Colourless Life

January 22, 2015 OPINION/NEWS




Khadeeja Sarhadi

In this world different colours are spreading. These colours are those who could touch and feel it but beyond our colourful world there is another which is silent and hidden from our eyes.

We are either moving away from that world or neglecting it. This is the world of those who every night paint a dream but with the first ray of sunlight, the harsh realities haunt them.

There is a multitude of news stories on them, renonwed people exploiting their lives by giving different speeches, but at the end of the day they do nothing to change their lives. They are the kids who pick food from litter or sell flowers or balloons, their world revolving around meals. They are invisible, passing through us seemingly, but we never learn about them; only after their deaths, a dead body becoming newsworthy. Of course my words will be taken as an emotional outburst and will lose their impact and just become empty words.

This was the world of Rizwan. Sometimes when I feel lonely I look up at the sky and say in my heart to him “are you listening,” and tears roll down my face. In my childhood the brief moment I shared with him is a precious memory for me. I want you to join me in my journey to the painful past where I share little glimpses with the balloon seller.

I was in first grade and usually came home from school at one o ‘ clock. It was walking distance and, on getting back,  I went straight to the kitchen where my mother was cooking. I sat in the corner and was sharing details of my daily activities when all of a sudden I heard the voice of a balloon seller, my first encounter with him. I rushed outside and saw a number of balloons, all of beautiful colours. I then went back inside to get money from my mom and went out again just as he was passing our door. I called out to him “hey balloon seller, give me a balloon,”  then he came closer and I realised he was limping;  one of his leg was cut down. Suddenly my world stopped for  a moment and I could not utter a single word, but then he gave me a balloon.  I then came inside, but for some reason felt uncomfortable. My mom asked me to eat lunch but I refused to eat and went upstairs and started playing.  From that day on I could not stop thinking about him.

The next day I went to school but could not concentrate. As the bell rang I ran towards home and started to wait. I then heard the voice and ran towards the door and asked him to give me a balloon. He asked about the colour and I told him that I liked yellow. I asked his name and he told me it was Rizwan.  He was barely fifteen years old.  I told him my name and asked about his family members, telling me that he was the only child.  We then talked about my family and soon became quite close to each other. I asked about his leg and he said that it was a hit and run accident. I said that there was no need to worry as I am there for him. My relationship with him soon began to grow as that of real siblings.

From that day on I started saving my pocket money and bought balloons from him, which I never needed, but wanted to help him somehow.  Every day we shared our thoughts and laughed together, at this time I started teaching him, being a very keen learner.  I told him it was my dream at that moment of becoming a teacher, saying that one day he will  join me in my school.

My life was suddenly moving really fast as I had been gifted the companion who listened to me, but it was a very short happiness. Rizwan became sick, something I had not been aware of for a few days as I waited in front of my house for him but he did not come. The reason we were close was that I felt sorry for him and also because I missed my younger brother who lived in this world for just four days and latter passed away, so somehow I felt Rizwan as my real brother.

One day after coming from school I learnt that Rizwan was really sick and was in great pain. At that moment I prayed to God to please take him away. A day passed and the next I went to school and, after coming back, heard a voice from a mosque announce a death over a loudspeaker, as is custom in Muslim countries so that people learn of it and attend the burial, it being our sacred Muslim duty. My mom came back and I asked who died, only to be told that it was the person who sold balloons. I became frozen as my mom started telling me and was unable to hold back my tears, crying without a voice as I was very young at that time, it being hard for me to accept death.

I cursed myself for praying that night and could not eat the next day as I waited for him at the same time, but he did not come. After that I lost my laughter and my world became so sad. I could not share my sorrow with anyone, at the same time feeling guilty. Then for the next month I started writing letters to Rizwan:


Dear Rizwan

I hope you are living somewhere happily. My days are just moving towards weeks but my life has stopped. Are you happy there? You must be living in Paradise now that you are not limping anymore. Please let me come to you, I am lonely, and please forgive me, your sister is just another weak person. I cannot win against this world, this cruel world that took you away from me.

Please forgive me,

your younger sister….


I then went in to a deep depression, experiencing something at that very young age which took all my happiness. Later I wanted to go to his grave but never learnt where it was. Time flies like that but his memories haunted me and I then began to write stories and poetry, but in all were filled with him the hidden shadow. I then did  my O levels and moved towards  graduation and a Masters, but my goals changed and decided not to become a teacher, but in my every success Rizwan was there like a brother. At night before closing my eyes I talk to him and say good night and still long to see him. Sometimes I think that I am too emotional but want to save all those children like Rizwan who are living without any identity. That’s why  I wrote poetry.

Why I decided to  unravel this story is a secret to my family except my brother who is very close to me. I saw a documentary about a child who picked from litter to provide himself with meals and was living without a family, sleeping under the sky and invisible to us. His  name was also Rizwan.  This forced me to once again start writing so please let us join our hands together and save them.

Don’t take my words as a lecture, but feel them with your heart. My story is dedicated to Rizwan. Thank you for sharing your precious time with me.





Khadeeja Sarhadi

Khadeeja studied at the Fatima Jinnah Womens University in Rawalpindi, Pakistan where she recently completed a Master’s Degree in Defence and Diplomacy.


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