Here is a story I read on another blog and would like to share. Essentially, it is a “Reality check about the consequences of our actions.” – Rabbia A
Last night, my cousin and I went for some late night tea to Defence Market. The shops were still open and the beggars/street vendors were wrapping up their daily activities.
As we sat sipping doodhpatti, one of the beggars approached our car (for those who find my use of the word ‘beggar’ to be disparaging, I apologize. I couldn’t find a better and more apt word). He asked us if we could buy him some dinner…in English. We weren’t taken aback. There were quite a few beggars out there who spoke English or who were literate/educated up to a point. And anyways learning a few sentences here and there in English wasn’t too difficult.
The beggar was thin and scrawny looking. It looked like he hadn’t showered or changed clothes in many days. My cousin and I sat talking to each other about life, ignoring him and the others who would come up to our car window begging us for money. I did give those who were selling things some of the change I carried on me. Other than that, I didn’t want to promote the begging profession so I shooed most away.
When the same beggar broke out into English again, I asked him what his story was. His story had us thinking all the way back home about life and the one-times that can change destiny.
Muhammad had a normal life. He grew up playing cricket in the streets of Karachi and knew that after school, he would go home to a warm meal and family in Saddar. He went to St. Patrick’s School in Karachi (my father and General Musharraf’s alma mater) where he did his matriculation and Intermediate studies and finished his B.Com (Bachelor in Commerce). He then worked as an accountant for the Karachi Race Course before that one fateful day when he and his friend went to see a clothes exhibition put on by some Russians.
His friend and him ended up paying some Russian woman to have sex with them. A few days later, after falling sick and having a blood test, Muhammad discovered that he might have HIV. Some more lab results confirmed that he was carrying the virus. His parents shunned him and he was exiled from his group of friends.
Muhammad went from an AIDS camp to a UNDP purpose-built hospital for HIV carriers. His health declined. 2 years later, his parents passed away and his elder brother sold their flat and moved to Lahore. Muhammad ran away from the hospital, moving among beggars and miscreants, digging through trash and leftovers to find something to eat. Whomever he told that he had AIDS would distance themselves from him. Doctors who would see him would tell him that even if he caught so much as the common cold, his body’s resistance to it would be futile and he would die.
Muhammad approached his brother in Lahore but he was turned away at the door. His brother told him that he wasn’t his responsibility anymore.
4 years to the day, Muhammad roams around Karachi, sleeping near train tracks and on benches in parks. He has almost submitted to Death. He repents that one-time that had put his life on a downward spiral from which there was no coming back. He called it God’s fury, I told him it was more like Man’s mistake.
He asked us for food, we bought him a cheeseburger and coke. My cousin wanted to know if he would work in his shop as an accountant. Muhammad agreed.
On our drive home, we talked about Muhammad and his one-time. The one-time that had infected him. The one-time that had thrown his life off the beaten path and into the bushes among the predators, scavengers and those who had to make it or be killed if they couldn’t. The one-time that would lead to a decline in his living standards and eventually lead to a painful death.
We talked about how if even he was employed in one of the shops, people would shun him if they ever knew he had AIDS. He might even get beaten to death if he was thought to be homosexual.
And it’s not only Pakistani or Muslim society, it’s everywhere. Movies like Philadelphia and Broadway shows like Rent have helped to bring focus on the AIDS issue but our country still lags behind. Pakistan has a rising AIDS population and Pakistan is also known to be a haven for drug addicts. This puts us at even more risk and with our slowing economy, this disease will only just add to the burden.
I was moved by the story and gave it a lot of thought. I wish I could say that I’ve learnt a valuable lesson and that even if in the future I make mistakes, they aren’t life threatening or life changing. But mistakes will continue to be made. After all, Adam ate that apple only one-time.
Taken from Yawar’s Blog.