Pakistan flood story 17: I Dream of Urooj

This is Urooj. She is nine years old. She was born in the villages of Jacobabad. Her father is a farmer. She has seven brothers and three sisters. She loves playing with babies and is so happy that her mother has given her a baby brother just last week. “I wanted a sister, but brother is okay too.” 

She has the biggest grin on her face as she watches us distribute the food. When an old woman comes knocking on our car window, Urooj is dancing in the background making twirling gestures with her fingers. “She’s crazy”, she mouths to me. “This old woman is crazy, ignore her, ignore her!” She lets out a peal of laughter when the old woman turns and swats at her.

She is a natural leader. Other children crowd around her. They follow her where she goes and sits when she sits. Even the older boys shush when she says shush. “They are excited because of the food,” she explains.

She loves cold cucumbers. When I tell her I will come visit her again, she says with a passion, with such an air of authority, its almost a command: “You must bring me cucumbers.” I really must. She has convinced me of the necessity of cold cucumbers in life.

She is disdainful of the management of her camp. “They say food will come, but it doesn’t. We got food only once yesterday. It wasn’t enough for everybody. What’s the point in lying to us?” I don’t try and explain the magnitude of the crisis to her but I admire her practical tone.

She announces her name to anyone who will listen. I ask her if she knows what it means. She hesitates and I fill in the silence “Rising, ascension, greatness, higher, up in the skies.” I keep adding synonyms and her smile grows wider and wider. She understands it is a powerful name.

When I tell her she is beautiful, she laughs. There is an acquiescent acknowledgement in that laughter. She has heard this before I am sure of it. I am scared she has heard this before. Right before I was leaving for the camp, I saw a news report about girls being abducted from the camps. But right now, this little piece of magic tugs at her lime green tunic and tosses her golden brown hair. I am breathless.

When I ask if I can take her picture, she crosses her arms in front of her, raises her chin proudly and smiles. I take a close up and then turn the digital camera around so she can see it. She frowns. “Take another one.” She steps back a few paces, out of the shadow of the car and into the sunlight. “Now take it.” She is pleased with the second result.

I tell her I must leave now. “Will you come again?” she asks, her smile faltering for the first time. I make promises that I only pray I can keep. She shoos the children back from the car. They have been standing with their noses pressed against the windows. The children run on to the next amusement, but she stays. She stands and she waves and waves and waves as we drive away. She has the biggest grin on her face.

There is something choking my heart. I feel like throwing my head up to the sky and howling. This is a smart, beautiful, interesting, sassy, funny little person. There must be thousands more like her. Will they spend the days of their lives living under two metres of cloth, waiting for food that never comes? In the right place, at the right time, with the right help, this girl could do wonders. Why her? Why me? What is fair, what is not? Is asking that question kufr? What can I do for this girl? Will it make a difference? What is the point of anything? I am angry and I cannot explain why.

I will be grateful for the opportunities and privileges of my life later. For now…I dream of Urooj.

Khuda tujhe Urooj aisa naseeb kare
kay rashk tere naseeb per falak kare
har more per farishtay hon saath tere
har gham par hifazat tairi Khuda kare…

-- This was written by a young woman Hiba, who visited a relief camp.
10 responses
Love this !! And the little poem too .. well, the part I understood anyway :)
Thanks for sharing.
Lovely story.
Thanks for sharing this and the other stories. You bring the experience to life and remind me to continue to take action where I can (and to fully appreciate many of the things that I normally take for granted).
Moving story. May God keep you smiling, Urooj. Here is the translation of the beautiful poem for those who cannot understand Urdu.

May God give you such destiny, Urooj
That firmament envy your destiny
On each turn, may angels accompany you
For each sorrow, may God protect you

If this doesn't motivate people to help, what will?
Its a real story how many will read and change their life and look to the others. Many are invisible people. Let us "Respond Generously and Boldly to People the World Neglects." Pakistan is in my heart always. I was a missionary for 15 years. due to ill health I had to leave. But my daily prayers go to children like Urooj. Let u be together with the suffering people. May God bless you " I Dream of Arooj"
Must appreciate urooj and lot of other kids in streets, looking for just one peace of bread. Some times i doubt that Food is a necessity or blessing....!!!!
iam happy that my name is urooj too .may god bless us .allah is great
keep smiling like this urooj.i pray for the kids
This was a lovely post! :)