The kindness (or not) of strangers

Published: June 21, 2010

"Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."

I travel a lot by bus. One thing I like about this mode of transport is that I get a firsthand look at the life of the man on the streets and his daily problems.

Just yesterday, on my way back from work, as I hopped on to S-2 I witnessed a sad scene. A family of let’s say five, two boys, one girl and parents, climbed onto the bus. That in itself was nothing unique. But one of the boys, of about ten years of age, was suffering from what appeared to be a disease because of which he could not completely control his limbs.

So there he was, trying to grab some rod or railing to hold on to while not a single member of his family, or anyone else, came forward to help him. Except for the bus conductor. As I saw the insensitivities of the people around him, of strangers as well as family, I held out my hand and led him to a seat next to his sister, who must have been a year or two older.

Even the driver shrugged him off when, as he was trying to sit down, he grabbed hold of the back of the driver’s seat. That boy is part of my society, a society that negates his very existence and neglects him.

In a forty minute journey, I could not figure out what and where things had gone so wrong. Have we become so used to life’s harsh realities that we shun people who need our help on a regular basis. In the end I could only think about Tennessee Williams’ play, A Street Car Named Desire, and the last words of Blanche DuBois to the doctor as she is being institutionalised: “Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”


Saadia Qamar

A reporter on the Life and Style desk of The Express Tribune

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • uXuf

    “Have we become so used to life’s harsh realities that we shun people who need our help on a regular basis”

    Nope. We have turned into a nation of fence-sitters, we have taken up a life of waiting and watching, always willing someone else to take the initiative so that we can follow.Recommend

  • amjad ahmed

    contrary to what we have deluded ourselves into believing we as a nation are highly insensitive to disability or weakness of any kind.We are obsessed with power and look down on anyone with a disadvantage of anysort.The so called “awam” that all the anchors keep on pointing out as the perennial sufferers,whenever any of them gets the chance in life to proceed up the social ladder,the same ppl who had come from the slums,turn out to be the perpetrators of the most vicious victimization.Look at a lot of our politicians,a lot of them have come from the lower class,but once having power have behaved exactly as the feudals behave and have sought to subjugate and victimize anyone they could.Recommend

  • Cervet Cahn

    The thing is not that complicated. Its just that we lack manners. Civilization.

    We are never courteous enough to leave our seats for an elderly person in a public bus, rather we prefer to remain in our seats, watch him jolt and losing balance while the bus takes jerks at its high speed and take pity on his condition. Why? because 80% of our society are never taught such manners.

    And for the rest 20%, even if they have enough civil sense, by living in this society even they will loose it gradually with time. After all there is a limit to patience and tolerance.Recommend

  • Nafisa Johar

    I think its just a lack of social responsibility and humanity in people..we see people on the streets rolling on the sidewalk taking drugs and we just dont stare at them. If theres a beggar outside our window, be it a young boy, an old man or someone with a physical disability we roll uour windows up saying “Its now a business for these people, they do ths to themselves”. We dont know what the reality is and we dont bother to find out. It’s just sad and disappointing to all of us..We realy need to learn that turing up the volume of our car music, or choosing to look away from such things wont change the reality…it was therebefore and will always be there unles we do something bout it.Recommend