Stories about poor

Would you get your jaw-wired to lose weight?

“Hey, you have lost weight?” This is a question almost every woman in this world hopes to be asked. Every day, we discuss, think about, act on and cheat on this weight monster. Recently at work, one of my female co-workers proudly announced that her family friends got their daughter’s jaws wired so that she cannot eat or chew. The poor 17-year-old will be living on liquids for the next two years. What is the end result? Of course, she will shed all those ‘extra’ pounds and probably will be able to grab an acha rishta, but how inhumane is that? While listening to ...

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Agriculture is our golden goose; don’t kill her, my dear Industrialists

The projection of economic growth as something evil, that benefits only the rich, is wrong. Even so, equally erroneous is taking the GDP number for a sacrosanct symbol of sure-fire prosperity for all. Praise is due to the government’s economic team for various improvements in the macro-economy: five per cent growth in first quarter (Q1), about 10 per cent appreciation in the rupee within three months, and excellent performance of the stock market – all reflect recovery. Yet, how these gains are shared with the neediest of the needy remains to be seen – and only this should be taken as being an encompassing yardstick of success. Historically, Pakistan’s ...

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Noor of Bihar

“Babu jee, India is so enormous. Mumbai, Agra, Delhi and Bihar are unfathomable in size. Either you take one step or accomplish a hundred, it will take 10 years to traverse from one end of the country to another,” she assured me in her mellifluous Bihari tone. As the fan overhead continued its eternal hymn, Nani (maternal grandmother) shouted in distaste, “Huh, you have seen India, my foot! Woman of no worth,” she shouted out, as mother and I looked at each other, exchanging mental notes on how to manage Nani’s incorrigible distrust of domestic helpers. Nani suffered from a cancerous tumour ...

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Bulldozing the poor of Islamabad to make room for the rich?

I offer my deepest sympathies to the elite and upper-middle class families of Islamabad who may be experiencing frustrating irregularities in the activities of their servants. It’s quite possible that the inconvenience is being caused by their maasi (domestic maid) Zareena’s sudden homelessness in the aftermath of the Capital Development Authority’s (CDA) war on slums. I’ll try not to undermine the importance of preventing illegal occupation of public land but this prevention shouldn’t be reserved for just one segment of society. It’s expected for these settlements to be raked away especially, if the occupiers are haplessly poor and have no teeth to bite back. But what ...

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How a group of dedicated friends changed the lives of 150 children

For a country with a population of 180 million, out of which 36 .7 per cent are under the age of 15, the education system of Pakistan is simply disgraceful. Although there is always a hue-and-cry about the importance of education by our leaders, little is actually done to implement the extensive measures that the government claims to pursue. As a result of the state’s negligence and the sheer inadequacy of infrastructure, millions of young children are unable to fight their way out of the poverty-stricken struggle that seems to be their destiny. Pakistan is currently rated number two on the ...

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When you eat at an expensive restaurant, do you think of the poor?

A few days ago, a friend of mine got a job at a university and to celebrate the occasion, we decided to go out for dinner. Of course, it was going to be his treat. After a long debate over what to eat and where to go, we finally decided to have a buffet dinner at a restaurant close by. We decided the date and time and extended the invite to other friends as well. There were going to be seven of us. I lived in a hostel with another friend and so we decided to go together. We reached the ...

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When we were too poor to afford Blue Band margarine

I still remember the day that Blue Band margarine was introduced to Alamdar Bakery in my home-town of Quetta, Pakistan. The glossy silver packaging and the light blue printing stood out among all the other butter in the bakery’s refrigerator. However, I refrained from taking an interest in this new product since I was well aware that my parents would not be able to afford it. I continued to consume the inexpensive Liaquat Makkhan for breakfast even after the older brother of the baker recommended Blue Band with great zeal; I consoled myself by thinking that he was just trying to improve his sales. As the weeks ...

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When not being able to afford dowry can lead you to kill yourself

What would you say to five women, who are all fairly above the ‘marriageable age’ and yet have no good prospects in sight? Yes, I know that phrase pretty well. ‘Haye bechari!’ (Oh, the poor thing!) But it’s alright. Four of these five women don’t have to worry about marriage anymore. That is not because they have found feminism. It’s not because they found someone to take care of them or to love them or hold on to them without the greed of a dowry or a fancy wedding. It’s not because their father has won a lottery and suddenly became the richest man ...

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Forgotten veterans: This is the story of Allah Ditta

His eyes reflect long nights of toil, tears and sweat. His posture and grey beard is telling of his age. His ID card announces his name – Allah Ditta. He is a security guard at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi. As I draw near, he greets me with a warm smile. Behind this calm facade is a story of great self-sacrifice, of dreams unfulfilled, of expectations unmet and a life unlived… During the blood-stained days of 1971, Allah Ditta was 19-years-old. Overflowing with a blend of youthful valour and the love of his fatherland, he joined the army and jumped ...

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When the poor pay with their lives for fizzy drinks

Travel through rural Pakistan and two things will strike you. One is heart rending poverty and the other is hospitality. Visitors are greeted with warmth and selfless generosity. The poorest of the poor will immediately call for ‘paani’ for their visitors. Paani means water in Urdu, but in the local lexicon it has come to mean a bottled fizzy drink. And ‘paani’ brooks no refusal. Visitors can demur all they want but the host is not deterred.  “It’s only paani”, he says. “It can do no harm”. But it can and it does. The impression amongst the general public that it ...

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