He was in his early teens. The tallest boy in his class (Grade 5). Very skinny, but so bright. He loved every opportunity to go on stage and perform. He was one of my 8-Day Academy graduates–from the first batch of children I had taught.
On February 21, 2010…he committed suicide. He jumped into a well. There are many versions to the story, but the main one says that he was deeply upset the last three months because of his uncle who had died. Unable to deal with the grief, he jumped into the well. Within minutes, he was gone.
His death shook me to the core. I was proud of my 8DA graduates and some of them had confessed that they were at the verge of suicide but participating in the 8DA changed their outlook on life. I felt happy and humbled and somehow I thought that whoever had been a part of the 8DA, had been saved.
Bilal proved me wrong. He taught me so many lessons. But is it always necessary to learn lessons at someone else’s expense?
I realised how the 8DA needs to incorporate some form of ‘continuous learning’ so that children have the strength to deal with growing up. Most of us live in a culture that encourages burying emotions and tells boys that crying is a sign of weakness and not for them.
Bilal is always on my mind. I don’t think I will ever emerge from the disturbing feeling of what goes on in a child’s mind that he has to take such a drastic step. The well was so deep; was the pain in his heart deeper than that?
He was a star and I want him to be remembered as one. His death was a sad point but it will encourage some wonderful work which will save lives of many children. It’s my promise to him.