Two Brothers

By Sahir Palijo

I live in Hyderabad, Sindh and at around 9 PM I entered a local store to buy some household items. I started picking up the stuff I wanted and when I was done I asked the store manager to prepare my bill, while I waited, two boys, most probably brothers because they kept calling each other ‘Bha’ which means Brother in Sindhi, entered the store. The eldest one was around 10 years old while the younger one must be 5 or maybe 6 years old.

The eldest one wore a blue Shalwaar Kameez with dirt marks on it while the youngest one wore a pair of torn faded jeans and a shirt which missed buttons and was larger than the boy’s actual size. Their hairs were all messed up and they weren’t wearing any footwear.

They entered the store with the little one carrying a Rs.20 note in his hand, his brother kept asking him in Sindhi “Tokhe cha khappe?” (What do you need?). The little one headed towards the refrigerator and picked up a bottle of mango juice and handed it over to his elder brother who asked the store manager “Ada, He gharne jo aa?” (Brother, how much does this cost?), the store manager told him that the juice bottle will cost him Rs.25. The elder boy told the younger one that it cost more money than they had. The little one, with a sad face, kept the bottle back in the refrigerator and picked up a juice box when the store manager shouted that that one will cost them Rs.30. The young boy looked at his brother and asked him “Bha, diss biya paisa ahen.” (Brother, check whether you have more money), his elder brother rolled out his pockets and indicated that they were empty.

The shopkeeper was done with preparing my bill and after I handed him the money I collected my goods and headed towards the exit, but something forced me to stop and watch what the two brothers were up to. Maybe, it was the guilt of not being able to help them or the fact that millions of children have to live through such situations every day. Whatever it was, it managed to stop me and made me watch how life was with the underprivileged and it was all transpiring in a local store.

The young one after going through the entire refrigerator ended up picking up a juice box. The elder one handed the shopkeeper the Rs.20 bill and walked away with his little brother’s hand in his. As they were passing me by I could see their faces wreathed in smiles and that too only because of a juice box (something that means nothing to us, the affluent ones) but it meant the world to those two children.

I realized how these two didn’t really care or had any idea about politics, the game of thrones, and the struggle for power. The two brothers didn’t know how many corrupt politicians had won countless votes in their names, how the government had failed them by not providing them with shelter or education, how our rising leaders had failed them by not going the extra mile for their wellbeing and by instead choosing to play safely to protect their own interests and how I had failed them by remaining silent and by allowing such terrible things to happen.

The two brother started walking out of the store while the youngest one inserted the straw in the juice box and offered his elder brother the first sip which he obliged to reluctantly. I continued watching them, still standing near the store’s exit, until they disappeared into the dark street leaving behind a clear picture of Pakistan’s failure.

  • Salim Alvi

    Let us sip small free things – fresh air, clean water. The juice creation and transportation corrupted itself and also the air and water. It all started from corrupting our minds which made refrigerated drinks “cool” just as we made or Bedouinized Semitic names as cool and started hating everything native. We have paid so long and so heavily for this mental slavery.