By: Syeda Hafsah Bokhari, Class X
Shoaib belonged to a low class family. His father Mansoor had opened a small shop in front of his tiny house. They lived in the kachi abadi of this huge city, Karachi. Mansoor didn't earn a lot through his hand cart but somehow, with a lot of difficulty, his family, comprising of six people were able to eat one meal each day. It was his greatest desire to educate his children but unfortunately his earnings didn't allow him to do that. So all his three children grew up uneducated.
When Shoaib was three his grandmother died, and when he turned ten his grandfather left him. He was killed in a target killing incident. Shoaib was very close to him. He remembered crying hard for the very first time in his life. Then at the age of twenty he lost his mother. He had cried a lot then too. She was ill and they hadn't any money to buy the expensive medicines the doctor in the nearby clinic had prescribed. He turned thirty and got married. His father died one month after his marriage. Shoaib cried and screamed in agony. He was all alone now. He had no shoulder to cry and lean on. His elder brother Shahid was in Dubai. He didn't come to his own father’s funeral. 'I couldn't get a visa,' was what he had said. He was working out of the city all thanks to his friend. Shoaib didn't know whether or not his brother had got married but he somehow married his sister to a good family. Shoaibs' wife gave birth to a baby girl. He named her Amna. He wanted his daughter to get educated, unlike himself. He could do so as he used to take his father’s hand cart out in the streets. This way he earned a little more than his father. Three years later his wife died giving birth to another child, his son, Mubashir. She arrived in the hospital late because the ambulance got stuck in a traffic jam. The main street was blocked because a famous politician who belonged to the largest party of the city was passing through with a huge motorcade. His wife died. Now he had to raise his children all by himself. He couldn't let his children stay at home all by themselves while he was out at work so he took them out with him every day. He used to smile, laugh and talk to his daughter, who sat on the hand cart with her little brother lying beside her.
The day he lost both his children, it was a holiday. It was Sunday. The streets were all empty and there was not even a single man out. The roads were blocked, tyres and cars were burnt in different areas. Some unknown men had caused the disturbance in the city as it often happened. The shops were all closed and there wasn't a single hawker moving in the streets. He couldn't go out too as all the residents had shut themselves in afraid of getting killed by the unknown men roaming the city streets. So he stayed home, going out every hour or so to check if it was safe to go out and sell his things. But each time he returned disappointed. He hadn't a single rupee in his pocket and there was nothing to eat at home. For two days he hadn't been able to sell anything at all. His last Rs. 10 had been spent on the bananas he had bought the other day for Mubashir. Amna hadn't eaten anything. He could bear his hunger a lot longer but his daughter was only three years old! He was worried. He didn't know what to do. That night he even tried to ask his neighbours and friends for something to eat. But those selfish people!
He was unable to save his children. He lost them too. He was left alone in this undesirable world. There was no one to live for, to earn for and there was no one to love. Life seemed utterly useless.
A week passed and Shoaib was all alone in his hut. He had nothing to do now. He had tried to contact Shahid almost every day but all in vain. He wasn't even able to meet his sister as her in-laws had strictly forbidden her to have any kind of contact with her relatives. He had only taken out his hand cart once in three days, which was enough to fulfill his hunger for the time being. His hand cart was now empty, so he didn't have a choice. He stayed at home all day and all night, lying on his charpoy.
One day, his friend Farid came to his door and called out his name. Shoaib got up, mumbling. He walked to the door and stepped out, moving the curtain aside.
"Yes?" He asked.
"Shoa- what the hell?! What happened? Just look at you!"
"What?" Shoaib said.
"You're- your eyes are so swollen and, and you have these large dark circles. Look at your hair, they're so messed up and-"
"Okay, okay I get it. Why are you here?"
"Why am I here? I am your friend buddy. I don't need a reason to be at your place." Farid said.
“Friend? Where were you then, my dear friend when I came to you begging for food for my dying children?” Shoaib asked.
“Well, I am here for a reason, this time." Farid said, shrugging. "I know just the place which would help in reducing your sense of loneliness. Come along," he said and grinned, waving his hand for Shoaib to follow him.
"No I'm okay the way I-"
"Come on!" Farid grabbed his arm and dragged Shoaib along with him to a cigarette stand, which was there at the corner of the narrow street. Shoaib gasped. He looked at his friend in disbelief. "That guy, over there, see." Farid said pointing at the man standing in front of the stall, probably the owner. "He is my friend. I talked to him about you and I told him everything that had happened to you. And-"
"What?" His head suddenly jerked involuntarily in Farids' direction.
"No don't worry. He actually offered to help you." They reached the stall. Farid greeted the man and introduced Shoaib to him. After negotiations Shoaib agreed to sit at the stand in the night. The owner actually was going to open another one somewhere else where he wanted to sit himself and so he wanted a man to manage this one.
Anyway, from the next day Shoaib started going there. The night changed to day and then the day into night.
One night Shoaib was there selling cigarettes and other small and tiny things---God knows what---to the customers. An hour later Shakil (the stand owner) came to him. They greeted each other. "Doing fine?" he asked.
"Yeah I think. It's been an hour only."
"Yeah right!" Shakil giggled stupidly. He put a hand on Shoaib’s shoulders. "Are you in need of money?" he whispered.
"Money for whom? I'm alone." Shoaib shook his head, smiling sarcastically.
"I know and I'm sorry," Shakil said. Shoaib didn't reply. A minute or two passed in silence. Then Shakil said, "You know. It was the people of this country who killed your family. They're the only ones who are to be blamed for your entire family's death."
"I'm sorry? What are you trying to say?" Shoaib asked confused.
"Everyone here thinks about himself only, nobody cares about others. The world is ruled by selfish people, Shoaib, and you've become their prey. You grew uneducated because no tutor, nobody in your area agreed to teach your siblings without any expense, didn't they? They did, because they are selfish, Shoaib."
"No buts Shoaib. Just look what your life has become. And it’s all their fault! Your grandfather was killed on the road. He was murdered by the people who are selfish. Your mother, Shoaib---"
"No, listen Shakil---"
"No, you listen to me! She died because your father didn't have any money to buy the medicines. The pharmacy refused to give them to you on credit. Your father asked a lot of people to lend him some money so that he could save his wife, but they all refused, Shoaib. Why? Because they are selfish! Your brother! Your own brother is the greatest example of selfishness, Shoaib. He didn't even turn up for your father’s funeral and you had to manage everything alone. You, all by yourself, managed your sister’s wedding. He didn't even send a single penny from there. All because he is so selfish. Your wife died Shoaib because of that selfish politician who was passing through that day. You lost both your kids because of your selfish neighbours and your so-called friend. You lost them because of those selfish unknown men who caused the disturbance that day on the streets. Aren't I right, Shoaib? Tell me if I'm wrong," Shakil stopped to take a breath. Shoaib was dumbfounded. There was silence. Then finally Shoaib spoke. "H-how did you know all this?"
"I know Shoaib. I know a lot of things and trust me I'm here to help you."
"What do you mean?"
"You should pay back what you got. You must. And I'll give you a chance to do that. Do you want that, or do you want to spend the rest of your life lying on a charpoy missing all your dear ones?" Shakil slapped him on the shoulder. "Come with me. I'll show you the right path. Revenge Shoaib. You will take revenge now. You will do the same thing those selfish people did to you. Won't you? Or are you going to forgive them?"
"No! No. You're right, it’s all their fault. I'll not forgive them for what they did to me. They destroyed me and now I'll destroy them!" Shoaib said, his voice full of loathing.
"Yes! That's the spirit," Shakil smiled.
‘Fool! Didn't even realize that he's going to do the same. Going to destroy innocent families like his own. My boss across the border will be sooo happy. What an easy prey, my God!’ Shakil thought with an evil smile.