That is my child

Published: May 24, 2012

You scrunch up your nose; throw the money at him and grab the flowers, making sure your hands don’t touch his. That filthy, smelly child is my child. Photo: Sami Shah

My child stands at the corner of the street, in tattered clothes, smelling of rotten fish, selling fragrant flowers to you.  You scrunch up your nose; throw the money at him and grab the flowers, making sure your hands don’t touch his. 

That filthy, smelly child is my child.

My child, in the chill of December, cleans your car with his calloused hands. His hands look older than your 70-year-old father’s, cracked and hard from the lifetime they have suffered in such a short period. You pay him a few cents and tell him to get lost as you zoom off.

That shivering child, counting how many pennies he made, that is my child.

My child is that girl, only seven, who works for you; she feeds your children, cleans their shoes and washes their clothes. She watches your children, with longing, as they play.

That hungry girl whom you scream at, when she forgets to bring your morning tea in bed, that is my child.

My child is that boy, rocking back and forth in a trance, reciting the Quran. I know he will get a lashing if he forgets a verse, if he looks up or if he even speaks on his own accord. I left him there; I cannot afford to send him to school. But he is still my child.

Those bewildered, unblinking eyes, those are my child’s eyes.

My child is that two-year-old, who coughs up blood, for days. But I don’t have the money to take her to a doctor. My child, lifeless and exhausted, holds on to my shirt, and tries to summon the energy to cry. She manages to whimper as she looks at me with utter trust; she thinks I am her saviour. I look away. My heart breaks for my child. But I, her mother, cannot protect her. The world does not work that way for a child born in poverty.

And yes, even that child you caught sifting through your garbage, outside your sprawling house, that is my child.

You shouted at him;

Runaway you filthy little dog, don’t you have anything better to do than go through people’s garbage!

No. my child has nothing better to do.

My child has nothing to eat. No milk. No bread. No medicine.

My child has no shoes on his feet. No books to read. No toys. No mattress to lie down on at night, no blanket to keep him warm.

My child does not even have hope. Hope is a luxury my child cannot afford.

Is that your child too?

Poetic License is The Express Tribune Blogs’ creative writing section. Please send in your feedback and submissions to [email protected]

T Hassan

T Hassan

The author is a writer, dreamer, social activist and a Communications Major at California State University. She does Social Media and Marketing for various non-profit organizations and blogs at

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • the GB kid!!

    preciously written!Recommend


    Brilliantly written Tayyaba..Though labor is sacred, child is a crime. People, who employ and engage them in different jobs, take full advantage of their minor age and their helplessness. The government should abolish child labour but one can never expect such reforms from this existing government.

    I pray Imran khan lives up to his promise which he made in his Oct 30 Lahore Jalsa that he plans to bring a law abolishing child labour and also vowed to grant equivalent rights to household labour.Recommend

  • sherry

    very very very well written,
    great jobRecommend

  • RiffyR

    “And yes, even that child u caught sifting through your garbage, outside your sprawling house, that is my child.”

    There’s a typo in the story and this is me annoyingly pointing it out.Recommend

  • erum.shaikh

    @RiffyR: Thank for pointing out the error, it has now been rectified. Kind regards, The Express Tribune blog team.


  • Ali khan

    Awsm, its an eye opener and made even a stone heart like me cry :(Recommend

  • Sanity shall prevail

    So if you actually do feel so strongly about it, why dont you come back to Pakistan? Perhaps getting away from the “perfect-make-believe-Utopian” paradigms can help knock some practicality into you.Recommend

  • ….

    excellent article, absolutely phenomenal job Recommend

  • Shahid Ashraf

    Well written and very emotional. I feel ashamed of myself while reading it as I have on various occasions behaved the way described in your article. However, what is the solution? Someone talked about Imran Khan promising to ban the child labour. I am sure he will do it. But will it really be stopped by mere legislation? Sexual harassment and honour killing as well as rape are also illegal in Pakistan but such crimes continue to happen in Pakistan frequently. How many rapists get sentenced in a year in Pakistan?

    These are social problems and cannot be solved easily only through legislation. It’s not black & white, there are many grey areas. Apart from ensuring implementation of law by the government and its agencies, there is a need to create awareness and education among the masses. Moreover, every individual of the society has to play his/her role to deal with such crimes and issues!Recommend

  • Hira

    This is exactly sometimes how I feel about those kids when I am on my way to university and coming back. I just pass a smile at them. Trust me it’s not very hard and when they smile back at you; it makes me so good that at least they smiled because of me. One does not need to come to Pakistan to bring change as mentioned in one comments. One can bring change by changing himself/herself.
    Sometimes I just wonder when it’s not those kids’ fault to be born in a poor family then what are we so proud of? If one cannot do anything to bring change to their situation; they can at least treat them in a way so they don’t feel like to born in a poor family is a genetic sin.Recommend

  • Peeru Shah

    Very nicely written.Recommend

  • Tamoor Rindh

    nice work..Recommend

  • Parvez

    It is time that the child in the big car, in the sprawling house should look inwards and start by asking his/her parents as to why its like this and demand an answer that makes sense. Recommend

  • http://NewYork Falcon

    Tayyeba – A touching piece. You are a nice soul. I think as someone mentioned above, may be your child in Pakistan needs you badly. You should come back (as should I).Recommend

  • Madiha

    What an excellent piece of prose, the kind that stands on the border of poetry.

    A simple and sincere piece that we can all identify with.

    As for those who think you should go back home if you feel so much for your “children” there… I can tell you, as an expat Pakistani myself… it is when you see the royal throne children of the first world are sitting on do you ask yourself, for what sin are “my children” back home being treated the way they are treated? Recommend

  • sikandar

    Great Work Tayyaba> Keep it up !!!Recommend

  • sikandar

    Awesome work TayyabaRecommend

  • Faraz Talat

    An excessively sentimental, reductionist portrayal of a street child. It’s that typical, textbook tear-jerking “African child” piece of writing that we’ve seen countless times before.

    Good writing on such subject requires a little more than just casual observation that the object of the piece is a hungry, shivering, filthy kid. Any bloke with eyes and a pen can write that. What’s expected from a consummate writer is a deeper analysis of the child’s feelings, self-perception, ambition and degree of adaptation.Recommend

  • Shan Arshad

    Great JOB… Context is very Obvious in our country but the way you have expressed is awsome. May our leaders have a little blink on it if they got any spare time from thinking of money. Recommend

  • Sane

    @What you mean to say. This is absolutely pointless having no substance. Every one here knows about this…… nothing new. Instead of highlighting glaring and known facts come and join to change the future of ‘your child’. Writing such words does not make any difference to ‘your child’. Come out from the privilege world and do something for under privileged. We enough have tragic stories every day in newspapers and TV channels, this a another addition. We now need solution. Every body here knows the problem.Recommend

  • Sane

    @Shan Arshad
    Lets stop calling cheats and cons as Leader. A leader who is one who leads to a destiny. In Urdu it is interpreted as RAHNUMA, means the person who take us to a way or shows the way. If they are leaders, are we the followers??! If we are followers then we are same as to our ‘leaders’. Call them as per their rank only not leader.Recommend

  • Clarus

    No mother on earth will ever call her child “FILTHY” and that’s for sure.

    Very well written, Tayyaba you are fully aware of how things are in Pakistan , why don’t you come back from Cali and do something for Pakistan. Writing blogs won’t help as majority of readers are aware of how things are here and somewhat blogs are only summarizing what we all already know. If you love Pakistan and want to eradicate poverty and misery , do something like teaching these children or establishing some charity / fund here.Recommend

  • Clarus

    I’m sure you do have a million dollar smile. And in my view your single smile is equivalent to 100’s of such very well written pieces by the author who resides in the comforts of cali.Recommend

  • hopscotch

    Just FYI this article was orignally written to promote a fundraiser in the ‘comforts of cali’ for the children of Pakistan.The same non-profit has raised more than $600,000 in the last two years for Pakistan flood victims.Its funny how some short sighted people think that you can only feel and do things for your country if you live there.Recommend

  • Sane

    Give a smile and get a return smile……would this work to change their lives? This may just console yourself and nothing else. Need to do something to bring change, so they must have a real smile.Recommend

  • Hira

    Exactly my point. Giving a smile won’t change their life but it would instead not make them feel inferior. Obviously a smile is not enough but it’s all in my individual power at the moment. @Sane: Recommend

  • Huda Syyed

    Very well written!!Recommend

  • Vikram

    No that is not your Child. If that was your child, you will do every thing in your power to see that he/she gets to live a normal life. Government spend billions on weapons by creating a fear of an imaginary enemy, just waiting to take over. Real truth is army can’t rule and spend all that money without creating some kind of enemy phobia.

    One billion dollar can go a long way to start helping those kids.

    Start an NGO that can oversee programs to get these kid educated.
    People can volunteer to teach a kid 2 hr/week.

    One person can do a lot. Here is a link to a story of a man who “made a forest”

    The man who made a forest – Times Of India…Recommend

  • Vikram

    I thought why not one person taking responsibility of one kid. Start tutoring and helping with one child. but I remembered watching a video of GEO news where they showed little kids begging on the street and how girls (10-12 yr old) complained about being touched all over by men in exchange for money, being slapped by some people for begging.

    Nothing is impossible. Here is the story of a man who grew a forest on his own. Government officials thought it was not possible to grow trees on that land.

    The Man who made a Forest…

    Apr 1, 2012 … Way back in 1953, French author Jean Giono wrote the epic tale The Man Who Planted Trees. It seemed so real that readers thought the …Recommend

  • Tehniat

    it’s was so touchy.! awesome article tayyaba. (:Recommend

  • Sarah

    Beautifully put, Ms. Hassan. Your prose has a leaning for metaphor in a very contemporary fashion. 5 stars.Recommend

  • sahar syed

    Excellent piece of work! thumbs up!Recommend

  • Hina


  • Mohammad Ali

    the fact that every one in this era is ignoring…Recommend