Unplayed Melodies

In the Shadow of Circumstance

Photo by Urszula Kaźmierczak on Unsplash

As I laid eyes on him, my heart swelled with emotion. He was lying on the hospital bed, fragile, fighting a relentless battle against cancer. His wife and his young child were by his side, both sharing in the heavy burden of his suffering, their faces etched with worry.

Holding his hand tightly, I closed my eyes and whispered a fervent prayer for his recovery. The doctors had offered a glimmer of hope, assuring us that his chances of survival were promising.

As I sat in the quiet corridor outside his hospital room, my mind wandered back in time, retracing the steps of a life marked by relentless struggle. For him, choices had been a luxury, a privilege rarely afforded to those born into poverty. Life had swept him along its currents, leaving him to navigate the turbulent waters of survival one day at a time.

When you are born poor, you rarely have a say in the course your life takes. Fate dictated most aspects of your existence. You simply go where life leads, struggling to make the most of each day in the relentless pursuit of survival.

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At the tender age of 10, he had shouldered the weight of responsibilities that no child should bear. Born into a family of nine, his father toiled at menial jobs to put food on the table, while his mother worked tirelessly as a housemaid.

His path was set, and his destiny was predetermined. As the eldest son, he had little choice but to become the family’s breadwinner. His days were fraught with hardship, and moments of respite were few and far between.

When he first entered our lives to work as a house-help, he was the same age as me—a bright young boy with an unyielding spirit. Over the years, he grew alongside our family. His intelligence and skills were remarkable, making him our indispensable man Friday — faithful, loving, and unwavering in his sincerity.

My earliest memories of him involved waking up each morning to find him in the kitchen, diligently preparing tea and breakfast for our family. Under my mother’s careful guidance, he learned everything from cooking to various household chores. He held a place in our lives akin to family. He experienced many privileges similar to ours, yet he never experienced the carefree life that we took for granted—loving parents, siblings, friends, and school—that were such an integral part of our lives.

We embraced him as one of our own, but the shadow of his impoverished beginnings lingered. I remember how he never seemed comfortable sitting on a chair in front of my mother; instead, he would choose to stand. When you are born into poverty, you’re unaware of the concept of dignity and how to fight for it. You only know what you’ve seen, and the poor are conditioned to respect the wealthy. As we all grew older, his dedication to our family deepened.

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His father passed away, leaving him as the sole provider for his family. The demands for financial support from his family grew with time. My father shouldered the responsibility of meeting their needs to the best of his ability, which seemed to grow ever larger.

Whenever he visited his family, he returned in a foul mood. His circumstances left him with little choice. As the eldest son, he was bound by duty to be the provider, a role he tried to fulfill with unwavering commitment.

My mother wanted him to pursue education, but his interests lay elsewhere. His skills were nothing short of extraordinary. His proficiency in engineering was exceptional. We couldn’t help but marvel at the ingenious methods he employed while carrying out chores, all without a formal education. He instinctively applied certain principles to accomplish tasks that seemed almost like feats of engineering. His exceptional abilities were in the realm of fixing things around the house with a unique blend of intuition and practicality.

What set him apart was his ability to absorb knowledge effortlessly. Despite lacking formal education, he approached each task with a voracious appetite for understanding. It was as if he had an innate curiosity, a hunger to comprehend the underlying principles governing the world.

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He left my parents’ home in pursuit of his personal horizons. I later learned that he faced family issues that were largely beyond his control, obstacles that strained the very fabric of his being. Entering into marriage introduced a new set of challenges and responsibilities for him. He toiled to make ends meet.

Limited access to opportunities and the perpetual struggle for survival suppressed the flames of his potential. Life’s twists can be unkind, and fate, at times, appears particularly harsh. The unexpected battle against a terminal illness was a cruel turn of events that I never imagined for him. Born into underprivileged circumstances, his journey seemed to be marked by adversity from the very start.

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Currently, he is still in the hospital, on the path to recovery. Given the current circumstances, providing financial assistance to the best of my ability is the entirety of my contribution at the moment.

Sometimes, I find myself questioning whether I could have done more. This lingering feeling is challenging to overcome. I wonder if there were untapped reserves of effort or kindness within me that could have made a difference.

He played a pivotal role in my childhood—a reliable figure who made our daily lives easy and comfortable. When I visited him in the hospital, I expressed my gratitude to him for the significant impact he had on our happy childhood and his support for our aging parents when we couldn’t be there for them.

I let him know how much of a difference he made in each of our lives, acknowledging the role he played as our “man friday,” who contributed to the joy and ease of our formative years.

He reminisced about the time spent in our house where he experienced a sense of being wanted, loved, and cared for.

It made me ponder that even in the face of adversity, the basic human requirement for love and care remains the most crucial aspect of existence and how little is required to make people feel loved and wanted.

I don’t do great things. I do small things with great love.

Mother Teresa

Miguel’s narrative is very much similar to the stories of countless underprivileged individuals and the silent battles waged by them. Their untapped potential is thwarted by their external circumstances, leaving one to ponder how the societal structures and systemic challenges faced by many contribute to the stifling of human potential, where innate talents, ambitions, and capabilities remain largely unrealized.

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Life Lessons
Underprivileged Children
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