instantly, that I will handle the lad. I took him to my office. But he stood behind the door, frightened, and begged me, “Please! Please! Last chance, sir”. He thought that I was calling him in my office to punish him.
Pic: The boy
Pic: The boy
I inquired about his school and the class he reads. He replied, “And…and…and….” Then he was lost into nervousness, again. Perhaps he forgot what I asked him. I told him that I would neither call his principal nor punish him, but just reassured him in a friendly tone that I wanted to know about his school and class. “And…and…” he went on but this time he could gush out next few words, “…and…I study…study?” He was not sure again, I nodded my head in assurance and he continued, “… Zilukha School…and…and…class three.”
I was also curious to ask him why he was stealing the books. But I couldn’t be so blunt and daren’t. Instead I asked him about his parents. He told me that his father is the night guard at Changlimithang Stadium and his mother is an ill woman, always bedridden. He narrated that every morning he has to wake up early, cook breakfast for his two younger brothers and prepare packed lunch before going to school.
“Your father buys you books?” I asked him. He replied me sincerely, “And…yesterday I asked my father for a picture book and a packet of crayon…and… he just kicked me…and…and…told me to shut up.” The lad told me he is enthusiastically fond of painting, so when he didn’t get the painting materials from his parents he resorts to stealing. “And…he also never buys me notebooks. I have no notebooks to write my homework. That’s why I stood second this year in my class. Last year I came first,” he informed me.
I just wanted to help this lad. I gave him a packet each of crayon, colour pencils and sketch pens with half ream of A4 papers. But I gave him homework too: to do a painting on a sheet of paper and bring it to me after one week. Certainly, I didn’t expect that he would come back to me.
I took him to a grocery shop nearby my office and bought him three notebooks and a packet of pencils to do his homework and told him to come first in his next exam.
Then a challenging moment came when this boy asked me the same book that he tried to steal from the library. We went to the library. He took me to a shelf and showed me the book. It’s a picture illustration book. He wanted to take the book home and learn painting from the book. I asked the librarian about the marked price of the book. She told me it costs pound sterling 16. It is very expensive, more than 1,200 bucks in Bhutanese currency.
The librarian recognized the lad and cried at me, “You want to issue the book to this boy? He won’t return it. He always steals books. He is a liar.” She punctured my trust on this lad. I turned back to the lad and looked at his small face; to trust or not to trust was the question, then.
However, his simplistic innocent attitude reassured and earned my full trust on him. I told the librarian to issue the book to the lad in my name. “If he didn’t return the book I will refund it,” I took the risk. Still hesitant, she warned me, “I am reminding you, don’t trust this boy.”
The book was issued to him. I told him to return the book after one week with his homework. The boy went out looking back at me again and again, and then ran away.
Next day, then, I was very busy in my office. Suddenly, a gentle knock on the door shook me from the busyness. The lad was standing behind the door; smiley and delighted. A friend of his was also behind him.
He ran towards me and proudly exclaimed that he finished his painting. He showed me, a beautifully crafted art of a majestic ship harmoniously sailing over an unfathomable sea. His picture touched my otherwise stressed heart and I felt like crying out in sheer happiness and joy. In a while he rummaged his satchel and took out the library book he took from the library yesterday and handed it over to me and expressed his gratitude, “Thank you, sir.” I just went close to him and hugged him, overjoyed, and whispered in his ears, “You made me proud, lad.”
Picture: Art by the boy
Picture: Art by the boy
But he has another request. He and his friend want to try on water colour painting. I gave them a packet of water colours and brushes, a chart paper each and told them to bring their paintings after three days. Later, I framed his painting in a wooden photo frame and proudly hung it in my office.
Again the next day he came with six other friends. It became a challenging job for me to take care of all these seven people in my office besides my busy administrative works. These guests became out of control and intolerable. It’s very difficult for me to handle all these kids every day and providing them all the painting materials.
An idea was born, then, that I should start this group of students a regular class on painting after their school time. I talked to my colleague, a JOCV volunteer about the class. She was interested and agreed to start it as soon as possible. From next day, the class began.
Today there are over 15 students learning Japanese art and craft. Besides, the students also learned eraser and sand painting, painting with color papers and old magazines and paper box painting. Also, I requested other friends of mine to teach the students basic art and color mixing.