Two days ago, on Chaand raat*, I walked the richest streets of Islamabad for some last minute shopping, when I found this kid hugging the bed of the concrete floor. He slept a little far from his Burqa-ed mother, his eyes shut, his body curved into a comma. The mother held out a few miswaks for sale, a pity site, for the bunch looked like it had been in the same position from the morning. Her own bare feet peaked out of the burqa. The child slept a tired labour’s sleep, oblivious to the large number of people who passed him every minute, some to ignore his presence altogether, others to step on his little naked feet.
I had to stop there for a second, and wonder at how well his little brown toes mocked everything that had life around him. They were covered in dirt, I could almost tell, and twiched now and then. Perhaps he was having a nightmare, or a fairy tale that he longed to escape to.
He slept right outside one of the greatest shops of Pakistan, where most of the public heads to buy their shoes. ( I’d rather not mention the name but it starts with a “B”) Hundreds come here each day, on the occasion of Eid and Chaand Raat, the number more than doubles. But this child extends his bare feet towards the shop’s door, sleeping under the roof of the sky. They can’t cover his small feets. The people who pass him each second can’t look down to help his exposed toes. He will celebrate Eid, but maybe, he won’t buy new shoes for the occasion.
Can’t. That was a wrong choice. For they can. The people can, the shop can, I can. But the people walk on, the shop sells Nike and Addidas on, and I capture this blurry picture, my hand shaking with gulit, my own shoes almost photo bombing the picture from below.
This child is a slap at the faces of the government who can’t act on their words, on the shop who can’t cover his feet, and on me, who herself owns twenty something shoes, but ignores this sleeping kid, like everyone else.
Did he get the childhood that me and my brothers enjoyed? Does he even go to school? He sleeps so deeply, is he made to work the day, like many underaged children are in my country? Will he get Eidi** this eid, or buy new clothes and get brand new shoes, just like everyone else? Questions, I have so many for him, but I only have a second, for Mama is in a hurry, she is asking why I’ve stopped, I’m only given a moment to snap a foggy picture.
This was not the idea of Pakistan, this is not what our Quaid hoped for. These children, I’ve seen million of these on the interior of Sindh while my journey to Islamabad, thousands in karachi, and now, in the capital. They are the ones who work the hardest and sleep the heaviest, they have seen more than a fifty year old man ever will. You go anywhere into the uncharted zones of Pakistan, you’d see thousands upon thousands of hollow sun burnt faces and sand scorched feet. Children forced to work in construction sites, to beg on the corner of roads, babies one year old, drugged so that their mother could carry them around and use them as a bait. ( Come on, does a one year old really sleep though the blaring sun and the chaos of a crowned road? Never. The child is drugged to sleep so that he could be walked around and money handed over to the mother, sometimes, the child isn’t hers, even. Stolen babies, orphans, sold babies, they all end up on the street, drugged and used as a vehicle for mercy and money).
There are people who work for these angels, organisations like the Edhi foundation and Chippa, people who stand as a last hope for the humanity. But they don’t reach every corner of the country, and no one can expect that. They do shine out among the others, but there are lives who go unseen, and who would expect such a child in Islamabad, the most advanced city in Pakistan?
Sorry. Did I get off track? Am I supposed to be all cheerful and positive at this point? Beacuse I can’t, not until those kids are returned their life and happiness. But that sounds like a dream, for who cares here? Not the government. Not the passers-by. Not that shoe shop. Not me, atleast, not enough to help.
That kid won’t ever know I wrote about him, and took his blurr picture. But he’ll sleep again, tomorrow, the day after, and then the day after, with his shoeless feet infront of a shoe shop. And when he grows up, he’ll laugh at the irony.
A shoeless kid, infront of a shoe shop.
I haven’t been active on wordpress, for I had been travelling. My entry tests are up, blogs are going to go low as the study pressure increases. But I will try, atleast, to manage.
*chand raat: the night before Eid
**eidi: money given to children on Eid