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The Ten Second Lesson

By: Norhafizah Manaf
© 2005 by Norhafizah Manaf.


It was during the World Championships Games which was held in Tokyo, Japan in 1991. The 100m mens finals was about to take place. There certainly was a cheerful festive atmosphere that late evening in Tokyo. The sun was just about to set.

A few thousand miles away, life however was moving a little bit slower. It was early evening local time in Malaysia and schools in the afternoon session were going on as usual. Where I come from, schools are held in two sessions - morning and afternoon sessions. At that time I was teaching in the afternoon. It was hot on that particular day. As a science teacher, I was in the laboratory with about 40 pupils - all boys of the age 14. There was no experiment carried out on that day, just some group discussions and written exercises to be completed by the boys. As I walked around the lab, checking on the students' answers and explaining the topic I was teaching to the different groups, one of the boys suddenly raised his hand and asked if the class could be allowed to watch the 100m men's World Championship Finals. Everyone started pleading with me, some even begging me. Even the slower boys convinced me that they had finished their chores, albeit a little bit rushed. I looked at all the eager, expectant faces, didnt have the heart to disappoint them. It was indeed, a hot, lazy afternoon, and the students, I felt, were not particularly over excited at the prospect of more 'scholarly' discussions and exercises. I finally conceded to their request.

In truth, over the years, come to think of it now, perhaps I too was hoping to watch the event live. After all, the excitement was just a switch away.

Carl Lewis from USA was running, among several other athletes form other nations. My country had no represent, but that was not important. The boys and I just wanted to witness a historical event taking place.

Without a word, I went up and switched on the TV. The boys cheered and clapped their hands, and immediately the charged atmosphere from the sports village in Tokyo was transported to the lab. My boys started cheering all the athletes as they were introduced at the starting point. We knew that we were about to see excellent sports.

It was at that particular instant that the boy who suggested this whole thing once again raised his hand and asked permission to go to the toilet.

"But the event is about to start Izhar, and its the 100m finals," I said. "Do you really have to go now?". I just couldnt believe he had to go at that very moment.

"I'll be very,very fast, teacher," he answered, jumping frantically. I could see he really needed to go. No sooner had I nodded my permission, Izhar was alaready making his own 100m sprint to the toilet nearby.

I was worried for Izhar. I mean, how long does it take for those international sprinters to run a 100m race? Could Izhar make it in time? After all, it was he who wanted to watch the event in the first place.

There was no time for further thought, when, from the TV set, the other boys and I watched those fine athletes went up to their mark and then the gun went off! My boys cheered just as loudly as the spectators in that stadium. There were no favourites, the boys were simply cheering on for all the runners. In no time at all, the champion crossed the finishing line. There was a loud roar in the lab. Carl Lewis from USA had won with a new world record time of 9.86 seconds!

It was at that very second too that Izhar showed up at the doorstep. He was panting heavily, his breathing loud and laboured. "Has it started yet?", he gasped loudly.

Everyone turned to him. O dear, poor Izhar, he had missed everything!

"You're too late, its over. Carl Lewis won," shouted one of the boys.

"What...?" Izhar wailed. "I went as fast as I could". He really had made record time going to and returning from the toilet.

The poor boy! How could he possibly beat the world's fastest runner! I felt very sorry for him, but at the same time, I couldnt help seeing the hilarity of the situation. It would take longer for Izhar just to undo his pants than for Carl Lewis to finish his run! Unable to control myself, I started laughing loudly.

"Izhar, everything was over in less than 10 seconds. If you had beaten that time, I would have personally sent you to Tokyo," I joked when I finally regained control of myself. The whole class soon joined in the laughter.

Izhar looked so devastated that I felt sorry for him. "Its no big deal Izhar. You can watch the replay telecast on TV tonight," I remember saying, trying to cheer him up.

The answer he gave me was a real surprise.

"But I wanted to watch it with you guys. I wanted to feel like I was on a school trip with you guys to the Chamipionships village in Tokyo. Its not the same if I watch it on my own tonight".

I realized something then, something profound. To that young teenager's mind, as long as he was with those whom he enjoyed being with, and shared the same interest as his, the world became one big borderless frontier for him to enjoy what life has to offer no matter where the adventures may be.

That day has certainly stayed in my mind. That child had made me realized something about the beauty of being together around people who care for us: it frees the mind of all burdens and makes everything seem possible!


Norhafizah Manaf.

From Malaysia, Norhafizah has been teaching for 20 years. Although English is not his first language, he loves to write.

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