Parkour boys of Quetta: Fighting fear… like a boss
I didn’t really know what parkour was, until I came across a recent article about some boys from Quetta’s Hazara town who practise this activity. I had come across references to free running (a more acrobatic version of parkour) on television previously, but since I’m the kind of old soul who believes that doing anything which might result in a serious injury is a cry for attention, I never gave it any. It had an aura of belonging to the seedy world of graffiti, tattoos, drugs and gangs and I am, as I mentioned earlier, an old soul.
After reading the article and watching the video, I became curious. This was not about broken bones or bruises. This was about painting a bull’s eye on your forehead. Taking part in a video meant for the internet that clearly shows your face and reveals where you are from – when you belong to race of people that is systematically being eliminated – seems a bit reckless.
Why would you do that?
Maybe because you’ve had enough? Is there a place beyond fear and self-preservation? A place where you do not care anymore? I think it’s more of a corner really, than a place. And there aren’t a lot of ways to get out of a corner; you can either let them drag you out, or you can fight.
Here is a small lesson on civilisation. It entails the harnessing of the animal in man. Channelling his strength, his cunning, his bloodlust, his competitiveness, his energy and his desire to reach the top of the pecking order into something that doesn’t involve a fight to the death. Civilisation gave us sports and debating societies, chess clubs and science fairs because it doesn’t look good to be at each other’s throats to prove that you’re better.
There are many instances of this fact being used to bring people back from the brink. Countries like the United States have art programs for under privileged children to help them excel, despite the drawbacks of their environment. In less developed places like Brazil and Mexico, private individuals or NGOs set up outreach programs for under privileged children to keep them away from the lure of drugs or street gangs.
People use everything, from martial arts and theatre to gymnastics and dance, to give youngsters a chance to explore their potential and put their energy into more worthwhile pursuits, than violence. Often, some of the best athletes, actors and artists can be found amongst the most down trodden – something that was demonstrated by Pakistan’s bronze medal in the Street Child World Cup this year.
Anyway, let’s come back to the parkour boys in Hazara Town.
They are cornered. They have decided to come out fighting. But not in the same way as those they are fighting against. It is ironic that while most of the online videos that call for their blood are full of vitriolic words, the video that they used to show us that their lives are just as precious as our own is completely silent. It shows, perhaps more clearly than anything else, that they have chosen civilisation over chaos.
While a major reason for their interest in the (for lack of a better word) ‘sport’ is self-defence, it also shows that they have not given up. The rest of us may have latched on to the next breaking news bulletin but their story is powerful enough without our attention. In their efforts to continue living (when they don’t even know if the next trip outside might be their last or not) they have demonstrated the kind of courage and spirit that each and every one of us needs to exhibit in the difficult times ahead.
I, for one, am looking forward to their next video.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.