The Heat of Our World

By Mahvish Akhtar, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

Karachi–I was sitting in my car in the parking lot waiting for my husband to get back from the store. I was busy playing with my son when I heard a slight knock on my window. There was a young boy of about 12-13 standing with his hand out and he was saying something. I figured he was talking to me but I couldn’t hear him with my window rolled up and the stereo on pretty loud. As his lips moved I couldn’t help but stare at the little boy. He was just as old as my nephew probably. I stared at him so hard that he even started to look like him a little bit. All of a sudden without even realizing tears rolled down my face. He got startled! He didn’t know what had happened. I wasn’t sad for him. I was sad for myself, I had seen my nephew in him and that made me sad and scared. Just the thought of anyone I cared about standing there with that look on their face and wearing those clothes and spreading dirty hands with long dirty nails in front of others made those tears appear from nowhere. That’s when he pulled his hand away from my window and reached down, grabbed his younger brother’s hand and quickly walked away. I think I scared him. He was probably not used to people tearing up in front of him like this. I didn’t do it knowingly either. I didn’t even know when those tears came and where from. While he was walking away I realized he wasn’t alone he had his brother with him too.

His younger brother, who must have been 9 or 10 years old, kept turning around and looking at me trying to figure out what had happened. His brother kept stopping him from turning around but that little boy couldn’t help it. He was under his brother’s training I suppose. He at that time, knowingly or unknowingly, was teaching his brother to walk away from situations that don’t concern him and are someone else’s problem. Why would he do that? Why didn’t he ask me why I had started crying? Why didn’t he wonder a little bit more about what was going on? They had learned to ignore others just like they had been. Those kids roam those streets every day all the time yet they never stop for others. I wondered how cold and uncaring life has made them that they see someone crying and they walk away.

I drove away in my car leaving all of that I had seen and felt behind. While I was sitting down for dinner that evening the same boy’s face popped in my head. I shrugged it and went about my business. Later that night as I lay in my bed to sleep I started to think about those two little boys again. I was amazed at myself. I was amazed at how I was able to walk away from them without even as much as asking them what they were saying to me. I was amazed at how I didn’t care to help them in any possible way. I was amazed at how every time their faces or the thought of them came to me I tried my best to get rid of it.

Than it occurred to me it’s not their life that has made them hard and cold it’s our lives that have made them this way. I was sitting in the car and I could not even open my window long enough to ask this young boy what he wanted. If his sad eyes didn’t have any effect on me why should my wet eyes mean anything to him?

We upper class educated people can talk the talk but do we really have what it takes to make a difference? There is a general sentiment that is talked about a lot, which is not to give money to people who seem like they are able to help themselves. Also people say never give money to kids because that is encourage the habit of begging. It’s a fact that in many cases it’s a mafia that’s making these kids beg so when we give them money we are actually feeding the mafia. So, many people frown upon people who give into this system and give money to children and others who are capable of working.

While this might be a noble idea where does this leave those people? Have we ever thought about that? If we don’t want them to make money begging than what other solution are we presenting to them? We are shunning those kids who are begging because they are a part of the mafia but do we think about the kind of treatment they get when they don’t bring back the quota they were allotted for the day?

These people are not just feeling the heat of the burning sun they are feeling the heat that we are generating for them. They are feeling the heat because they were born in a bad situation. And our solution for fixing their situation is to simply ignore them and go about our lives as though they don’t exist. It may make us feel like we are doing something for the society by avoiding and ignoring them but believe it or not we are not doing anything special. In fact we are creating more trouble for those young kids. We ignore them and they go away and we never see them again. That one chance that we might have had to help them and fix the situation for that one child is gone…lost forever probably. The only other possibility for them is that they would find someone else who would be able to look deep into their eyes and find the hidden sadness and fear and help them. But chances of that happening we all know are very little.

I agree with the idea that the first step is to not give into the system. But that’s just the beginning we need to go further and do much more than that to remedy the situation. We need to get to the bottom of what is going on in the homes and villages where those people live. We need to stop and ask them who they are and why they are begging and than try to see how we can get them out of this life and into a better one. We need to get involved with organizations that are working to remedy these kinds of ill habits of the society. We need to do many things but ignoring and pretending like they don’t exist is not one of them. So, next time you see a young boy or girl begging on the street or an old man who can barely walk asking for your spare change think of your kids, your parents, your grandparents, think of your nieces and nephews. Replace the faces with one of your own and imagine what you would want someone to do for them if they were reduce to doing what these poor and miserable people are doing today.