“Wake up Meem, wake up! It’s already six! Hurry up or else you’ll be late”.
These were the first words Meem heard when she opened her eyes. She became aware of the fact that her father had been pushing and shoving her for the last few minutes, in a desperate attempt to wake her up. Meem did not want to wake up so early, but she knew that she had no other option. She reluctantly got up from the frayed, worn out mattress. With her flowers in her hand, she set off.
Meem was the second youngest child of a seven member family. She was just thirteen years old, yet she already had to work. Her two older brothers and her sister did odd little jobs like selling flowers or working at small tea stalls. Her father was a rickshaw puller, while her mother spent her time at home looking after the baby, Zhumu.
The pay was barely enough to sustain or provide for any of them. Many days, Meem would live on just one meal per day. She was lucky if she could have two solid meals in one day. She had gone to school, but by the time she had reached the third grade her school fees became too expensive for her father to pay. So, she had left school and had started selling flowers at the park.
As Meem took up her regular spot, she heard somebody calling her. She looked and saw that a lady, sitting on one of the benches with a bright yellow umbrella was calling her. Beside the lady was a little girl, who presumably was her daughter. As Meem went closer, she recognized the lady. She was a MP. Meem had identified her from pictures she had seen in the newspaper.
As she approached their bench, Meem got a closer look at the girl. The girl was about the same age as Meem, but that was their only similarity. The girl had round, plump cheeks, bright brown eyes and short neatly cut hair. Seeing her, Meem felt a tingling, a sense of envy and longing.
The girl showed the signs of being loved and adored. Meem, who barely got any attention in a family of seven and of limited means, craved and longed for that. She wanted to be able to go to school, to sit in a classroom instead of out here in the park, to worry about maths tests instead of whether there would be enough food for the night. She wanted someone to forbid her from playing in the scorching heat or going out in the cold, shivering rain. She wanted, longed for that protective love. In a family like hers, there was no time for such trivial matters.
Rabeya sat beside her mother on the bench. Her mother had awoken her in the morning and after a hearty breakfast they had come to the park. Rabeya’s mother was an MP. Like most girls who were fortunate enough to have rich mothers, she enjoyed the perks that came along with money- fancy clothes, expensive gadgets, etc. In a country where the majority of the population was poor, she lived the life of a princess.
She heard her mother call out to a small girl with flowers. As the girl walked forward, Rabeya began to get a better glimpse of her. She was a sorry sight in her rags, with her sun burnt skin, hollows beneath her eyes, parched cheeks and her hair all over the place.
Rabeya continued to observe her. There was this girl, selling flowers at the park, all alone, completely independent. Rabeya was never allowed to go anywhere on her own. Seeing that girl, Rabeya felt even more trapped and caved. She wished to be like her, completely free, able to do whatever she wanted. Rabeya would never be allowed out in the rain, unlike Meem. She wished for a boundless life, one without rules and regulations. Rabeya felt as though she was being cocooned by her mother’s wealth. She felt as though she was living in a make believe world. She wanted to break free and go into the “real world”. She was determined to support herself, and not depend on anyone, She wanted to be self dependant, and support herself, even if that was as simple as selling flowers.
Her mother bought a red rose for her. As Rabeya thanked Meem, she thought to herself-if only we could exchange places.