EID Of A Gypsy Family

Young Shaan.--Photo by Jamil Khan

What one family did this Eid!

By Jamil Khan

SEVEN-year-old Shaan has travelled all the way from a village named Gharibabad near Khaniwal in the Punjab. But they didn’t come to Karachi to visit relatives for Eid. They came because it is their traditional job over Eid to come down South to make some money. But they don’t actually sell or buy anything; no, their job is far more peculiar. On the roadside along Shahrae Faisal a group of young children are carrying water-filled pots on their heads. They cross the railway tracks to take a road that passes by some bushes away from the traffic and approach a small huddle of huts. Other small children are squatting the dust and playing with marbles while their parents work.https://jamilkhan.files.wordpress.com/2008/12/shaan-3.jpg?w=300&h=215
Shaan’s family, like several others, comes to Karachi each Eid to collect meat from charitable homes and mosques. They then take this meat home. But you must be wondering, if they are so poor how do they manage to take all the meat back? Trains don’t have deep freezers.
No, these families have come up with a far more ingenious way of gathering food. The women and children go out into the city and collect the meat, which they bring back to the place where the men have been building huts out in the open.
Shaan’s family, like several others, comes to Karachi each Eid to collect meat from charitable homes and mosques. They then take this meat home. But you must be wondering, if they are so poor how do they manage to take all the meat back? Trains don’t have deep freezers…
In addition to the huts, the men build rickety structures that look like ladders or a jungle gym. The women and children take the meat in the meantime and start cutting it up into thin strips which they then take and hang from the scaffolding the men have built. This may sound a little strange, but what they are actually doing is drying the meat under the sun. Perhaps you’ve tried smoked veal in a sandwich.
That’s sort of what this meat turns into. It’s dried and salted and then the women and children collect the meat and store the strips into bags, which they will take home for themselves. They manage to collect roughly 30 kilogrammes depending on how much meat they have received. Shaan, who studies in class two a state-run school near his village, comes to Karachi with his only sister and parents. His father works in a landowner’s field while his mother is a homemaker. They usually spend a couple of days in Karachi before heading back to their village with the meat. The meat they dry lasts them for up to six months, which is important because otherwise they are too poor to afford meat on a regular basis.
Shaan goes out in the city to collect meat from morning to noon and then goes back to help cut it and dry it. Most of the children, who travel down as part of these families are too poor to even go to school. So the next time you see someone asking you to donate meat on Eid, think of children like Shaan and lend a helping hand.
-Published in Dawn | Jan 29, 2005

 


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