Last week I shared with you stories about the resilience and strife of some individuals that I met during my trip to Pakistan. This week, I wanted to share with you the stories of two other people who I encountered in significantly different ways, but both of whom managed to have a profound impact on me.

Integrity

The first story I want to share is about an encounter that took place in the span of less than five minutes. Although short in duration, it is one that I remember clearly because of how deeply it touched my heart. During a short trip to the city of Islamabad, my sister and I were walking around a market square. It was a calm and still night, the air slightly cooler and less humid than what we were used to in Lahore. The square had emptied out for the most part, with the occasional family or single pedestrian quietly making their way through, lost in their own thoughts or conversations. The sun was just setting, painting a tapestry of vibrant colours in the evening sky, serving as a peaceful backdrop to the shadowy silhouettes of the hills of Islamabad.

When we first saw the little boy standing on one corner of the market square, we were just going to make our way past him, moving on beyond his stall of origami-like trinkets without much thought or attention. However, something about his demeanour made my sister and I stop and take a closer look at his stall. What had caught our attention was the calm, peaceful, and almost timid disposition with which he attempted to conduct his business. Most children who sell items on the street in Pakistan try to approach passer-by pedestrians or at the very least yell out their best offers in an attempt to make a sale. This young boy however, simply stood there playing with his trinkets, displaying them with a quietness that spoke volumes. Struck by his tranquil manner, my sister and I wandered over and attempted to offer him some money to help his business. We stated that we weren’t there to buy anything because we wished for him to keep his items so that he could sell them to someone else and make a profit. However, as we extended our hands with the money, he quietly shook his head and looked at the origami fish he was holding. In a shy but simple gesture, the boy had indicated something that many people living in his impoverished condition might not think to do. He wasn’t willing to take our money unless we bought something from him in return.

Touched by his commitment to conducting a fair and honest business deal, we smiled and asked, “How much for the fish?”

“100 rupees,” he replied shyly but with a firm tone that indicated that he wouldn’t accept anything more or anything less. We gave him 100 rupees exactly, and went on our way, marvelling at this simple yet powerful display of integrity shown to us by a little boy selling colourful paper fish in a market square in Islamabad.

Loyalty & Respect

On a hot summer day in Kasur, a man about 5 feet in height walked in through the big white gate of my grandparents’ house. He wore a tan-coloured shalwar kameez and a docile smile that filled his face with the wrinkles that come with old age.

Inside the house with the white gate, my family was getting ready to head to Lahore for another day of meeting old relatives and friends. We heard a knock on the main door and my sister went to answer.

“Who’s at the door?” I asked her.

“Baba Ji,” she replied.

Baba Ji was my mom’s most trusted cook and helper in the kitchen, my father’s informal right-hand man, and our full-time baby sitter and caretaker. I remember him taking us to our weekly Quran-reading lessons. My sisters and I raced ahead on our shiny new bikes, indulging in the feeling of the wind blowing past you as you peddle a bike; oblivious to the 50 year old man running and panting behind us, asking us to slow down just a little so he could do his job and make sure that we remained safe. Baba Ji was a loyal and dedicated servant who demonstrated respect for my father and my family not just through his words, not just his actions, but through his character in its entirety.

Baba Ji came to visit us in Kasur and despite having worked for us about 11 years ago, the deep regard and love with which he met me and my family left a lasting impression on me. He had travelled all the way from his hometown, using his limited resources, just for the purpose of meeting the people he once worked for so many years ago. He shook my dad’s hand, embraced him, and simply asked him,

Saab [sir], please just come back, the time I spent working for your family, I have never felt a sense of belonging as deep as that, if you ever need me to do anything at all for you, I am here.”

Despite the 11 years of distance between us and Baba Ji, he spoke with the same deep regard and honesty with which he served us so many years ago. He remembered us and was willing to do anything for us. Baba Ji’s loyalty was a result of the kindness and respect with which my father had treated him. In my last post, I touched on the notion that simply treating people with this basic level of respect that is deserved by everyone can be incredibly powerful. Baba Ji’s unrelenting loyalty was yet another reminder of that realization.

Hope you enjoyed reading this, the last and final part to this piece will be posted soon 🙂

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