Stories about slums

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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My visit to the Taj Mahal

After returning from an action-packed trip to India – with a wedding, a family reunion and a tour of a country rich in culture and tradition – there is so much I want to share! This trip was truly incredible and we are still in a state of wonder and awe. Our trip began in Delhi and, believe me, landing in Delhi was like arriving in Lahore. The similarities were unbelievable – the people, the roads, the buildings, the architecture and the food all reminded us of things back home. I would not be exaggerating if I said that ...

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I followed him to his home, the slum

Bearing the insignia of your destitution, You smile at me innocently, in awe, with measured restraint, As you collect fruit from the garbage, Searching through the mess, your eyes down, your face composed, You bend with deliberation, patiently shifting through the boxes, Every minute counts, dusk is setting in and patience is running thin.   Brown hair, hazel blue eyes, a sharp nose, Ragged clothes, messy hair, a broken sandal. You could have been my cousin, my niece, If only fate had been more magnanimous, If poverty had not tainted your childhood.   The owner kicks you, abuses, threatens, Yet you continue collecting food from the stinking pile. Your eyes flare up in protest, ...

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Is education for Karachi slum-dwellers a waste of time?

In 2008, on a typical hot and humid summer morning, I was driving through Karachi city to get to work. Passing close to Karachi’s biggest slum area, Orangi, my car broke down and I had it brought to a workshop nearby to get it fixed. The workshop had a head mechanic, who diagnosed the problem and then assigned one of the several teenagers working for him to fix the issue. I observed the child working on my car and found him to be very talkative. He asked me about how I’ll be late for office and commented on my good luck ...

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Changing times: ‘I always wanted a daughter’

Chandini is only about four feet, nine inches tall. Her body seems to have naturally bent from the strain of having carried four children, one after another, on her waist for about a decade now. She had her first child when she was 17-years-old.   She ruefully points at her first born, a boy, who was desperately trying to reattach a broken arm to a doll’s body, and says: I took one look at the child, and I couldn’t stop my tears She had wanted a daughter. Jagat, Chandini’s husband, earns his living by screening the trash and selling what is possible to the scarp ...

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Bombay slums: Dark, dingy and full of hope

Bombay (now known as Mumbai) enamours me like it has many people. While the plane lands over the city, you see a seamless mix of shanties and high rises. It is not so inconspicuous on the ground. Riding a local train from Santa Cruz to Malad East, I gazed at the best and the worst of living conditions of the people of Bombay. I was in the city to report on the raising real estate prices in the city’s slums. As I reached my destination in Dharavi, one of the largest slums in Asia, there was a strange sensation in my stomach ...

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‘Have some paan, Bhai jaan’

Bhai jaan! Yahaan sub milta hai: meetha paan, tambaaku wala paan, khushboo wala paan aur aap kay liye khaas, special paan. (Brother, you will find everything here; sweet paan, tobacco paan, scented paan, and just for you, a very special paan.) Aslam, a 15-year-old boy, dressed in filthy clothes and oiled hair, which diffuse a pungent smell, usually utters the same statement to every man or woman strolling in front of the tobacco shop in a market in Defence, Lahore. The young salesman never fails to grab the attention of passers-by. It’s impossible to ignore the boy because he delivers the sales ...

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Video blog: Stepping into the slums

With her grandmother by her side, an innocent girl, Zakia, stared at me. The one-year-old had lost her mother shortly after she was born. She didn’t know of any life aside from that of the filthy slum she was born in, just outside of Johor town in Lahore. As her grandmother described the ordeal that she had to go through just to get milk for the little girl, a rare occasion in a household such as this one, I couldn’t help feeling fortunate and guilty at the same time. Zakia and her grandmother, regrettably, are not the only people struggling to make ...

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