Stories about poverty

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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Pakistan, a song of love and brotherhood

History tells us that all great nations were once not great. A nation like America had been war struck for more than 100 years. Racial inequality was at its peak in America. The economy was badly affected eight years ago. England too was war ridden for many years. China was once a collection of divided people with vastly differing aims. All great nations faced a plethora of problems before they became truly great. A citizen of the great Pakistan. Photo: Salman Javed I am citizen of a country where, Every day, Earth witnesses blood, The sky witnesses injustice, The sun sees poverty, The stars see slums. And the ...

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Fehmida’s beloved companion

Sitting thoughtfully, he smiled for no obvious reason. Or perhaps his thoughts had wandered off, from the hardships of the past few weeks since he had lost his job to the call he had received this very morning. Taking his cell phone out, which he kept like a prized commodity, he looked at it with a constant yet distracted gaze. He had listened through it with intent when Abdul Kareem, an old friend of his, briefed him about a domestic servant’s job, for which he was to come meet Ms Fehmida.  There was hope for him at last. He would finally ...

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Landa bazaar: More than just poverty, heat and mud

At the heart of the cultural hub of Pakistan lies the decades old ‘Landa bazaar’. To some it is but a crowded alley of poverty and inexpensive counterfeits; to others, it is a source of sustainable livelihood that bridges the class divide through duplicity. To me, as a student of photojournalism, it is much more than the former or the latter. The bazaar is an important aspect of our diminishing culture; a sea of faces, a juxtaposition of the traditional and the contemporary, and a true depiction of what Pakistan is beyond the urban comforts. The colourful humdrum of Landa Bazaar. ...

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Pakistanis – as charitable as we are corrupt!

What could I write about? I thought to myself, while taking a long drive down the smog filled roads of Sea View in Karachi, my birthplace and a city I keep returning to. Corruption, violence, poverty, slave labour, child abuse, acid victims, rape, gender discrimination. The possibilities are endless because we are an under-developed country with a plethora of topics ranging from the manic to the incredibly insane making lives quite exciting for photographers, journalists, documentary-makers and writers. Photo: Reuters Then, something remarkable happened. I was passing by one of the food stalls erected away from the beach area. A boy, barely eight-years-old, holding ...

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Wali Flo Shah’s success story: When he refused to let poverty break him

“I know you’d expect this kid to be a criminal, But before you judge someone, don’t be as cynical Because that child wasn’t a story, That child was me.” Thus, eighteen-year-old Wali Shah ended his powerful spoken word ‘The Child’, narrating his journey as an immigrant child – battling economic hardships at home and a troubled gangster life outside in Toronto, Canada. For his narration, he received a standing ovation at a prestigious event at United Way, attended by dignitaries in the city of Mississauga. I met Wali Shah later in his home, located in a modest, middle class rental apartment building. As his Mom received ...

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A broken pen, a sweeper’s respect and my shame

It was a normal day at college. While two of my friends were playing table tennis, another friend and I were trying to disrupt their game by constantly throwing objects their way. This was routine for us – nothing unusual. On this particular day, we started by throwing Nestle water bottle caps at them, then pen caps and when we ran out of the smaller pieces, we threw pens their way. Since we had a poor aim, these items were scattered all over the lobby but we didn’t pay much attention to the mess we had made and continued with ...

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Ibrahim Hyderi: Where children chew gutka and await their turn to eat

Enter Ibrahim Hyderi. From the foul and putrid smell that contaminates the air to the alleys upon alleys of shanty mud erections, this 4,000 year old basti (town) will leave you despondent. It has been deserted by the government, abandoned of literacy and polluted with all forms of abuse: child, drug and health. Its inhabitants lead a very dismal existence indeed. This crumbling and dilapidated town is home to a staggering 50,000 Pakistanis. As the rocking waves settle against the sweltering sun, a string of fishermen’s boats line the docks. The effortless beauty is deceiving for while Mother Nature may majestically ...

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‘Halal’ education in Pakistan: When ‘pig’ in a nursery rhyme is taboo

As certain words and concepts in English are out of their range of experience, my students, coming from an underprivileged background, find it difficult to understand or accept them. With English nursery rhymes for example, since Jack was remiss enough to break his crown, the girls thought he and Jill were king and queen, until I explained otherwise.  Humpty Dumpty on the other hand continues to be viewed with deep distrust, however much I pleaded his cause. It isn’t, after all, normal to be an egg person. The resultant doubt of his being quite kosher creates a degree of disquiet. If ever Humpty wanders ...

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Life in Pakistan: Can we afford to hope for improvement?

I find it difficult to come up with a truthful answer to the question “How is life in Pakistan these days?” A simple “It’s complicated” does not even begin to describe the complexities of everyday life in this country. Pakistan is a difficult country; difficult like dealing with a child who has started screaming and crying in a crowded market, a child that cannot be pacified by meeting its unreasonable demands. Sheer patience is required to face the unending drama we create and encounter in this country every day. However, patience is not a virtue known to prosper in the ...

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