Sharing is indeed caring — lessons for a lifetime

Not the place we visited, but nearby. Photo by me

Originally written for Gulf News (Off the Cuff)

Growing up in the 1990’s, in the vibrant city of Karachi, I had a very rich childhood. My knowledge was diverse and there was a wealth of experiences to engage an inquiring little mind. We learnt to cooperate with family and extended family, we learnt to grow plants in the garden, we learnt that government offices were the best places to get duped and we learnt that there was really no alternative to hard work.

Karachi itself was proof that if you worked hard, you could make it big. Stories of bun-kebab vendors who ended up opening their own fast-food joints were examples the common Pakistani could relate to. We even learnt different languages and cultures from the hired help. But most importantly, my upbringing in the city was responsible for kindling the spirit of humanity within me.

Let me explain. A short trip to the grocery store in Karachi would typically include a driver, who saved every penny for his family back home in the village; a car that was either old, or if it was new, you feared it could get snatched at gun-point. On the way, you spotted rickshaw wallahs [rickshaw pullers], perhaps donkey carts and maybe even ostentatiously decorated buses and most certainly, beggars. Little boys and girls, no higher than my waist, clothed in tatters, would knock at your window and gesture to you that they haven’t eaten. You pulled down the window and found that the person in front had no shoes at all. You hand them a little bit of spare change and they pray for your well-being — they talk about everything from oodles of money, to passing exams to finding jobs and even marriage!

In case you were going to buy fruit, the experience would include haggling and an unbelievable amount of flies. When you finally returned home, you remembered that sharing was caring and that if you bought the season’s special fruit, the servants, the neighbours and maybe even relatives should be given some as a token of gratitude.

I remember those times fondly. There was no way one could live inside one’s own bubble of success, no matter how well one was doing. There were poor relatives to take care of, entire communities of disenfranchised people longing for food and clean water and one felt a pressing need to make a difference in the world by one’s mere existence. As children, we would feel compelled to give up our savings and allowances for children who couldn’t even think about going to school. In comparison, my children in Dubai live what can only be described as a life that is too perfect and too sheltered. It obviously is a fortunate life and while I am happy for the children, I know they are missing out on some things.

They have never seen suffering, they don’t know how it is when peoples’ huts get washed away by the monsoons, they have no idea about the lives of those thousands of children scattered on the roads of Pakistan, begging their way through the endless stream of cars. The most hardship they have come across in Dubai is that of the blue-collar construction workers, whom they are always willing to donate to. So when we went to Karachi this time, I took them to visit Sher Pao Basti — a slum area located not far from my Dad’s place.

Eager hands grabbed whatever treats we had to offer (food, old toys and clothes) and when my girls asked why one child wasn’t even wearing an underwear, I tried to impart an essential lesson that I hoped would shape their personalities. As we went back home from the grimy slum in our big car, I knew one thing. Whether or not my children had acquired some important lessons, I personally, had learnt to be thankful for my blessings again. The genuine joy and gratefulness in the eyes of a little girl as we handed her an old discarded toy was impossible to forget.


PS: Apologies for neglecting the blog. Will be posting new pictures soon, stay tuned! Will try and catch up on as many blogs as possible.

Thanks for reading!




15 thoughts on “Sharing is indeed caring — lessons for a lifetime

  1. Beautiful and thought provoking Mehmudah.
    You speak for so many of us in the subcontinent. I worry too, about the ‘too perfect’ lives of our children. That we are breeding a generation that is uncaring and self centered. But they do care you know and will probably do more than we ever did, or could, with our limited opportunities.
    I was so proud when my older grandson decided to donate Rs.5000 (approx.100US) from his birthday money to his soccer coach to buy shoes for one of his underpriviledged trainees, when he saw they were playing barefoot. He thought all shoes cost as much as his! That amount fitted the entire team with decent shoes! His first lesson in how little it takes to make a difference. Hope it stays with him.

    • Wow Madhu, that is so sweet and wonderful! I’m sure your grandson would have felt a deep satisfaction after sharing his blessings.
      It is definitely the elders the kids learn from.

  2. Thought provoking write-up! Your blog took me further downstream to the 1960’s in Dhaka and how my parents were particular that I and my siblings share our blessings with the children around us who were not so privileged! I have tried my utmost to teach this lesson of compassion to my children and Oh yes! Luckily (as I am still around) to my grandchildren as well!

    • That is wonderful, it is the parents who shape a child’s personality a great deal, though of course in the end it is the child’s decision. It is lovely that you are passing it on.

  3. This post spoke deeply to me. As parents it is our responsibility to provide the best care possible for our children and yet at the same time accustom them to hardships and cultivate compassion. Our children are living in a different world from our own childhoods. Cocooned in comfort and ease, I too see the glaring need to show a different world, a very real world to my child. May we as mothers raise up a new generation that will not be content with self-interests and gain but to make the welfare of the less fortunate a personal commitment as well. Thank you so much Mehmudah. I loved this piece. I loved the richness of life you experienced as a child. Beautifully written. Evocative and stirring. So many hugs to you and yours! Sharon

  4. A touch of reality. Going through this note of yours reminds me of my own life in a flashback. I grew up in a mansion where we all were pampered like prince and princess. I decided to move out and chose to live in a hole in the wall kinda place compared to that mansion that belonged to my ancestors.

    I saw life of the poor and ordinary people and lived like them for years, worked hard and achieved so much in life that I have no desire left to be rich or famous. I see life from a different perspective now. I am so grateful to Allah that He has given me everything that I wanted to. I am also thankful to my parents for giving me the initial education and upbringing.

    I am glad to see that you are translating all those things which you have experienced and you are sharing with us. Good work, keep it up and keep writing more.

    Btw, on our blog in the Bavarchi Khana page there are a few new recipes and uploaded a few new pictures, take a look and if you need any recipe or info. Write there on the blog or email me. Thanks. Bye!

  5. An excellent article that brings up memories of a pivotal point in my life. When I was sixteen, I had gone to Pakistan after ten years. It was an incredible wake-up call for me, Subhanallah. It changed a lot about my perception of the world, Pakistan, and myself. I promised myself I would bring my children there to remember the humble beginnings of our parents and the struggles of the people. Great article!

    • Hey Sabirah! Jazak Allah for reading and writing such a lovely comment! I can completely understand, how it must have been for you seeing Pakistan after that long. it really does stir up some serious emotion!

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