By SAIMA USMANI
February 7th, 2018
“This girl was mean and this girl was angry.”
She was a skinny little 3rd grader of Kashmiri ancestry, with a father doing business overseas and a very young, very harried mother. For those of you who don’t know, the people of Kashmir are reputably fierce, sharp-boned, angry gun-toting rebels who have been fighting for their freedom for generations. I was a high school nerd teaching at weekend school.
We’ll call her A. This girl was mean and this girl was angry. She would show up on Saturday mornings in her karate clothes sometimes (and I’d think “you would”) and pick on this (annoying) student named Adam. And not “pick on” like how little kids pick on their crushes.
One day, I left for A MINUTE to make photocopies and I come back to see 15 little children in a cheering mob. I threw jumping kids aside to find A in her karate outfit, kicking Adam in the head while they both were standing. Poor weak Adam, against his upbringing, was hitting the girl back in defense.
I plucked her out from the ring and dragged her to the principal’s office. I was totally mature and totally worried about the violence but even then there was just something about this girl that I liked.
I knew A for another 7 years, and she was my student on and off for a few of those years. She is the most amazing young woman I know.
My friends don’t believe me. But after having a single conversation with her, they get it. This girl is as beautiful and fierce as the stark white mountains of the Himalayas. She’s a damn hero.
The school stopped giving out snacks for kids for a brief time, and she was hangry. So she raided the kitchen, found an old box of ice cream, set up a folding table, stole some bowls and spoons, and next thing you know she is feeding an entire weekend school of children ice cream. She was about 10 at that time.
I wish I could say she stopped beating up boys, but that would be a lie. But every word that ever came out of her, from age 8 to age 14, astounded me. Made me think, made me respect her, made me so proud to be in her life. She only tolerates rules, and my theory is that she lashes out because she is frustrated by the rampant stupidity around her. She has the heart of a frustrated child but sees the entire universe with the clarity of a relativity physicist.
I precede her in age and maturity by a decade, but she is secretly my role model. I worry about her a lot. The roiling brilliance in her may destine her for greatness, or destroy her one day.
They had to send her to Canada for boarding school. Hah! Canada! Good luck, Canadians. You’ll need it.