Stories about poverty

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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Education only panacea to current mess

Today, Pakistan finds itself in the quagmire of violence, uncertainty, and despair, mainly because of its shattered and obsolete education system. A recent report by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc) states that Pakistan is number two in the world with 25 million children out of school, coupled with an astronomical dropout rate. This gloomy picture exists because of the oppressive socio-economic conditions that have fostered impoverished living circumstances, monopoly of resources and concentration of wealth in a few hands. State institutions, occupied and run by a handful of feudals, have shirked their responsibility to ...

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Drinking straight from the tap and courteous officers: Surprises in the US

I have always wondered why every other Pakistani is so heavily influenced by the West. Was it the media or was there really something impressive about them? I have to say, after my visit to the States, I have fallen in to the same trap. Here is my story… As I landed at the Los Angeles International Airport, I stood in the immigration line, patiently waiting for my turn. A few minutes later an officer called out to me from a distance and asked me to leave the line. I did as I was told to and the officer slowly walked up to ...

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Pakistani with every fiber of my being

I hail from green and white – from a crescent and a star. I live under lights that do not dim, even with electricity loadshedding every day. I walk in slums and narrow streets. I travel across shahrahs and highways that lead up to the mountains. I cower from the sun, glaring down, staring down; I cower from heat waves — from warmth that can make you faint. I am in awe of the sea, the beautiful vast sea that drowned a boy I knew, with long, white, foamy waves that I watch merge with one another. I recognise five rivers that have ...

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A day in the life of 78-year-old Riaz

It’s Monday morning. The alarm has started wailing in its almost cynical tone as per the daily routine. It is time for Riaz to drag himself out of bed and face another listless and robotic day at work. The tea is cold as usual and the bread two days stale. Living in a locality bearing the brunt of both the electric and gas loadshedding means the water never really reaches a point of warmth, let alone the boiling point. Baked bread is too expensive a luxury so this stale piece must do. Upon reaching work, the young supervisor starts barking orders ...

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Happiness is just a frame of mind: A fake eye and a haunting past

So what’s the biggest problem in your life? An exam you failed? The fact that your parents spoil your little sister more than they spoil you? Is it the new lawn prints you can’t afford? How unfair life is, right? I thought the same until my maid told me her story. I was lying in the lounge, depressed as ever. How could God be so unfair? I moaned and I complained. A dumb friend of mine had received an acceptance letter from a university abroad because he could afford it; I couldn’t. I was still in the worst of all moods when my ...

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Poverty and population growth

Sceptics may call it statistical trickery, but economic data confirms that global poverty has indeed been falling for the last three decades. According to the Poverty Reduction and Equity report of the World Bank, which was updated in April, the percentage of people living in the developing world on less than $1.25 a day (in purchasing power parity terms) was 52.2 per cent back in 1981. The figure dropped to just 20.6% in 2010. In other words, 1.2 billion people were impoverished in 2010 in the developing world as opposed to 1.9 billion in 1981. However, far more people would have ...

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Stairway to power

Tamim’s cigarette was nearing its end. He saw students clamouring out of the examination hall, laughing and sharing examination horror stories. He searched their happy faces for a sullen, sunken face that was probably dotted with paan spots. When he saw Zahid’s face, he raised his hand to beckon him. They bumped shoulders in greeting and Zahid filled his lungs with smoke and let out a breath of relief. “That was horrible.” “I’m going to fail. We’re both going to fail.” Tamim stared at his classmates gathering near a car and putting on what seemed to be new sunglasses. “Who cares? Math never helps ...

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