“There will be no Eid here. Eid makes no difference to me”
“Eid makes no difference to me. I only wait for rain.” He answered.
Standing under a rare tree shade Ali Murad Sathio waited for his turn to get water from the pump. Yes, it was true. He did not care for Eid – or any event, for that matter. It had been a few years since he stopped caring. Still, whenever someone mentioned Eid, his thoughts travelled back to the fateful Eid days, three-years-ago.
His beautiful mother had prepared him for Eid day. She had managed to cook one sweet dish which was as delicious as the nectar of the heavens. Or at least that was how he remembered it. They had all gathered in the one and only room in their humble abode. It was a beautiful day filled with laughter and teasing. Ali Murad looked upon his family. He beamed; his five-year-old sister, skipping about the room, his father regaling them with tales of the nearby town where he worked as a waged labourer. But, the prettiest sight was his mother.
Her thin hands were busy fanning them with a colourful hand fan that she had made herself. She had been growing weaker though. Her complaints about her stomach aches were more frequent now. Ali Murad wanted to bring back her health but that required nourishment which was hard to come by. They were only four members in the family and, even so, it was hard to find resources for three full meals a day. Yet they were thankful for what little they had.
That night, however, disaster struck.
Ali Murad had slept outside after a spirited gulli-danda match with the nearby kids. He had slipped into a restful slumber after a good Eid day. He heard noises so he hurried into the house. There he saw his mother convulsing in agony, clutching her stomach. It was the middle of the night and the nearest town was two hours away. The night passed and so did his mother. Her last wish had been to watch rainfall in their village. Now he waits for rain, not for Eid.
The next year was even harder. There was no food. Literally, no food was available. They ate their pets as they came close to starvation. Ali Murad saw his sister grow paler each day. The family from the hut next to theirs lost their little boy to hunger. The poor kid was all bones in the end. Ramazan arrived,
“Oh but we have fasted the whole year! Our Ramazan will never end. Thus no Eid for us,” he thought in times of extreme weakness.
They had heard help was arriving from a foreign NGO soon. Most of the time this was just a rumour but when your stomach is empty, your mind devours hope like a delicious feast. Ali Murad walked for miles to find food from the town nearby for his sister and father.
“Hold on till Eid, little sister. Maybe someone will bring us Eidi.”
He wept by her bedside. His father sat in the corner of the room staring ahead at nothing. It was chand raat and Ali Murad dragged himself from the hut, going out to see if anyone was coming. Nothing arrived till dawn. At first light, he saw a vehicle in the distance and he scrambled to his feet. As it approached nearer, he saw the boxes lined up in the back of the van. The driver was a local man and the passenger next to him was a foreign woman. He didn’t have the energy to say anything to them so he just pointed towards his hut and came inside to give his sister the good news. There she was, lifeless on a colourless rug, hollow eyes staring back at them. Ali Murad fell on his knees sobbing and looked back at the two people standing in the doorway. They stood there carrying food and drink, but alas it was too late. The Eidi arrived as hoped but death was faster. To them he said,
“Wapis le jao ye sab ab yahan Eid nahi hogi. Ab yahan namaz-e-janaza ha, namaz-e-Eid nahi hogi. Le jao wapis ye sab.”
(Take all of this back, there will no Eid here. There will be funeral prayers here today, not Eid prayers. Take it all back!)
Ali Murad is among several unfortunate families in Thar that we have failed. We have failed them terribly. With our tables laden with snacks and drinks, we have failed them. With our utter nonchalance, we have killed these children and yet we have the audacity to celebrate Eid in our comfortable homes. What Eid will Ali Murad celebrate now?
The futility of human endeavour is quite apparent from our dining rooms where we have enough to feed dozens while the children in Thar become living corpses waiting for help to arrive. Today I am asking anyone who can help, not the government or the concerned authorities or Qaim Ali Shah. I am asking the humans of Pakistan to come up with ideas as to how supplementary food and drink can be sent to these children. How can we devise a strategy among ourselves to transfer food to these families in time? The irony is that even our leftovers would suffice and yet Ali Murad’s family starved to death.
This Eid let us take some time out of our merriment and think of those who eat on alternative days to preserve what little they have. Let us think of those in Thar who are forced to drink blackened arsenic water while we bathe in prolonged leisure. This Eid, let us send them some Eidi, but not by relying on the useless government machinery, through our own sincere efforts. This Eidul Fitr let us save some lives.
From the deepest place in hell,
When I see you I can tell,
You drink and eat your fill,
Then you have leftovers still,
While you sit in comfy chairs,
We toil in such despair,
While you spill your water out,
We search and look and scout,
All we find is liquid black,
And you enjoy all that we lack.
And you enjoy all that we lack.
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