An entrepreneur in the making at Sunday bazaar
Dressed in rags and selling bags for a living, young Ahmed was one of the happiest people I have ever met.
For as long as I can remember I have been a regular visitor at Sunday bazaar. I love to see the interesting mix of people, some haggling, some in awe of the vast variety of goods on offer, some merely strolling through.This Sunday was no different. I woke up bright and early and decided to hit the bazaar.
I think I was a little too eager - stalls were being set up when I arrived.
"No problem," I thought to myself. "I'll just observe as they set up."
As I was walking though the aisles, I saw a merry young boy, no older than nine or 10 years old, counting his shopping bags and arranging them according to colour and type. So meticulous was he, that I found myself gravitated towards his movements. I decided to stop and have a chat with him.
I greeted him with an "Assalam-o-Alaikum" and he started. I guess he wasn't used to people paying much attention to him, so he stared at me curiously, eyes darting, like he thought I was totally out of my mind. He warmed up to me after I smiled and asked what he was doing. The chatty young boy proceeded to tell me about his life. Such were his struggles, and such was his happy and positive countenance, that I felt compelled to share his story. So below, in his words, is the story of Ahmed, the boy with the bags.
"My name is Ahmed, and I live in the slums near the Islamic University. It has been two years since we moved there. I have never been to school and have no intentions of ever going - I am very smart and happy the way I am. I have two younger brothers. My baba is a push-cart vendor while my mother stays home and cooks food for us. My other brothers work with my father and I work alone here."
When I asked: "Why don't you work with your baba?"
He stated with a puffed chest: "I'm much smarter than them, and I can make more money alone without them pestering me."
He continued: "I started working at Sunday bazaar some time ago. Before this I was helping my father. I purchase bags from an uncle and sell them here. On average I make around Rs1,000 on Sundays and Rs700 on Tuesdays and Fridays. Sometimes people pay me extra and I readily accept their tips. I generally spend this money on cold drinks or chaat. Mai chaat boht shooq se khaata hoon (I love eating chaat)."
"Money is good in this business. I am my own boss and work only three days a week. Other days I play cricket in the slums. I recently purchased my own bat from the bazaar thanks to an aunty who gave me a Rs500 note for no reason. Maybe she thought I was good-looking, many people say that," he said, grinning and winking at me.
"Now I can bat for longer periods because the bat is mine and if someone tries to act bossy, I run away with it."
He proceeded to tell a darker story: "Some people try to take advantage of me especially when I am on my way home. This is why I go home with six boys now. One of them went missing on a Sunday and came back with Rs2,000. He doesn't want to talk about it though," said Ahmed with a shrug, and a subtle glance around him to make sure nobody was looking.
He told me how one day he wants to have his own stall in this bazaar and make big money. The mischievous boy, a salesman to the core, went on to persuade me to buy bags from him to help him accomplish his dreams.
After I purchased some of his bags and wished him well, I went away in admiration of the young boy. While much of our poverty-stricken youth can be seen on the streets begging, this boy works hard and plays hard. He has some sort of goals and ambitions, which cannot be said for some educated children.
His outlook to life was so positive that it left me with the satisfying feeling of hope. People can be happy with so little - it just makes you wonder.