It happened on a lovely April day just about 100 hours ago…when I just got home from school (school as in, UNHAS). As I went through the routine – got off my battered new bike, unlock the gate, got on the bike again, park it in the teeny tiny porch (if it could ever be called one)…the next thing on the list is that I was supposed to be re-locking the gate. But, surprise surprise…I didn’t get to that part.
Instead…I heard a wail. It wasn’t like that of a banshee’s or the one we saw on that Pontianak-Harum- Sundal-something movie where the Pontianak was screaming/crying on the top of her lungs and irritating the hell out of the viewers’ over-sensitized ears. No. This was of a kid. So I got off the bike and started looking around the neighborhood’s perimeter. But still no sign of a crying kid, though the wail had started to increase in a crescendo. It was only a minute later that I finally saw the responsible party that was the cause of it all… It wasn’t exactly a party though. Nah, it was nothing really. At least, nothing unusual on a sunny, slightly warmer April noon on a typical day in BTP housing area, Tamalanrea, district of Makassar, Sulsel, Indonesia. Huh.
The ‘wailer’ was just a small boy, probably seven or eight, but could be older since kids around here were generally smaller than others their age. He was thin, a bit tanned, and barefooted. And he was carrying this gigantic sack on one of his shoulders. This wasn’t just your normal 5kg or 10kg rice sack or something similar belonging to that category of sack. Read the following in a slow-motion kind of way…It was a 25kg rice sack, filled almost to the brim with God-knows-what (I was guessing junks and scraps that could possibly be recycled or sold for an obnoxiously and ridiculously low price), carried by a malnourished eight year-old boy on one of his tiny shoulders, who was barefooted, on an unusually hot April afternoon…and he was crying his lungs out. It wasn’t just your normal, run-of-the-mill, standard ‘I’m so sad I want to die and never come back’ cry. Nope. It was nothing like it.
This boy just squared his shoulders (Only that he couldn’t because of the massive weight of that thing), walked straight ahead…and wept. He wept with all of his heart and as long as his maximum lung capacity could support him. Bottom-line: he wept so brokenly… long and hard. And because I’ve never seen that sight before in my life, I was entranced: practically nailed to the spot where I was standing. My mind was in a rush. Why didn’t he stop by and ask something from me like others did? Why was he weeping? Was he tortured into carrying that thing? I’m going to buy him a pair of sandals…I think I’ve got some scrap papers and plastics in the kitchen for that kid…Has he eaten? Where is he heading to? Damn, who did this to him???
I swear if someone measures my brain activity at that particular point of time, it would rival that of a genius, world-class mathematician who is busy solving a complicated math problem that only other similarly genius, world-class mathematician could ever think of making. But the irony was, I was entranced and frozen where I was. I couldn’t move even an inch. It was as if I was trapped in a time continuum and everything else moved except me (At least it happened like that in the movies). Only a few dozen seconds later that I could finally shook off the stupor. But by that time…he was already very far that he couldn’t possibly hear if I scream for his name. But still, I tried anyway. “Adek! Adek!” I called him so many times while both my arms engage in a motion like that of an ophthalmologist testing a patient with possible eyesight of 1/300.
What was I thinking? Of course he couldn’t hear me. But even if he could, for all he knew, I could be a psychopath (What with the screaming and the weird hand motions). So…seeing that it was obviously a futile attempt, I quietly locked the gate, unlocked the door, re-locked the door, slide my helmet off, went into my room and stole a glance at the full-length mirror on the wall. But…surprise surprise…my eyes were slick with tears. And my throat felt awfully hurt from screaming and trying to deny a cry that’s obviously making its presence known. Where the hell that comes from? And when? But it doesn’t matter anymore. Big deal. A poor, barefooted, malnourished, weeping kid carrying a weight twice his size happened to pass me by and I just watched him go. Well, next time I’ll be more prepared. I’ll keep some food in my bag in case I found him/ others like him again. I’ll even keep some change handy, just in case.
But in the mean time, I’ll just be thankful that I’ve still got some oxygen for my vital cell functions, a roof over my head, a pair of sneakers to walk on the sweltering road, some food to eat whenever hunger calls…and a little bit of money to carry me through the following weeks. It’s easy to forget simple but priceless gifts in the presence of so many obstacles, pain, complications, heartaches, heartbreaks, and headaches that He continuously put us through.
“…but we seized its people with suffering from extreme poverty (or loss in wealth) and loss of health (and calamities), so that they might humble themselves (and repent to Allah).” (Al-A’raf:94)