Sweep it under the carpet!

  • 04 Sep - 10 Sep, 2021
  • Ayesha Adil
  • Fiction

Bang… bang! I was shot on my chest. For a minute I didn’t know what hit me. I looked down and saw the blood oozing onto my white shalwar kameez. That’s when I knew what happened. I started to tumble and fall. People began to scream around me. I could feel my helpless body falling on the ground. I was carried into the car to be taken to the hospital. Will they save me? I closed my eyes and faded into a deep slumber. I began to dream.

“Work harder and faster, you swine! I didn’t buy you to feed you. I bought you so that you work! Now work you little worthless piece of trash.”

With that my boss kicked me hard on my back. I winced. It didn’t hurt as badly now as it did before. Maybe I was used to it. The boy next to me was new. He started to cry when he was slapped across the face for working slowly.

“Look,” I whispered. “Stop crying or else it will be worse. I know it’s really hard but if you keep your head down and do your work they won’t be so cruel to us.”

I kept my hands moving or else I knew I would get another blow. But the little boy next to me was going to get into trouble, I knew that for sure. His whining didn’t stop. That’s when boss came and dragged him outside to give him a good whooping. We could hear his screams. I froze for a split second remembering the times I had to suffer too till I knew what to do to remain unspecified. That’s the only way I could be safe.

It had been over a year now. I was four years old when my dad sold me into slavery. He needed the money to help mom. We didn’t have any money for her treatment. And I was the chosen lamb to the slaughter, my life had no meaning and I was sold off into slavery.

Mom cried and dad told her to be quiet. This was the only way.

“I’ll buy him back. Don’t worry. When you’re healed I’ll make enough money and get him back. I’ll bring you back home Iqbal. Don’t worry.”

And I believed him. At the age of four there was no other option really but to believe him. I really thought I would be gone for a few weeks, a few days even. But when weeks turned into months and months into years I realized that I had been forgotten. I was a slave, bought but my owner to please him. And he did that exactly. Starved, burnt, sodomized and beat brutally. I would be forced to down alcohol as a punishment.

I would often be drugged to make me pass out so that I would be alert to work an entire 2 to 3 days after that. I was a slave at the carpet weaving factory, famous for its hand-made carpets all over the world. The irony. These carpets were made out of my sweat and grime. These carpets that would endow the floors of the rich and famous all across the globe were made by my grubby hands that were unwashed and soiled.

The carpets that are loved internationally are mostly made in Pakistan. They are held as precious and exquisite pieces of art. But a lesser known fact is that most of them are made by underage kids. That didn’t really matter did it? The only break I got was to use the bathroom or to eat; that too a few morsels of flat bread with a watery concoction that was called our dinner.

A few years along the way I didn’t even remember my parents’ faces. I wasn’t even sure if they were alive or whether they had sold me and left the village for good. And honestly I didn’t even care. I just wanted to keep my spirit from breaking so that one day I would escape this hell.

I wanted to save Hamza and Ali and Joshua but it was only one person that could get away. I would come after them, I promised myself.

And I planned my escape. Every night we would be shackled before we were told to sleep. Sleep came as a reprieve. At least some of the pain would subside. Then our legs would be shackled together.

I feigned an illness right before boss came and I began to retch. I was sent to the bathroom where I stayed for too long a time. Someone did come and yell for me to come out but I just continued making sounds of gaging and vomiting.

I heard boss yell at one of the youths who kept an eye on us to be sure to lock me up when I came out. I knew Babur would get busy with his cellphone and would forget about me.

When I was sure that everyone outside had either slept or became too drunk or drugged to take notice, I came out and ran away from the gate. It was dark and I was afraid but I kept running till I reached a town.

I was rescued by members of an NGO that protected the rights of children and helped free slaves. I came back for my friends and exposed the people behind carpet weaving industry. I made a lot of people angry. I wasn’t afraid of death. I was only afraid of failure.

At the age of 12, I began talking about my ordeal at international forums that helped my cause and protected the future of many kids who were suffering like I did. It’s only natural that I made enemies.

But I did stand up to the never satisfied money grabbing idiots of the world. I did fight against them. I made a difference, before they shot me I had already made a difference!

My journey was painful but I believe God chooses His most loved and gives them the energy to make a difference because it’s a mighty heart that can bear this burden.

I not only freed myself that day I escaped but thousands others and I left behind a legacy of change.

The story is dedicated to Iqbal Masih who received The World's Children's Honorary Award 2000 posthumously, for his struggle for the rights of slave children. Iqbal became a debt slave at an early age, for the owner of a carpet factory who then sold him on. Once free; He started attending the Bonded Labour Liberation Front (BLLF) school; which helped him in his cause. Iqbal was murdered on 16 April 1995.