Life of little Asghar Hussein
TEN years old Asghar Hussein can carry only five bricks at a time. Brick is an important element of construction in this country but builders rarely use monster trucks or forklifts because manpower is cheaper than engine power. After all, there are plenty of Asghar Husseins who would do the job for a few bucks.
Asghar Hussein dumps five bricks on the pile and walks back to the truck for the next load. He adjusts a piece of cloth on his head that looks like a turban. The truck driver places one brick on his head, then puts another four on top of it. Asghar Hussein grabs both ends of the bricks with his tiny hands and slowly walks toward the construction site. He is wearing a pair of torn green shorts; rest of his naked body is covered with brick dust. The humid and sunny day causing everyone to sweat. The sweat runs through Asghar Hussein’s dusty body, making zigzag trails!
In a fair world, Asghar Hussein should have been in a classroom or in a playground. But Asghar Hussein is the seventh of eight brothers and two sisters. His father was a helper of a truck driver. One day he fell off from the truck and went to the hospital. Doctors did an emergency operation after two days because no bed was available in this overcrowded hospital. He stayed in the hallway of the hospital until he died. Asghar Hussein knows his father could have easily been saved if he was treated properly.
All elderly brothers of Asghar Hussein live and work in different places. One of his sisters left with a guy and never came back. Another seventeen years old sister sleeps all day. In the evening, she whispers with different people behind the slum and disappears for the night. She returns with a pale face and cheap cosmetics strewed all over her face. It’s only Asghar Hussein; his younger brother, one sister and his mother live in this small shade of the slum. They all work to survive. Asghar Hussein never went to a school nor he had a nice toy to play with.
Actually, Asghar Hussein does have a toy. It’s a tiny car, rusted and no wheels left. This city has several spots to dump trashes but only a small trash can stands in the middle of a huge pile of trashes. The city council is as corrupted as the overflowed trash can, and never bothers to solve this problem. Residents of this city freely throw trashes all around the trashcan, which is a diamond mine for Asghar Hussein and his friends. Often they find items that are rejected by others but precious to them. This is where Asghar Hussein found his toy, the only toy of his life.
Asghar Hussein smiles imagining an excellent dinner that he will have this evening. Volunteers of local Madrassa (Islamic religious school) are cooking nice food and the air is filled with aroma of spicy meat. They have erected a huge tent to accommodate hundreds of people and cylinder like loudspeakers are hanging from those tent-poles. Famous Islamic scholar Moulana Al-haj Mohammad Jalal Al-din Madani will deliver speech tonight. It’s an all night event and poor people will get a chance to eat some nice food.
Asghar Hussein runs after work. He will have to take a quick shower and there will be a long wait in front of the municipal water tap. This is the only source of water for the slum where Asghar Hussein lives in. Everyone takes shower, do laundry and drink form the same tap.
Event starts right after the evening prayer and serving free food to poor people. Asghar Hussein barely made it on time. Mr.Kamal Arif is the Principal of local college. He picks up the microphone and expresses his happiness for having the great Moulana in this occasion. He is a vivid reformist of Islam and national newspapers happily publish his articles. Mr. Kamal Arif often writes condemning the actions of Islamic fundamentalists. But today it’s not the place for singing the same song.
After introducing the Moulana (Muslim Priest), Mr.Arif bursts with anger and slams the Jews. He does not talk about child labor neither he mentions about planned family. Population boom of this country does not bother him at all. He has no sympathy for Asghar Hussein and Co., but he painfully describes the agony of Palestinians. Mr. Arif fumes with Islamic brotherhood and declares his solidarity with all Muslims of the world. Keeping his shameless face straight, Mr. Arif finishes his speech with a few more cursing and respectfully hands over the microphone to the Moulana.
Moulana’s opening speech starts with a long Sura (verse) of the Quran. His shrieking noise fills the night but the whole audience listens with pin drop silence, mesmerized by Moulana’s recitation. Moulana is an extremely influential person. People believe him more than their political leader or any other entity. Most of the people of this country live below property level, naturally majority of this audience is blue color labor and they are sitting on plastic papers. At the front, an area with a nice carpet is reserved for respected and educated persons like Kamal Arif, Chief Police Officer of this city, Government Executives and rich businessmen.
Moulana does not talk about child labor either, instead he recites verse 52.24 and describes how pearl like boys will serve drinks in the heaven!
Forget about population control! Moulana clearly disagrees with the notion of birth control. He brags about his beloved prophet and how he discouraged this Un-Islamic act. Moulana himself owns four wives and he is a proud father of twenty-two children. Two of his wives are expecting again.
Moulana continues his speech with different verses of the Quran. He recites Sura Al- Waqia and repeats verse 56.22 twice. It’s one of his favorite verses. Moulana explains how believers of Islam will be rewarded with beautiful women in the next world. Virgins with beautiful, big, and lustrous eyes will be waiting at the gate of the heaven. His own crude description makes him a little horny. Moulana pauses for a minute; shuts his eyes and comes close to orgasm.
The sever punishment for un-believers and Kafirs is another topic that Moulana describes elaborately. However, Muslims will always have an advantage over unbelievers. They may seek forgiveness from Allah and perform Haj to wipe out all of their sin. Those who cannot afford to perform Haj will be excused and their earthly sufferings will be compensated after death.
Chief Police officer feels a bit relaxed. Criminals of this town pay him more money than his usual salary. His conscious always bugs him for this heinous act. He plans to buy a few more property in this city and then perform Haj to clean up his sinful past.
All government officials sitting at the front row depend on bribe that consistently bothers them. Mr. Kamal Arif often manages money from college fund to meet his personal needs. He is also ashamed for his action of reforming Islam. They unanimously plan to perform Haj and ask for forgiveness from Allah.
People, sitting with Asghar Hussein feel lucky for being poor. If the sufferings of this earthly life assure excellent food and beautiful women after death, they won’t complain. They will remain poor happily and let rich people enjoy this stinking earthly life.
Leaning on the tent pole, tired Asghar Hussein was listening to Moulana, half-asleep. He asks himself, why Moulana does not mention about toys and milk in the heaven. Asghar Hussein loves drinking milk but he cannot afford to buy this luxurious drink very often. He tries to remember when was the last time he had a glass of milk?
No one cares for little Asghar Husssein! Moulana does not care! His Allah is too busy with heavenly Houries. Corrupted government of this country has nothing to offer. Intellectuals like Kamal Arif are seized by Israel-Palestine conflict and Asghar Hussein’s problem does not shake their ego. Businessmen are happy to having cheap child labor.
Moulana keeps entertaining his audiences with fables and takes them to a fantasy-land of heaven. Little Asghar Hussein falls sleep, griping his only toy with one hand. Sleek moonlight brushes off Asghar Hussein’s bare body and wishes she could do something for this little boy!