How A Tragedy Changed A Person Drastically
Ah Long 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 crew-cut 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.
Ah long started getting into trouble with the teachers and prefects. He often came late to school. The prefect-in-charge could do nothing because he was afraid of him. The teachers too had a hard time controlling Ah Long. It seemed that he had learnt all the bad manners and foul language, in a space of a few months.
His performance in school took a huge dive towards the critical end. He no longer paid attention in class nor bothered to do his homework. After a while, even the teachers gave up on 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 that I would not understand. I told him that if he did not tell me at all then there was no hope of me understanding. 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 Ah Long never existed, only the quiet angry young man who sat at the back of the class everyday.
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 dollars 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 and 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. What a tragedy it must have been! Ah Long, 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 tough time doing so.
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 parent of Ah Long and his three siblings. In addition to that, the teachers made a collection of about five thousand dollars among themselves to give to the afflicted family. Finally, the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports sent some officers over to check the situation.
Things are looking up again for Ah Long and his siblings. They are at present staying with their foster father and I must say that Ah Long is beginning to be his oldself 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.
Written by : MOE SAT AUNG