They were just scraps of paper – torn, irrelevant stained and crumpled. Their mere existence was of no value and so they found their way into the dumpster. But the story that was about to unfold began from these scraps of paper.
The first time I noticed this girl was when, accidentally, she bumped into me on the road. A few scraps of paper that she was holding in her hands scattered. Bending down to pick them up, very politely she said, “sorry didi, I did not see you coming”. I was stumped to hear her speak so clearly and fluently in English and she completely floored me with her good manners. Her worn out clothes mended in places could fool a person into believing that she was a poor girl with no education. In order to satisfy my curiosity about her, I invited her to my home.
Sitting down on the floor in my living room she told me about herself. “My name is Megha. I am 14 years old. My mother works as a maid and my father is a laborer. I have four other siblings and I am the youngest amongst them all. I went to school till the middle of class three but then had to drop out due to financial constraints. None of my brothers are educated, in fact, they work odd jobs to earn their livelihood.”
I could not contain my curiosity any further and asked her who taught her to speak such fluent English. Very calmly she replied, “Scraps of paper, thrown away by people just like you who found them of no value”. Adding to it, she said, “I collect all such torn pieces of papers and thrown away books, then I read them, what I don’t understand, I ask the aunty for whom my mother works. I have been teaching myself to read and write like this for the past five years. I really wanted to study and make a future for myself, but because we have no money, a school was out of the question.”
Hearing her story I was determined to help. So, I got second-hand school books for her from class three onwards and made her appear for exams privately. I would help her study whenever I could. Her diligence and passion for studying were exemplary. She would study at all odd hours, all the while cooking and cleaning for her own family, but would never complain.
Today she has a major in “Business Studies” and holds a very good job. Her days of poverty are well behind and her parents are proud of her achievements. Her only regret is that she failed to inspire her brothers to complete their studies.
Whatever said and done, today I value every scrap of paper. Instead of throwing away a book or copy, I donate it to schools and NGO’s who work towards promoting education amongst the poor. After all, scraps of paper can change a life – therefore something of so much value can never be useless.
P.S. This is a work of fiction but the lesson is really important. Please don’t throw away any books ever instead donate them. They can bring a big change in somebody’s life.