KARACHI: Six-year-old Muhammad Anas maneuverers his way around his small kiosk with practiced ease as he grabs toys for children, some of whom are older than him.
"I want a water gun," shouts one child as Anas grabs the toy gun and calmly tells the child that it is for Rs60. The child hands him a crisp Rs100 note and Anas fishes around in his pocket for change. He pulls out a bundle of notes and hands over Rs40. The simple math comes easy to this young shopkeeper, who has been roaming the streets of PECHS for the last three years.
The hard life
His schedule has not varied since the time he started managing the kiosk. He wakes up at 9am, eats fried egg with paratha which his mother cooks for him. He makes his way to the kiosk at 10am on his small bicycle all the way from his house in Lines Area.
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At noon, he shuts his kiosk and goes to an Urdu-medium government school in PECHS, whose name he is unable to recall. At around 4:30pm he goes back home, devours lunch and gets started on his school homework. At around 6pm, he goes to the madressa to learn how to read the Quran. At 7pm, he reopens the kiosk and works till 11pm, when he heads home to bed.
The child is proud to share that he follows this strict schedule so he can earn enough for his family but he is not ready to give up his education. "I want to become a big man," he says. "I will never give up on my studies."
On the weekends, Anas rides a public bus to Boulton Market in Saddar with his father and buys more toys for his kiosk. How does he resist the assortment of toys displayed at his kiosk? Anas smiles shyly before admitting that he is not allowed to play. "Abbu gets angry if I play with these toys," he says in a low voice. The toys are sealed shut and if he opens them, no one will buy them, he explains.
Out of all his wares, Anas loves the train that runs on battery. "I am saving money to buy that," he says.
The little accountant
On his near-perfect calculations while making transactions, Anas says his father taught him mathematics.
"Now I manage all the accounts of the kiosk on my own," he says, adding that he pasted the price tags on each toy himself.
Anas shares that he makes on average of Rs1,500 in profits every day and it goes up to Rs2,500 on the weekends. "I give whatever I earn to my mother," he says, explaining that she runs the house.
For the young shopkeeper, the most pressing concern is the school days he will miss when his father goes to their village in Punjab for 10 months. "When my father is not here, I have to work extra hard," he says, adding that his father runs the kiosk the days he is not there. "I don't want to miss school as I have a lot of friends there," he says. "But I have no option."
Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2016.
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