Outside and in; side by side

By Bushra Majid
Fri, 03, 20

I had come here to see a doctor for my pain … via the same bus that had caused this ailment. Irony! Hard, bitter irony.....


I had just alighted from the minibus, the only medium of transport I could use; the only one my pocket would allow. From home to work and then back and forth or for any work of necessity. I had back and knee pain from crouching in the bus. My six-foot figure made the ride uneasy while standing. More so, it had proven to be very unhealthy.

“Aray kya baat karta hay? (What are you talking about?) Is it your age to develop pain here and there? Look at me!” My Amma would be surprised each time I told her my debilitating condition.

I had come here to see a doctor for my pain … via the same bus that had caused this ailment. Irony! Hard, bitter irony.

I jumped out and began climbing the pedestrian bridge. Just across was my destination. You might be thinking that this was my story, yet it is not. What I saw from way above the bridge was the real irony and bitterness of life.

I saw a tiny girl, her eyes brightened by the shimmer from the lights inside the emporium, moved about in a saccadic manner. Her kameez was ragged and torn from the elbows. It was her place to beg. Just then, a couple with their daughter came out, hands filled with dresses just bought. Seeing them, she approached for begging. The family did not take pity on her; even her sight disgusted them.

“Bol diya na maff karo! (We say leave us alone!) Don’t you understand?”

“Mama! I wanted more! Have you forgotten I’m getting married!”

“Beta! (Child!) We will come back, ok!”

“Baji- (Sister -),” the girl raised her hand.

“Niklo, chalo! (Let’s go!)”

A breeze of cold wind hit the poor soul. She could feel it enter into her bones from the torn clothes.


Beside the emporium was a lavish wedding hall. The darkness of the night glorified its view as it was adorned beautifully with lights. The party was in full swing. The music of the festivities filled the air, so did the aroma of the BBQ and several other delicacies. Sherry, who had been bundled up in his rags in a nearby bush, felt hungry. The hunger had kept him from sleeping and the disturbance in the air stirred up his body to get up and search for food. He tried, but it was difficult beyond imagination. His body had been wasted and when he lay on the hard ground, there was nothing between his bones and the ground except skin.

I had come here to see a doctor for my pain … via the same bus that had caused this ailment. Irony! Hard, bitter irony 

Inside, dinner had begun. Plates were filled with more than what the body needed. Some had enough to make them sick for the next couple of days, but everyone wanted to satiate their greed. Sherry peaked into the hall, his dry mouth now salivating. Poor lad, he couldn’t enjoy for long as a guard saw him and kicked him out.

“Itna kha sakain gain ap? Bus kar dain! (Will you be able to eat that much? That’s enough!)”

“Khanay do! Kya hay? (Let me eat! What’s your problem?)”

“Perhaiz hay ap ko! (You’re on a restricted diet!)”

“Shadi kay din to nahi! (Not on the day of the wedding!) Let me eat.”

Inside, this was one of the conversations between a couple, but outside Sherry knew he would not last long if he didn’t eat.


I had enough. My pain had seemed to momentarily disappear. I quickly crossed the pedestrian bridge and walked past the emporium, passed the hall and into the hospital which stood just beside the hall. On my way to the OPD, I glanced over the Emergency Room (ER) and was stunned to see what it had to show me. On the right corner, the bed was occupied by a little girl. I recognized her from the torn sleeves. A mask covered her entire tiny face. The ID plate had written “Suspecting Pneumonia” on it. This was inevitable. I could not understand how she had survived the winters with those clothes. Pneumonia was bound to happen.

Just beside her bed was another: it was Sherry. The vitals monitor showing a very weak pulse from dehydration and a very low blood pressure. Two IV lines for saline and glucose were connected to his body. He lay motionless.

And the bed beside Sherry was that of the same man who had been arguing with his wife at the wedding over food. I couldn’t believe it. He had suffered a heart attack and was being revived with shocks. Being obese, diabetic and hypertensive, he had jeopardized his poor life just as his wife had been warning him.

I came out of the ER, my senses numbed with what I had just witnessed. Why life had to be so cruel, I couldn’t swallow. Depriving someone on one hand while giving too much to others. Or was it the forgotten custom to look out for those in need and live within moderation. Perhaps this was what the problem was.

Trying to shake it out of my head, I walked to the OPD desk for my appointment as my pain had come back slowly. I felt hopeless now, more than ever. I knew what the doctor would say. Give me some medicines, advise me to rest and avoid public transport. I had been collecting money for a bike for quite some time now, and it was still in my pocket. And then it hit me, and I turned back. I took out a 5K bill and placed it in the girl’s hand, she was confused but I motioned her to be calm, conveying that the money was for her. For Sherry, I left another 5K, hoping he would find it when he woke up. The old man beside him although still unconscious, had been revived by the shock. I left him a note telling him he needed moderation in life if he wanted to survive. I walked out. The pain had disappeared.