Ever since I can remember, my parents have said that I possess a characteristic that worries them. This characteristic in Urdu is called “bholapaan”. It is a sort of innocence, but not a flattering sort. In English, one might say someone who possesses this characteristic is a simpleton.
When I went to Pakistan in December of 1985, I was faced for the first time with real poverty. I saw old people who were crippled and children in rags, begging for money everywhere I went. And when I was that young, 9 years old, it affected me to see people like that. Here in the States, I had never been exposed to that kind of poverty. I remember that what little pocket money my Mom or Grandfather gave me to buy whatever little trinkets I fancied, all went to those people begging. When I would run out, I would cry, because I wanted to give more. And my Mom and Grandfather would shake their heads and try to explain to me that all of these people were crooks, acting poor to take advantage of people like me. After a while, they stopped giving me money and would just buy me what they thought I would like.
The world will take advantage of you, my parents told me. The world will chew you up and spit you out if you don’t catch on. And they continue to tell me how they worry.
In my mind and heart, it seems wrong to deny someone who may be in real need of help, because some may be faking it. I would have a hard time sleeping if I had the idea that someone who asked me for help did not get it because they might have been lying to me. What kind of person am I if I lose faith in my fellow man? How will God judge me? According to my parents, God knows everything- especially what is in my heart.
It saddens me greatly to know that they don’t think I can make it in the world with this “bholapaan”. They taught me that God wants us to get along with our fellow man and to treat others the way we ourselves would like to be treated. But because there are those who take advantage, I must change who I am to survive.
And despite their belief that I am still that simple little girl, I have seen changes in myself that disappoint me. But what hurts me the most about it, is that the changes I make are in vain, because no matter how much I think I have hardened my heart, no matter how jaded I feel, I still end up being taken advantage of.
And that is truly a sad commentary on what humanity is becoming. I may be “simple” but I am not stupid. I try to be a good person and expect that others are trying to be the same. Maybe the problem is that some are not nearly as set on this goal as others. Shame on you, you people who abuse my trust.
My final note on this is that if I am meant to be the world’s ragdoll, at least I will be taken advantage of while trying to be a good person. Can others say the same?