By Mahvish Akhtar, MMNS
I sat in my car being driven through the streets of Lahore and wondered what else I had to do after I was done with the task in front of me. I was going around running my errands since it was a Saturday. While I sat there in between getting the job done I thought about how much more I had left for today and how there was just not enough time. As my car stopped in front of the bank I sped to the ATM machine praying that I still have enough money left in the account. Exiting the ATM booth there was a lady ahead of me and was barely walking. First I tried to maneuver around her to get away quickly but there was no room to do that. Just then my eyes dropped to her spiked heal shoes and I wanted to scream at her. I wanted to say to her that lady, maybe if you had been a little bit more vigilant when getting ready and had worn sensible shoes you would not have such a difficult time walking over these uneven pavements. And maybe just maybe the rest of us who donâ€™t have the whole day to waste, mind you, could go about our business a little bit faster. Once she was out of my way I was in my car once again and thinking of many other things that were more important than that woman and her shoes.
I was going along with my day trying to rush through time and in turn my life. Just then I had the most magnificent sight I could have with the kind of day I was having. A boy of about 12-13 years old was riding on his bicycle on the pavement next to my car. My car stopped for the red light ahead and I saw him. He was wearing dark brown shalwar qameez and had a mess of hair on his head about the same color. He was strutting along oblivious to his surrounding and to the fact that there was a leaf stuck in his hair. He was singing along to the beat of his own drum. He seemed so comfortable and happy even though it was hot and sunny outside and he was not sitting in an air-conditioned car like me. I couldnâ€™t help but stop my car to talk to him. I guess for someone like me the idea of someone enjoying a casual day on a work day was completely absurd.
I waved at him and asked him to stop. He stopped on the side of the road a little surprised and said, â€œMadam I am not selling anythingâ€, I told him I knew and also asked him where he was going, â€œhomeâ€ he said. Then I couldnâ€™t take it any more. I told him that there was a feather stuck in his hair. He caressed his hair and laughed when he felt the leaf there as though remembering good old times. He looked at the leaf and started telling me that he was playing with his friends they were throwing rocks at trees to see how high they could throw them. He said all this looking down at the leaf as though everything he was saying was written on it. Well it was a reminder any way. A little disturbed with the situation I asked him why he wasnâ€™t in school. I was wondering why would parents let their little children roam around on streets rather then send them to school or have them do something else constructive. He looked at me with a glow in his eyes and told me that he does go to school. When? I said not believing him since it was 4 in the afternoon and he was on the streets and apparently playing with his friends. He said he goes to school in the afternoon. He said he has to work in the day and then late into the night so the only time he finds to study is in the afternoon. He said that his parents couldnâ€™t afford to send him to school so one of the boys in his neighborhood who did his 10th class from a school was teaching him and a couple of his friends and making some money.
I was speechless after that. This little boy had taught me so much about my own life in a matter of minutes. Watching me quiet and unable to speak he asked me if he could go because he didnâ€™t want to be late for his study session. I couldnâ€™t say anything more to him. There was nothing I could tell him about life that he didnâ€™t already know. In just the few minutes that boy was in front of me he taught me so much about life and how to live it.
As I watched him peddle off into the distance I thought about my life and everything I had wanted to be when I was his age. Trying to understand what I was feeling my eyes locked on the leaf on the ground. He had looked at it so carefully and I had felt a certain calm in him when he was holding it in his hands. I tried to look for that emotion but now it was nothing more than litter on the floor.
Just then I heard my driver asking me if I was ready to leave. I wasnâ€™t ready to leave. I wasnâ€™t ready to go back to the same old hustle and bustle of my life. But unfortunately I did. Getting back into my car I realized we lived in two different worlds. His world was tough but was filled with innocence and charm.
Yet my world is ugly and it renders one unable to move in front of the great jaws of what we call the wheel of life. That boy and the beautiful leaf in his un-kept hair is a distant memory now, just like everything else that is peaceful and lovable in this world that we live in.