I am ashamed

Published: January 7, 2012
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We saw the woman struggling, but we had moved on in that split second, not stopping to help her. PHOTO: MOHAMMAD SAQIB

I moved to Hyderabad  Deccan about a year ago, but somehow Hyderabad’s suffering doesn’t register with me. Its people still don’t seem to be my people, and their misery doesn’t seem to be my misery, or even misery at all. This is probably because I’m a Karachiite.

Being a Karachiite means you’ve lived through bombings, target killings and the city going up in flames over and over again; it means there have been times when your father hasn’t come home for the night because it was safer to stay put wherever he was; it means there is a high probability that you or someone you know has been held at gun point; it means that after all this you’re supposed to get up and go back to work because life will go on.

Hyderabad has never suffered like Karachi has and probably never will, and I have never suffered with it.

This disconnect with Indian Hyderabad’s pain has made me the worst possible version of myself that I could possibly ever imagine being. Actually that’s a complete lie; its Karachi’s pain that made me this way. I’ve watched it bleed over and over again and some how still survive – we’ve survived. This hardened attitude made me believe Hyderabad needs to suck it up and move on (like that myth about female gynecologists having no empathy). That’s probably a bad analogy considering Hyderabad is a pretty vibrant economy and is in the middle of divorce where both parents want sole custody of the child (Telangana and Andhra). Like I said, worst possible version of myself.

On our way back home today, my husband and I were held up for maybe a minute in some bottleneck traffic jam. It looked like a woman had fallen down while crossing the road and her friend was helping her up. As we drove by, I saw she had an amputated leg which was wrapped in either duct tape or a grey dupatta, and she was dragging herself on her bottom across the road, as her companion walked beside her. We had moved on in that split second, not stopping to help her. No second glance, not even to offer her some financial assistance, nobody else did either (not like that should ever matter).

I don’t remember her face, what she looked like, or what she was wearing, except that her shalwar was torn up to her thighs. What I do remember is the anguished cry I heard as we drove away.

We make up stories about the people we see, why they’re there, what they do, what motivates them. It’s how are brains are wired. But I don’t want to think about her anymore. The more I think about her, the greater my shame is, as it should be. Why was she crying? Was she in physical pain? Was she mourning the loss of a limb? The fact that she was now crippled, disabled, and dependant? Or was it just the humiliation and loss of dignity, as she watched people callously pass her by? Was she crying at her own fate? I don’t even think I can imagine her frustration and disillusionment in humanity’s loss of empathy.

The reason I’m writing this, is because I never want to forget this moment.

I want to shame myself into becoming a better person.

I should have stopped.

I should’ve put her in a rickshaw and sent her to home. I should have made an effort to preserve her dignity. I should have eased her suffering if only for that night. I shouldn’t have just moved on.

Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve – didn’t, right? I hope that she can forgive me, whoever she is, because I failed to fulfil my rights towards her. Till then I shall look at this post everyday to remind myself to do better, to be better. I pray her cries become my conscience and help me guide my way. I don’t want my personal suffering to keep me from dismissing someone else’s even if I feel debilitated and overwhelmed by my own.

I had thought about hiding behind anonymity, but even then this shame would’ve remained private and that is not what I had hoped to achieve from this. I didn’t want to sully peoples’ perception of me and once again I was becoming the worst possible version of myself and how is that rectifying the mistake I just made?

So, this is me; a horribly flawed individual too ashamed to look herself in the eye, but determined to do better.

Shazia A

Shazia A

A marketing graduate who has moved across the border and is now trying to re-calibrate her life.

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