Friday, November 18, 2005


It was a drizzly Sunday morning and Min was having one of his depressed days. Seated in his front room, he was avoiding eye contact, keeping a physical distance from people, and looking as if he had a bad migraine headache. Of course, with his limited vocabulary, he couldn't explain how he felt.

"Do you know of anyone who could become Min's friend?" I asked Wati. "Maybe some local child. I'd pay him a monthly wage."

Wati looked up from the pile of clothes she was sorting. "Yes, I know of someone. Mustapha."

"Mustapha," whispered Min, cheering up a bit.

"Who's Mustapha?" I asked.

"His parents are dead. He lives with an uncle, five minutes from here."


"Very poor."


"Yes. Do you want to meet him?" asked Wati.

"Yes please."

We found Mustapha ironing clothes in a low-roofed shack down a narrow flooded lane. We had to bend our heads to enter the front room. Mustapha was about fifteen, although he could have passed for an eleven year old, and he was blind in one eye. He had the obedient look of a faithful old family servant.

"Hello Min," said Mustapha.

Min whispered something.

Wati explained why I had come and Mustapha nodded his head in agreement.

"How much will you pay him?" asked a big moustachioed man wearing a neatly pressed black shirt.

"Eighty thousand a month. Is that OK Mustapha?"

"OK," he said, with a wary smile.