Stories about poverty

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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A six-year-old burnt alive for asking for food

It was early morning. I was browsing through my daily newspaper when I came across this grotesque story. The news flashing before my eyes read, “A six-year-old lost her life begging for food at a wedding ceremony in Rujahna”. Her name was Kalsoom, a beggar child; little did she know that begging for food could be as fatal as starving to death. Her empty stomach forced her to spread her tiny palms in front of a waiter who was looking after the food at this ceremony. The waiter asked her to leave several times but her bloated belly got the best of her and ...

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Because as I see it, democracy has already won

“Bijli nahe hay, stability nahe hay, business nahe chal sakta, security nahe hay…Hum laaton ke bhoot, baaton se nahe maanain gay. Yahan democracy nahe chal sakti. We need a stronger force, a dictator to rule us.” (There is no electricity or stability here, businesses cannot work, and there is lack of security…we can’t be talked into working, we need to be beaten to do it. Democracy cannot work here. We need a stronger force, a dictator to rule us.) “But, we are new to the process. Har cheez main time lagta hay (everything takes time); maybe if we sacrifice today, our ...

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International Day for Street Children: Make a child smile today

“So, what are you doing on the International Day for Street Children?” A simple question I asked around to get to know the opinion of people in my city. To my dismay, none of them knew about the existence of the day! When I told them about it, hardly any responded that they would be doing something nice for the improvised. A few even argued over the point of having such a day. They believed that it was a ‘lame’ concept of the modern day and found it ridiculous to attribute one day to one person. The difference of opinion and unawareness about ...

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Are your maid and driver ‘dirty’ because they work for you?

A woman snatched a fork from the hands of another woman just as she was about to eat at a dinner recently. The other woman did not flinch nor retaliate. In fact, she went on to accept an entire set of different dinnerware from the plate to the glass. That’s an extraordinarily polite guest, I noted. Except this woman was not a guest. The woman was a domestic servant. No one paused to notice what happened, no one found it strange. There is a difference we have with the people that work for us. We do not eat in the same plates as them and cannot ...

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When the devil takes over

“I can’t arrange the funds!” Lucifer said curtly. “Maybe later?” His wife, Delilah, spoke softly, but firmly. “Can’t promise you anything.” His face disappeared somewhere in the smoke of the cigarette. “You loved me. I mattered to you. Once.” Her eyes had a covert, but profound temper. “Once, everything was different. You weren’t so materialistic, once.” He glared back at her. “Materialistic? All that we have ever had is a physical relationship – that’s all. Isn’t that materialistic?” Her voice was sorrowful. “And still you stick around. You know why? Because of the money that I had.” Her husband replied spitefully as he bent down, and ...

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From Houston to Golimar

The abrupt decision to move to Karachi from Houston was distressing. The realisation that it would be a move from Houston to Golimar was even more distressing. The enduring flight bore anticipatory thoughts of what this foreign land would hold for me, if anything at all. Western media had successfully accomplished its goal of tarnishing Pakistan’s image in my eyes. This would be the first time I travel to Pakistan in 12 years after having lived abroad for all of my life. As I walked out of Jinnah International Airport, the putrid stench of the third-world hit me like a sucker punch, nearly ...

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