This is also something that I wrote around 2 – 3 years back, but it still applies …. our resigned acceptance of class difference : )
It was a hot afternoon and I was in the market looking for a cold Coke ( which is not easy to find cuz of the blessed KESC ).
I finally found one that kept Coca Cola and had it chilled too. That is when I heard a crash to the left, towards the main road. A guy was standing with his thela upturned on the road and all his possessions were lying scattered across the road. It looked hilarious from a distance; however when I was crossing the road I saw him calling out to other thela men to help him pick up his things. It was a pretty big mess and dint look like two weak guys could have handled it easily in that heat.
This is when I felt ashamed of 2 things, one after the other. There were cars all around, horns blaring, people shouting obscenities at the guys for blocking up the road. It pissed me off cuz everybody could see they were having trouble managing it by themselves. I offered to help them and asked what things needed to be picked and set on their thela again. Here is when I felt hesitancy for the first time. What was I doing stopping on the street in the middle of a crowded market to help some poor guys with their thela equipment? Though it was only a slight hesitancy, I felt shame at myself for even hesitating for a second.
I joined in their help and bent down to help them pick up the heavy stuff that had fallen off. The guys did not let me help them. They both stood their ground looking embarassed, ‘ saahab, app chordo, hum karlain gay’ (Translation : Sir you leave it, we will do it). I asked em why not ? It would clear up the road quicker and it looked like those two could use some help. He says, ” App chordo, appkay kapray kharab hojaayeingay …. hum hayn na ye kaam karnay k liye, app ganda mat karo apnay appko” (Translation: You leave it, your clothes will get dirty. We are here to do this work, it is our job, you don’t dirty yourself) .
It was one of those rare occasions where you feel ashamed and embarrassed of being slightly more privileged than the average guy in your country. I certainly felt very uncomfortable wearing a clean shirt and jeans at that time. But what worried and saddened me more is that people seem to have accepted their roles defined by the unruly governance that governs this part of the world. What I saw in his eyes was surprise, then disbelief and then a resignation of one’s position in a society that treats you like vermin once you are under them.
People seem to have accepted that everyone has a prescribed class of job to do here. One cannot stoop below a certain level and one cannot rise above a prescribed glass canopy. This approach has led us to stagnation in social and moral development of people in Pakistan. People have resigned themselves to the fact that they will not get the same equal rights and recognition as a person sitting on a fluffy chair in a stuffy setup.
Every single one of us has this responsibility to make people like these feel as equal as everybody else. Pakistanis are accepting the tradition of the rich man being in control. Although this has been true for decades, acceptance of it is when the system is brought to its knees. And I suspect it is already saying it’s last rites in this case. If we hope to revive society, to instill justice …. we must interact with the commoners; people who struggle for survival when inflation rises by a mere percentage points.
It is upto every one of us to ensure that when the next thela overturns, we do not have ignorant pigs shouting at the poor man, and to ensure that thelay walay call out to people boldly to help’em. You can start by helping someone yourself. It does not have to be an overturned thela necessarily.