A coin in the name of God – Universal Children’s Day
The evening shadows were exponentially stretching out as the Sun was galloping away from the views of Margala Hills in Islamabad. All done and dusted with the tedious University business, I was on my way to my dorm when a friend threw an offer for a coffee. We headed towards a nearby coffee shop and helped ourselves around a table in the patio. We decided to go for a tea instead — mood swing!
Coffee or tea, our primary purpose to venture out, as always, was to share time together. We were enjoying the tea, lingering around with thoughtless gossips. A child caught our attention — with flat nose and sea-green eyes, he was well-behaved and neatly dressed. He barged into the patio and started asking for money from the people sitting around. He strode from one table to the other begging for spare coins. He used a tailored script in order to inspire generosity and, largely did not appear to succeed. Most of the people turned down his appeal for a coin.
He came to us with the same submissive posture, asking for money. I offered him a tea and welcomed to our table. He declined the invitation though. I engaged him in a conversation inquisitively. He seemed to be communicative and friendly. We were interested in what makes him beg in the streets. Was it a free choice or a social Hobson’s choice? What was his name?
“I am Abdul Qasim and I am from Afghanistan. I live in Pirwidhayi, Rawalpindi. Begging is not a choice for me rather my daddy makes me beg. Not only me, but my siblings are forced to go for begging and bring back money in the evening. My mother assigns different locations every morning and drops us there as per schedule. We go back at night around 10:00 P.M with as much money as Rs.60 [$0.62]. We are five brothers and three of us are begging. The little ones are with my mommy who, after dropping us, stays in a Langar. My daddy sells vegetables in a nearby market.”
When asked why would he like to beg at this little age. His tears started travelling down his cheeks and he told that it was not his choice.
“I hate to like begging. Most of the people I asked money from, tell me that I am doing a bad job and I ought not to do it. My father is a brutally tough guy. If I refuse to do it, I will get beat. I can’t help it.” He said.
Oblivion to his circumstances I asked him to go to school instead. “What if you request your father to send you to school? Go to school, your life will change forever.” I said
“I do attend a school. I am in Grade -1 at Iqra School. But as soon as I get home, my mother takes me out for begging, as my father wants my contribution in the evening. She drops me at my location.” He said.
I suggested him to stay in a boarding house and continue his school. Qasim looked worried about his mother. “My mother will get beat if my father does not get my share. I love my mommy and I cannot see her cry. I cannot stay away from her.” He helplessly replied. I gave him some money and the child left the place.
20 November is the Universal Children’s Day. The United Nations through its charter has asked governments of member states to institute this day in a way that the welfare of the children is taken care of. An improvement is expected in the lives of the children of the world.
Six of the eight Millennium Development Goals, outlined in the year 2000, by the world leaders, are related to children, as noted by UNICEF. The United Nations is helpless to stop wars fought in the name of God to displace Qasim and make him beg in a foreign country. It is, however, unprecedented that we have a day to remember Qasim’s sufferings.
This day reminds me of little Abdul Qasim, whose life mission is to keep his mommy happy. What understanding, the UN thinks; Qasim has with the children of the world? He does not even count himself in the Children— he is overwhelmed by his circumstances.
The statistics of UN and its member states may have Qasim’s name for the Universal Children’s Day. On November 20, Qasim is still out in the streets asking for coins and dealing with the rough people, all alone. For him, it’s a matter of coin, not human or children rights and that too in the name of God.