Cough. My name is Amjad Hussein. I was born in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, in India oh, some 59 nine years ago, son of a poor zari worker who fathered very many children. We had very little food to eat so all of us had to start earning as soon as we were able, so this meant tailoring apprenticeship for me at age 9. I worked hard and learnt to sew all kind of clothes but I was not fated to be a tailor. Circumstances (poor eyesight, marriage) took me away from Lucknow and I began managing orphanages for Najafi House based in Mumbai. I love taking care of children, supervise their activities and guide them; why, I like this so much I have been doing this for over 26 years. Cough, cough.
Sorry, I have this terrible cough. Here in Matia Brug, on the outskirts of Kolkta, India, it has been a bitter winter and I have been coughing nonstop for weeks now. I had myself thoroughly checked by a doctor, blood tests and chest x-rays, even for TB but the doctor just scratches his hair and says I am not diseased. Cough. Yusufali keeps on insisting I go for a full body check but I don’t know; I have given enough blood for testing and been prodded around as much.
About 5 years ago, I was reassigned to this renovated orphanage in Matia Brug. It is an old building, in ruins, well over 100 years old but built like a fortress. Now, it is a modern building with all facilities for the orphans that live and get educated here. The orphans, when they first come here, are a pitiful lot, some so backwards they cannot put on and zip their trousers. Cough. Why, I even had a mentally retard boy who drove me bananas trying to upgrade him; I had to let him go because he scared me silly, breaking into uncontrollable convulsions. Cough, cough, cough.
My day begins at 4:30AM with prayers for the boys; they sleep for another hour while I begin preparation for their morning hygiene and school bags. The first batch of kids go to school at 7AM, the second at 11AM and the rest 2PM. I supervise their teeth brush routine (they used up a whole new jumbo size one morning!), their uniform coordination, hair management and breakfast before seeing them off. Cough. By the time the first batch has gone and I have my breakfast, supervision of cleaners, laundry management, cook management and day’s lunch / dinner ration distribution, the next batch is ready for attention. The same routine follows afterwards and I stay on my toes until 3PM when the building is humming with activity again. Evening hours are filled with homework, tuitions Islamic school teachers; tiffs and brawl refereeing. Then come evening prayers and dinner. Cough, cough. My aging legs and back begin giving me a hard time by then but I plod on. Cough. It is only after dinner tuition classes are over and the kids spent in their energies and retire to bed with mischief and tiffs that I relax a bit, around 11PM. I am hopelessly tired and after a complete tour of this 3 level building, I gratefully ease myself onto my bed for blissful, blissful slumber. The last thought on my mind is a prayer none of the boys will be sick tonight or wet their beds. Cough, cough…