Lahore: No gas to turn on the heat, so if I froze to death, would I be a martyr?

Published: January 25, 2014
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The stove fluttered to life for merely a second before going out and I understood that turning on the heater would be a waste of time. The equation was simple – no gas, no heat.

The stove fluttered to life for merely a second before going out and I understood that turning on the heater would be a waste of time. The equation was simple – no gas, no heat. The stove fluttered to life for merely a second before going out and I understood that turning on the heater would be a waste of time. The equation was simple – no gas, no heat. PHOTO: REUTERS

I woke up this morning and found out that, for the fourth consecutive day, there was no gas at home – none whatsoever. The stove fluttered to life for merely a second before going out and I understood that turning on the heater would be a waste of time. The equation was simple – no gas, no heat.

I would have to resign myself to a cup of tea.

I knew that as long as we have our electric kettle and chai (tea) – the answer to all Pakistani problems – we would survive.

The key word here is electric, of course.

There was no electricity either.

And this wasn’t your average run-of-the-mill single hour load shedding, oh no; there had not been the merest flicker of power for hours.

My parents had already left the house, breakfast-less, choosing rather to cast themselves onto the mercy of the break rooms at their respective work-places than on the government. My grandmother was rapidly approaching the stage of ‘chai-withdrawal’; the stage which heralds death if not addressed quickly.

We have a camping stove, the kind that works on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders and is so heavily featured in the news for its tendency to explode. A relative had lent it to us after hearing of our gasless plight and the kind of health and safety instructions they gave us was as if we were about to operate a grenade.

We stared at the squat blue thing, the maid and I.

Baji…” she said, tentatively, “Maybe we can just get lunch from the corner sh…”

“No, no.” I replied.

It was only a metal container of flammable gas at high pressure after all. And my own chai-withdrawal was slowly setting in.

After several false starts and a burnt oven mitt, the camping stove was emitting a beautiful, blue flame and humming in an ominous way – but at least there was tea. We feasted over it and the crumbs at the bottom to an almost empty packet of rusk. A week of ‘gasless-ness’ meant that our supplies of ready-to-eat edibles had run low.

This is the first time for me, in living memory, that we have had no gas at all. For four days we had battled some of the most extreme winter weather on record, aided by nothing but increasing layers of clothing. And it is not just where we live. People everywhere in Lahore, from Defence to Mughalpura, were complaining of this shortage. And the most frightening thing was that no one – absolutely no one – seemed to care.

The news and all of our blessed talk shows were full of nothing but a litany of incomprehensible rubbish; the treason trial of a former dictator, the remarks of a dual national and a drivel about the kind of death it takes to become a martyr.

All of this was utterly useless to the common man.

If I froze to death, would I be a martyr?

Or if I starved, would I care if a dictator died of the hangman’s noose or of a heart failure?

I am not freezing (well, not to death anyway) and I am not starving, and I still find that I care about neither. I care more about the fact that salaries are not keeping up with the prices of food and utilities – and even if I did have the money, there would be no utilities to pay for.

The public could not possibly be so obsessed with upholding the constitution in its present state?

Who watches all these talk shows anyway?

What does all this ‘exposing of the truth’, ‘putting things on record’ and ‘interviewing the public’ accomplish?

A free judiciary has not resulted in any justice for anyone. And the free media is more shackled by the race for ratings than any censorship laws a government could come up with.

Surely all of this was meant to make lives better for the masses – was it not?

Maybe I’m not doing it right.

Maybe the shouting anchorpersons need to be endured at a specific volume and for several hours a day for them to have the desired effect. Maybe somewhere, all this democracy is slowly rebuilding something and in five, or ten, or maybe a hundred years, we will see the result of all our liberty.

Or maybe I’m the wrong demographic.

I am only middle class. What would I know about prosperity or moving forward when I waste so much time over the price of potatoes?

Talk shows are best enjoyed in a well heated room after all, with snacks of course.

How silly of me to question such intellectuals discussions with my petty issues of food and utilities.

Sometimes it makes me wonder if democracy was ever made for the people at all.

Sakina Hassan

Sakina Hassan

The author is currently studying for an Mphil degree at the Centre of Excellence in Solid State Physics.

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

  • Kublai

    Good! Fine! Great! What an attention grabbing article. Lays it out
    in triplicate, about the trials and tribulations of middle class daily survival.
    Might peruse the backyard trees, and any unnecessary furniture,…for
    future,….use as kindling. A small investment in an axe might be in order.
    And your take on the judiciary?
    Plus the revolting anchors,…the circus just came to town.Recommend

  • Hafiz

    Yes, that’s a common sense you know, but there must be an effort to end this game. No matters what we name it…Recommend

  • Asfandyar Khan

    And I woke up in Peshawar to find out for six consecutive decades we don’t have gas. HurrayRecommend

  • taimu

    hilarious !! but maybe too honest for most peopleRecommend

  • Waqar Qureshi

    Awesome theme and beautifully written.Recommend

  • Sami

    Kublai sahib you have no right to belittle her for this article.I did not find anything wrong in the above article. She is far far better than the Critic Pakistanis like you who cannot write a comment in a simple plain English but are ought to point fingers at others.
    It is a simple Personal Blog of what she perceives around her and not some political commentary to convince you and we should Appreciate her and everyone in Our country who want to write blogs otherwise such practice does not exist here.
    Kindly encourage everyone to express their opinion rather than try to demoralize them for their effort.Recommend

  • Sami

    Kublai sahib you have no right to belittle her for this article.I did not find anything wrong in the above article. She is far far better than the Critic Pakistanis like you who cannot write a comment in a simple plain English but are ought to point fingers at others.
    It is a simple Personal Blog of what she perceives around her and not some political commentary to convince you and we should Appreciate her and everyone in Our country who want to write blogs otherwise such practice does not exist here.
    Kindly encourage everyone to express their opinion rather than try to demoralize them for their effort.Recommend

  • zahra

    what idiocy; just layer up! Even in Canada they encourage you to turn off the heating and conserve energy. Hum pakistani kuch zyadah hi nawab k bachay hain!!Recommend

  • zahra

    what idiocy; just layer up! Even in Canada they encourage you to turn off the heating and conserve energy. Hum pakistani kuch zyadah hi nawab k bachay hain!!Recommend

  • Named picked

    NO..”grumpy cat”Recommend

  • Named picked

    NO..”grumpy cat”Recommend

  • Shahbuddin Md.

    Nothing to worry – heat and eat Islam on which this nation is built. You also know why judiciary is not taking these issues as sumo-to, because they are getting all these at the cost of poor and middle class.Recommend

  • tungi

    i woke up today to find out, there was no double roti!dang!Recommend

  • Iftikhar Ali

    there will be so many ready for “Kandha denay kay liya”Recommend

  • nadia

    Do you have any idea what you are talking about? There is à difference between conserving energy and depriving energy!Recommend

  • Lubna

    Its one thing to layer up in order to conserve energy and quite another having no gas supply at all! Is asking for regular gas supply really too much…..?Recommend

  • Citizen

    Miss zahra , most of their needs are met by electricity. They have electric stoves , electric heaters ( yes some fireplaces need gas ) so plz don’t make any comparisons here Recommend

  • Ahmad_SE

    You are not in Siberia..When would we people understand and learn.Hats off to the publishersRecommend

  • Kublai

    Sir, you are a disturbed person. You should check into
    anger management. But doubt it’s available in your village.
    You are unable to distinguish satire with your twisted logic.
    Shows a lot of anger with no outlet. Somehow, it’s connected
    with Punjab.
    Hope ET will let this thru and not censor it. Like they did to
    my other caustic response to you.Recommend

  • usman
  • Kublai

    Exactly. Good response. Mr. Zahra should thank her stars
    that she does not have to worry about a simple thing such as
    making tea. If, indeed, she resides in Canada. Which is presuming.Recommend

  • Kublai

    What the Canadians emphasize, is to leave a smaller environmental
    footprint. [which is recommended all over the world] don’t waste energy. There is plenty of natural gas in Canada, for heating homes.
    Ms. Hassan’s article is about deprivation. No gas. For days
    at a time. A sad reflection on the Govt. And her humorous anecdote about how she overcomes this.Recommend

  • Looxain

    I think in 2 or 3 degree weather there is no chance to get froze! Lahore is already using so much part of provided gas of Sui area but do u know how the people of Sui and Quetta survive in -15 degree cold weather?? When they are already facing so much difficulties of Gas load shedding. Rise a voice for those otherwise take a long shirt here in Lahore and save urself to get froze!!! :)Recommend

  • Aamna Hassan Fasihi

    One of the few excellently articulated and to the point articles I have come across so far. I also belong to middle class and this unnecessary mayhem in the country tortures me a lot too. I also wonder that if these politicians take oath upon this constitution and plunder Pakistan from top to bottom then what good has this constitution or democracy is. Elsewhere in the world Democracy is the government for the relief of masses, to the letter. Only in Pakistan, it is so crude and as Hasan Nisar puts in ‘Democracy in Pakistan is like an ugly and obese pichal peri’Recommend

  • Gappi

    Muslims should find a solution in Quran for this problem.Recommend

  • Parvez

    To get through day to day one needs a developed sense of humour……….and lady, hats of to you because that’s just what you have.Recommend

  • Pappu

    If our beloved Prophet ( PBUH) could live his life without electricity gas telephone cars etc etc why today’s Pakistanis feel ashamed to emulate him.Recommend

  • Alann

    You should watch inspirational talk shows of Syed Zaid Hamid, the most popular guy among Pakistani youth. He once promised Pakistanis will be on the moon in 5 years’ time, a few years ago, Unfortunately it seems it got postponed due to some technical difficulties. He also exposed how Ajmal Kasab is a “Hindu baniya”; And how soon his great young Pakistani followers will convert India into the size of “Siri Lanka”.
    Only such inspirational, optimism-filled programs aired 24×7 on Pakistanis channels is going to lead the bright future of Madina-e-Sani Pakistan.
    Recommend

  • Ibn-Arastoo Ibn-aflatoon Ibn-B

    Lack of electricity and gas in today’s age is unconscionable. Very sorry to hear of your plight. It is not just electricity and gas and modern amenities we are lagging in modern customs, ideas, books, schools, clothing even.

    For example : I am sitting here and observing this girl from India dressed in western clothing (tight blue skinny jeans, polar jacket fur lined, ankle high boots) and I am thinking: “used to be that our Pakistanis would dress in modern clothing, skirts and jeans so they were indistinguishable from the westerners and the Indians would walk around with Tika and Sari and “Pagri” and Dhoti so you could identify an Indian miles away and thereby avoid them; this was in the 60s,70s, 80s”;). Now it is the opposite our Pakistani people are walking around in Hijabs and beards while the Indians are dressing in western clothing and their country is progressing. I am happy for the Indians but I feel sad for Pakistan that we are lagging not just in clothing but in modern amenities like electricity (and gas?).

    May God have mercy upon our people, make them fair and loving and westernized and modern and loved. Recommend

  • observer

    How did people live in Lahore for hundreds of years before gas came into their lives? How did people live in Lahore for hundreds of years before electricity came into their lives. How do thousands of poor people live in this world without gas, without electricity, without running tap water, without sewerage, without roads, without medicines, we in Pakistan have to be most grateful who have these amenities.Recommend

  • Oats

    Until people own up to their own responsibilities and pay taxes and abide by civil conventions, there will remain a lot of things that need fixing in Pakistan just like any other developing country. To complain and do nothing is the hallmark of a Third World mentality and this is a bigger reason why developing countries remain behind – not simple lack of funds. The fact that you think it’s so cold in Lahore without gas and electricity is an issue onto itself but I doubt if you want to fix anything on your own but rather you will just complain of ” freezing to death” and not having gas to cook so you are hungry!Recommend

  • x

    LOL. ET mods have no sense of humor. Filter all mine too.Recommend

  • x

    Say whaaat? Because electricity was not available then and is not? Through education, knowledge and scientific advancement or are you against that too? Also, I assume you live in a simple brick house, do not own any assets as wealth accumulation was also not done and ride camels around instead of cars.Recommend

  • Normal Human Beings?

    Dear God in heaven. The FIRST THING ISLAM TEACHES IS TOLERANCE!!!!!! I loved the blog it was honest, funny and true. We pay for the God Damn utilities that we barely get to use becoz of the load sheddings etc. For heaves sakes, the lady wrote what she felt. What are you guys made of? Do you think only you can have an opinion and the right to voice it? If you want respect for your pathetic opinions give some respect first! I don’t give two pence for this “Democracy”. It has caused nothing but problems for the public. Whether you have guts enough to admit or not (your problem) Pervaiz Musharaf’s time was much much much better.
    That’s my opinion! and I stick to it! I am sooo not interested in your counter replies. Ms. Sakina I hope to read more of your blogs. God Bless and Peace.Recommend

  • http://www.gassecura.com/distributor-enquiry.html gas safety device supplier

    Quite nice and interesting post thanks…………….Recommend

  • http://www.cooltv.co/ Sami Khan

    Same situation happens now a days. I am living in Sadar Cantt area. There is no Light and we are also waiting and waiting for Gas. May Allah give them Hidayat.

    AameenRecommend

  • Amna Ijaz Mehmood

    This is probably the stupidest comment I’ve read in years. She’s not talking about “being cold.” Gas is a basic necessity which she is emphasizing on from the point of view of “khana pakana.” Gaahhhh!! The claims people make from a trillion kilometers away. God!Recommend