Define humanity. In an era where you are greeted by numerous good morning messages over various Apps the moment the Sun rises, there´s little doubt one may type ´humanity´ in one of the search engines to get it politically right.
Mohammed Rafique, by then, had just finished his phone call. Keeping it down, he smiles. “He was speaking to his mason´s son,” quips Narayan Das, his room-mate, even as Rafique, quite valiantly gestures to Narayan not to divulge much.
In the next couple of minutes, we discover the real humanitarian, someone who “wants to repay his society in whatever manner” he can.
“I run a Coaching Centre for poor kids in Sodepur. I have over 50 kids coming in for private tuitions. They are kids from very poor families who cannot afford a private tutor. So I have employed tutors who teaches the kids in batches,” he murmurs.
“There are kids form the age of around 8 to 16. Just because their parents can´t pay, should they be deprived of learning?” Rafique queries.
“God has helped me earn a decent income. So it´s my duty to pay the tutors to teach the kids. They don´t have to pay for anything.”
You ponder. Almost every alternate message in chatting apps will lecture you about humanity which are forwarded at a split of a second. But are we real humanitarians? The adjacent Mumbai metro speeds past the Team hotel. For a moment, the transparent window panes appear blur, making you realise that maybe we need to pay back our society in a better manner.
Narayan breaks the silence again. “The mason who is now working to construct Rafique´s house wants to get his son admitted. Rafique-da was coordinating it some minutes back.”
When did you venture into it?
“One day, I met a boy who had passed his Standard X exams working in a garage to earn money for his private tuitions. I immediately felt I needed to do something for such boys. They have the right to education, they have the right to learn,” Rafique´s bright eyes lit up as he stares outside the window panes to see the next Mumbai Metro whiz past.
“There are boys and girls in the tuition centre and there is never any discrimination on basis of any religion. But Football is kind of compulsory for the boys. That´s my kind of barter system,” Rafique smiles. “Once I give them an admission in my Coaching centre, they have to play Football from the place where I kicked-off from,” his eyes lit up again. “You learn and play at the same time.”
“I try to relate my life with them. I keep telling about my struggles. There have been times when we had to think about our survival. My dad used to be employed in a jute mill. I tell the kids, that unless you educate yourself, the other avenues won´t open up for you. These are the constructive years -- you need to shape it up at this age – I reiterate it to them,” Rafique states.
“You learn at every step. I had been a Footballer for long but the dietary plan, the preparation, maintaining yourself as a Footballer was an eye-opener when I first got a call up for the National Camp under Constantine,” he murmurs again.
“I tell the kids at the Centre that I had failed two times at the Camp. I wasn´t just good enough and was sent back. I was heartbroken. But the Coach told me what I needed to do. It made me stronger as a person and as a player. Even as I need to thank Coach for giving me an opportunity, I know that I will lose my spot if I am not up to it,” Rafique waves his hand. Narayan listens.
“The kids need to be told that life is not all about roses. There are struggles and thorns. But once you are able to become a petal, you need to carry on in the same manner. Otherwise the thorns will prick you,” Rafique tries to catch a glimpse of the speeding Mumbai Metro.
There´s silence in the room. Rafique lifts his head up and smiles. The hard tackling tireless midfielder has a softer side too, you never knew.
“It gives me satisfaction. There´s an inner peace which I attain when I think about these poor kids. Their parents come up to me often to thank me. I just tell them to pursue their kids to keep learning,” it was hard to miss Rafique´s moist eyes.
Quick as he interchanges on the field, Rafique switches it. “The match against Nepal is a very significant one. We need to achieve a result and carry the confidence into the next match against Kyrgyz Republic. That can make a difference.”
Rafique´s phone rings.
´Is it the mason´s son?´ you enquire.
“It´s his dad,” Rafique smiles, excuses himself and starts the conversation.
Mumbai is a city of stark contrasts. The tall skyscrapers and the snazzy hotels are enveloped around by slums, people struggling to make a living. From the window panes, you spot some small kids gazing at the huge crane at the adjacent construction side.
How many of us have really been humanitarians? How many of us of actually thought of “repaying” our own society? You? Me?
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