Coming across an ordinary Pakistani on the streets of New York isn’t that rare. If you would pay that strikingly beautiful city a visit, you’ll come across atleast one Pakistani walking by, rapidly conversing in Urdu, or a lady yelling at her child “Ruko! Bhago nahi, beta!”. It brings a warm feeling in your heart, a strange homesick feeling mixed with a patriotic pride which every day living in Pakistan rarely ever shows its face.
Earlier this year, a self-proclaimed reporter, Rehan, did come across a Pakistani by the name of Sadiq. Sadiq, seemingly ordinary at first glance had a beautifully complex story, the kind which makes you realize how others have a life as different and complex as your own, how others have their own stories to tell.
Sadiq, who’s father rides a donkey cart and who’s mother works as a local maid, starts off his story from his childhood, of how he was a part of the lower-class of the society – his daily job since childhood consisted of picking up trash and garbage off of the streets. According to him, he never made a good garbage-picker as his thirst for knowledge and education would make him read newspapers off of the ground during working hours.
He admitted he felt left-out, and like an “outsider” with people of his class not understanding his “weird” longing and love for education. But, he says happily, it’s the passion he had and the dedication which landed him in an actual school and now, Sadiq proudly states that he is the first person from his community to know how to read&write, and converse in English.
With school, Sadiq’s routine changed to waking early in the morning, grabbing his garbage bag and venturing off to pick up garbage and making money for his family. He would then return home, switch his garbage bag for his school one and happily make his way towards education. However, even in school, Sadiq was the weird kid who genuinely loved studying as compared to the other students who (like most students) groaned and whined at education – not to mention the fact that by his teachers and peers, he was considered “dumb” solely for the class/community or home he was born in.
This idea of Sadiq already being ridiculed and being considered dumb created a motivation in him and a thirst to now prove himself.
Amidst the interview, Sadiq exclaims, “I am feeling very emotional”, and smiles widely.
He continues: in 5th grade he was first introduced to the English language which was shockingly a new experience for him. In his initial stages, he began questioning the laws of English grammar denoting the concentration and dedication with which he was studying.
Sadiq later observed and learned how a man who speaks English is given an authority as opposed to a man who can’t. From then on, he set up his mind that if he learns English, society would treat him differently.
In 8th grade, Sadiq gave his first ever Board Examinations, topping his class with a score of over 600 out of 800, and was given a 300 PKR scholarship with which he bought his textbooks for 9th and 10th grade along with his uniform.
Sadiq says that the most beneficial factor of learning English was that now instead of picking up garbage in the morning, he started giving his classmates tuition, and earned his living by being a newspaper man and cleaning cars of the people his mother worked for.
As the years went on, the society perceived him as a different man, and along with the years, his immense thirst to acquire education grew.
He came to a point where alongside his course books, Sadiq began picking up other leisure time books and novels including Russian Literature.
He mentions of a novel he came across; Great Expectations by the famous writer Charles Dickens. Sadiq related and empathized with Dickens’ main character of the novel, Pip as Pip’s situation and life was eerily like his own.
Sadiq believes that the novel shaped him and made him understand the world more than he could’ve ever had without it. The book gave him hope to dream a little bigger, to imagine a little bigger, to confide in himself a little more.
Through the years, his life went on; he got his diploma in accountings, picked on several different sorts of jobs, started taking a keen interest and an active participation in social working.
“My whole profile took a 180-degree turn solely due to education”, says Sadiq.
His self-confidence and self-esteem shot up as well as his ehsaas-e-kamtari or inferiority complex started diminishing.
Just like this, he started applying for jobs at different places and at Lahore Consulate, he came across a woman named Catherine Ceaser, whom he first met at a social gathering, where Ceaser was blown away by his truly unique story.
Ceaser advised Sadiq to apply for a fellowship program of Emerging Leadership which was a big step for him. Sadiq asked Catherine to write him a Letter of Recommendation through which along with a total of 14 others from all over Pakistan, Sadiq was selected to visit America in 2012.
His visit to America opened up a new eye for him of the western side of the world, where he observed how responsible the citizens here were as all would fulfil their duty and right to vote for the Presidential Elections.
There were a lot of teachings in-store for Sadiq at America and through these he got a clear motivation and idea to develop mobile toilets for back home in the rural areas of Pakistan as observing since his childhood days how people lost their lives to easily treatable infections diseases such as Diarrhoea.
Sadiq is currently working on this dream, immensely motivated to help those he truly sympathises with and to help those who every year in large numbers loose their lives solely because their drinking water gets contaminated by the germs and bacteria of the infectious diseases, resulting in these diseases being life threatening or fatal; a truly noble cause and work.
On asking what he is currently doing in New York, Sadiq replies that he is one of the 18 members from all over Pakistan who were selected to work and solve the issue of plastic cups being disposed off on the streets which take up millions annually of the American Government to dispose them off properly at garbage dumps.
Sadiq, a child living in poverty,
A child with a dream and passion,
A child coming forward as a successful man,
A man with a huge respect towards education,
A man finding his solace and comfort in books,
A man forever learning.