Stories about beggars

“Are you a Muslim of Ramazan?”

The Holy month of Ramazan has been shadowing the heads of Muslims for a while now. This is the month of spirituality, in which Muslims have the chance to build their characters, renew their faith further, strengthen their relationship with Allah (swt), and truly follow the teachings of their faith. This month is believed to be the “spring season of good deeds”, for even small deeds done with a good intention carry a lot of weight. This is why during this month, Muslims try their level best to gain more and more rewards. One can only hope that our good deeds not ...

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This Valentine’s Day, spoil your loved one with some perfectly chewy and gooey red velvet pancakes and cinnamon rolls!

This time around when I was writing this blog, for some odd reason, the only thing that kept coming to my mind was the phrase “spreading love”. Last year when I visited the UK, I had a chance to watch the Lion King musical – an absolute breathtaking experience, which can never be replaced and is one of the highlights of my life. “And can you feel the love tonight? It is where we are It’s enough for this wide-eyed wanderer that we got this far And can you feel the love tonight? How it’s laid to rest It’s enough to make kings ...

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“So, what’s Pakistan like?”

The old man had the most startling blue eyes, the kind that glittered in a wizard-like way. He was a contractual worker fixing some room in the building where I work, and I met him in the kitchen over my morning coffee. He asked where I’m from and widened his eyes. He didn’t comment on how good my English is, but how American my accent is (which I take no offence or pride in – it’s not the two years of Master’s in St Louis but all those American movies and TV shows I watch). And then he asked me ...

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In Karachi, beggars help muggers and the police can’t follow the law

I saw him 20 years ago, perched on a stool outside the Sulemania Mosque in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. He had no arms and no legs, and was fair complexioned like most of the western tourists that throng Istanbul. I will never forget the huge smile he gave me when I dropped a coin in the box held by a little boy standing next to the stool. Behind him on the wall, hung the license issued by the government allowing him to make a living through begging. Perhaps such licenses are issued to beggars and those who beg without a license are ...

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“We’re begging, it’s not like we’re stealing”

“Even if we’re begging, it’s not as if we’re stealing or looting.” These were the hard hitting words of the signature beggar in my film Beggars of Lahore. The film was shot in the Summer of 2005, initially as part of an MPhil thesis, the interest for which arose out of my hybrid origin as a British Pakistani trying to come to terms with the intense scale of begging within the walled city and cultural hub of Pakistan, that is Lahore. I, too, couldn’t understand why people scorned upon the beggars so much for merely pleading poverty. I later ...

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A six-year-old’s wish: “I like Pakistan. But I hope they make it better like Canada”

 “I like Pakistan. But I hope they make it better like Canada.” These words have been haunting me for the last couple of hours, written by an ostensibly vivacious six-year-old. They speak of the intense trauma that he is currently experiencing when relating to his homeland. A child’s innocence enables him/her to create impressions that perhaps lays bare the lines of fault and pretence which envelops our vastly deceptive lives. Children often have the uncanny ability to see through the façades which we erect on impoverished realities of life, and since their hearts are yet to be tainted by the vices ...

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Why should non-Muslims bear the brunt of your compulsion to fast in Ramazan?

How many times have you gone for a dinner to a restaurant and then told the management to get rid of the beggars outside looking in through the window? If not that, then how many times have you gone to buy a kebab roll with a hungry child staring at you? How many times did you react in an irritating manner saying, “It’s hard to even buy a roll now without them bothering me!” Let’s dial it down even more, how many times have you eaten something knowing very well that there are people right outside the restaurant who can’t even ...

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What makes Pakistan a great country

Flip through our TV channels, skim through our newspapers and scan through a dozen latest international reports on indicators of some sort and they will all give you only a few reasons to be happy about our country. In fact, if you do this long enough, you’ll probably start noticing initial symptoms of prolonged depression. Are there any problems of the world that this nation has been spared off? Floods, drought, earthquakes, terrorism, corruption, infant mortality, diseases, illiteracy, sectarian conflicts, ethnic disputes, border disputes, domestic violence, water scarcity, electricity shortages, gang wars and what not. It’s tragic and scary. But there is a flip ...

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Who decides who is a beggar and who is an imposter?

Sameer is returning home from New York for the first time in six years. He passes the immigration counter, gets his luggage and comes out of the airport, relieved that he is finally through with all the hassle. Then, he squints around for a familiar face, anticipating a relative who’d be there to pick him up. Suddenly, he feels a tug on his shirt and peering down, he sees two mud-ridden little girls looking up at him, hand outstretched and wide-eyes brimming with expectation. He hesitates and tries to find some Pakistani coins in his pocket to give to them. While ...

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When you eat at an expensive restaurant, do you think of the poor?

A few days ago, a friend of mine got a job at a university and to celebrate the occasion, we decided to go out for dinner. Of course, it was going to be his treat. After a long debate over what to eat and where to go, we finally decided to have a buffet dinner at a restaurant close by. We decided the date and time and extended the invite to other friends as well. There were going to be seven of us. I lived in a hostel with another friend and so we decided to go together. We reached the ...

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