Commentary and Philosophy Script posted February 19, 2020

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For equality and the rights of minorities!

Dare to Dream

by Aaqib Naeem

Ma’am Saman Malik: An 8th grade English teacher who tries to invoke and promote the creative writing skills of her students.
Joseph Isaac Gill: A thoughtful 8th grade Christian student at a Muslim majority school in Pakistan.
Hina Mehak: A bright, out-spoken girl and Joseph’s classmate.
Haider Afzaal: A confident kid who likes to take the lead and be number one.
Other Students: Un-named, un-credited and there to make up the numbers.
Saman Malik leaves the staff-room and walks to her last class, exhausted after a taxing day, to teach English to another 8th grade section. In class, her students are also low on energy and wish for the last period to end before it has even started. It’s just another day at school for the people involved that is about to take a serious, educating and eye-opening turn.
(Saman Malik enters the classroom to a chorus of, “As-salam-o-Alaikum, Ma’am!” from all the students. It is the traditional Islamic greeting to which she graciously replies, “Walaikum Mussalam, kids!” and proceeds to settle down behind the teacher’s desk. It is now time for the class to formally convene.)

Ma’am Saman: I’ve got some really good news for you today, kids…!

Haider: (Eager as usual, chimes in) Well, what is it ma’am?

Ma’am Saman: Calm down, Haider! Let me finish…the good news is that I am not going to teach anything today!

(The students cheer in unison, energized and relieved!)

Hina: (Raising her voice above the commotion) Then, what are we supposed to do now?
(A valid question as they still have an hour to kill.)

Ma’am Saman: Hina, we are going to engage in a creative-writing activity today. I am sure all of you will enjoy it.

(That brings her students back from cloud nine. There wasn’t going to be a traditional lecture but class activities normally mean more work.)

Ma’am Saman: The topic for this written activity is… “If you were to become either Prime Minister or President of Pakistan then, what would you do for the country?” Just take a page each out of your registers and start writing. You only have fifteen minutes, class!

(There is a general sigh of relief as the topic is announced and students start to hustle and write. This was such a generic topic that they had already written numerous times growing up. Although, unnoticed by all of them, Joseph Gill had hung his head down after the announcement. This was among his least favourite topics, ever.)

Ma’am Saman: (noticing Joseph) come on, beta! Hurry up and start writing or you won’t be able to finish on time.

Joseph: (nervously) Alright, ma’am!

(Silence envelopes the classroom as well as it can manage to envelope a class full of kids in their early teens. Saman Malik makes a round of her class and then proceeds to sit behind her desk. She has fifteen minutes of peace to savour.)

Haider: I just finished, ma’am!

Ma’am Saman: (straightens in her chair) Alright, bring your page to me. (Raises her voice) The rest of you have five more minutes!

(Time runs out and students start shuffling around to get their pages to the teacher. Joseph also gets up slowly and proceeds to turn in his piece of paper. The class settles down again and the students start chatting in hushed tones as their teacher starts reviewing their work. Joseph, though, is sitting quietly and strikes a lonely figure.Saman Malik starts to praise the young kids for their pure and honest thoughts and is giving individual feedback when, a story unlike any other makes her stop and sit back. She reads through it a couple more times, impressed by the depth of a young mind and comes to a conclusion!)

Ma’am Saman: (loud and clear, smiling internally) Joseph! Get up and come stand here. Front and Centre!

(Joseph had been dreading this moment as soon as he had finished writing. He moves slowly, half-heartedly and goes to stand next to his teacher who hands him his paper.)

Ma’am Saman: (In a kindly manner) I want you to read what you have written, out-loud for all of us, Joseph! Do not be afraid to voice out your thoughts!

Joseph: (his legs and voice tremble as he hesitantly begins reading. *monologue alert*) I love my country dearly and I, too, wish to do everything for my country just like my class-fellows and friends. But, my mother says that I should not talk about such things as I belong to a Christian family. She tells me that we are a minority religion in this country and according to the constitution of Pakistan, only a Muslim can become President or Prime Minister!

(Joseph pauses here to clear his throat and to take a look around. All eyes are on him. Ma’am Saman is lost in deep thought. He shrugs and starts reading again.)

Joseph: I was born in Pakistan and will be buried here. Just like my father who, was in Pakistan Army and was martyred fighting terrorists for the sake of our country and its people, is buried here.
My mother says I am not a bad son and someday, I will make her proud. I respect all of my friends but I can’t wrap my head around this one thing…that how are they any more patriotic or loyal to the country than I am? (Bitterness seeps through his composed tone) Why do they get to dream and aim for these laurels but not I? Perhaps, in some way unbeknownst to me, I was born inferior!

(After making that statement, Joseph strides away confidently and sits back in his chair. There is pin-drop silence in the room and majority of the students are stunned and do not know what to think or say. Living in their own little worlds, they had no idea what the Constitution says or why? But they were not to be blamed for the way things are.
Saman Malik had a proud, beaming smile on her face and she had clapped for her odd-one-out student, generously.  Being an adult, she had been the only one to fully understand the significance of what Joseph had written. She stood up to give a little speech of her own!)

Ma’am Saman: (serious yet smiling) Well, kids! This right here is lesson in equality for all of us. We all need to understand that if the system is flawed and biased, then, it falls upon us all as citizens to raise our voice against any form of injustice. Allah has not made any person inferior or superior to another person. It is man who creates division based on its preferences. The law should always be equal and neutral for all citizens. There should never be a limit over what we can achieve and how far we can go. We should all be able to freely dare to dream!

(On this note, the school bell rings as if on cue and the students start repacking their schoolbags. The lucky few who were able to understand the message at this tender age gather around Joseph; Hina and Haider leading the pack. Saman Malik smiles and nods at Joseph, who nods back, and proceeds to walk out of the classroom.)
Fade Out

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Author Notes:

According to the Constitution of Pakistan, only a Muslim can become Head of State and Head of Government. This is a messed up rule that I disagree with completely. In order to move forward and progress as a country, we need to incorporate and utilize all of our resources and citizens to the maximum.

Rules like this that are made to appease the majority, only serve to disenfranchise the minorities and effectively makes them second-grade citizens. Our hypocrisy and dual standards further come to the fore on how we, Muslims, react to the news of a Muslim being elected as Mayor, Senator, Member of Parliament, etc. in other countries where we are in the minority. Those people are hailed as heroes and everyone knows their names even though, that achievement is a win for the system of the particular country which did not allow the person's religion to become a hindrance to their ambition. That is a big win for the country and people who treated their minorities as equal citizens.

I believe that is precisely what Pakistan should aim and aspire for...I hope I am not being unrealistic here. I dare to dream of all that I could be and it would be a real shame if some rule said that I could not!

As-salam-o-Alaikum and Walaikum Mussalam: the standard exchange of greeting between Muslims. They translate as...Peace be unto you!
Beta: translates as son/child. A common figure of speech also used for girls at times.
Allah: the name for God used by Muslims.
Also, in my culture, it is considered grave disrespect to address any teacher by their name! One must always use terms like Sir, Maâ??am, etc while addressing a teacher even at grad-levels!
This was my first try at writing a script in English so,I just went along with wherever my limited understanding of script writing took me. I may have winged through some parts to get to the crux of the matter. Personally, delivering the political message was the main priority and focus.

Image was taken from google.
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