June 24, 2011
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The morning sun shined through 11 year old Zaheer Khan’s slum, waking him up to a bright day. He never really needed a morning alarm clock. Every morning at exactly 5 30 am the roasters in his tiny slum would crook, colorful and weirdly decorated mini buses and rickshaws would start passing by his place nosily and the ever shining sun would surpass the thin fabric that stood as somewhat of a curtain.

That morning, Zaheer got up rather lazily. The slum was crammed with too many people as usual. On one corner of his little room slept his brothers Amir and Ragib, and the rest of the space was occupied by his parents. Zaheer usually curled up in the little space left for him and would wake up with a backache every morning.

The rest of Zaheer’s family stirred in bed rather than getting up immediately that day. Everyone had got little sleep during the night because of the constant sounds of bullet shots and long spans of power failure. Zaheer however had become immune to the situation long ago and did not let it bother him when it was time to sleep. Hard work usually has that effect on people.

Although he lived in an area full of slums, most of Zaheer’s young neighbors went to school. He was unlike them in this sense. Every morning when the boys in the neighborhood would slip into their school’s shirts, pants and shiny shoes, and the girls would wear their kameez and shalwars and tie their hair into two braids to make a long walk to a broken down building that they called school, Zaheer would wear his same shabby outfit and walk towards the streets. He wanted to join his friends at school, but he knew his father needed someone to support him financially and that they could not afford buying uniforms, books and paying tuition fee. That is why he opted to find a job, and was successful in the endeavor after two months of searching. He finally found a job at a cement-making factory. He was obligated to reach the working zone at 8 am and would finish after 10 hours of hard labor. While working, he would help in unloading limestone, gypsum and shale. After about five hours, Zaheer would go on his lunch break and would eat dry roti – bread with a cup of tea, with rarely anything else to swallow it down. After that, he would run back to work and would monitor the raw materials in a brick kiln.

It was hard work and it did not pay a lot either. The daily wage was just enough to buy around 7 pieces of roti, which was barely enough to fill the stomachs of his family. The only thing Zaheer liked about working other than the fact that it helped his father was the fact that he could talk around with another young worker, Kazim. Kazim was the only friend Zaheer had which is why he was dear to his heart. His friend was under less pressure. Kazim had two older brothers who were studying and were about to qualify for well-paying jobs. Zaheer did not have any one like that.
The morning after the gun shot sounds and power loss, everyone at work was quite grumpy. Every thing Zaheer said caused irritation. He got screamed at almost 5 times within one hour for no particular reason and on one occasion, someone struck him hard on his face. To top it all off, Kazim was nowhere to be found. Zaheer was disappointed but he helplessly continued to work.

At noon, he found sahab (the supervisor) reclining against the metal poles outside the working area and Zaheer walked upto him. Sahab was Kazim neighbor and if anyone, it was he who woud know why Kazim wasn’t around.

“Where is he?” asked Zaheer, “It’s past noon and he is still not here!” Sahab’s eyes widened at the question. “Beta, my son, don’t you know?” he said, “Kazim quit his job. His brother finally saved up enough to get them out of the slum and into a nicer apartment. Kazim will be starting school soon. Bless the child.”

Zaheer was shocked. Kazim, his only friend, was gone. He was starting to live a better life free of child labour. He was going to start school. He was going to start having peaceful dinners with his family without any tension. He was beginning a new life. He was, in other words, getting everything that Zaheer coveted. It hit Zaheer harder than the slap on his face earlier that day, that everyone else would move on sooner or later. They would succeed and get chances to live better lives.

Zaheer slipped down against the metallic pole, gripping on to the Karachi soil in the scorching heat, with a hungry stomach and heavy heart. “This is how it will remain,” he looked around the factory boundaries. He knew that no matter how fate would twist for the world, this would remain Zaheer’s one and only future. He was not going anywhere further than this. “This is is my life.” A tear slipped down his cheeks.

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This article has 12 comments. Post your own now!

xelawriter97 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 21, 2011 at 7:44 pm
Awesome job!!! The ending was a total, unexpected twist and I LOVED it!!! :-)
emanmkhan said...
Jul. 18, 2011 at 6:43 pm
The irony is that Zaheer in Urdu means "bright and shining", but his life does not reflect the same. I love how you put your stories in the setting of Karachi, Pakistan (my mother was born there) and express the pain and suffering of those who are not lucky to live a good life. Great job! I'm looking forward in reading more of your well written stories.
Bushra G. replied...
Jul. 19, 2011 at 3:23 pm
Thanks. :)
Delictious said...
Jul. 17, 2011 at 7:38 pm
The ending was really cool, wasn't expecting that at all! I like how you use not so common names, and set it in Pakistan. Do you live there or is that just where you like to set your stories? I think it's interesting :D
Bushra G. replied...
Jul. 18, 2011 at 12:17 am
Yes. I used to live here in the states but then moved to Pakistan. Things there are extremely different. A lot of suffering. I try representing the people in my writing
WritingSpasms said...
Jul. 17, 2011 at 7:32 pm
You really do have a huge amount of talent! The ending just blew my mind. There have been spots where some grammar mistakes could be corrected, but other than that there's nothing I could point out. Well done! :)
Bakhtawer said...
Jul. 17, 2011 at 1:23 pm
this is a very common issue but the way you narrated it was very beautiful to be honest you set a life in to the story by the tiny things which made a great picture all together.great work mate
Gayl31 said...
Jul. 13, 2011 at 6:22 am
A great read and his resignation to his situation at the very end has a powerful impact. Check your grammar in some cases but otherwise an amazing story. I second ArgonElement that it definitely is an eyeopener. Well done :)
ArgonElement said...
Jul. 8, 2011 at 10:05 am
This story has such an impacting message. It is an eye opener for me and I'm sure others as well. Very well done.
Tooba said...
Jul. 8, 2011 at 8:29 am
Amazing read. A very candid portrayal of how crude life is on the other side. 
CarrieAnn13 said...
Jul. 7, 2011 at 7:18 pm
This is a chilling story, but I felt like you were telling it rather than showing it.  You give a lot of information in a very short time and it can get boring for readers.  Maybe next time you could have a little less descriptions and a little more action/dialogue.
Zinaidia said...
Jul. 7, 2011 at 5:47 pm
Whoa. That was.....amazing. It wrenched my heart, especially the ending. VERY good job here, I love the amount of imagery you use. Just double check grammar. Otherwise, GREAT JOB. You have some talent. Also, very interesting topic!
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