Those forlorn children in our lives

September 7, 2014

In the bloody rat race of our lives, let’s consider the needs and sentiments of children labouring in our houses

Those forlorn children in our lives

How many of us know parents who would wish for their young ones to be uprooted from their family to be permanently shifted off to a new life -- with the purpose of serving people to earn a living?

Living within our cozy couches and air conditioned living-rooms we cannot and would not like to imagine such a situation. Yet, when the seats turn we gloriously bask in the comfort of making the children of other, financially poorer, households work for us and our families in those very living rooms.

Like most children of Pakistan’s medium income households, I too have grown up with an array of rollicking sidekicks who played and laughed with me just as I did, but who would part ways with me every now and then to slide off onto a path that was strictly unknown to me, as soon as their names would be called by elder members of the household.

Back then I could only think of this parting of ways in my own context, and more often than not would call it off by throwing a fit in front of my khalas and grandparents to let me play for longer with the various Nasreens, Rafiques , Babars and Asifs.

Today when I look back at all those moments, I wonder about that concealed aspect of the lives of my child companions.

The side life they led after being displaced from their family and village. The method by which they were able to retain their childish innocence despite knowing such hard-hearted realities of our unjustified system remains a mystery to me till this day.

It’s strange how they could get excited with me over the slightest of things as my age-mates and play-mates, and yet in the snap of a moment dutifully rush back to single-handedly managing all grown up tasks as if childhood and adulthood both exist side by side in humans, instead of being two distinct stages in the life of an individual.

How did these children go on for so long without complaining to anyone of the burden of misery they carried with them from their broken pasts?

Having asked my elders and other families, I was told that ‘these people’ have to live in extremely difficult situations within their own homes and, since their families are unable to provide for them, the kids themselves prefer to move out to homes where they can eat at least.

Sounds reasonable but how do we decide to offer a solution to it?

Hand outstretched and dressed in our Superman capes, we fly into the backward villages of these children rattling money in front of their faces, enticing them to follow us with their growling stomachs to the realms of our cultured and educated kingdoms.

So you see we never forced anyone to leave their house. They came after us of their own free will because they knew they would have a better life with us.

These matters are easier talked about than done something about, and even as I write this piece right now I can hear my mother call out to the new, young "Abdullah" working outside in the kitchen who when spoken to flashes a smile more generous than one I’ve ever seen before.

Let’s face it -- each one of us including me is caught up in a rut where we have to constantly look out for ourselves to survive and compete in this difficult world. And who doesn’t like comfort, especially when it comes with a reason?

But in this bloody rat race, let’s take a minute and remember to be human and try and consider the needs and sentiments of these forlorn children to whatever extent that we can, and in whatever way we can.

Those forlorn children in our lives