Monday 27 December 2010


The above comment by Stirling Road moved me to do this posting, a detour from my train trip.

I am so pleased that the photo on my side bar touched him/her so deeply. It has done what I hoped it would do - to remind us of a "lonely world only the boy and the cat share".

In reply I would like to post  my encounters  with children  during  my travels in the 1980s and 1990s.

I remember our experience in Malaga (Spain)  sometime in the 1980s.  We were sitting and resting on a bench placed by the side of this big avenue watching a number of Gypsy children aged from 6-12 darting dangerously between and in front of cars  trying to sell some items to the drivers.  At times we flinched because these children were taking great risks in their attempts to sell their goods.

Then one of them, a little boy of about 7 came to us with a packet of tissues to sell.  We were sick and fed up of being bothered by touts on our holiday.  But  this was just a child and we had seen him dicing with death on the avenue.

We felt so sorry and sad.  Yes, Stirling Road we could not  hold back those sentiments.  But pity had no place in our thoughts because  it is patronising and condescending and arrogant.

We paid for the tissues and gave him much more than he expected.  We saw him run to his elder sister to give her the money.   Within a few minutes she approached us with more packets of tissues in her hands.  And we were aghast.  We're being taken for a soft touch - she's going to dump more of her stuff on us.  We should have realised these were Gypsy kids and they are canny and sharp.  Those were our thoughts.

There followed  a series of gestures between this English-speaking couple and the Spanish-speaking Gypsy girl.  We were saying 'no, no' and of course we could not decipher her retorts as these packets of tissue were being shoved between her and us.

Finally in exasperation she left the tissue-packs on our laps and ran off to join the others to carry on doing her 'job'.  It then dawned on us why she did what she did!  She was  giving us the tissues because earlier, we had paid more than we should.  She was not trying to sell us more.  She would only take money for what  had been  sold.  To her it was a straightforward business deal.  She did not want charity.  Or pity????

We felt ashamed of our doubts and our fears of these children .  They had more guts and honour than all the politicians in Spain or Britain or Malaysia  put together!

But  I must also confess to being insensitive and unkind to child-beggars.  I was waiting alone while the spouse had gone off to buy our train tickets  at Bombay's Victoria Railway Station. I soon  found myself encircled by a dozen or so small open hands begging for money.  They were moving their hands from patting their  stomachs  to pointing to their mouths and then to your face.  These were gestures of deprivation and poverty that I was confronted with, day after day after day,  during our trip in India.

I could not cope any more with these 'assaults' on my conscience, on  my sense of guilt and the  unremitting poverty of  the Indian sub-continent.  But more than anything else what angered me was the obscene  gap between the rich and the poor.   I put my hands to my head and yelled  " Go, go to Rajiv Gandhi!!".  He was the Prime Minister of India then.  And they all fled and I stood there in tears.

You see Stirling Road ,  I could not give them feelings of sadness or pity or encouragement.   I was enraged and furious at the INJUSTICE.  Why should these children suffer while others live in the lap of luxury? 

I felt the same for that child from  Pusat Tahfiz Amal.  I have given up on most cries for  "charity and love" for the poor and the oppressed.   Charity only gives the donor a feel-good  experience, like giving themselves a pat on the back.  Giving just love to the destitutes  is an insult to them and at times self-serving.

For as long as injustice prevails, when the rich and powerful amass wealth at the expense of the country and its people, everything else being done is marginal, like sticking a piece of  plaster on  an oozing gangrene.

Thank you  Stirling Road for your insight and compassion.  Your childhood is very much like that of  Jailani Abu Bakar (posting on 8 November)   and you both have turned out to be kinder and sensitive human beings.


Wan Sharif said...

Your statement "I have given up on most cries for "charity and love" for the poor and the oppressed"..
Wow that is difficult.
Looking in the BOOK.. I find these..
Say: "Truly, my Lord enlarges the provision for whom He wills of His slaves, and (also) restricts (it) for him, and whatsoever you spend of anything (in Allah's Cause), He will replace it. And He is the Best of providers."Surah Saba(Sheba):39
Make not thy hand tied (like a niggard’s) to thy neck, nor stretch it forth to its utmost reach, so that thou become blameworthy and destitute. "Surah Al-Israa':29
So at times although there is doubt .. I remembered that there was one good ulama who never let "those who ask" go empty handed.. So tawakkal aje lah..

anak si-hamid said...

Thank you Wan Sharif,

No, don't get me wrong. It's not that I have stopped caring or giving. I suppose I am more cynical about people with sob stories. We have had our fingers burnt several times just over here in KL, at the Pasar Tani and from seekers at our gate.

We are more careful so that those who are in real need will not lose out to the crook and the deceivers. It's not because we are niggards but we would like to know that the rezeki that Allah grants us is given to deserving cases and causes - and above all reaches those we intend it to reach.

I don't think I have the fortitude and commitment of your 'good ulama". Last year a man who claimed he was a refugee cleric from Afghanistan came to our gate. My nephew and I gave him two ringgit each. He took it, looked at it with disgust and walked off. I suppose we should have given him 20ringgit or 200?

We would rather give on a regular basis to proven bodies like Islamic Relief, Medical Aid for Palestine (MAP) etc. who we know, do a wonderful job in the bloodied parts of the Muslim world.

Years ago, it was easy to know who to give to. When I was a teacher it was easy to give to those in need. There was no such problem with 'professional' and crooked people (and organisations) who play and profit on your heartstrings.

Indeed I may miss some deserving cases but Insyallah I think many more have been helped by our scrupulous monitoring of the beneficiaries of the rezeki that Allah has given us.

Allah wa'lam.

But thank you dear friend for directing to me a point that needed elaboration.

Wan Sharif said...

I am glad with your elaboration..
what I wrote from the BOOK .. is my blog's header..
My wife was scolded a few time for giving a small donation by a man who practically came to our gate every week.. Until she saw that man driving a good car and in not so religious attire.. He realised then that she knew.. and never again came to our gate.
We have our share of those crooks and the deceivers.
May Allah guide us to His pleasure.

anak si-hamid said...

Insyaallah, Wan Sharif.

Stirling Rd said...

Dear AsH
Posted comment on 27th (mon) heran apasal dia tak keluaq.
I think it goes something like this :
Pls forgive me if my comments in any way upset you or your readers. In my book, you are definate, definately have a big heart.
To the INJUSTICE - there's heaven & hell (enough said)
To the INNOCENT - Short of opening an orphanage (sorry cher gurau2 aja), 'What a hardworking px / U hv beautiful smile/eyes' and sadaqa - even though its only a smile. Since this world is way diff than my childhood yrs - no touching or even a pat.
To the EXASPERATED - Which all of us is guilty of. Raise yr hands in mock surrender and scoot them off with a loving fake pleading. Nothing gives a kid a kick like a smiling exasperated adult.

Thank you AsH for all the lovely, lovely postings. It bring back memories & made me realise 'betapa kerdilnya manusia ini' (ewah ...)


I remember taking the 1am train from KL to Sin. The voiceover on the system says : Selamattt Dattanggg ke Perkhidmatannn kaami "Sheeennnnaaannndungggg Maalaammmmm" - Oh my Allah, my heart skips a beat & I fell in love with that voice. Lucky thing my hubby calls out ' U're comfortable?' . The heart still skips whenever I think abt that 1am trip with me sharing the top bunk bed with my 2yr old toddler.

anak si-hamid said...

No, no, no, Stirling Road, your comment did not upset me at all or anybpdy else for that matter.

In fact I'm grateful for your contribution as I mentioned in my posting. It gave me a window of opportunity to open a dialogue about my past experiences with children - at least those who were not in my care while I was a teacher.

Enjoy your train trips and do more with your child to give him/her beautiful memories. Heaven knows what their world will be like in 50 years' time.

And once again thank you.

Hope to 'see' you again!

Awang Goneng said...

We are but strangers on the road, the more reason for us to make friends, not to bomb them to smithereens or send drones to burn them in their wedding dress. We are different so we may enjoy our differences not niggle about this or that mismatch. We are all going in one direction, and the best ones are not the richest or the most powerful but the kindest and the one who remembers Him most in whatever he or she does.

May I wish you both a blessed and happy new year. May the next one be better and happier than the last.

Anonymous said...

Hello. Happy New Year to all.

Had the same experience when I was in London. It was my last day in LHR, I was at one of the Underground stations with a friend. Then came a young English girl with a baby in her arms asking for money. So without thinking, I gave her all the little pieces of shillings that I accumulated to her. Guess what I got? A big scolding from her infront of other commuters. It was sincerity on my part, the pieces of shillings were a handful. It may not be 50 pounds but at least it was something. She could buy fish and chips or a drink etc ...I was flabbergasted, today I dont donate to these kind of people freely. I choose who I want to donate and I do that either directly or via a reputable and honest NGO.

- Pinggoo

anak si-hamid said...

Dear AG,

Thank you for a philosophical reflection on life past, present and future.

It's a hard road to travel for most of us and every little thought of consideration and kindness matters. My main wish is that the young ones will look that far and care for the world's future.

Many happy wishes for 2011 for you and yours from us.

anak si-hamid said...

Thank you Pinggoo,

Happy to know someone out there thinks the same.

It's a shame that we have to be scrupulous about who we donate our money to.

Modernisation and corruption goes together.

shsuya said...

Your anecdote about the Spanish girl trying to give you your money's worth struck a chord of remembrance. I once encountered this wheelchair bound young man selling handmade birthday cards for $2 each. I didn't have any small change and quite rudely (I must admit) shoved a $10 note in his hands and walked off. He called out after me quite urgently and despite my hesitation, I turned back. He looked me in the eye, held out my note and said "I cannot take your money. You must buy my card" Immediately impressed by his good principles, I said ok I'll take one card and you keep the change. "No", he said,"Each card only costs $2. Please help me to take 5" He may not have legs to stand on but he stood tall with integrity. I still carry around one card with me as a remembrance to this young man.

anak si-hamid said...


Thank you for your touching story. I know exactly how you feel. You wish someone would come and kick you in the back for harbouring such unkind thoughts.

In life, we tend to neglect and generalise about people who try to do something about their plight and their hardships. There are a few conmen and conwomen but we have to try not to tarnish them with the same brush.

Thank you once again for your comment. I'm glad there's someone else other than I who have committed such an unkind act.

Irwan said...

salam Tuan ASH,

I was mesmerized after reading this article. Hope you don't mind me recommending this entry to my blog's readers..(will be published around 3 pm today)

Thanks in advanced

anak si-hamid said...

Dear Irwan, thank you.

Go ahead and use this posting if it may open our hearts to those who are deprived and forgotten.

Just a little note. AsH is Maznoor binti Abd Hamid.