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A Cold December’s Night, and a Cold Heart To Match

It was a freezing December evening when the family went out to eat. Relatives from abroad had come to visit after nearly a decade of not speaking to each other, and things were still a little awkward between the two families. After the death of their parents from across the continent, the Canadian based family had come to Pakistan to fulfill the dying wish of their parents. It wasn’t exactly a dying wish, but more of a lifelong regret to not have fixed things between the families. Even before they had stopped speaking, the families had fought against each other for a long time before they had entirely lost contact.

In hopes of a reunion, and to introduce the newly married couple to the city, they took them out for a night on the town. A new restaurant had opened up – owned by a friend of the Pakistani side of the family, which made sense – and they agreed that the menu was worth trying. It was a combination of Turkish and Pakistani food, a fusion cuisine restaurant that promised the best of both worlds, and food to die for if the initial reviews of the restauranteurs had any truth to them.

The families bonded over the food, relaxing in each other’s company, and enjoying what was indeed a spectacular palette. They conversed happily and enjoyed the cold winter rain that had silently started to trickle down the windows of the frosted glass. The place was high end, perfect ambiance, and an emotional reunion to top it all off.

Dessert ended with the families monumentally pleased. The Canadians decided to review the restaurant on the spot, which pleased the manager to no end.

Pakistanis had never made a secret of their love for foreign people who came to visit the country and more importantly praised their culture.

omplimentary food was offered to the guests, which was not declined in case of any accidental rudeness. It was a win-win situation for everyone.

As was the custom, they couldn’t just go home without some Kashmiri chai, a favorite sweet pink tea, filled with a variety of delicious dry fruits. It was then, that the trouble began. They were sat inside of their car enjoying the drinks when a child appeared outside the window.

His dirty, ragged, rain-soaked clothes made it clear he was, a beggar, a street child, or both. He was hardly around seven or eight years old. One never knew with the street children, it wasn’t as if they received much nutrition for them to grow. He must have seen them all holding their hot drinks, inside of their cozy car, whilst he stood outside in the frigid rain.

He knocked on the window of the driver’s side of the car and spoke something no one could hear. The man in the driver was the patriarch of the Pakistani family, and he shook his head at the child. He was very much used to beggars – didn’t think any able-bodied beggar deserved his hard earned money – and if we’re being honest, a little perturbed at the sudden arrival of the guests. He had never liked associating much with his wife’s relatives unless it benefitted him in any way. It was all in the upbringing of course; he had to keep his wife and her relatives on their toes, and often took to brooding at their arrival, which kept decreasing in number precisely due to this sort of treatment.

The child, however, kept at it. This time, he pressed his bony fingers to the window. He took them off and repeated the motion. He left dirty fingerprints on the glass, and that was it for him. The teenage daughter of the Pakistani family cried out in alarm, as her father suddenly wrenched the car door open and stepped outside.

He grasped the poor kid’s shirt and drew him close, before smacking him hard across the face with such intensity that both the families inside the car flinched. A flurry of emotions crossed the child’s face; hurt mixed with confusion, longing, sadness. The one that stood out the most, was surprise. This was a new experience for the boy. So, strange, rich men left their cars in the cold because hungry children asked for food? Or was it because his dirty hands had stained the shiny, white car?

At that moment, trying not to think of his throbbing face, the child wondered; would he have done the same, if he too, was enjoying those drinks in his car, alone because he didn’t have a family, and got angry because some kid was dirtying his car? He didn’t know, because he couldn’t even comprehend the thought of having one hot meal every day, let alone fancy clothes, and a shiny vehicle.

So, now, with the prospect of never having enough to eat, and one side of his face hurting something fierce, thick, hot tears began to roll down his emaciated face. The man shoved the child away with a few expletives and got back inside his car as he began to drive away. His daughter was muttering furiously in the back, tears flowing down her own cheeks. She imagined herself, hungry, and barely clothed in the bitter cold, and shuddered at the thought of strangers beating her.

Nobody said anything as they drove back home. The man began to explain his actions, calling out the filthy little beggars, and parents who let their children wander, and beg as a profession. The Canadians finally understood why their parents had quarreled with this side of the family. The wife looked out from the window of the passenger seat, mortified at her husband’s behavior.

The rain showered down on the city, and the child’s tears fit right in.

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