Updated: Jun 25
| This is the 451st story of Our Life Logs |
My name is Shazia Hakeem and I was born in Lahore, Pakistan, in 2004, which makes me 15 years old as I tell you my story. People say I am smart for my age. I say the circumstances made me this way. I probably grew up too soon.
My childhood was a distressing one because we never had enough to eat or spend on ourselves. Since I could remember, my father has been weak and could not work much, though, he does garden for families when he is able. Still, that is not enough to provide for our family of six. For that reason, my mother worked in houses, cleaning and cooking mostly, to earn just enough for bills, medicine, and my brothers’ school fees. Yes, it’s true that my brothers were given more importance because it was assumed by my parents that they would grow up to be their backbone and would look after them when they’re old. Oh well.
There’s more to that story, you know. When I was about eight years old, we found out that I had a disorder called achromatopsia. This means I am colorblind. I can only see in black and gray. No reds. No blues. Nothing. Only the deep sketches of inky black and its lighter hues that give shape to my world. So that’s when my parents decided I should not be attending school. They decided that it would be a waste of time and money to send me to study. Perhaps they were sad for me. Perhaps they were happy that they’d get another earning member. I do not know. So, they decided to take away the right of education from me and give it to my younger brothers instead, who they thought deserved it more. To them, it made sense that I would join my sister in earning for our family. I didn’t even think to contest. We needed to eat!
When it was my turn to begin working, I looked to my sister. She was two years older than me and began cleaning and cooking as a maid in our neighborhood when she was just 11. She never went to school because my parents had no way to afford it for her when she was of age. Instead, she was pruned. She would follow my mother around everywhere, learning to scrub and scour the floors and drains and add the necessary spices to the warm dishes, just as my mother would.
I remember how my sister would come home so tired after a day of work. And yet, she would always play with me when she got home—especially back in the day when nobody really liked playing with me. We would stay outside and play Stappu and with marbles called Kanchay. We had a small world of our own where there was only happiness and nothing else. We have always been best friends.
So, I started working when I was 12. By then, I followed my sister around and learned in the same way that she did. I remember my first days on the job. While my sister was there to help point out the crevices and cracks that needed to be wiped and polished, I wasn’t very good on my own. When you see in shades of gray, it is difficult to recognize dust. Truly, my eyes do not tell me what is a dirty surface or a clean pattern. Unfortunately, the first few jobs on my own did not turn out so well for me because of this. One after the other; fired, let go, the like.
When I was that young, my world was so small. I thought that if I could not do this job right, then I could not do anything right. For, what else was in my future? Because I had trouble learning, I often cursed my condition. But I never stopped working. I found ways to help myself and I continued my skill.
With time, I learned and managed. We usually started our day at 7 in the morning which started with making breakfast for my brothers and my parents. After that, there was barely any time left for our breakfast, so my sister and I usually skipped it (I now attribute this to why I am so thin! I can pass for a ten-year-old girl, and often am mistaken as such!). Our work started at 8:30 am sharp and usually ended around 5 or 6 pm. My sister and I worked at different houses, of course, but they were pretty close by as we worked in the same society. Earning from a single house never sufficed, so, we had to work in three or four houses each day. Sometimes it was the whole houses’ chores and sometimes it was only washing dishes and clothes.
Still, I tried to find happiness in everything that I did, though I was bullied and made fun of by other kids who used to live in our area. They called me ugly, blacky, blind, and what not because of my appearance and my disorder. There’s no doubt that the other kids live their lives easier than I do, especially the children who live in the houses I clean.
It was hard to digest all that in the beginning but then I started enjoying it. Maybe because I accepted that this is how life will be and I have to live it no matter what.
Sometimes it takes another’s kindness to make a new path in our lives. It wasn’t until early this year that I saw a bright new path in my journey when I began working at Miss Lubna’s place. If not for her, I wouldn’t have imagined such a road to exist.
Miss Lubna is a school teacher who teaches English to high school students at the Punjab Society of Lahore. After she came to know about my story and my condition, she sat me down and told me that I could do much more. She made me understand the importance of education and independence and offered me her services regarding teaching.
Her kindness and generosity are overwhelming. She treated me like all the other kids who can study and do whatever they like to. I complete my work by 3 pm and after that, I spend two hours every day studying with her. I honestly do not know where this struggle would take me, but I do know that this is how one starts. The first step is always the hardest and even though this is already very, very late for me, I believe I will find my happiness by walking on this road. Better late than never; I’m now confident that I will get there. I will not let my condition deprive me of all the things I can have. I will not let poverty win. Soon, I will learn, and soon I will dream!
This is the story of Shazia Hakeem
Shazia grew up in a poor family in Lahore, where she was unable to attend school and instead had to go to work in order to help provide for her family. While working as a maid in several houses, Shazia began cleaning for a teacher who offered to give her lessons after she completed her work. Now, Shazia has sky-high aims. She knows her condition might create many hindrances in her way of achieving things, but she has always been very hopeful. Her spirits are mind-blowing and she wishes to become a teacher just like Miss Lubna. Miss Lubna will make her take the final exams of schools every year as a private candidate and will keep doing so till Shazia gets into a university. Shazia has already learned a lot, like writing her name, alphabets, and small sentences. She believes this is her biggest accomplishment. Shazia works in a house located in Punjab Society Lahore, and has been working there for a long while now.
This story first touched our hearts on August 21, 2019.
| Writer: Noor Pasha | Editor: Colleen Walker |