Dec 24, 2012 a quiet, laid back day, Boss away from the office, no pressing work, I sat in my office chair, legs fully extended, yawning like crazy while listening to Jeff Buckley’s rendition of NFAK’s halka halka suroor. Having read tweets from nearly two days ago till the previous minute, I had now started abusing the refresh button on the browser, but to my dismay, information wasn’t pouring in at the rate at which I was hoping it would. During one of these abuse sessions, I read a tweet from one of my acquaintances, FurSid.
Someone he knew, Halima, was asking people to pledge money so that she could go and buy presents for the less fortunate kids to make it a special day for them. I pledged my share and then a thought buzzed through my head. I got up from my seat and headed to the seat right next to mine, then the next and the next. Since time was short, I only headed to people I knew.
45 minutes later, I returned to my seat, with 18.5 thousand rupees in hard cash in my hand. People had donated with such a spirit that it made me feel proud of my colleagues. A more surprising fact was that these funds were the result of the donations of only 10 people. Meanwhile, having read my conversation on twitter, people from my wife’s office also donated money to her. The final tally was 21.5k. I let Halima know that we had a good sum of money as she set out to Bolton market to buy goodies for kids. Meanwhile, others had also pledged and donated money to Halima who had a sum of 19.5 thousand with her.
Within 45 minutes, we had managed to gather 41,000 rupees.
5 Hours later, a very tired Halima and her mother had exhausted the funds and we now had a car bursting at the welds, full of stuff to make goodie bags out of. After coordinating, we decided to meet over at my place to pack everything. I already had some friends coming over for a bonfire and had forgotten to warn them that I would be putting their packing skills to work. They were a huge support, and got to work without even asking. Here’s a big shout out to Faizan A. Laghari, Atya Faizan, Anahita Hashmani, Natasha Mahib, Halima Mansoor and my loving wife, Marium Fahad.
The 7 packers managed to create a chain and went to town on the supplies. Within an hour, we had neatly packed everything into the form of goodie bags, each one containing a white board, a bubble trumpet, a juice box, a packet of biscuits, a box of coloring pencils and a sharpener. Aesthetics had to be compromised on the bags as the ones which were pretty, were frail and would have served little after first use. The bags we used were sturdy enough that they could be used a number of times again.
250 goodie bags, that’s how much we made. Looking at them, I couldn’t help but feel proud and imagine the happiness that these would spread the following morning. I could nearly see smiling kids and happy parents. In case you can’t imagine quantifying how 250 goodie bags look like, here are a couple of pictures of all the bags in my lounge.
By the time we got done, it was nearly 1 am and we decided to call it a day after coordinating with some tweeps to help in the morning with the distribution.
Dec 25, 2012. I lay awake in bed, staring at the clock and waiting for the alarm to ring. Happy Birthday Muhammad Ali Jinnah, thank you for giving us a nation, but more than that; thanks for giving us an ideology and an identity. You are dearly missed and I hope what we’re doing today makes you proud, at least a little bit. I know it is not a lot, but I hope that we impact lives positively like you did. I hope that we as a nation have the capacity to do small acts of kindness in our individual capacity. Dear Jinnah, I hope we move ahead from mindless patriotism and see the essence of giving. I hope we make you proud one day.
The alarm now started to ring and the both my wife and I got up and ready to transport the packages to the cars downstairs.
2 cars, Halima’s and mine now filled to the brim with goodie bags were ready to depart for Azam Basti, near Defence phase 1 in Karachi. As I drove the car, I couldn’t help but feel as if I was on a sled. I started humming “Santa Claus is coming to town” only noticing it when my wife started to whistle along. It was a great feeling.
The 9 distributors reached St. ThomasChurch at Azam Basti at around 10:45 am. Morning mass was still in procession and to our amazement, they were reciting hymns in Urdu, and even more so, with original compositions. After talking to the police who were providing security to the church, we picked a spot for parking the cars. They even volunteered to keep an eye on the cars. We entered the church after going through a thorough search, one thing which amazed me was that no one asked us why we were here. What we were doing? etc. They just noticed that we had come to a church for the first time and guided us to where to take our shoes off and where the mass was held. Even though the seating was segregated, no one minded if we sat together in a group, no one interrupted us while we were taking pictures. Mind you, people are very touchy about their prayers, which ever religion they belonged to. But the people in St. Thomas Church were just happy that we were there, like they were for everyone else. My special appreciation for the ones who made it there: Amin ur Rahman, Ali Rahman, FurSid, Halima Mansoor, Marium Fahad and the young lads Shaamir Rahman and Aayaan Rahman.
The mass was due to end at 12:30 pm and we decided to set up shop within the time that we had. The police and the Church staff were very helpful in this as well. We were provided with rugs to put the bags on, and two tables to separate the receivers and the stash of bags. The helpers even gathered people who had attended midnight mass and weren’t due to come to the Church in the morning. At around 12:40 pm, we gave the first goodie bag to a young boy who sheepishly came with his father, all perplexed as to why he was routed towards these random strangers with bags. As he handed him the bag, and told him to look inside, he gave us a big smile and said thanks. Everything we did seemed worth it at that moment. The carrying stuff up two floors to my place and then carrying stuff down, the packing, the buying, everything seemed worth it.
We distributed around 200 goodie bags at St. Thomas Church amongst the kids at Azam Basti who made it to where we were stationed. We then divided the remaining stuff amongst the two cars and went to spread happiness on the street. Kids from Mehmoodabad were excited to receive gifts out of the blue as well. The biggest smiles however came from the kids who work all day long at traffic signals trying to get a little cash out by cleaning wind screens of cars that stop there and before we knew it, we were all out. It was a mix of both happiness and sadness. Happiness because we had managed to get some kids really happy. Sadness on the part that we hadn’t enough to give to all the children in Karachi
24 Hours ago we had started out with nothing but a sentence:
“If peeps honestly pledge money, I’ll go to Bolton Mkt in 1 Hour & buy pressies, distribute tom… Halima Mansoor”
A day later, we had spread a Million smiles all over Karachi.
That’s the Power of 45 Minutes, 41 Thousand Rupees, 5 Hours of buying, 7 people to pack, 250 Goodie bags, 2 Car-fills, 9 people to distribute, 24 Hours & a Million Smiles.
Here’s hoping that at least one of these smiles will help propagate a million more.