This was written in 2006
‘He has made me blessed wherever I may be, and He has enjoined on me prayer and service to the poor so long as I live’ 19:31
Kabul Road. What can I say? The only word that describes it is pure chaos. Cars, vans, horses, bicycles, motocycles are travelling in all sorts of directions with no order. A police man stations at the roundabouts and turnings but the road is packed and his efforts are futile. He holds a speaker to shout out at drivers but his voice drowns away from the loud, continuous honking of the vehicles. I look at the policeman. He probably has the worst job ever, I think to myself. The pollution, the sand and dust, the noise, and the life-risk! But then so did everyone else. The city is bustling with people- traders selling anything and evertyhing they can. I see car parts, shoes, books, western clothing, Hindi movies, cow meat dangling from hooks, Yasser-Arafat lookalike scarfs, Kandahari and Tajik Topis (hats). I see children selling water by the road- it is quite innovative; a flask on wooden crate filled with water and plastic cups stacked one on top of each other. I see more children selling phone cards on the roads. They are running up to cars, knocking on their windows. Others have cloths in their hands. As soon as a car stops at a traffic jam, they climb on top the cars and wipe the windscreens and windows with water and soap. Some people give money, some don’t.
A little boy sits on the road selling matchsticks as cars drive past him. He must be about 6years old. When I look closer, he is missing a leg. I start to panic and scan around to see if his mother is close by. There are a couple of women beggars on the road but none seem to know this boy. I ask the driver to stop. Then I open the door. A big lorry is approaching,cars behind are honking. I step back. The driver from the car behind comes out to see what is going on. He wears a suit and I assume he speaks English. ‘Can you carry that boy to the curb?He only has one leg!’. Another lorry approaches from the side and nearly hits the boy. The man in the suit curses in Farsi then signals for the other cars to stop. The boy is crying- his matches have been destroyed! Now he has nothing to sell. He runs to pick up the little boy and brings him to safety. Another man comes out from his van, taking money out of his pocket for the little boy. A sense of huge relief feels me and I rush back to my vehicle at the command of my driver who is getting a little frantic.
We drive through the busy streets. I feel a little sick from the bumpy ride and place my head back on the headrest. Persian music feels my ears. The growling of my sick tummy has subsided. 5 days ago, I accidentally drank the local water then fell into a series of diarrhoea, fever, stomach upsets and loss of appetite. My driver turns back and asks if I am alright. ‘Man mariz astom’ (I am ill). He smiles and tells me my Farsi is perfecting. As we approach a turning, a little boy runs up to my van. He carries a tin can with him, and throws powder into the can.
It releases smoke, intended to ward off evil spirits around me. He places his hand on his tummy. “I am hungry.I need to eat” he cries out, his palm against the van window. Tears starts streaming down his coarse cheeks. His eyes are blood-red and his lips chapped, parched and dry. The vehicle moves forward, his palm slides against the window leaving a trail of black carbon. I look back and he is running after the van. I try to hold myself back but I am extremely saddened by his situation. He runs fast barefooted amidst the cars and vans that do not seem to take heed of him. His clothes are torn and ragged with holes down the sides of his skinny legs. I can see the outline of his ribs from his chest. I tell my driver to slow down but he surrenders to the traffic. I grab my bag and look for money but there isn’t any. Food? None. I am helpless. He catches up with the vehicle but I tell him to go because I feel worried for his safety but he persists. “Please I am hungry,” he cries at my window. I shake my head and show him my empty purse. But he still begs. “Please sister, I am very hungry,”. I hold back my tears but my heart is crying for him. There is just nothing I can give him.
My driver makes a sharp turn, cars start honking but he is still running. I sit back and look away. He catches up again and taps on my window. I just look away. He puts more powder in the tin can, but I just look away. I want him to leave the road so I just look away. How can I convey how selfish I feel. That I turned away from a child who needed my love and help. I don’t have any money on me but I still should have done something. At this point, I know I have violated the 5th pillar of Islam, service to God’s people. How will I answer to God that I turned away a little boy when God has enjoined upon me the duty to serve the poor, a central part of my faith?
I silently pray for forgiveness as I hold my pendant bearing God’s name. ““Verily, in the remembrance of God do hearts find peace.” Quran