Diving for a cent changed his lifeBy: Abdool A. AzizThe Hungry KidHIS father had deserted him and his mother worked hard from 06:00hrs to 18:00hrs, to provide for him. But life was tough, food was scarce and he was always hungry and left to forage for food. So when he saw a cent piece glistening in a trench, he decided that he must get it. But how? He didn’t know to swim. A passerby saw him staring down into the transparent water. “What is down there, Sonny?” The man came to look down “Ah, a brand new cent, boy that can buy you three biscuits or a bun… Do you know to swim?” The lad responded that he didn’t. “Well leave it be…lets go, I’ll buy you a bun and a mauby,” the man said.
After the treat and the kind man went his way. The boy returned to the bridge and continued to fatten his eyes on the cent. The lure of that money overpowered him. He decided to dive for it, despite the risk.The PlungeHe went down the embankment, stripped off his tattered clothing and plunged. He went straight to the prize, swooped it up and kicked furiously to reach the surface. He did, but was unable to reach the embankment. With one hand closed tightly around his trophy, he went nowhere and he bubbled! A nearby shopkeeper saw him plunge and monitored his moves. He realised this child would drown. He abandoned his business and rescued the lad as he was on the last breath. On the shore he lay exhausted, the cent still in his clenched fist, and he was safe.
The shopkeeper dried him off, took him to the shop and fed him. The boy offered the cent as payment. “Oh no, son, you almost died for it. Keep it,” the shopkeeper said.Word of the OrdealThe estate management heard of the plight of a boy risking his life for a cent to buy food. They started a food-feeding programme for the unfortunate kids and they increased the pay for the single moms. ‘One Cent’, as he was now labelled by his peers, was hired by the white manager to field their tennis balls, at age 12, he earned six cents per week. He began to save and helped other children. He became an adult and established a food outlet to cater for the needy.
His motto: No child will go hungry! Your one-cent, by me, will turn to a dollar He used his money to pioneer the welfare of his village. This led the expatriate owners to follow suit and the Sugar Industry Labour Welfare Fund was created. One-Cent’s life was improved with better housing, food, clothing, health and education. His life was saved for a purpose. The hungry lad now led a charitable life. He gave away much. He died almost a pauper, but happily he didn’t marry, but had many children call him ‘Dad’. He supported them in every way, especially the orphans.
As for the shopkeeper who saved him from ‘Davy Jones’ Locker,’ he named his charity ‘Hamid’s Food for the Poor’ based on the hero’s name. When ‘One Cent’ died, the children followed his cortege like the piper’s story, and imbedded on his tomb is the cent piece still glittered and the words: ‘ The cent missed cost our life, but made others better, forever grateful.’ ‘One Cent’ was my compatriot. I am so proud of him. Whenever I visit our village, I visit his grave and stare at the coin – and the good it bought.