The day a beggar outshone me

Published: August 6, 2012

Considering the endless list of crises our country is presently going through; be it water, electricity or gas shortage, a child like Ali shines like a beacon of hope for all of us. PHOTO: AZFAR IMTIAZ

Recently, I witnessed an event, the consequence of which was the dawn of a significant realisation upon me. In itself, the event was not that remarkable or anything extraordinary, but it had far reaching implications. 

One afternoon I found myself standing next to the Daman-e-Koh entrance, waiting for a friend. Being in Islamabad, in the month of July, and under 43 degrees Celsius of heat, naturally I was hot and agitated. Nearby, there was a broken pipe that had been gushing water like a fountain for over 45 minutes but nobody cared – this was before two visibly poor children arrived at the spot.

One of them immediately rushed to a nearby tree and started pulling off its branches. He started beckoning and shouting to his friends, asking them to help, maintaining that “paani zaya ho raha hai” (the water is being wasted). With their help, he stuffed the tree branches in the punctured pipe and stopped the water from further leaking, in turn preventing further wastage.

I stood aghast at my complete oblivion to the pipe and I was ashamed that a well-educated man like myself did nothing while these uneducated boys did what we all should have 45 minutes ago.

While on the surface, this incident may not seem to be particularly remarkable, it’s what this occurrence implies that is of paramount essence.

Consider Ali: A nine-year-old boy who belongs to the class of the many unfortunate people in Pakistan; those people who are devoid of the basic necessities of life. He makes his living by selling flowers to car drivers on the roads. He, out of all of us, suffers the brunt of all the crises Pakistan is going through. Still today, while others chose to simply look on and remain indulged in their apathy, Ali chose to care.

This small act of his just proved that he is aware of and cares about the fact that water is already a scarce commodity in our country and it should not be wasted. It showed that he cares about Pakistan; the country that has forced him to make a meagre living out of selling flowers in the sweltering heat.

His act of care and compassion puts the rest of us, including myself, to shame. Where we are oblivious to our surroundings, sleep in air-conditioned rooms, obtain foreign degrees, rant about all that is wrong with our country, Ali – who has neither education, nor a posh roof over his head – has more empathy towards our country’s situation than many of us put together ─ that, too, for a country that has failed him.

Considering the endless list of crises our country is presently going through – be it water, electricity or gas shortage – a child like Ali shines like a beacon of hope for all of us.

As long there exist people like Ali, who truly care for their homeland, you know your country is in safe hands.

Follow Azfar on Twitter @AzfarImtiaz

Azfar Imtiaz

Azfar Imtiaz

Is studying Computer Science from FAST university, Islamabad and tweets @AzfarImtiaz

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

  • Danny Boy

    this looks too good to be true….Recommend

  • ABZ

    We all as Nation are part of this remorse less apathy..

    Well Done Writer for pointing this, in a way awakening the nation..Recommend

  • Ghassan Khan

    I love how you observed a petty street-side incident and how you derived a moral lesson from it. Good eye and words.Recommend

  • kfc

    Way too overcooked. Recommend

  • Kinzah

    so pathetic to see so many cynics…the child didnt ask to be mentioned here and author wasnt told to write it…goes to show who cares more…like i say..if u have nothing good to add just dont say anything….its a mere observation and the author is spot on abt it..takes a real heart to care for some issue like this…
    if it was any one of us…we may never even notice that the line was ruptured…..Recommend

  • Hina.A

    A good lesson for all of us to care about each and everything around us… And to never take anything for granted no matter how rich or poor one is.Recommend

  • SKhan

    Thank you for sharing this story. Hope we learn a lesson from it!Recommend

  • Talib

    A totally stretched-out and assumptive article. We all know that it is incorrect, Islamically and morally, to waste water. But the author has brought in stories and lessons of patriotism out of no where. How the heck does the author knows that the children did this act out of patriotism and their concern of water crisis ? I think they just did it out of instinct.Recommend

  • Haven’t lost my sanity

    Thank you Azfar, for sharing this incident with us. And THANK YOU Ali for being a role model for ordinary people like myself. Salute!Recommend

  • Parvez

    You are so right.Recommend

  • Slash

    there are who cares for country…unlike many of us….salute to that childRecommend

  • kaalchakra

    A lovely story. Imagine how many of Pakistan’s problems could be solved if we kept in our hearts our Prophet (PBUH)’s injunction to not be wasteful. When such great men as Badshah Alamgir Aurangzeb followed our Prophet’s example, why can’t each one of us? Thank you once again for this inspirational piece.Recommend

  • Jamil

    This is the difference of being patriotic and responsible towards the country than those like us, who are waiting for someone else to come and do something. Education do provide us with the pros and cons of the activities we do , but here an uneducated child did what we can just think off. Recommend

  • Sane Voice

    Dear Azfar, but why did you describe Ali as a ‘beggar’……….does selling flowers equates to begging. Please correct yourself. To me he is hard working labourer who, despite having options of begging and crying in front of others, chose to live with courage and dignity. Please correct yourself…………. Recommend

  • Owais Attari

    @ Talib

    While people like you sit and talk about Religion and Morality, there are people out there like this child who are living what Islam and humanity has taught us, its even more shameful for people like you to conclude that this was an act of instinct and nothing else, the reason why we are in this situation is because we have lost that very instinct, its very easy to log on to the internet and “debunk” someone but when was the last time you did a selfless act? I myself have witnessed many of these poor people who have much more humanity than many of us so called “literate” people. To you water might be something that gushes from your tap, so you do not know the value of it, the ones who truly know the value of something like that is the people who are deprived from it and the best protector of these resources are often the ones who are the most deprived Recommend

  • Muhamamd Mustaqeem

    Khuda Ne Aaj Tak Us Qaum Ki Halat Nahi Badlee Na Ho Jis Ko Khayal Khud Apni Halat Badalne Ka www. Recommend

  • Mohammad ali gaad

    We own all the luxuries,but we don’t own love for our country.We do nothing whether water wasting,Some one is going to die or not.its because we haven’t face any hardships.Our Parents are our well-wisher we get what ever we want. Think deeply! Recommend

  • p r sharma

    Why the title a BEGGAR outshone me — the boy referred in the article was not a beggar, ( a sign of disrespect) Instead a flower seller, toiling hard in the heat to earn livelihood.Recommend

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    Hi, after reading this remarkable paragraph i am as well happy to share my knowledge here with friends.Recommend

  • Avantgarde Travels

    Well written….It shows people still care for their country!Recommend

  • Muhammad Siddique

    Dear Azfar Imtiaz,

    Thank you very much for this motivational article. Can it be
    reprinted with your permission in a Newsletter. We can discuss
    on phone. Regards.

    Muhammad Siddique,

  • AQ

    This article exemplifies that if we just stop for a moment, we can admire the beauty around us , and also focus on the changes that could be made. We are so busy in our daily lives that we dont hinder time for looking around us , our surroundings and the soil we live on.

    People that have less , like the boy, are much more grateful than us even though they have less than the ” litterate” person has.

    I dont understand why people will always have a rebuddle against articles with a good message. Most people would consider the boy a beggar, if your car was to stop at that signal light and that boy was selling you flowers, you would consider him to be a beggar, not a florist, so please focus on the actual message, the moral lesson we can learn, and not abstracting the nitty gritty just to create controversy. Recommend

  • Azfar Imtiaz

    @Muhammad Siddique: I text messaged you on your number, but got no reply. You have my permission. I would love to have my article published in a newsletter. Kindly give me some details though?Recommend

  • Muhammad Siddique

    Dear Mr. Azfar,

    Thank you very much. I could not get your text message.
    Can we discuss on phone?


    Muhammad Siddique,

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    Hi, just wanted to tell you, I enjoyed this post. It was funny. Keep on posting!Recommend

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