I am about to finish my college within five months. As almost everyone at this juncture of life would have done, I am already beginning to look back at it. And nothing resurfaces from my memory like that of how it all began.

I still remember those days after I had finished school, when I had not decided what I wanted to do. Of course, I wanted to study, but higher education did not look a feasible prospect. There were talks in the family about how costly college education was. And worse still, the discussions were being led by my father’s elder brother who was my Godfather, and easily the person whose words the family dared not to questions.

So one day, I went up to him, and asked ‘So, are you going to tell me that my studies are over?’. That was the only time I had dared to stand up to him, and tell him something in his face. Never had I done that before, and never have I done that after that fateful day, and I doubt if I will ever do that again. He did not answer, and something made me ask him ’ so what was the point of making me rot seven of my formative years in a jail?’.

At the time, I could not realize why I had just asked him that, but later I could see that it was my anger at realizing that I had missed a lot during the seven years I spent inside the walls of my school. But then, I had gained a lot too, but at that time, I wasn’t wise enough to realize it though. My uncle stared back at me, and I realized I was beginning to get intimidated. But I was determined not to back off.

And then he said- ‘ Sadique, do you realize that your family will have to make great many sacrifices to put you through college?’ I nodded. He asked me another question ‘Are you sure you will be able to successfully complete college, and repay the family for all the sacrifices they will make for you?’. This time, I did more than just nod- I said ‘Yes, I am sure!’. He said, without his eyes shifting for even one second ‘Then, Sadique, you will go to college!’

One week later, I had enrolled at the entrance tuition center in town. The decision to take up Engineering was easier than I had imagined it would be.

The center was just four kilometers from home, and soon I began to discover stuff I missed while I was at my school. Like bunking classes and wandering around the town and the paddy fields of Kottakkal. Like spending time idly chatting away at the eatery near the institute, like watching the cricket match hiding away inside the shop the local video lending shop. I never was a cricket fan, and yet, I never missed an opportunity to watch a match inside Ramsee’s video store. I watched in awe as Ramsee and his friends made comments at the girls of the institute. For them, it was pretty natural, but for me, it was a whole new world, one of freedom that I had never experienced before. Back in my jail, such offenses would have been dealt with the mandatory iron fist, and they used to call it tough love.

But I never forgot the promise I made to my uncle. Many a cricket matches at Ramsee’s, lots of teas and cream buns at the bakery, and nights of studies later, I was at CET. Looking back, the strongest image I see is that of my uncle. May be his way is what they should call tough love.

If you have questions or comments about this blog post, you can get in touch with me on Twitter @sdqali.