The Girl Who Broke My Heart

She must’ve been seven or eight years old, a child the colour of the earth. Her matted sun bleached hair teased her shoulders. And across her body hung a black sling bag that spat out the words EDUCATION.

She stood engrossed in the quiz taking place on stage. The open venue had made it possible for her to slip in unnoticed. I wondered if she actually understood what was going on even though she must have understood the language. In the audience people chatted, strolled, ate. But she kept watching, deeply involved.

I nudged my friend and pointed to her. She makes a poignant picture he said. I thought. Should I take out my phone and click her? But what did I hope to capture? Even if I was a brilliant photographer I couldn’t have captured that single moment when guilt gushed through me. Those seconds when the words on her bag taunted me and showed me how helpless I was. A teacher, a very proud one at that too, what could I do, I had been slapped on the face by words. I watched a while and then turned away to leave her with whatever shroud of privacy I could.

No, I couldn’t take a picture. I couldn’t capture that moment of shame and uselessness that I felt. Not even in these words.

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