August 17th, 2010
06:53 PM ET

Pakistani mom: Take my baby; she'll have a better life

CNN reporter Sara Sidner sits in a car surrounded by children as she and a crew prepare to leave the flooded Sindh Province in Pakistan.

Sindh Province, Pakistan - The first things you notice are the flies. They form what looks like a buzzing black crust on children's lips, eyes and foreheads. The children are either too tired to keep brushing them away or too used to them to bother.

"We have terrible problem with flies," 50-year-old Khuda Jatoi says in Sindhi, the local language here. Everyone here is suffering from something. Still, the moment they see us, everyone scrambles to find a suitable place for us. Someone is trying to find a chair for us to sit down. Father Khuda Joti is insisting on giving us tea or sending someone to buy a cold drink. We are guests in his makeshift shelter, and he wants to give us the best of what he has. We cannot bring ourselves to take anything from him. He and his family have lost nearly everything they own.

They are victims of the worst floods Pakistan has ever seen, and yet they are trying to make us comfortable. That keeps happening everywhere we go. The day before, in a school-turned-clinic, a few ladies who had survived the floods handed me a "hair catcher" because they could see that I was sweating profusely, and they wanted to make me more comfortable. At the same time, the men kept fanning us with brightly colored hand fans. It makes me feel both ashamed about how much I have and don't appreciate, and inspired by the kindness that is clearly being extended with no expectation of anything in return.

When we ask about their troubles, the entire clan begins to talk at once. Suddenly we are surrounded by children, women, fathers, uncles, aunts, cousins and grandfathers - all members of the large extended family. They have taken refuge in a small school that the family broke into and turned into an unofficial shelter. They have nowhere else to go.

"We were drowning in the water," one family member says. We couldn't hear much else as the sound of all those voices began to weave together in a suffocating quilt made of despair.

We tried to quiet everyone so that we could have a conversation. They told us their sorrows and spewed anger at authorities for giving too little too late.

Then, something happened that makes me cringe. One of the women in the crowd asked that I take the tiny baby girl I was cooing at. She said the baby would have a better life with me. I wasn't sure I heard her correctly until the actual mother of the baby girl said it. I stood there silent, my brain churning so furiously it was as if it was looking for the right answer to a test from the Almighty. How am I supposed to answer that question? What is the right answer? Is there a right answer?

There have been plenty of days in my line of work where I imagined gathering up all the suffering children and taking them with me - at least I would know that they would have food to eat and books to read. But I never really considered actually taking a baby from the arms of its mother, even if asked. In this case, the family has been so traumatized, I told myself it was just their fear and anxiety talking.

I left with only my notepad and camera in my hand and another of life's difficult questions swirling in my head.

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Filed under: Pakistan
soundoff (288 Responses)
  1. ALI


    September 4, 2010 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  2. Sarah


    September 11, 2010 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
  3. danjoyru

    Смотреть фильмы онлайн

    September 2, 2011 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. colaappanty

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    September 17, 2011 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  5. Sarah thomas

    You are such an ass!

    August 17, 2010 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. jryan

    What....? It's true. Just read it.

    August 17, 2010 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. ggm anner

    you are disgusting.

    August 17, 2010 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
  8. anonymous

    maybe this will help jryan out:
    Please do what you can to help–this is a terrible tragedy for a country that can't seem to catch a break.

    August 17, 2010 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
  9. The Dirty Paki

    We Pakistanis thank Anjelina Jolie for her contributions. I would also like to thank Greg Mortensen and Todd Shea, two lesser known Americans for how they have helped Pakistan in the past. We don't hate Americans, as a lot of individual Americans have done good for our nation, but what we dislike is how American government and foreign policy has treated Pakistan in the past.

    August 17, 2010 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
  10. bruce

    Brian, you're ignorant for generalizing all Pakistani's as terrorists.

    August 17, 2010 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
  11. guest2010

    you think this devastation in Pakistan is something to joke about???? I'd like to see how you'd handle yourself if you had to endure what these people are going through. Your comment is NOT funny.

    August 18, 2010 at 12:13 am | Report abuse |
  12. Philly

    The reporter didn't take the baby, the whole story is a shame.

    August 18, 2010 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
  13. nancy

    The story is so simple and so touching. It's the reply posts that are totally pathetic.

    August 18, 2010 at 12:48 am | Report abuse |
  14. Karla

    It is not you, it isn't your direct words but your sarcasm that makes you insensible. People are dying in this country, there is no time for jokes but to help. You are a sad person.

    August 18, 2010 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
  15. peterphilhower

    this is crazy ...

    August 18, 2010 at 12:57 am | Report abuse |
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