That is my child
That filthy, smelly child is mine. That shivering child, counting how many pennies he made - that is my child.
My child stands at the corner of the street, in tattered clothes, smelling of rotten fish, selling fragrant flowers to you. You scrunch up your nose; throw the money at him and grab the flowers, making sure your hands don’t touch his.
That filthy, smelly child is my child.
My child, in the chill of December, cleans your car with his calloused hands. His hands look older than your 70-year-old father’s, cracked and hard from the lifetime they have suffered in such a short period. You pay him a few cents and tell him to get lost as you zoom off.
That shivering child, counting how many pennies he made, that is my child.
My child is that girl, only seven, who works for you; she feeds your children, cleans their shoes and washes their clothes. She watches your children, with longing, as they play.
That hungry girl whom you scream at, when she forgets to bring your morning tea in bed, that is my child.
My child is that boy, rocking back and forth in a trance, reciting the Quran. I know he will get a lashing if he forgets a verse, if he looks up or if he even speaks on his own accord. I left him there; I cannot afford to send him to school. But he is still my child.
Those bewildered, unblinking eyes, those are my child’s eyes.
My child is that two-year-old, who coughs up blood, for days. But I don’t have the money to take her to a doctor. My child, lifeless and exhausted, holds on to my shirt, and tries to summon the energy to cry. She manages to whimper as she looks at me with utter trust; she thinks I am her saviour. I look away. My heart breaks for my child. But I, her mother, cannot protect her. The world does not work that way for a child born in poverty.
And yes, even that child you caught sifting through your garbage, outside your sprawling house, that is my child.
You shouted at him;
Runaway you filthy little dog, don’t you have anything better to do than go through people’s garbage!
No. my child has nothing better to do.
My child has nothing to eat. No milk. No bread. No medicine.
My child has no shoes on his feet. No books to read. No toys. No mattress to lie down on at night, no blanket to keep him warm.
My child does not even have hope. Hope is a luxury my child cannot afford.
Is that your child too?
Poetic License is The Express Tribune Blogs’ creative writing section. Please send in your feedback and submissions to [email protected]