ISLAMABAD: As donations poured in for Eid, his hands moving in mechanical order, Shakeel Ahmed asked the donor at the counter his name and the amount he wanted to donate at the Edhi Homes in Sector H-8. “We are running out of receipt books. Send someone here with more copies,” he said into his cell phone.
The queue of donors would occasionally fizzle out giving him time to organise his desk. “This influx of people is normal during the last days of Ramazan and Eid.” Ahmed said while the rush of people had maintained its momentum, due to the construction of the metro bus project and diversions of routes, fewer people turned up.
Approximately 25 per cent fewer people have shown up this year, but the spirit is still alive, he stated with a smile. This year apart from regular donations there has been an overwhelming response for the internally displaced persons (IDPs) affected by the North Waziristan operation, he added. “We have set up an office in Bannu that will be receiving donations for the IDPs this year too,” said Ahmed
A narrow passage next to the wall leads to another world. A green belt divides the sun-kissed courtyard. A total of seven mentally challenged women and 12 mentally challenged men huddle in their gloomy cells. Some wheelchair-bound residents of the centre remain parked for hours without worrying about the time.
Piles of clothes of all sizes freshly out of laundry add darker hues to the marble floor that is bordered with wooden coffins stamped with the Edhi logo. The children brighten up the place with their chirping. They run from the main building towards the park in excitement. It is the day before Eid and they have the licence to bend the rules.
Jingling sounds of bangles and toys echo with the children’s footsteps who aimlessly run around in the confined space. They come together for a group picture for Eid, scattering away when the blinding flash signals the end. Eid is one of the few days of the year that the children at the centre get to celebrate by dressing up and going out.
“I’m wearing a red tomorrow,” said Rizwan who is extremely excited about the occasion. “We look forward to Eid each year. We wear new clothes and Api applies henna on our hands, added Laiba, who had matched her lime green bangles with her outfit. “I feel so pretty on Eid.”
We get to dress up, eat delicious food and go out to the park on Eid. It’s the day we look forward to every year, chimed in Gulbano.
Most of the children at the centre are orphans. “Eid is a special occasion for these children and we try to give them as much as we can,” said Ahmed. “Children have a different mindset, their attention can be diverted with glimmering accessories. The bigger challenge for us is to fill the emotional void created by their parents’ absence.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2014.
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