|Photo Credits: Umama Mirza|
We strolled around the market for half an hour then sat at the benches to relax. While talking with each other we ordered burgers. Just when we were eating a boy of about 6 years came towards us.
Boy: Bhai I'm hungry, please buy me something to eat?
Me: Allah k hawalay, let us eat.
Boy: Bhai I'm hungry.
Boy: Bhai Atleast buy me a burger?
Ameer: Haven't you heard what we said? Go away.
Me: Ameer wait! [Taking out a 5 rupee coin from my pocket, handing it to the boy] take this and go.
Boy: Will this be enough to buy a burger? I want to eat exactly this burger.
Ameer: I think I should give him my burger, I won't be able to eat it now anyways.
Me: Not a bad idea, you and me will share.
He sat with us, started eating the burger while we both noticed him with mixed feelings. I couldn't resist and thought to know about him more.
Me: Where are you from?
Boy: I'm from Rawalpindi.
Me: Oh! So what are you doing in Islamabad?
Boy: I come here and beg everyday.
Me: You are not old enough to travel so much, how do you reach here?
Boy: My father drops at the wagon stop. Gives me 12 rupees everyday. I spend 10 of them as the wagon fare.
Ameer: And what do you do with the remaining 2 rupees?
Boy: I have my lunch.
Ameer and me both stared each other in amazement. This in a city where you wont even get a chapatti for less than 5 rupees. The most costly city on Pakistan.
Me: What do you eat with those 2 rupees?
Boy: I buy toffees.
Me: That is enough for you? to spend all day? [Asking in amazement]
Boy: [Suddenly filled with excitement] Bhai, they are tasty, especially the red ones... and the yellow ones. But I can buy only two so I get one red and one yellow everyday. One I eat in the morning and one in the afternoon.
Ameer: Raafay I can't eat anymore now.
We both stopped eating. ordered three cold drinks. While started asking questions from him again.
Me: Don't you want to study?
Boy: [Puts the burger down, stretches his hands to the maximum] His eyes lit up! This much, I want to study.
Ameer: Then why don't you study? Ask your dad to put you in a school.
Boy: I will one day. Not now, my father says you have a responsibility.
Me: What responsibility do you have, you are so young, your father must work and you should study.
Boy: You rich people don't understand anything.
The waiter interrupted, placed the drinks on the table. While Ameer and me started discussing about him. Wondering he is just six or seven years old and look and what he is talking about. We started inquiring again.
Me: So what is the reason of your not studying? You beg and collect money? Give it to your father? That's it.
Boy: Yes I do that .. we are a family of 10 people, two of us have died because they were ill and we had no money. My father wanted to teach us. But then my father lost his job. Got no job and had to beg.
Ameer: How much do you collect in a day?
Boy: 30-40 rupees.
Ameer: So what is the responsibility?
Boy: We all beg and collect money and our elder brother is the one who studies in a good school.
Me: So how much do you all collect in a month?
Boy: We pay his fees and are hardly able to save enough to eat after paying his dues, books and etc. One day when he will be a doctor then our lives will be easy.
He had finished the burger and started drinking the coke by now. I tried noticing his face expressions. There were none, but his eyes were sparkling.
'When I will grow up I will be Shahrukh khan, he is don.' he said.
We both started laughing at this sudden wish of his. What a cute wish it was, I thought.
Me: How will you go back, It's getting darker?
Boy: I have this wagon that will stop here [He pointed at the stop] .. It drops me near my home around 9pm.
Me: You are a brave boy, you know?
Boy: Yes I know, my mother says that too.
Ameer: Raafay, isn't he more responsible than we are?
Me: No doubt yaar.
'Mazay ka tha.' He said. I have been watching people eat burger for a long time now, first time I was able to eat.'
There was nothing more to say and there was nothing more to ask. We paid the bill. What we did next will always remain a secret. But this taught me a very good lesson about life. His brother is in 10th grade now. We still meet him, every now and then.. He inspires me.