Thick beard. Sharp gaze. Smiling face. He was friendlier than what I thought. Muhammad Saleem is a trained teacher and has under his belt more than 15 years of experience. But this is not the most exciting part of his story. He has grown up in Lyari studying in a school where English was taught after grade 5th. His father wanted him out of school but his dada insisted on admitting him in the School. He failed in between and was mocked by his father and other opportunist relatives.
He somehow cleared his matriculation and then a defining moment occurred in his life. A friend suggested to him that he should volunteer for community based schools, and teach. He did not trust himself for the task but enrolled. He had another blast from his father and his opportunist relatives. He was told that money was the most important fact in one’s life. He however continued and fortune smiled over his efforts. Muhammad Saleem was so overwhelmed with the experience that he continued his education in the evening making teaching the top priority. He got formally trained at TDA and never looked back. The proudest moment came when he was asked to work along his formed teacher on an assignment in Peshawar and Lahore.
He has not left his community for pastures greener. In a locality where future is bleak and free will compromised, he has stood fast. He opened up his training center offering courses in English. I don’t turn anyone back, he said without any change in his tone. I don’t have any donors, he further added. The discount goes out of my pocket, but for the good of Lyari. His training center is called ILM INN. A combination of a Urdu and an English word. He was asked if he was a Balochi. A 8th grade student told me that he must have been a Balochi, otherwise he would not have been allowed to establish a training center like that. Students have become more politicized and know much more now.
He replied that he was a Pakistani. A cliche, some may argue. It made me smile though.