Thursday, January 27, 2011

Behind the shopping center

He was fast asleep on one of the benches, placed strategically next to a commercial centre to allow buyers to sit and inspect their merchandise or plan their next purchase. It was swelteringly hot; swarms of flies and mosquitoes were on the prowl, thanks to the garbage from the shops that was dumped right behind the benches. These creatures were squatting on or biting every helpless being that happened to pass by or sit on one of those benches or anywhere near them. People were flapping their hands about, trying to ward these vermin away from their bodies and their shopping bags; stray dogs which were huddled behind the benches were shaking their heads or biting out in a strange crazy frenzy.
I was on the way back from the ATM at the shopping center when I saw him. I was touched by the strange sight of the boy sleeping on the hard surface of the bench, with not even a pillow to cushion his head. He seemed completely oblivious to the insects or their bites. A strange feeling of compassion overcame me, and I walked up to the benches and asked one of the shopkeepers who were sitting out there sipping a coke if he knew who this boy was and where his parents were. The shopkeeper looked a little surprised at my request and asked me why I was so interested in the boy. I responded with the only reply that I felt would make sense to him. I told him that I wanted to give the child some money as I felt bad for him.
The man woke the boy up and told him that someone had come to give him money; the boy promptly sat up, opened his palms to accept the money and to my surprise, continued dozing. I placed some money in his outstretched hand. The boy continued nodding in his sleep without accepting the money. I told him loudly to wake up and keep the money safe; he got up sheepishly took the money, kept it in his pocket and went back to sleep.
The next time I saw him, the boy was hauling huge cardboard cartons from inside the market. I stopped him and offered him some money, which he accepted without hesitation. He asked me where I lived – I pointed to the nearby colony and told him that I lived there. He then told me that his name was Hasan, he was twelve years old, he lived with his parents in the nearby slum area and hauled cardboard boxes for living. I told him that at an age of twelve he should have been at school and not be working for his living. He looked at me as if he was hearing such words for the first time and told me that all his brothers and sisters worked and that they were all happily living together.
Unable to get him to see my point, I walked off from there at that occasion, but every time I saw him at the shopping complex, I would go and try telling him that he should have been at school and not been wasting his time working out there. I would describe all the wonderful things he would have been able to do if he went to school.\
One day, when I went to the shopping complex, I saw another boy at Hasan’s spot carrying out similar jobs as Hasan did. I asked the boy if he knew where Hasan was. The boy replied that Hasan was sent off to the village to an aunt’s place as he had become too lazy and was talking about attending school and wasting his time instead of working.
I hung my head and walked back home

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