Seven-year-old Ayesha, a resident of Basti Hajian, is laden with sweets and candy. And yet, in a cruel twist of fate, the treats are not for her. Day in and day out, she is seen at Farid Gate, Fawara Chowk and other places around the city, lugging her goods and following cars, all in a bid to earn her livelihood.
“Poverty snatched my books and my bag from me,” she says, her young voice tinged with sadness. “I wanted to be a doctor, but now I have to sell candy to support my poor parents.” Even though education is free in government schools, and even some private institutes, Ayesha cannot study any further. She is bound by circumstances, she says. At the crack of dawn, she, along with her sister Sidra, sets off to help meet household expenses. At the end of a grueling day, they two girls quietly hand over their earnings to their mother.
“I have five other sisters, and just one brother,” Ayesha elaborates. “My father is a security guard and earns around 4 to 5 thousand rupees each month. With inflation on the rise, this isn’t nearly enough.”
Just the family’s rent of a very small house amounts to Rs2,000 each month. Frequently, they cannot meet even this deadline, and are often threatened to evacuate and take to the streets.
“My family’s collective dream is to save enough money to buy our own home. That way, we won’t be at the mercy of the landlord,” she says wistfully.
Jarringly, there are even days when the family has to starve, unable to gather a single meal.
However, despite the obstacles, this young girl is resilient. She recalls a time once, not too long ago, when she could afford to go to a school nearby. The English and Urdu alphabets, numbers till 100, still swim before her.
“I like watching other little girls going to school. I sit back and stare at the different colours of their uniforms,” she says, sitting on the footpath. “Whenever I get a chance, I am going to start writing in my notebook. I will fulfill this desire. If God grants me the opportunity, I will march ahead to ensure an education for myself and for my siblings.”
Published in The Express Tribune, November 29th, 2013.
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