He was wearing a light blue shirt tidily tucked into khaki pants, and a look of nervous excitement. I watched as he rifled through the not-so-tidily stacked notebooks sitting outside the crowded stationery shop, considering each one carefully. He would sift through them, occasionally extricating one from the pile to examine the binding or run a hand along the middle page, before delicately replacing it with a look of awe filled reverence on his face.
After a few minutes, he makes a selection. It’s yellow, slightly longer than usual, with a hard cover and black binding. There’s a spot of white on the front cover to write his name in, claiming it as his own.
It’s at this point that I notice the shorter man, a distinguished silver streaking through his well-oiled black hair, standing stoically just outside the throng of people. He’s watching the proceedings intently. He’s the boy’s father.
I watch as the boy draws a breath, sets his brow with a mix of resolve and hope, and turns around to seek his father’s advice. They exchange a few words, the boy nods his head seriously and turns back to the shop. He lays the yellow notebook gently back on top of the pile and moves to another haphazard stack where he begins the process all over again.
Having seen what this looks like before, I turn my gaze to the father. What I see is pride radiating our of him so forcefully you can almost see a glimmer in the air. He watches his son choosing a notebook from afar. But it’s not just a notebook, is it?
It’s a vessel that will contain knowledge and impact immeasurable. It will contain formulas that will expand his son’s mind more than either of them could ever have imagined. It will contain poetry that will expand his son’s heart and literature that will mould his soul. It will contain doodles expressing his creativity and private thoughts that will help him sort through the muddle that is life. Actually, I don’t know what it will contain, but it’s clear that this isn’t just a notebook.
It’s the promise of bigger and better things. It’s all of the hope and joy and terror that come with being a student. It’s the feeling of a university bookstore on the first day of the semester and a kindergarten classroom when the students first take their seats, unpacking their crayons into their own desks.
He seems more confident in his choice the second time, as he weaves through the bodies to reach his father. They confer. The father hands his son a rumpled green bill. 100 Nepalese rupees. 1 U.S. dollar. He works his way back to the storefront, waving his bill at the shopkeeper who plucks it out of his hand, returns his change and sends him on his way fully equipped with a curious mind and now, the tools to use it.