The kids next door

It was an excruciatingly hot day, when the bell rang and I went to check who our visitor was. To my surprise, a very cute young girl about 4 years of age, stood there, staring at me with a smile on her face.

She said to me: ”Bibi! Pani chaheye!” (I want water)
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I let her in and I talked to her a bit. I found out that this smiley faced angel was the daughter of my neighbour’s gate keeper. They are a family of six people living next door to me in a servant quarter taking care of the huge house while the owners are abroad.

And thus, 14 years ago, I became Bibi to Zeenat, Rihana, Shaukat and Naida – my adorable babies! They each have a unique, animated personality. With my elder brother abroad, I was an only child at him and these children were now like siblings to me!

As the days went past we grew closer.  I used to spend time with them after I got home from school. I’d take them out for ice-cream (and I still do). I play games with them, take pictures and serve them lunch that I make myself! I taught them the English alphabets and words like hello and bye. They knew some Urdu, but Siraiki is their mother tongue, so teaching them a third language was a little difficult. But they did manage to learn with time.

I was young myself, and these kids contributed to my personal growth. Seeing them, I learned to empathize. I live this luxurious life while they don’t. How do six people even fit in a small room? I would look at my room, and realise it was a mansion on its own.

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I was deeply affected. I couldn’t sleep on a bed. I used to sleep on the carpet because I knew my babies were sleeping on a mattress. That’s how I found solace and it made me even more close to them. I felt entwined with them.

As I grew older I had to focus on my own education. I had them enrolled in a nearby school.

I am proud to say that soon enough my little angels became the brightest students I have ever seen! With the grace of God and thanks to my parents, I managed to pay for their tuition, uniforms and books. I even made sure they had transport to bring them to and fro!

As a medical student I soon got busier with studies and so did my kids. They used to bring me their homework for assistance at night or whenever I was free. I was amazed to see how they blossomed with education. How their minds grew!

I was most deeply touched when I started receiving these hand written letters of appreciation from them. They live just a few steps away. I cannot describe the bliss I had upon reading their innocent letters of thanking me to be their ”bibi.” I was humbled by their love.

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I never give them anything old and I never encourage anyone to give them old tattered stuff just because they are less fortunate! If someone wants to provide them something it has to be what they would like for themselves. Just like I give to them. I don’t even allow my mom to give them anything unless it is all equal in number/quality for the four.

I really want the eldest kid to thrive because she’s super talented. Not that the others aren’t. But she has that spark in her. She comes to me in her spare time and makes an effort to enrich her learning. She has initiative.

I hope and pray all my little angels go far in life. I keep my eye on them. I worry when I see how the world is – so unkind, violent, and prejudiced. Then I see their bright faces full of confidence, and the trust they have put in me – and that gives me strength.

This story has been shared by Xera Husayn

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