Remembering Shakeela

November 3, 2013

As I write this I’m sitting in my lawn in clothes that are covered in mud, its 12:51 am and I have just returned from Shakeela’s funeral in Sukhwaal near Fateh jang, the date has now changed to 3rd november 2013.
When someone close to me dies, I have a standard response that kicks in every single time. I shut my self off completely and start going through the motions of what is expected of me, untill the time it is safe for me to break down and be sad in solitude.  
After the funeral, as I walked the labyrinth of streets leading from her ancestral home to where I parked my car outside the village, I still couldnt really believe she had passed. I said goodbye to her father in a dream like state, not really hearing the words of condolence coming out of my own mouth. I was moved to tears when her mom hugged me though and told me to keep visiting her as she sees Shakeela’s face in all her friends, I controlled my self, its not cute watching a huge man like me cry. And at that time it finally hit me, Shakeela really is no more among us.  
Shakeela’s fight against cancer is now well documented through the facebook page “Remembring Shakeela” which was used to raise funds and support for shakeela. Ultimately though it turned out to accomplish so much more than that. The overwhelming support from the FASTian community and complete strangers from around the world was a source of great joy and hope for Shakeela, that is something I know for a fact. She told me once that in the darkest moments of her fight, she visits the page and seeing all the beautifull comments and wall posts make her want to carry on.  
But before cancer, before all the pain and suffering that came with the disease she did have a normal life and right now it seems fitting that I talk about that.  
The first time I ever saw Shakeela was in the ITC class during our first semester at FAST, she was this happy, bubbly little thing dressed in her trademark abaya eager to learn and impress the prof. She had this aura of earnest energy about her, the ability to energise any place she walked into. We immediately became part of a circle of friends which included Ali wiqar, myself, Babur Nawaz, Arsalan Malik and Shehzad Saifullah.During our BS we did a lot of the usual crazy things uni kids do as a group, bunking classes, having impromptu biryani and ice cream parties, fooling the juniors, arranging various events. And believe me some of the most whackiest and mischevious ideas used to come from Shakeela, the thought of which brings a smile to my face to this day :).  
Like the time we bought a stall in the campus funfair and as all the guys in our group happened to be extremly lazy, myself included, we had nothing planned and nothing to sell on the stall. Shakeela came in the morning and saw the empty stall, ordered me to go and buy some charts and markers and came up with same games that people had to pay to play. As a result our stall was one of the highest earners and we blew all the profits on a group dinner.  
She had this way about her that made people come and confide in her. She was the perfect listener, friend and therapist. Whenever we had fights among the group, she was usually the one who made us apologise to each other and made things right again.I can write a million more words recounting all our crazy, happy and sad moments togather but I wont because this is no eulogy, I would leave that to a better writer than me. This is just my way of letting my friend know that I will always miss and remember her. And with the following verses by Kim Thompson I shall conclude My thoughts.

Although unheard I thank you
For always being there
Even when you were bedridden
you always seemed to care  
You meant so much to all of us
you were special and that’s no lie
you brightened up the darkest day
and even the greyest sky  
Many tears I have seen and cried
they have all poured out like rain
I know that you are happy now
Cause you are no longer in pain.    

Goodbye my friend.

The Forgotten Children.

February 16, 2008

street_child_v15.jpgA kid who died on the streets

The park bench he was lying on was cold enough to serve as a refrigerator. He was wearing an English Cricket kit displaying the number 11 which was barely readable due to a rip in the back of his shirt. His cheeks were extremely pink but the pink was not the shade usually associated with good health, it was the pink of Death. He was rolled into a fetal position; his small hands nestled instinctively between his legs trying to find warmth that his body was unable to provide. He wrapped the jute bag which served as his personal heating system around himself and tried to breath but at -5 Celsius even that can become a hard task. He wanted to cry but tears refused to come. He felt like the cold was eating into his bones. In order to forget the cold he decided to envision the meal he had in the morning, Stale tandoori bread dipped in water and a rotten tomato which he stole from a vegetable vendor .Suddenly he realized that tomorrow was Friday which meant Mewa Pulao at Masjid Mahabbat Khan. A veritable feast for the street people! But all this thought of food was making him dizzy, his head started spinning and his fingers became numb. Slowly but surely he was being lured by that all mighty conqueror which is commonly known as sleep. He was asleep within five minutes.

The Body of Tarik aged 8 was discovered the next day in Cantonment Park. He was an orphan who collected junk at day and slept at park benches during the night and amid the never ending suicide bomb blasts his death only merited for a six line mention in the inside pages of a local daily favored only by naan baai’s and yours truly. According to the initial report of the coroner’s office, Tarik died due to Hypothermia or “exposure to extreme cold” somewhere between 9 pm and 12 am on the night of 1st February. After reading the news item the first question that leapt into my mind was “what were you doing at that specific time?” I was watching a movie with the room heater working at full throttle and I am sure most of you were indulging in some same mind numbingly petty activity.

While the recreated description of Tarik’s last moments alive is a figment of my imagination but his death is real. So real in fact that it becomes painful when ever I attempt to wear warm clothing. But pain should not stop me from getting to the real issues at hand, which are the plight of homeless children and the collective attitude of disregard adopted by our society.

Put yourself in Tarik’s shoes for a moment; visualize yourself as an 8 year old kid who lives on the street and who has no one to care for and look after. Whose only aim in life is to live from one day to another, whose soul career interest is staying alive. A kid who is not bothered with maintaining a high GPA or with meeting his parents expectations; a kid who just wants to have one decent meal in a day and a warm place to sleep at night. The phrase “survival of the fittest” can only be understood in all its entirety by a kid who lives on the streets.

Wasn’t it scary? Fighting for life for one’s very existence? Yes, it was! Can the situation for these kids be improved? Yes, it most certainly can be! Can we the students do something to help? Yes we can, we can do loads of stuff to help these children and improve their standard of living.

We can donate money to charitable organizations that help and rehabilitate street children and it doesn’t even have to be a hefty amount. By putting aside only Rs. 15 a day for a month we can feed a street kid for a week. We can donate our time and volunteer for only two to three hours every week for a charitable organization such as “Save the children” or any NGO that helps such kids. We can take any such kid to our home and offer him/her a decent meal.

The list of things we can do to help street children is endless but the bottom line is this that WE have to help them and WE have to help them NOW! No one deserves to die like this. So the next time when you are itching to buy the new ipod or a new cell phone, Just Remember The Forgotten Children!