The Man.

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Excuse me? May I have a few minutes of your precious time to tell you something that I think you ought to know? I just saw you cut an “unimportant” call. I’m sorry, I know I shouldn’t have been prying, I just happened to glimpse this way. I understand that’s your father calling you from the old age home landline number because you haven’t seen him in a month now. I know it is not your fault that even in the last 10 years, he could not adjust to the old age home’s environment. I understand you’re a grown up now and have your own family to worry about. I suppose it gets annoying when you think you know better but there’s still some older man who insists that you still don’t. I assume you sometimes feel like you could do better off without him, or you wish he’d stop being so “irritating”. You find him old-fashioned and boring so you avoid spending time with him. He forgets things, his speech gets distorted, he loves talking about your childhood and he repeats things and that’s just too stupid, right?

So here’s what you need to know.

The clock struck 7 am in the morning as he felt you shake his tired, exhausted and fatigued body. Although he had barely gotten enough sleep, he stretched his body, smiled at you and got out of bed. The clock showed 8 am by the time he got home after dropping you off to school. His head throbbed, his back ached. He showered, snatched the buttered toast from his wife’s hand, forgot all about the tea that had gone cold and left the serenity of the house he had built with the sweat of his brow, for another day full of excursion, tiring arguments, cranky employer and uncooperative colleagues. He worked 9 to 5 and then worked overtime to buy you the toys you wanted, ensure your education and buy his wife the jewels she envied. In between, around lunch time, he left his snacks and rushed to pick you up from the school. By the time he got back to work, the lunch had gone cold and the lunch break had ended. As the sun was about to go down, he returned home, tired, hungry but smiling. He looked into your eyes, saw how hope turned to pure, untouched joy at the sight of the new toy and smiled wider. All the fatigue left his body as you hugged your father and told him you loved him. 

He was a strong man. He never cried. Do you remember the day you were 13 and crashed your bicycle in a tree? You had a concussion so you lost consciousness so I suppose that’s why you did not notice the tears that slipped down his cheeks as he sat beside your hospital bed, praying and praying for you. I suppose that’s why you couldn’t see the desperation and agony in his eyes, in the quiver of his lips as he tried to be strong for your sake and for the sake of your family. I suppose you were too dazed afterwards to see the dark circles under his eyes due to sleepless nights, the weight he had lost in a mere week and the relief in his posture as you opened your eyes. I suppose you are unaware of the dreams he associates with you, of the hopes he has because if you knew, you wouldn’t have cut the call.

So let me tell you something.

There’s a man who gave all of himself to all of you, to the home you grew up in. There’s a man who spent even his last ounce of energy for you. There’s a man whose whole life revolves around you. There’s a man who will give his life for you without a moment’s hesitation. There’s a man who held you in his arms the day you were born and vowed to always hold your hand,  till his last breath. You know what’s surprising? That in a world where promises mean nothing and vows are broken like plastic dolls, he’s still keeping up with his words. There’s a man who will fight this society for you. There’s a man who will stay strong for you but break down in the solitary hours. There’s a man who will make sure that you get everything you ever wanted. A man who will murder all his dreams so that yours can live. All you need to know is that there is a man out there, who is living for you and you only so listen to me…

Don’t take his life away from him.

Your father. The man who struggled till his bones gave in and his eye sight weakened. The man who spent years away from his family, to secure your future. The man who breathed his life into you. Why do you forget that the man you’v left waiting in a place that can never be his home, needs nothing from you but just a fragment of your affection. He does not need your money. He does not need luxury clothes and expensive gadgets or fancy dinners. All he wants is a smile from you, an occasional hug to make him feel loved. All he yearns for is love instead of annoyance in your eyes when you see him. He understands that keeping him in his house is too difficult for you so all he asks is a visit once or twice a week. See? That’s who he is. He’d settle for the least, he just asks for a little. You needed your father till you were a man, your father needs you now because he made you into the man you are now and in the process of doing so, he gave up all he had and was. Just know how lucky you are because someone out there never had the luck of seeing their father smile at them, or hold their hand as they took their first steps. Someone never got to ride on their father’s back or felt his loving embrace. Just know that you are luckier than millions out there so don’t play your luck.

And listen to me.

Go to your father now. Hold his tired, calloused hands or hug his weak body. Listen to him tell you about yourself because that’s how selfless he is. Just show him you love him. Don’t leave your father when he needs you the most because he had your back when you needed it the most. Just let him know that you’d be here for him like he was for you. Forever. The man who carried you over his shoulders might just need a shoulder to lean on.

I just hope that the next time you see your father with a smile, it’s not too late.

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Just Remember…

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You. Yes you. You with a heavy heart and sad eyes. I see you staring at your reflection with unanswered questions brimming, blurring your vision. I see your lips quiver, your hands tremble. I see you fidgeting with doorknobs and tripping over stones. I see you holding your head in your hands, disappointed and hopeless. I see you heaving cold sighs. I see the effort you put in every curve of your chewed lips. I see that every attempt you make at humor fails. I see the difficulty you face when you pick up the pen and the grief you feel as a lone tear crashes on the blank page. I see the heaps of crumpled sheets that litter the floor of your forlorn room. I see the empty wall that was once decorated with pictures of you making the most out of your life. I see the crayons broken in half and the flowers in the crystalline vase that dried over a week ago. I see the books unread, the forgotten bookmarks. I see the curtains that haven’t been pushed back in ages, the windows that yearn to let some light and fresh air in. I see the tear stains on the pillow cover. I see it all. I hear what the darkness whispers to you. I hear the anguished beat of your heart. I feel the hold of misery and despair too. I feel the melancholic chill of your hovel. Every heartache, every torment, I know of. I know you’re hurting. I know it’s dark and damp, the colors are fading out. I know your regrets are weighing you down and taking away the music from your life. I know the remorse you feel over the mistakes you committed is leeching away the wish to excel.

But you know what? You need to stop with self-condemnation and self-accusation right now. You. The one reading it, or maybe the one writing it. You can be anyone. Maybe you lost your self-confidence because of a boy who could never see the light in you or because of a goal you don’t see yourself achieving. Maybe you forgot your worth over an exam you didn’t ace or a society you couldn’t satisfy. Maybe you blame yourself over mistakes you committed while you were still learning to fly but listen to me and tell me; what is your life without any space for learning? No bird ever learns to fly without falling. You can’t spread your wings until and unless you step out of your comfort zone. You won’t ever know your worth until you test it and this is exactly how you test it. You make all the wrong decisions to realize the right ones. You take all the wrong roads to choose your final destination. You make all the great falls to know your own strength. You love all the wrong people to recognize the right ones. You break yourself because people can no longer break what’s already broken. You play all the wrong notes to compose your own beautiful melody. You mix and swirl all the wrong kind of colors to produce a masterpiece. This is how you live your life, one step at a time, one lesson at a time. You certainly don’t live in your past, but your past is what makes your future. And while you are at it, never forget that your present requires your attention too. So wipe your tears and do it all.

Write your own love story. You don’t need a prince or a princess to complete you. You need yourself to complete you. You don’t need this society to approve of what you wear and how you live. You don’t need a boy to make you feel beautiful or a girl to make you feel important. You don’t need an alphabet to decide your genius for you. Don’t restrict yourself to sheets of paper. Scribble on the walls and etch your name onto the wood. Pull the doormat from under your feet and let yourself fall because trust me, there’s no fun in standing up straight. Real fun comes from falling and picking yourself back up. Scream your name into the mountain valleys and listen to how beautiful it sounds as it bounces back to you. That’s what you are, a beautiful creation who deserves to shine. Paint your walls. Let the fairy lights glow. Let the butterflies dance around your garden. Let your flowers bloom. Live. Laugh. Love. Life is not about what you couldn’t do, but about what you couldn’t and you still did. Let your colors burst forth in multicolored ribbons of dazzling light. Sing with the birds and teach them your symphony. Just do it. Just do everything you ever wanted to and don’t worry about what’s done. In fact, be grateful for it because there’s no better teacher than your own past.

And while you are at it, don’t forget to give yourself a big thumbs up as you search for imperfections in your reflection. You are perfect with your imperfections and terrific with all your flaws. Just remember that a single smile of yours can light up someone’s day. Just remember that even in a crowd of a hundred people who only love to point their fingers at you, there’s someone who sees beauty in the way you don’t fit. Just remember that you are the life force to someone, the essential and necessary body part without which the body dies, the body fails. Just remember that when you break yourself, you break someone else too so just ask yourself this question….

Do you want another young soul to wither like you did?

Echoes of Tired Footsteps

 

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The day burst forth in the shades of oranges and pink. The sun rose slowly, drenching the city in an orange glow. The beams fell on rose petals and the green grass, illuminating the dewy jewels that lay heavily on the delicate bodies. The birds began their melodious tryst with the nature. The morning breeze blew softly, caressing the flora and whispering to the trees. As the sun rose higher, the houses in the town came to life. Fathers came out to fetch the morning newspaper and the smell of fresh breakfast wafted throughout the streets as mothers turned over pancakes, made tea and shut the lids of the lunchboxes their children were to take to school. The teenage boy bid his goodbye to his father as he kissed his mother on her flour streaked face. He tightened his hold around the tiny fingers of his baby sister who was all ready for her first day at school. The little girl had her honey colored hair twisted into two side braids that fell to her waist. The tiny bag pack containing a few coloring pages, an alphabet book, a book of numbers, a few coloring pencils and a lunchbox was too heavy for her, therefor he slung it over his shoulder along with his own heavy bag. As they made their way down the street towards the bus point, he asked her a question.

“What do you want to do when you grow up, little sister?”

She hopped a few paces away from him and then said, “I will put bandages on the people, like daddy does. After the big airplanes leave.”

A shadow crossed his face but he quickly regained his composure. Her next question chilled his spine.

“Have the big airplanes left, bhaiyya? I have not heard them for so long.”

“Yes, little sister, they are gone. Now come here, don’t go running around. You might trip and dirty your clothes. What will the teacher say? She will not let you sit with all the neat kids,” he changed the subject. She let out a deep, pretentious gasp and curled her hand around his thumb.

The bus was crowded with little children, waving at their parents, quarreling over the last piece of candy or simple laughing. He helped his sister climb the bus stairs and waved at her. “I’d see you in the school. Be a nice lady, okay?”

“I love you, bhaiyya. May Allah keep you under His Protection,” she chirped.

He saw the bus leaving and smiled, hoping against hope that the big airplanes really had left. At school, the day was busy. Teachers could be heard teaching or preaching or shouting themselves hoarse at naughty children. Somewhere, a class was reciting verses of Holy Quran in a rhythm. From somewhere afar, the faint music of a piano could be heard. It was just another day; when futures were being brightened, skills were being honed, abilities were being polished and the efforts to make the world better for our children were being made. Undoubtedly, one day, a crowd of politicians, musicians, scientists, engineers and humanitarian workers would leave the premises of this building. His mind wandered off to his sister and he began wondering what she must be doing. She was a naughty little thing, so undoubtedly would be giving her teachers a tough time but considering what an adorable little pixie she is, everyone must already be in love with her. She had this thing about herself; she could be very naughty and mischievous and no one would even slightly raise their voices, in fact everyone would stop to watch the little girl prancing about her mischief and smile. She had such a beautiful future ahead of her. He was very sure that she’d one day make a beautiful wife and an amazing mother.

And then he heard it, the faint rumbling sound that shook the Earth to its very core. The building trembled slightly and the glass on his table fell and cracked. He looked around and noticed the nervousness on the faces of every student. But he was sure they wouldn’t need to worry. The big airplanes were heard very frequently and they always passed. They always passed their city and landed somewhere else. They always spared their city and wreaked havoc somewhere else. They always skipped their city and let the hell break loose somewhere else. The sound grew stronger and sharper, the tremors gained strength. The building shook harder and little cracks appeared on the window panes. He shut his eyes and lowered his head on the table. He pressed the heels of his palm to his ears, wanting to block out the sound. He would count till ten and then it’ll be over and all will be okay.

10…09…08…07…06…05…04…03…02…01……

The blast tore at his eardrums and he felt something fell heavily over his body. Darkness engulfed him but he was conscious. The screams penetrated his skin and pierced his veins. His body went numb but the ache in his heart grew. All around him, there was dust and rubble and nothingness. The building had collapsed and they were beneath it. He couldn’t move his body, he was stuck. A shard of glass had penetrated his neck, narrowly missing the jugular. Every bone in his body felt cracked and snapped in half. He didn’t know what fate his class fellows met. He wished they were alive, breathing and waiting. The big airplanes did not pass their city this once. The big airplanes did not skip their city this once. The big airplanes did not spare their city this once. Futures were blackened, little porcelain dolls smashed to smithereens. And that was when the smiling face of his little sister flashed in front of his eyes and he felt his body turn to liquid. He felt dizzy, torn into shreds. He tried to scream but all that left his throat was a hoarse cough. He felt the drip of blood over his eyes and felt its sharp metallic taste as he ran his bitten tongue over it. The tears stung at the back of his head and that was when he felt himself tumbling into a void, into a never ending pit. He felt life leaving his body and as the cries of the siren reached his ears, his brain gave in.

His eyes fluttered open and he found himself in a van that smelled of antiseptics and grief. This small metal body knew the last words of hundreds of souls, drank in agonized screams of as many. Isn’t it funny how smallest of things can cause the greatest ease and yet, the greatest damage too? Long story cut short, dear readers, the boy who left his home in the morning in hopes of making this world a beautiful place was left orphaned and with the memories of a little sister whose body was never found. They found the little pink shoe she had worn this morning but that was all that was left of her. That was all that was left of a dream that hadn’t even been dreamed yet. Another life was taken, another life that hadn’t even been lived yet. Another future destroyed, that hadn’t even made a past yet. Days went by, warping themselves into months. The teenage boy managed to escape the land where blood ran like water to a land where children never heard big airplanes and mothers never feared their laps being empty. He was a refugee in the land of people where little girls grew up to be beautiful wives and mothers, where brothers didn’t have to sleep with a little pink shoe clutched in his hand. A land where all was good, and all was well. Syria was bleeding, they all knew. Palestinians were dying, they were well aware. Iraq was destroyed and the soil of Burma was red, they were informed. But all they did was wear black ribbons to show their grief yet still fund the animals that tore at the throats of innocent boys and girls. He hated them yet he smiled at them. He hated them yet he served them. He hated them yet he had befriended them.

It was yet another beautiful day and the children were making all the noise that their little bodies had the strength to make. The sky was as blue as the deepest sea and as clear as crystal. The birds were chirping and little squirrels were nibbling at the acorns. He entered the building he knew so well. He swept the corridors here and cleaned the bins. He cleared after messy children and served tea to the principal.

“Good day, Madam,” he bowed to the receptionist.

“Doesn’t look too cold for that jacket, eh, young man,” she cooed.

“Never too cold, madam,” he smiled sadly as he made his way towards the small enclosure in the center of the building. He stood amid the octagonal building, his gaze sweeping across the landscape. He could picture his own school, the sounds it held, the promises it made. He shut his eyes. “IN THE NAME OF GOD ALMIGHTY”. That day, the safe land knew what it was like being the son of a soil where no flower could grow. That day, the safe land had a hundred pink little shoes scattered all over its land.

The Missing Heart

Happy was the kid with her heart in her chest,

Smiling the brightest, looking her best.

 

Happy was the kid unaware of the world,

Unknown to the abuses he later brutally hurled.

 

Happy was the kid with her feelings intact,

Singing happy songs before those violent acts.

 

Happy was the kid before that spoiled city boy,

Before her precious existence got mistaken for a toy.

 

Now all that’s left is a dying rose,

Writing sad poems and these heart-shattering prose,

 

Smile, she does, and still looks her very best,

All that’s missing now is the heart in her chest.

The One Dead

Don’t cry, no words, stay still, don’t complain,

Shut your eyes, take a breath, bear the pain.

It’s dark but you know that’s how it is,

It’s hurting, I know, the light’s amiss.

The heart aches, the head revolves,

Solutions discarded, problems you can’t solve.

Lips parched, the mascara smudged,

You tell him you’re wilting but he won’t budge.

The colors fade, the roses die,

Hopeless shrugs, shallow breathing, colder sighs.

The past smirks, the future trembles,

Gather yourself, stay strong, don’t stumble.

Don’t even think about it, I know you don’t like red,

You are too beautiful to be the one dead.

Believe. Jump. Fall. Fly.

From the day you let out your first cry to the day you exhale your last breath, you make your way through the crests and troughs of life. Sometimes, these ups and downs become so frustrating that you throw your hands up and shake your head in defeat as your expression drips with melancholy. Your chest swells with agonizing memories of past, hope crumbles to powdered grief. Dark nostalgia claws at you heart, leaving deep dark gashes you think would never heal. Your dreams become dark inky blots of hopeless strolls down silent corridors of abandoned castles. You curl up in the bleakest corner of your subconscious and shut out any possible beam of golden light. You refuse to be lit up because the fear of the light being extinguished out of your life “again” is prevalent. You believe that nothing good can ever come to you and so you tightly shut the doors of your heart and close your ears to any knocking. You lose every opportunity to smile because you are too cautious, too careful therefore you forget to smile. You lose the light in yourself, the fireworks which are more beautiful than the 4th of July. You become a doll whose fate is decided by every other person in the world, thrusting in pins after pins. The mirror that reflects your beauty shatters and the the thin lines of the cracks widen. You lose your shine to opacity and dull shades of dreary grey get draped over your glittering aura.

Isn’t it so sad that while there’s so much you could have been, miserable and forlorn was what you chose? Isn’t it so sad that of all the seven skies you could have flown through, you chose to sink? Isn’t it so sad that your dazzling smile then became unknown to you? Isn’t it such a pity that the colors you once wasted in painting gardens faded to dying starbursts and the birds you once sang to forgot the path to your orchards? It’s a pity that the melodies and symphonies ceased to agonized shrieks and wails within the psychology of your brain and the imagination that vividly drew the picture of a perfect future died and is buried in the graveyard where hundreds of your dead dreams lay at rest. The cupid’s broken arrow is such a cruel symbol of a broken heart and a bleeding love story but listen….

“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if only one remembers to turn on the lights.” The night never stands before the day. The dark always loses the battle against light. Regrets, grievances and complaints are the work of caged brain but a cage with the door offering freedom and you can always get out of it. Everything only lasts for as long as you want it to last and the sooner you resolve to uproot the virus from its very core, the better. You are never tested beyond your capabilities and that’s the beauty of your Creator. The shattered opportunities should never be able to pull you down. You are one of your kind and you can stand over every one who ever tries to belittle you.

So fall on your face and break your teeth for only broken things can no longer be broken. Get up and dust your clothes off. And do what you always wanted to. Even do what you hadn’t wanted to. Color your rainbow black and then sprinkle silver glitter over it. Swing on the weakest trunk of a tree and let yourself fall. Eat what you never wanted to and then purge out the dark memories like you purge the unwanted food out of your system. Dance in the rain and let yourself slip on the slick pavement. Call the wrong numbers to meet the right people and block the right numbers to chop the wrong people out of your life. Drink apple juice out of whiskey bottles and pretend to be drunk and forget what you thought was impossible to forget. Write the right kind of words to the wrong kind of people on a white paper colored with your emotions and sentiments. Fall in love with yourself and praise yourself for you are the strongest of beings and the most courageous who rose from a sick shoot to a magenta flower. Cry when you feel like you have had enough and smile because there’s no such thing as enough. Look for love in the most unexpected of places and let it embrace your very being. Believe in you can, and you will. Believe in your potentials, and they will burst forth. Believe in your ideas and give them the shape they said you would never be able to give them. Believe in knights in shining armor and wizards who brew love potions. Do it all and still look for more. Explore the caves of Himalayas and the clearings of Amazon. Scribble the name of your high school crush on a maple tree leaf and let it float along with the wind, whispering stories of love that was never meant to be. Scream your name into a valley and hear the beautiful sound of it reaching back to you. Smile, for the bright smile that decorates your face and the beauty of it embarrasses the queen’s diamonds.

Say Hello to the million colors of joy and bid farewell to the single disgraceful blot of grey. Tell yourself you deserve the best and best is what you shall have so that best is what you get.

Let them In…

A very famous proverb states; “Once the game is over, the king and the pawn go back in the same box.” Kofi Annan once said, “We may have different religions, different languages and different coloured skin, but we all belong to one human race.”

Equality is like an invisible thread that bounds together, hearts from all across the globe. In our deteriorating society, where humanity is crippling and unity is shattering, equality has been turned into a non-existent concept that has been pushed to the back of our heads because we do not consider it important enough. We walk the roads, our passive gaze fixed straight ahead, oblivious of the world around, that has suddenly become inferior to us. With our royalty-oriented mindsets and the lust to grow in a rich social circle, we have started to ignore the bitter reality of the existence of a community that may not be as privileged as us but who are, nonetheless made of same clot of congealed blood.

We look around at our beautiful city, all clean to the core, sparkling like a new needle. Neither a wrapper on the streets nor a stray speck of dust to be seen. We don’t have to jump over garbage piles nor do we have to inhale the sickening odour of rotting rubbish. Our kids play outside without the lingering threat of acquiring Tuberculosis or  Cryptosporidiosis which are diseases caused by accumulation of waste. Our streets do not get swarmed by mosquitos that pose a constant threat of dengue or malaria. Did a kind-hearted fairy swish her wand to make this Earth a place well suited for human beings to breath in? Or does God send his Angels down every night to clean this place? Possibility is, there are some special kind of people who do not care about their health, who do not care about inhaling dangerous toxic fumes, who do not care about plunging their hands into a garbage void for you. These people are often alienated because obviously, they do not belong to our posh circle. Instead, they work hard so this posh society will have clean land to breed in. These people are those sweepers, those street workers, those garbage carriers, those gutter cleaners who make a healthy world possible for us. Just because these people do not have manicured nails and designer clothes to worry about, it does not mean that they deserve to be pushed away. Their dirty clothes repel us because we ignore the fact that they are the reason our clothes remain clean. We convulse at the idea of touching their hands or letting them touch us with their dirt-streaked hands because we ignore the fact that their hands rummage through waste to keep our area clean for us. They do not deserve to be considered as unacceptable. Break the stereotype. Let them in.

Uwe Maurer said, “We have no special needs children. Just children with special needs.” In our society we see children who have special needs being shunned away. A girl with Down’s Syndrome will have to sit alone in a corner during her school recess. An autistic child will be left alone during a football match because neither team wants him in. A girl who lost her hair due to chemotherapies will not be invited to parties because she won’t be able to fit in with all the glitz and glam of fashion. When Disney decided to launch bald princess dolls, they did not realise that these traumatised children do not need a doll that looks like them, but friends who accept them as they are. Nowhere in any religion has it been mentioned that a little mutation in your chromosomes or a slight unbalance in your bodily routine makes you any different than rest of the “normal” community. They are normal too. These children should by no mean be considered as an abomination or cause of shame for their families. There’s nothing wrong with the child but with you if you feel hesitant in introducing your special child to the world. They are a piece of your existence, spiritually and biologically. Despising them is synonymous to despising yourself. Before support, there comes the need of acceptance. First, from the family. Then, from the society. Break the stereotype. Let them in.

“For any child, life remains a sea full of experiences just waiting to be explored,” said Natan Gendelman. But do we realise that how many children have been shackled behind the bars of limitations because of how we’ve categorised them into “rich children” and “poor children”. Do we realise that how many dreams have been washed away with tears from the eyes of a child who cannot afford to dream big? Do we realise that how many tiny hearts have stopped wishing because their wishes come with heavy price tags? We live a society where a 15 year old’s MAC lipstick costs more than a 10 years old little girl’s salary for a month. We live in a society where our mascaras are more valuable than another child’s tears of desperation and longing. If a young child is working for you, it does not mean he deserves to be treated like a filthy being. These children don’t deserve to be secluded because their backs are only meagerly covered with rags that are already in tatters. If we see a young child working in a car mechanic’s shop or selling magazines on a road side or doing any odd job, we people do not even care to inquire about his name. It’s like as if he has no identity. As if “poor” has been tattooed on his forehead like a birthmark. Sometimes, all that these children need is a breakthrough. An opportunity to use their suppressed talents but sadly and unfortunately, they grow in a community where they cannot even sit in the same room, rest on same chairs, eat in same plates or bath in same washrooms. Break this stereotype. Let them in.

As Michael Jackson in his song sings, “Heal the world. Make it a better place. For you and for me and the entire human race.” we understand the cruciality of this instant that the world is living in. We have divided ourselves according to our class, creed and the balance in our bank accounts. Here, human emotions have been discarded like old news and human rights are being violated without second thoughts. We step over under-privileged or less fortunate people like we step over dead animals. We need to wrap our heads around the forgotten idea that these people have feelings who protest. They need to be accepted, instead of being refused an identity. These stereotype need to be broken before the last cord snaps into two and the global civilization plunges into a nothingness. Break the stereotypes. Let them in.