KARACHI: As the Pakistan Super League 2020 (HBL PSL V) frenzy grips Karachi, rousing the customary zeal and fervour among cricket enthusiasts, the tournament is also helping seven-year-old Iqra and her family to make ends meet.
At an age where children are supposed to be studying and playing, Iqra is helping her parents earn a livelihood. She doesn’t know anything about cricket or the tournament. In fact, she has never watched a single match.
She, however, knows that Pakistanis have a soft spot for cricket and they can indulge as much as they want to enjoy the game to the fullest. Capitalising on this very idea, Iqra and her family have set up a stall to sell flags, cricket jerseys, caps, vuvuzelas and colourful wigs typically worn by spectators in the West Indies and European countries.
Cricket enthusiasts are not only thronging her roadside stall to purchase merchandise, but some visitors are also taking selfies with Iqra, who sports a green wig as she gleefully invites customers to her stall. For security reasons, authorities have prohibited setting up stalls near the National Stadium. As a result, Iqra’s father Muhammad Saleem has set up a temporary stall near a bus stop at Hasan Square, opposite to the Karachi Expo Centre.
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Saleem’s wife and his son have also set up another stall nearby so that the family can amass as much income as possible from the HBL PSL V season.
Saleem is a resident of Chanesar Goth, a neighbourhood of Jamshed Town in Karachi. His family comprises his wife, two sons, daughter Iqra and a paralysed father. In the absence of regular employment, Saleem sets up temporary toy stalls in busy parking areas or footpaths along with his wife and daughter to earn a modest daily income. The hardworking family sells these things while shifting from one location to another, particularly focusing on seasonal occasions and festivities.
“My source of income is very unstable. Sometimes, we earn Rs1,000 to Rs1,500 per day, while on other days, we can hardly make Rs200 to Rs250 a day. Anyone living in a city like Karachi knows that it is impossible to survive on this meagre income,” Saleem said.
Iqra Saleem is not a talkative girl. During her brief conversation with The Express Tribune, she talked about the green wig that she wears to attract customers.
“I visit various markets with my parents to sell toys. During the cricket matches, we are selling flags and vuvuzelas,” she said. “I don’t know what cricket is, but I love this wig. I really enjoy wearing this, especially when people take selfies with me.”
When asked about her desire to study, Iqra revealed that she has recently been enrolled in a madrassa but she would love to go to school like other children.
“After my Quran lessons, I come out with my parents to set up the stalls and sell things. Sometimes, schoolchildren also visit our stalls to purchase toys and I also feel like going to school.”
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When asked about his children’s schooling, Saleem said that he sends his sons to a school but he can’t do the same for Iqra because they don’t want her to be home alone upon her return from school, as both the parents have to leave the house to make a living.
“Our sons return home from school at 5 PM, after which they look after my disabled father. We, however, can’t do the same for Iqra because she is too young. I am trying to improvise on my financial matters so that I can get Iqra admitted to the school. It is my dream to see Iqra being educated in the same manner as my sons,” Saleem said.
While talking about his dreams of a better future for his children, Saleem also revealed that he is a cricket aficionado.
“I am excited about the HBL PSL V and even though I cannot afford to get into the stadium and watch the matches live, I stay updated via the radio,” he said. “It is good news that cricket and other sporting events are held more frequently in Pakistan as it fosters a positive image of the country while creating jobs for thousands of poor people like me.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2020.
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