My mother-in-law is well aware of my roadside-french-fries addiction, and unlike most people, she allows me to indulge. In fact, she would often get me a box on her way home. And even now, she buys me a box whenever I am visiting.
I was visiting her for lunch and was ready to head back home. I t was about 7pm; I had booked my ride, and as had a few minutes to spare, we decided to buy me fries from a nearby hawker.
As soon as we reached Mr. French Fries and placed an order for a box-to-go, a girl of about 13-14 appeared out of nowhere, begging for money for food.
I hardly ever hand out cash to beggars. Also, I had noticed an alarming increase in the number of child beggars in Karachi this time. And boy are they persistent! The other day, I asked one to leave me alone and he said, “you give me money and I would leave you alone.” It’s like being bullied by a pre-teen!
This little one was equally persistent. I looked at her, and told her that I can buy her food. She agreed. There was a tandoor right next to the hawker, which had a variety of sheermals.
“Which one would you like?”
She pointed towards the one at extreme right. I asked the guy to pack two.
Just as I was about to pay, another little girl emerged from behind me, with a surly expression.
“I don’t want to eat that. I want puri!”
I looked at her, equal parts stunned and amused, at her demands. She couldn’t be more than 7, but the firmness in her voice made me listen. One, I had no idea who she was. Two, did she just invite herself to the party? Three, she was so young and her pouty resilience was borderline cute.
By then, my Careem driver was already waiting for 5 mins. I looked around and found no puri wala.
“This is what we have. Don’t throw a tantrum. Please sit and have it,” I urged, to no avail. She stomped her feet, gave her alleged sister a deathly glare, and walked away. I was left astounded. And then I chuckled. I was just walked out on by a 7 year old.
I got in the car and went back home. Karachi and its residents have an attitude like no other, and this girl was as Karachi as it gets. She maybe in rags but her attitude confirmed that she owned her own tiny kingdom. And no one feeds a princess sheermal when she wants puri!
Ah Karachi, you are such a distinct beast.