Wednesday, August 15, 2007
The Diary of Ma Yan
If ever there was a diary that changed lives, this has to be it. The Diary of Ma Yan is life and its innumerable hardships as seen through the eye of a 13-year old schoolgirl.
When I was 13, I cared not much about studying. School was a necessary endurance that had to be survived. Although not from an affluent family, I never had to struggle to buy a book or a pen. And I certainly never had to go without food for 15 days so that I could afford to buy a pen. Yet that is precisely what Ma Yan had to endure.
The Diary of Ma Yan is a brilliantly inspiring account of Ma Yan's daily struggle to continue her education. Living in the remote village of Zhangjiashu in the north-western province of Ningxia in China, Ma Yan had one plea : I want to study. Her family's average annual income in this poverty-stricken and drought-ridden countryside was a mere 400 Yuan (that is around Rupees 2000 or 50USD). Throughout, Ma Yan depicts with the eyes of a child a life that is suffocating in its poverty. Yet, Ma Yan has but one desire - to study well, and earn a good job so that she can erase the pain in her parents' life.
And ----she succeeded. Ma Yan's story was published in a French newspaper and since its publication into a book, generous sponsorship has poured in, lighting the hopes of not just Ma Yan but several other poor students in Zhangjiashu. The power of the written word? Never been more amply illustrated. As a result of Ma Yan's diaries being read the world over, the Association for the Children of Ningxia was formed. And a 13-year old girl has changed more lives than I have done all my life.
Excerpt: "Mom said to me: ‘My child, I have something to tell you. I’m afraid that this is the last time you can go to school.’ I opened my eyes wide in astonishment, stared at her and said ‘How can you say such a thing to me? People cannot survive without knowledge these days. Even a peasant needs knowledge to work his land, or he will have no harvest.’
“Mom continued speaking: ‘With your brothers and you going to school, that makes three. Your father is the only one who works. We cannot afford to pay for you all. Your two brothers must continue their studies,’" explained Ma Yan.
"I then asked Mom: ‘Why do boys get to study and girls cannot?’ Mom replied: ‘You are still young, you do not understand. You’ll understand when you are older.’
“I want to study, Mom, I do not want to come back home. It would be so magnificent if I could stay at school forever,” said Ma Yan.