The Crime Of Being Poor!

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A boy knocked on the window of a black shining car, feverishly and desperately. The tinted back window rolled down and a degrading look fell upon a boy of age not more than 8, in rags with a scruffy face and frowzy hair. Molested and abused at the hands of life – even at this tender age – he spurted out a well-rehearsed and oft heard lines “ Allah k naam pay day day baba, Maula Khush Rakhay” (Please give me something in the name of God, may God bless you). Sadly, an even more mechanized reaction came his way, the all too familiar look of disgust and apathy. After all, the person in the car was too busy to be even giving attention to the petty scums like him; let alone help him.

The signal turned green and the car scurried away, leaving the poor boy amidst a cloud of dust and disdain. Head bowed, stomach grumbling; he scanned the roadside for any signs of his father. His little heart jumped in fear as he saw his father staring at him like the death itself. He knew the drill from there on; go over, have abuses hurled into his not so innocent ears, endure slaps and punches on his face already embellished with scars and bruises from the last time, and get manhandled and molested in every conceivable way by his own father just because he failed to “cash” that car on the red signal. And nothing was different this time round.

Eating his stale Roti with a glass of water – the meal one gets at the slums when you don’t fetch enough money at the end of the day – he wondered, what had he done wrong to deserve this? Was it his fault that he was born in a beggar family? Was it his choice that he opened his eyes in a house with barely enough food to keep him and his large family of 16 alive? He always wondered what amazing lives the men in black shining cars lived, flaunting about their vehicles, with their flashy clothes and smug faces. He wondered what great struggles they had gone through and tall mountains they had bested in order to earn this life of luxury. Deep in these thoughts he felt a sharp pain at the back of his neck. It was his mother, instructing him to finish his roti and go to sleep, as he had to wake up before the breaking of dawn the next day.

It was the end of August; it seemed as though the heavy rain overnight had washed everything away minus the exiguity of his existence. Luckily for the boy, he woke up in time to take a bath in the rain – one he needed for quite some time now. But the reason he was made to wake up so early was because today schools and colleges were re-opening from the summer holidays. For him that meant only one thing, more traffic on the roads, hence more money to beg for. Standing on the road side he envied the children sitting in vans, buses and cars, wearing their neat uniforms and going to school. He looked upon his unkempt dirty tatters and wished he wore the same white uniform. He wished he would also carry the bag filled with books and stationary rather than the heavy pile of sticks he carries every day back home. Every time he saw the school going kids with their wide smiles and cheerful crackles, his heart yearned to join them, to be one of them. But the chains of poverty tangled his feet, and the rope of helplessness and illiteracy wound around his neck ever so tight.

He had heard that to be successful you needed to go to a school; alas he was just a son of a beggar, cursed to remain one for as long as he lived. Who was to blame for his misfortune? His parents who never cared about anything other than how much money he brings? Or the men in shining cars who never spared more than some unneeded coins for him despite their grandiose and profligate outlook? Or maybe it was God Himself! Deep in his thoughts, he never realized that he had wandered off onto the road. The piercing horn of a car brought him back, and that was the last thing he ever saw as it ran right over him, mutilating his little body one last time. The last thing he ever saw was the blinding shine of a graceful black car; the one he envied and desired to sit in throughout his little life. And just like that, the insignificant, paltry life of son of a beggar ended, probably in a better fashion than the life of many around him. And with him died his impossible little dream of breaking the shackles of poverty and even standing a chance of being happy like the people in black shining cars.

A Mechanical Engineering student at CEME, NUST Pakistan. Writer | Thinker | Bookworm | Activist for education for all! You can reach me at @ace_umer

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