My dad grew up in Karachi, Pakistan as a street kid. He had a mother and father but had to fend for himself. This was the situation for him, his five brothers, and his sister.
He would fool around with his friends, save up a few cents to buy some candy, which he would suck on from sunrise to sunset.
“We took care of each other,” he would say.
Today, I visited the Restless Beings Rehab Centre and it felt like a glimpse into my father’s childhood.
These kids are drug abusers, prostitutes, and ill. Many of them don’t have mothers or fathers and those that do, ran away from them due to abuse and neglect.
I wasn’t exactly sure how to approach them at first because I didn’t want it to appear that I was going to ‘save’ them. I didn’t want to make it seem that I had come with an understanding of the hardships they have gone through, because I didn’t. I didn’t know where they slept or what they ate for breakfast. I didn’t know what they did for fun. But my first encounter with them immediately vanished any doubts and confusion, as I just became myself. I spoke to them as Nusrat, just a Bengali girl, like them, with hopes to better the world and myself.
I fell in love quickly with a boy named Shahid. He was such a handsome and friendly boy. I sat next to him and he offered me his rice and talked to me with my hands in his hands. He was from Sylhet and so is my mother, so we joked around that he was a “Sylheti fua (boy)” and I was a “Sylheti furi (girl).” I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up and he said a child doctor.
Next to him was a boy named Mohammad. I asked both of them what they wanted most in this world. Mohammed asked, “If I ask for something, will you be able to get it?” I laughed and said that I would try. He told me he wanted his mom. I told him I wouldn’t be able to get his mom for him and asked him to settle for me as a sister. He smiled and said yes.
There were so many more I met. The kids taught me a handshake and I taught them rock, paper, scissors. I sincerely loved each one of them and felt like we had become quick friends. As I piled back into my car, they pressed their faces to the window, kissed me, and asked me to come back. I had a wonderful experience with them and saw so much beauty in everything they did and said.
Since this was only my first field visit, I don’t want to dream too big. I hope I can serve as a role model for them and allow them to see the great potential they have. I’m so excited for my next visit as I hope to do an art workshop with the children, so look out for my next post!
I hope they will have fun and it can serve as a way for them to express themselves and their stories.
By Nusrat Ahmed.