Merasi School: Hayad Khan's Story
Every month, The Merasi School tells the unique story of one student. This is Hayad Khan’s story.
At first glance, there was nothing soft about Hayad Khan. While many 7-year-olds have patches of doughy, pliable innocence that glow with youth, Hayad’s small frame was unyielding and hardened with experience far beyond his years. Life had painted a narrow picture for Hayad. His mother, Chotiya, a small, warm-eyed woman in her early 30s, had been relegated to the furthest outskirts of society because she was a widow.
Since there was no father present, Hayad spent his days at the beck and call of his upper caste neighbors. As the sun inched up the eastern part of the sky, his little figure could be seen cleaning the sewer, scrubbing stoops, or lugging stones to building sites. He would never be asked to make chai or roll out flat bread because he was considered a pollutant. At the end of the day, Hayad’s efforts were acknowledged with leftover food.
As Hayad’s life slipped further out of his control, so too did his family’s rare musical heritage. Within the Merasi’s ancient cultural legacy, a select few bloodlines could play the nagara, an ancient drum that was the community’s first instrument. The fibers of Hayad’s gritty anatomy were made up of those genes necessary to play this sacred instrument. But Hayad had no time to sustain the legacy.
In the fall of 2008, The Merasi School had developed a confident teaching staff ready to welcome more kids into their classes: Hayad would be a perfect candidate. His mother desperately wanted him to attend, he could learn and preserve the nagara rhythms, and he had all the qualities of an exceptional student: tenacity, resilience, and a resourceful intelligence forged out of piecing together the tiny pieces life dumped at his feet. Hayad’s strength just needed to be channeled into an academic environment. Hayad
was representative of hundreds of other Merasi kids. If The Merasi School was effective for Hayad, then we knew were growing something worthwhile.
Hayad’s first few days were sticky. Akram, a dedicated student, was appointed to be Hayad’s “older brother.” Initially, Akram’s picked Hayad up for school, helped him wash his hands, combed his hair, and fished cherry bombs out of his pocket. But Akram was not the only one who looked out for Hayad. A small sea of students nudged and nourished Hayad, giving him chalk to write and staying late with him to practice the curve of ‘C’ and the sound of ‘B.’
After a week, Hayad began to show up at our door early, hair combed and shirt tucked in. In teacher meetings, Shashi, his instructor, spoke about his emerging dedication. When the students threw a birthday for The Merasi School, Hayad came earlier than usual. Behind him were two quiet little boys. “They’re my friends,” Hayad said. “I want them to come to my school. I think they’ll like it.”
Hayad Khan is walking, breathing, learning proof that humans are worth much more than a first glance. Hayad is tough and unyielding; he can’t survive and not be. But there is a softness, in the curve of his smile and the movement of his eyes. They are visible at moments when his beautiful, fierce heart pokes through the tough bark of his exterior.
At The Merasi School, we are doing everything in our power to create more of those moments with Hayad. When he walked through our door, Hayad spit in the face of 36 generations of history that said he wasn’t worthy of education. Now, he’s developing the tools necessary to rewire the future with more opportunity, creativity and compassion than the past ever gave him.
Caitie Whelan is the India Editor for Wandering Educators.
Publisher's note: The Merasi School is one of several Humanitarian Organizations that Wandering Educators supports. If you'd like to support the Merasi School personally, you can click here to support Hayad and other Merasi Students and programs.