March 16th, 2018; I was entering the Fort Sandeman Hospital, completely rapt in my thoughts of what was I going to study that day, and how to divide time for all topics assigned to me, and I see a boy, 12ish years old. He was standing by a stall and selling some juices, but I didn’t pay a lot of attention to him, maybe because one of the huge cons of being a Pakistani is that our environment deprives us of the sensitivity one should have for the poor, as we often see beggars and street vendors, struggling for their lives! So does it even matter anymore?
It was almost afternoon when I was coming back and I passed by the same spot where the kid was selling juices. Well, but this time the kid caught my glance as he was holding a book and reading something… this struck a cord in my head and I moved closer to see the book, the cover of which said: “English Grammar for Beginners”.
The street vendor kid is reading a book? Is he even able to read? Is he literate?
A lot of questions occupied my head and dampened my thinking capacity, so without a thought I went to his stall and took out some money from my wallet and gave it to him with an amalgam of feelings of guilt and satisfaction at the same time. Guilt because those few notes were not going to change his life at all, and satisfaction because I did contribute in changing a part of his life!
I wasn’t fully convinced by the feelings of satisfaction I had, but the boy interrupted that sea of thoughts that was flowing in my head by saying “Sorry doctor, I can’t take this money. Do you want a juice?” With a huge smile on his face
“Well, yes, I’d like a juice, but only if you keep this money, and why don’t you buy some books out of this? You read, don’t you?” I said in a very polite manner.
“Oh yes, I go to school. And I already have all my books, I don’t need new books, thank you.”
In a developing country like Pakistan where anyone would want to snatch money from you, let it be your pocket or your ATM, how could someone not take the money I was politely offering?
All this time my brain kept on telling me one thing: I wasn’t giving him the money to help him, I was just curious to know more about how could someone who’s hardly able to gather enough money for food still have the hope and vision of going to school? But I’m not still sure on this thought of why I was trying to make him take the money!
I then started asking him about his school and he told me that he studies in a government school nearby, and that his father was a coal miner and died when the mine collapsed whereas his mother is a laborer in a garment factory.
Then he sighed deeply and said: “you know why my father died? Because he was illiterate. Had he been educated like you, he’d have been here with me today.”
This made me blank! I had no words to say, and I just kept looking at him, completely staggered, as he began speaking again:
“This white coat that you doctors wear, it’s so graceful, and I’m going to earn it someday”.
I came back home, and started writing the whole incident in my diary as it was constantly pinching my head, and making me lose focus. But every sentence I wrote ended with a question mark…
‘Why did he not take the money?’
‘how much does it take in bringing up children like him?’
‘How was he continuously smiling after all he was facing?’
and surprisingly this was one of those very few times when I falling short of answers!
But there was one thing that I had learned that day for sure, and that was how hope looked like:
In medical terminology; Flexion of zygomaticus major and orbicularis oculi. High activity of dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and flexion of first and second phalanges of upper limb”
In simple language; ‘a smile on the face, inspiration and determination in the head, and a pen in the hand.’
May the hope never die!
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