On a sunny winter afternoon while travelling back from Kharian to Lahore our bus stopped at a traffic signal that was now a traffic jam owing to the impatience of our fellow commuters, who add hours to their travel time in the foolish attempt to save a couple of minutes. It was somewhere in the androon shehar (main city area) Lahore I saw a little girl around 5 or 6 years old. Dressed in rags covered in dust from head to toe she was walking towards a fruit vendor and I observed.
On reaching the vendor’s bicycle carrying fruit, mostly kinu (oranges), she made a gesture that looked like she asked the price of one and from the expression that took her face after the vendor’s reply I could see that the little girl was a few rupees short. The vendor put an abrupt end to my momentary boost in self esteem, triggered by the thought of being better and more generous than him, when he handed the girl a kinu and shook his head when she offered the coins she held.
The girl was exuberant. I could see her eyes carried more joy than mine did when my dad bought me my first car or my daughter’s when I imported a branded doll house for her. She held the kinu between her chest and chin while her little hands struggled to put the coins back in her pocket. She started to walk back to her spot in the sun where she sat down and started to peel the kinu.
Expertise in kinu peeling is not necessarily acquired with age but with experience. Obviously the little girl hadn’t peeled many kinus in her life. Her tiny hands tactlessly peeled small pieces off the kinu and took even longer to shave off the white before a ripe, juicy orange emerged. She looked up with inquisitive eyes probably looking to see how far the vendor was and wondering if getting some salt was worth walking the distance. The vendor had moved on to another spot and neither the little girl nor I could spot him.
In observing her I did not notice the commotion on the road where several beggars were running away. A sudden and, as usual temporary operation against beggars it was. Unfortunately, immersed in her kinu the little girl didn’t notice it either, not until it was too late and a policeman with a stick pulled up over his head was on top of the girl. He grabbed her hand, pulled her up and shooed her off and she ran…
As my eyes came back to her spot there I saw the kinu on the ground covered in dust just like its previous and a very temporary owner.
My heart sank, as would have anyone’s who has a heart. I wondered if this event would leave a deeper mark on my mind than it does on the girl’s. ‘Unfair’; the first word that came to my mind. Horrible, sad and curses to the policeman followed. And finally the one question that always helps all of us rid ourselves of any guilt and responsibility; ‘Why would God do that?’. It is God’s doing as he is the all mighty and in control. I am not to blame even if kinus and other fruits rot and go to waste in our homes, if God wanted He would have let the girl have her kinu.
What if God did want the girl to have her kinu, what if He wants her to have a nice home and clothes and it is us – the haves who stand between the girl and a life she deserves. By way of our free will we deny the poor and their children the right to a quality life. God has bestowed upon the world abundant wealth and resources. It is us humans who have the tendency to acquire more and more even if at the cost of our fellow beings. If the wealth in our world is evenly distributed I am sure no child would have to suffer what this little angel and millions of other children with her suffer on a daily basis.
But is it God’s doing? Does God stop me or you from adopting a family or a child and providing them the very basic necessities of life?
If only we could all count all that is ‘extra’ in our lives and in our homes; the food that we waste, the clothes that we don’t wear, the money we spend on latest gadgets we do not really need. It’s not just the billionaires who are hogging the resources, it is everyone in his own capacity. We are all to blame for every child who doesn’t get to eat a kinu.