The institution I study in is not at all an ordinary one. It’s a pre-military residential institution of Bangladesh, “Cadet College” by name. The Cadets enrolled here are bound to lead a strictly disciplined lifestyle.
One afternoon, I came directly to the office of our house—the Cadets’ residence is called the ‘house’—after having lunch and began to type on the only computer therein soundlessly. It’s something I do on a regular basis, for I have an overwhelming ardour for writing stories.
Perhaps for the computer being on the rightmost corner of the room and my sheer quietness, Mrs Sabrina, the teacher on duty for that day, did not notice me when she had entered the office and sat on one of the chairs. But she soon took me in and asked the same maddening question I confronted every single day, “Tawsif, what are you doing on the computer?”
The computer in the office is practically an abandoned one. Other Cadets hardly ever come anywhere near it as it is totally outdated and devoid of any internet connection. As I mentioned earlier, the Cadets have to maintain discipline everywhere, and our teachers are meant to ensure it. That is why they look me askance and offer a flood of sceptical questions when they find me typing in that computer, doubting if I am doing anything indecent. My insides burn with annoyance when I try convincing them with my explanations.
I explained Mrs Sabrina in the same way then and was preparing for further irritating inquiries. But quite unexpectedly, there came no more disturbs from her.
A week later, I came across Mrs. Sabrina in the academic hour. I was about to walk past her, but then, she called me and said, “Is there any update of that short story contest?”
The question struck my heart with an ineffable surprise. Even though I had informed many teachers about my contests before, none of them was curious enough to, later on, ask what had happened to them. Such indifference from them had never upset me, for, like the Cadets, their lifestyle was extremely hectic as well. It was reasonable that they would not be able to remember the personal matters of the cadets. But I was astonished through and through to see that Mrs Sabrina had borne in her mind a trivia such as my contest despite all the worries of her own life.
Ecstatic inside, I retorted, “No, ma’am, not yet. But I’ll let you know if there is any.”
From then onwards, whenever my stories won an award, I told Mrs. Sabrina the first of all. Every time I informed her, she greeted my excitement with equal enthusiasm and never let it ebb away, no matter how busy she was.
I asked Mrs Sabrina one day, seeing her amicable personality, to help me with my handwriting. She went on to inspect some of my writings and then advised me to straighten my lines slightly so that they appear more decorative.
The following day, I was left speechless when Mrs Sabrina gave me a triple lined exercise-book and said, “Practice writing there and your lines will be a lot straighter.”
Literally, Mrs Sabrina offered me nothing more than an exercise-book, and before that some curiosity about my contests and some enthusiastic appreciation for the awards I won. But it meant to me far more than that. With all due respect to my teachers, they are only concerned about their routine duties, bounded by the regimented system in the Cadet College. But Mrs Sabrina, regardless of the regimented system, had willingly shown her unfeigned kindness through buying me an exercise-book, caring about my contests and their results, despite having no liabilities whatsoever.
I used to think that kindness symbolizes something prodigious, like huge donations for the impoverished people. But from Mrs Sabrina, I learnt that you can be kind by making others feel that they too have value in this world, through asking about their wellbeing, greeting their feelings with enthusiasm, rendering the smallest of supports, like buying an exercise-book. Above all, kindness is to keep a space in your heart for others, despite all the troubles of your own life.