Stories about begging

From a bright student to a beggar: “The hate never melted” – Noshi’s journey as a transwoman

“You can change your hobby, but you cannot change your nature. If someone offers Rs10,000 to you in exchange for wearing such a feminine dress, you are probably not going to wear it. The same dress, however, is second nature to me. I wear and admire it every day. That does not make me any less of a human, does it?” This is how my conversation began with Noshi, a 45-year-old trans woman previously known as Farrukh Naeem. Noshi outside the room where she has been staying for the last four years. Growing up in Shahdara Town, ...

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A dark conversation in the city of lights: “If you don’t listen to your parents, you’ll end up like this (transgender)”

Wandering across the city of lights without a clue about your destination has a certain edge to it. When it comes to digging up possible stories hidden somewhere within this metropolitan, the best possible course of action is always to take a walk in this crowded coastal expanse. Carrying the burden of writer’s block, I decided to journey through this city in search of inspiration.   It took a significant part of the day for my restlessness to triumph over my determination, and with a sense of certain defeat, I paused for a cigarette at the nearest cabin I could ...

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How Laila saved Eid this year

“Could I hit him if he groped me again?” she thought to herself as she made a fist and punched thin air around her. Cursing under her breath, she returned to the pile of clothes she was rummaging through. She could hardly see anything inside the dark tent. Making a blind choice in the dark, she pulled out a piece of cloth and turned around to leave. She was about to miss her truck. Cautious as to not literally step on anyone’s toes, Laila hopped about the tent silently, avoiding crushing her family members who were still asleep. On her ...

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Is America just a glorified third world country?

I slept the night Donald Trump was elected president of the United States (US). Not out of a sense of peace, but a resigned knowledge that nothing I did now would stop the waves and currents of history. I didn’t know the outcome, and I almost didn’t care; because whatever happened, ordinary Americans would have to deal with it. I was one of them, whether I liked it or not. My friends had stayed up after midnight, watching the election coverage on their laptops. “Look at how many states are red!” my friend Amina exclaimed, horrified. “The Republicans are leading the House (of Representatives).” She was worried and ...

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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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An open palm

“Are you alright?” “Just had the same nightmare.” His wife shook her head. “Why don’t you see a doctor? I’ve told you a hundred times.” This time he slowly shook his head, “A doctor can’t help with these. Can I tell you what I saw? (And without waiting) I’m sitting awake in this bed. You are next to me, asleep. Everything looks the way it’s looking right now, with the curtains drawn, the room cleaned and spotless except for the two plates on the table, and the dim light of the lamp falling on the bedside.” His wife looked around the room, confirmed the description, wondering ...

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Why is it blasphemous for a child to question an adult’s decision?

The worst nightmare for a Pakistani parent is when their child shows an affinity towards anything related to art, music or the performing arts. Unfortunately, our parents are programmed to believe that to have a successful career, it is important to choose a field of study that leads to a positively stable career. Keeping that in mind, you can just imagine what my parents’ reaction was when I told them I was interested in pursuing a career in film-making. Now my parents are not the conventional Pakistani cookie-cutter parents. Both of them are educated and have very independent lines of ...

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Do beggars deserve our sympathy or indifference?

I cringe at the sight of the decaying face of a desolate poor individual; yet my mind goes blank when I think of how to help them. Even if I help them financially, I can never cure their gloomy and emotional state of mind, their unhappiness and the woes they try to hide. An expression of agony is written all over their faces. Their ragged, coarse and wrinkled faces are enough to prove how miserable they are. Their skin is tightly woven on their facial structure which clearly indicates starvation. We are so busy in our daily routine that we fail ...

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The children of Mazin Academy need your help – Will you save them?

It was a distress call for the future of the children under his care. “I don’t know what to do to save the school. I think we should post a note on our Facebook page asking for financial help. It seems like I will have to close the school.” This was a call from my brother, a philanthropist by nature, who was always thinking of doing something more than his studies or career for the welfare of people around him. Thirteen-years older than me, I have always seen him helping people, be it relieving the sweeper from hefty interest loans, giving weekly tuitions ...

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Karachi: Chronicles of a mad man – the girl who never smiled

Each night starts off the same way. Something is happening. I can feel it. Someone is calling my name. I have no choice. I have no say in this. I must respond. The echoes of the screams bounce off of every wall in this city as they make their way towards me. Where will it be tonight? Where will I finally see my own reflection? These streets haunt me. The electric energy of 15 million people all radiate through one light bulb. It is hauntingly beautiful. The very light it radiates not only throws me into a sea of confusion, but also ...

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