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Standing Tall
by Shernaz Wadia

It was a seemingly easy project given by the language teacher to the students of class eight. They had the last two periods, an hour, to complete it.

“You can write a story, an essay, a letter, a dialogue, paraphrase, whatever you fancy. The choice is yours. And you have enough time too. You may leave your books on the table and go home when you have finished. Please leave the school quietly so you don’t disturb the other classes.” With that Miss Solanky left the class.

There was a low hum of conversation as the students began to discuss among themselves. This was a piece of cake. With icing on top. The children, delighted at the prospect of going home early, hurriedly scratched out compositions of their choice, and began to leave.

Most of the class was empty by the end of forty minutes. Delna started to panic as she had not written a word yet. She wanted her composition to be exceptional.

“It must stand out,” she thought and then with a flash of inspiration she began writing.

When school was over, Miss Solanky came into the class-room to gather the books. She was surprised to see Delna alone at her desk. Delna was one of her best students and she topped her class in essay writing.

“Miss please may I have a few more minutes? This is not a test or something,” pleaded Delna. She was granted some more time to complete her work.

Next morning Delna walked into school a little early, wondering how her writing had been assessed. English Literature class was after the lunch recess. The teacher walked into class followed by the peon carrying their books.

“I have been through all your books and must say I am disappointed. It seems all of you were more eager to run home yesterday. Most of you have scribbled off short business letters. A few wrote stories, which could have been much better had you given it more thought and time.”

She paused as she picked up the first book in the pile. She read the name on it and then looked directly at Delna.

“Delna, you took the most time to write out your composition, yet it is quite short.” There were some sneers and giggles in the class, but Miss Solanky chose to ignore them.

Delna stood up, quite embarrassed. “Miss,” she ventured, “ that is because I spent more time thinking out a good topic to write.”

“I guessed so. Class, you will now see what a little extra effort, diligence and originality can do. Had each of you put in a little more drive you also could have written outstandingly.” This sobered down those who were quite jealous of Delna.

“ Delna, come and read out your thought-provoking essay to the class.”

Delna blushed happily as she began to read:

What Makes Some People Stand Out

There are some very exceptional people, who always stand out in their field, in their work, in their communities. These are not all Bill Gates or Amitabh Bachhans. They are ordinary people like us, yet they bring something special to every thing they do.

What sets them apart?

  1. They don’t make empty promises. They deliver. They give of their best. Even if it is as mundane as sweeping the school premises, they do it conscientiously as we have seen Cheema Kaka do all these years. (Here the whole class clapped as Cheema Kaka was a favorite with all.
  2. They respect everyone, regardless of their social or financial standing. They do not consider others stupid or below them. They are aware that respect, not bullying, begets respect.
  3. They are always eager to learn. They speak less, listen more and are not over eager to talk about their own selves.
  4. They never brag or go on ego jaunts. Humility is one of their greatest assets. They know that people who boast, trip over themselves and are easy prey for ridicule.
  5. They don’t step over another’s failure to succeed. Rather, they lend a hand to pull up those who are down. They do not push others aside to get ahead. Instead they take others along with them. This is what adds to their greatness.
  6. They are considerate, understanding and helpful. They give the best of themselves with full esteem and get the same in return.

These are the laudable, humane qualities that make some people stand taller than the rest. We also can cultivate these qualities and become outstanding human beings. We can make our own and others’ world a better place to live in.

Delna finished reading her short essay. As the class sank into thoughtful silence, she was glad she could contribute something valuable.    

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