by Tahira Rifath

One time I met a 14 year old kid that looked frightened like he’d just seen a ghost. I wasn’t quite sure what made him so terrified and I thought maybe I should just ask. There’s nothing more comforting than having a stranger show some care. I went up to the little boy and asked if he needed any help, or if he wanted to use my phone to call somebody. He looked at me and just bluntly asked if I believed in God. I was rather struck by the question. I looked down to ascertain that I’m not mixed up and that he’s truly just a child that is a solid inches below my gaze and then I gently requested an explanation. The boy told me how he skipped the rest of his school day because he had a fight with his friends who called him Kafir (disbeliever) for a statement he truly believes in. I asked if he’d be comfortable telling me what he shared that they had rated so blasphemous, and he teared up a bit and said “I told them I love my parents more than I love God.”
I stood quiet for a solid minute. And was amazed how this little boy had actually spared himself the time and effort to analyse how much he should love his God. All his life he’d been fed what he should and shouldn’t love, what he should and shouldn’t believe in, and what he should and shouldn’t do that he, at the age of 14, had already reached a breakdown where his head was too heavy and he had already lost the capability to carry it on his own.
“You can’t decide what you love, your heart decides for you. But you can build a love inside of it, and your heart has so much capacity to fill as much love as the world can possibly carry.”
There are certain things you don’t ever forget, a certain melancholia, certain conversations, certain images and moments that find their way to the treasure box in your memory and are stored within you till your grave, the look in his eyes… the blink… the salty tears running to the sharp edge of his chin… the tiny hands that wiped them while they were streaming to his neck… the head that turned away… the tiny footsteps of his weak feet that could barely carry him back home… the smell of the wind that found its way through his tiny body.. were one of those moments.
The world can take you by hand and teach you things you would never learn on your own, but people, total strangers, can give you wings and can get your head spinning to a point that you can’t tell whether it’s you that’s turning round and round or that the globe has suddenly taken a stronger pace and you can no longer keep up.