Stories about poverty

Take with you all that is yours

“What is it like migrating to another country for work?” I asked a middle-aged, growing old, worn out man. There appeared deep wrinkles on his forehead, deep like incurable scars. His eyes blinked, as if trying to capture the escaping moments, and he heaved a cold sigh. “What can I say?” He whispered in anguish. “I came here to earn just enough money, to run a home with dignity. A home with my parents, brothers, sisters, my wife, and our children, But I’ve increasingly fallen short of making that home, Let alone running it. Having spent some 15 years here, In this foreign land, Which is still foreign to me. I would say– If there’s no other ...

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The child marriage legislation is a step in the right direction, but will it be implemented?

Marriages are big business in Pakistan. It is a time of hope, happiness, faith and love. Such a memorable event can easily turn sour when the parties getting married are underage. To curb this heinous act, legislation has been passed by the National Assembly, aimed to reduce child marriages by ramping up the severity of the punishment.  Instead of being imprisoned for up to three years, individuals involved in arranging child marriages face a 10-year imprisonment with a one million rupees fine. This new change in the law seems to be a serious effort on part of the government to tackle this insidious practice. Although on ...

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“So, what’s Pakistan like?”

The old man had the most startling blue eyes, the kind that glittered in a wizard-like way. He was a contractual worker fixing some room in the building where I work, and I met him in the kitchen over my morning coffee. He asked where I’m from and widened his eyes. He didn’t comment on how good my English is, but how American my accent is (which I take no offence or pride in – it’s not the two years of Master’s in St Louis but all those American movies and TV shows I watch). And then he asked me ...

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Capitalism, the disease that breeds social injustice

A while back, a story went viral on the internet about a young girl, who worked as a house maid. Long story cut short, she asked her employer for an advance because her mother was extremely ill, but her employer refused. A few hours later, the very same employer showed the house maid the brand new lipstick she had just bought – a MAC product worth more than her salary. The house maid was naturally furious and disappointed: What happened then? Did the house maid’s mother survive? I doubt it. She didn’t have enough money for the treatment and her employer had refused to give her ...

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Is it okay to awaken the dead to settle a score with Adnan Sami Khan?

Last Monday, a young writer by the name of Ahsan Mehmood wrote a hypothetical letter  from Adnan Sami Khan’s (ASK) deceased father to his son for a newsblog called The Weekly Pakistan. The letter was written in response to a tweet from Adnan in which he congratulated the Indian armed forces and PM Modi on a “successful surgical strike against terror”. Big Congratulations to @PMOIndia & our brave Armed forces for a brilliant, successful & mature strategic strike against #terrorism ! #Salute — Adnan Sami (@AdnanSamiLive) September 29, 2016 The letter essentially consisted of the father, a decorated PAF officer, talking about ...

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“Yahan peshaab karnay wala ghada hai”: To pee or not to pee?

The traffic, temperature and the pressure is at its peak, with one hand on his bladder Ritesh Kumar stands between a locked public washroom and a mosque. Karachi: Each no-go area is a safe house for another; welcome to Karachi, a city of 16 million people where public lavatories have become equally restricted for the militant, khaki or a civilian. “Yahan peshaab karnay wala ghada hai.” Whoever urinates here is a donkey. These warnings are painted on many walls in Karachi. The only option people have is to accept the compliments written on the walls and keep on going. According to UNICEF, “There are ...

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On Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment

“My dear sir,” he began almost solemnly, “Poverty is no vice – that is the truth. I know that drunkenness is also no virtue, and that is even more so. But destitution, my dear sir, destitution is a vice, sir. In poverty you may still preserve the nobility of your inborn feelings, but in destitution no one ever does.” This turned out to be my second attempt at reading Crime and Punishment; the first attempt was brought to a sudden halt by a slight turn of events. As a result, this wreaked havoc on my vintage copy of Crime and Punishment – the one translated by Richard Pevear ...

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Pakistan and India should celebrate independence from the British – not from each other

Sometime back I ran into an elderly man at work. Since I live in an area of Canada that is densely populated with immigrants from Indian Punjab, I knew the gentleman was from India. After I was done helping him out, he looked at my name-tag and asked me what part of India I was from. I told him I was from Pakistan, not India. A wide smile appeared on his face, and he asked me what city of Pakistan I belonged to. After I mentioned that I was from Lahore, his smile grew even wider as he got teary-eyed. ...

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Parday kay peechay: A humourous unveiling of Pakistani society

Parday kay peechay starts off with a typical scene at a funeral—relatives, both close and distant, feigning sadness for the deceased, backbiting aunties, and, of course, as is custom in Pakistani society, talk of rishtas. The play revolves around the family of the late Mr Kazmi attempting to gain a stronger financial footing by convincing one of his daughters, Alia, played by Shanze Hasan, to marry the son of an American businessman. However, Alia’s sister, Leena (Alina Salahudin), wants the American boy for her own self, and thus pursues Daniyaal, played by Saad Mirza, while comically setting up mean-girl-esque pitfalls ...

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What’s the point of your National Laptop Scheme if I can’t read or write, Mr PM?

The Prime Minister’s National Laptop Scheme was introduced in 2014, an expansion of a previous version by the name of the Shahbaz Sharif Youth Initiative. Four billion rupees have been allocated for the scheme and more than 100,000 laptops have been distributed through the Higher Education Commission (HEC) in colleges and HEC recognised universities. As part of phase two of the Laptop Scheme, 25,867 students were meant to receive laptops by February, 2016. But what concerns many of us is, what the return on this extraordinarily huge investment under the banner of Youth Initiatives has been so far – especially ...

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