and the city
Eid away from home
At orphanages, happy times become possible with the love of people who share their resources and time with these children
By Saadia Salahuddin
As Eid approaches people travel from other cities and towns to get together with parents and siblings. It is time for homecoming. While most of us live with families, there is a small section of society that lives in orphanages and shelter homes and has nowhere to go. They have their Eid with their fellow residents.
It is heartening to know that there are a number of well-to-do people among us who care for these children not just by way of cash and kind. People come with families and bring in home-cooked food with them and share and give company to the orphans on Eid day. People specially come to offer Eid prayers with the children here and distribute Eidi, new notes among them, which children appreciate. Anjuman Himayat-e-Islam puts up different stalls for the children in the premises where they can buy things of their choice. A magic show organised by the Anjuman and three sumptuous meals arranged by donors are a regular feature on Eid.
I learnt on a visit to Darul Shafqat (for boys) that out of the 250 boys living in the orphanage, 150 were expected to stay back on Eid while 100 girls were expected to be there at the girls' orphanage on Eid.
Ramzan is the month when the orphanage receives the most charity while there are people who donate quite regularly. People arrange iftars for children, bring gifts for them. A man donated a generator this Ramzan that caters to the whole complex. A beverage company has donated two wall LCDs for children. Someone has donated a library to Darul Shafqat for Boys. These are some of the significant donations made recently to the orphanage.
It was interesting to know that all the boys have their own bats, balls and footballs and love to play cricket, they tell me.
Eid is time to wear new dresses and the organisation made two suits each for all the children here which was distributed among them along with shoes close to Eid. A garments shop gave 85 fancy suits to boys here while a chemicals industry donated suits for all girls at the orphanage at Rajgarh and for all the women in Darul Aman. Mehndi and bangles were also distributed among the girls at the orphanage. At all the shelter homes run by the Anjuman, feast and new clothes for the residents is a standard feature.
These children still need our care and attention even after Eid is over. Kudos to Anjuman Himayat-e-Islam for doing good work.
The Anjuman Himayat-e-Islam President Justice Manzoor Husain Sial has asked all the relief workers of NGOs, Ministry of Social Welfare, Punjab Government and Federal Government to bring all orphans from the flood-affected areas to the Anjuman which will take care of them. The Anjuman has raised Rs15 lakh fund for these children.
That the society cares so much for the destitute, is very encouraging but something came up during this information-seeking that was very disturbing. I learnt that 80 percent of the children are brought here by their mothers. These are widows who cannot sustain on their own and get their children admitted here in the hope of a better future. Saeed Qadir, a senior official of the Anjuman administration says, "These women have to bring a death certificate of their husbands from the respective union councils to admit their children here." It is heart-rending that a mother parts with her child when he/she most needs her. The youngest child that Darul Shafqat takes is three and a half year old and there are as old as 22 year olds at the orphanage.
I walk through a corridor at Darul Shafqat for Boys and am taken into a hall full of children, sitting round a table, waiting for a dignitary who is supposed to distribute Eid clothes among them. As I enter the room, they greet me with clapping and then with salam. They are all young children from three and a half to seven years of age. They look fine – neat and disciplined. There are three very small children at the back. Saaed Qadir points out a child and tells me, "He is three days old here. Since then he keeps coming to me again and again whenever he feels sad because his mother left him with me."
This brings to the fore one thing very strongly – it is extremely important to educate girls and enable them to be economically stable. They are would-be mothers and must be able to raise their children in the event of an untoward incident. Nothing can compensate a mother's love for her child. I leave the place with the thought how can a mother part with her child when he most needs her. It is tearful.
Time to give back
By Minahil Zafar
While my sister is exasperated by my tailor's inefficiencies this Eid and my mother is lamenting over the bill he has made, I can't help but thank God. Not just me, eventually my mother and my sister also realise that this is the kind of life only a certain segment of our society enjoys.
God – people question His existence. The month that has elapsed was supposed to be blessed by God, and here in Pakistan we witnessed floods of an immeasurable magnitude, lynching of two brothers in broad day light, a match-fixing scandal, another wave of suicide attacks, inflation of huge proportions and dismay and helplessness in the eyes of the populace. Is this what Ramzan promises us?
We in Pakistan, have become extremely contemptuous, to say the least. And this cynicism is inherited. We have learned to blame everything that goes wrong on God, and when it continues to go wrong, we conveniently lose trust in Him and His existence, and while away the hours of our life. Our parents did that, and we are only following the tradition. It's the suitable way out I would say.
We don't realise that what we lose in the process is not just Faith in Him, but the ability to look at the positivity that all existent beings generate around us. Spinoza, a 17th century philosopher's concept of God is an expression of the underlying unity of the universe. Night followed by the day is an example of the harmony created by Him in this world and this in itself is so phenomenal, that it commands spiritual awe. You look around, and every creation speaks for itself and you learn to appreciate the wonders of the Creator. But it is in the hands of the human being to identify these wonders and then extract the goodness and positivity out of time, space and matter created by God.
While this would seem like a redundant piece of philosophy, it pretty much explains my mood today. The situation in Pakistan is dismal, but I feel there is much goodness left in our situation. There are many lessons to learn, many opportunities to help humanity, many incidents and people to appreciate and lastly, still a lot to thank God for. Most would say this is optimism way out of proportion, but this is what I firmly believe in. If only we could overcome the cynicism for a while and cherish the bounties of the Creator, we would see a more hopeful future for ourselves.
Considering that the situation in the country is so bleak, one obviously has reservations about celebrating Eid. I fail to affirm. For me, celebrating an occasion is not just confined to seeking individual pleasures, but something that you do as a family, community and lastly as members of a polity. There is much to be commemorated this Eid. Unless we appreciate what exists, we will continue to overlook the potentialities around us.
While this has indeed been the most difficult Ramzan for the people of our country, it has also seen the resilience and benevolence of our countrymen. While markets and shops are crowded with people shopping for Eid, so are the relief centres where people are donating generously to the flood victims. While a hundred bystanders let the two teenagers die in Sialkot, so did a thousand rise in protest against the barbaric crime. To make orphan children at various charities happy on the occasion of Eid, children from well off backgrounds are making plans to donate their Eidi. While my sister is making clothes for herself this Eid, she also emptied half of her cupboard to a nearby relief camp. The best amongst us have come out in this time of crisis. Some have laid down their lives to rescue those in need, some have opened their homes and hearts to complete strangers and many have protested peacefully for justice in various corners of the country. Aren't these a manifestation of the blessings of this month?
We need to be an optimist at all times, dig up the goodness out of what is available and henceforth utilise the prospects to do something worthwhile in life. We've been called a nation of degenerates, barbarics, corrupt, and our country is labelled as a failed state. But the fact that it still remains on the map of the world, with exemplary individuals regardless of what ethnicity, class, or social status they belong to, is perhaps indicative of some kind of blessing by God.
He's there, He's listening, and the time to question what He or this life gave to us, is long gone. It's time to give back to this world now, or least appreciate what good is left in it.
Wit & verses on wheels
Rickshaw drivers pour their heart out in the poetry, messages and announcements they paint on their three-wheelers
By Rana Musa Tahir
The rickshaw driver is a man who works twelve hours a day in scorching heat, sitting on a seat which has an engine under it. His rickshaw is open from two sides so it is open to pollution. The noise of the rickshaw, considered by many worse than the braying of the donkey, is a routine for him. At the end of the day he goes home with money only enough to make ends meet.
Despite these obstacles, these 'rickshaw walas' are artistic minded. They display good aesthetic sense of creative art and poetry. The drawings, flowery sketches, love poems, names of Sufi saints, philosophical adages and insightful statements painted on the back of rickshaws reflect their liveliness and exuberance of spirit. When we are waiting at the traffic signal, we are amused by this interesting display of art and literature.
Anything written on the back of the rickshaws gives us information about the ethnic origin, interests, beliefs or the personality of the driver. But sometimes it is nothing more than a funny joke, written deliberately to make others laugh. In many cases the driver makes fun of his own rickshaw. For example, "Main baray ho kar truck banoon gi" (When I grow up I will be a truck), "Mehnat kar, hassad na kar" (work hard, don't envy me), "Jinnay maa nu staya onny raksha chalaya" (The one who is rude to his mother, ends up driving a rickshaw) and "Sawari labby na labby, speed ek so nabby" (Whether I get a client or not, I shall drive at the speed of 190). Sometimes rickshaws have romantic poetry written on them. Surprisingly, many of these poems are written by the rickshaw drivers themselves. Each of these poems are a reflection of a long story of the drivers' 'lost love', which they seldom share with you. "Qismat aazma chuka muqaddar aazma raha hoon, Aik baywafa ki khatir riksha chala raha hoon" is one 'piece of literature' worth mentioning. These funny quotes and poems are one of the few ways that these economically depressed people have to show their light and artistic side.
The people who decorate the rickshaws are called 'body makers', and they do work on buses, trucks and vans as well. If the rickshaw driver wants something painted, the scripting and material charges would be around Rs1,000 to 1,500. There's also a sticker-based technique which makes it easier to change the text, and it is cheaper as well, at around Rs.600 to Rs.800. The most popular 'body maker' in Lahore is 'Billu Karahi Wala' who works at Lytton Road. Every 'Rickshaw wala' you ask goes to him to get his three-wheeler painted.
Some rickshaw drivers also use this as a way to display their political beliefs. You will see flags and slogans of political parties painted at the back of rickshaws. During the military regime of General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, many rickshaw drivers wrote anti-Musharraf slogans. Nowadays 'rickshaw walas' have started showing their hatred towards terrorism by displaying anti-terrorist slogans: "Khudkush hamlay Islam mein haram hain" (suicide bombing is forbidden in Islam) and "Khudkush bambar dozakh mein jain gay" (suicide bombers will go to hell).
Many drivers also write about their religious beliefs on the back of their rickshaws. This is usually related to the religious sect they belong to. "Panjtan ka ghulam" and "Ali maula" are used by Shia rickshaw drivers. Names of sufi saints like Hazrat Data Ali Hajveri, Hazrat Khwaja Moinudduin Chishti and Hazrat Baba Farid Ganj Shakar can be seen on Sunni rickshaw owners.
"Khwaja ki diwani", "Data ki diwani" and "Haq Farid, Ya Farid", are the most common ones. A few rickshaw drivers also make use of their rickshaws for advertising purposes; for example the contact information and speciality detail of some physician and hakeem are published over rickshaws. For getting the advertisement published they get Rs.1500 and after that they get a monthly payment of Rs.750.
No doubt, Rickshaw drivers live a hand to mouth life, but they know how to live it fully. These pieces of art and literature are a proof of that.
Sikhs in Lahore demand teaching of Gurmukhi in school, quota in colleges and a colony of their own
By Salman Ali
It is said that Hindus and Sikhs comprised half of Lahore's population before Independence. In recent years the number of Sikhs has shrunk to 13-15 families -- about a total of 60 Sikhs in Lahore. There are small pockets of Sikhs in Lahore and Nankana Sahib in Punjab. The majority moved to India while many were killed while migrating -- the number is not known.
KP and tribal belts also have a sizeable number of Sikhs.
Lahore and united Punjab were heavily dominated by Sikhs in Ranjit Singh's period. On reading the historical background of Lahore city, we come to know that the area of Shera Kot and suburbs near Bund Road were the fiefdom of Ranjit Singh's elder son Sher Singh. However, an area near Awan Town and Sabzazar (Kharak Nala) was the fiefdom of his younger son Kharak Singh. Presently, these two areas are still called by the names of Shera Kot and Kharak Nala (drainage).
The small number of Sikhs living in Lahore are doing their own business and some are running cloth shops in Delhi Gate, Azam Market, City Tower and Link Road. Among them the ones known to public are Gulab Singh, a police warden, Bishan Singh, a politician and Taranjeet Singh, an anchorperson.
Pakistan Minority Council Chairman Bishan Singh and first member District Council Pakistan who was elected in 2005 as a district member from Lahore considers the year 2005 the year of success for the Sikhs in Pakistan. The union council of Nankana Sahib and Hassan Abdal is heavily dominated by the Sikhs. Few of the Sikhs were elected as nazims of the union councils.
Bishan Singh demands the rights of Sikhs -- and says, Sikhs are completely neglected by the provincial governments of Punjab and Sindh. "There are about 5,000 Sikhs living in Sindh and 7,000 in Punjab but despite that they are not given due share in development schemes and other projects. Firstly, we have been provided space for a shamshan ghat only recently. It is close to Babu Sabu. A major issue we are facing now is that we don't have a school for our children where they can learn Gurmukhi teachings. On December 20, 2009, we met Governor Punjab for the school in Model Town and he assured us that we would soon get the place. Model Town Society is very cooperative with us and working for the school but slow government policies and implementations is the basic reason why nothing has been done so far."
Bishan Singh demands quota for Sikh students in different government colleges. He says the people of Lahore are very cooperative and Sikhs love Lahore and are very happy that government is helping them in all fields.
Taranjeet Singh working as an anchorperson in Lahore says, "There are nearly 11,000 Sikhs living in Pakistan in different parts of the country. However, if we keep in mind the figure of registered Sikh voters in Lahore, the figure 11,000 seems exaggerated. The Lahore city has nine registered Sikh voters according to 2005 election commission list. There are 428 historical temples all over Pakistan and only 22 are functional. Most of them are in shambles. In Lahore there are six functional temples of Sikhs."
Taranjeet like Bishan complained there is no school in Lahore which teaches Gurmukhi. He suggests colleges like Dayal Singh should start teaching Gurmukhi which will help Sikhs living in Lahore. Many students of Punjabi would also want to study this script. In Peshawar, Gurmukhi is taught in two schools (Gurmukhi means language of the Guru). In Swat valley Sikh students would learn Gurmukhi after school. In Nankana Sahib Baba Guru Nanak Public School students are taught Gurmukhi instead of Islamic studies.
"Two or three families came to Lahore from Peshawar for business purposes but police created great disturbance for them by making them go through a number of inquires. We had huge properties in Lahore but sadly there is no colony for us. If only the government provides with space that we can purchase," says Taranjeet.
Gulab, the 25-year-old Sikh traffic warden who hails from Nankana Sahib and now lives in Defence Housing Authority, says that joining the force as a sub-inspector is a dream come true for him. Public extended a warm welcome to him. In the early days of his duty, dozens of children would force their parents to stop the car so that they could meet him.
"The attitude of my fellow trainees and officers was very good towards me during training sessions. Nobody ever forced me to do anything against my religious beliefs." He says he has no problem wearing his kara (bangle) or keeping his kirpan (dagger) with him. He is a vegetarian. Green meals were arranged for him in the mess during the training period. "I am very grateful to my officers for this gesture," Gulab says.
Shaukat gives directions to traffic where there are no signals or wardens
By Khizra Tariq
Time and again as a citizen of this country I question myself whether there is any true Pakistani left. Meeting Shaukat changed my perception that everybody is running after material gains. Shaukat, in his early fifties, lives near Wafaqi Colony and has been serving the public by directing the traffic near Doctors' Hospital in Johar Town for the past seven-eight years.
What makes the situation unusual and worthy of our appreciation is the fact that he provides this service out of his own accord in an area where there are no traffic signals or wardens.
Uneducated as majority of our population, instead of begging or wasting his life sitting idly, Shaukat devoted his time and energy to something from which the general public could benefit. On seeing Shaukat's dedication to his work, fine people like Chaudry Faiz Ahmed in true recognition of his services, bought him a uniform.
Shaukat's family has always been very supportive of his voluntary work mainly because he suffers from epilepsy and still chooses to carry out his everyday work like a regular person. He dislikes being dependent on anyone and he therefore chose to occupy himself with this work willingly. Shaukat is unmarried and lives with his parents, he very proudly mentioned that he is a brother to three sisters who are happily married and visit him often.
During a brief interview he revealed to me the fact that he earns Rs 200 to 500 per. He also mentioned that he is removed from his spot by the traffic wardens if somebody influential passes by with a protocol.
Shaukat is otherwise quite satisfied with the way people behave with him. 'Generally, people are very kind to me. They are used to seeing me at this spot and are often curious about the reason for my absence if I do not show up for a few days," he says.
Although development with regards to traffic police and signals has taken place, Shaukat being a sincere Pakistani citizen has stayed at the very position, carrying out the same job without expecting anything in return. He says, "This is where I belong and I shall continue to deliver this service."
Citizens like Shaukat are inspiring, who without even being qualified or quite skilled not only understand their responsibilities as true citizens but also make the effort to contribute to the society in their own little way. It's not about how great their service is but the spirit behind their act. Under the prevailing circumstances where people have become extremely self-centered persons like him become an exception.
Loyalty to your nation does not always imply that people have to carry out heroic and grand acts that others acknowledge, but we must realise that there is more to it. Having the ability to make a change yet only relying on criticism of your own government is not how we can stop Pakistan from deteriorating.
Shaukat is one example and there might be many doing good for the country. He may not be awarded by the Prime Minister for his actions, but deserves to be acknowledged by our future generations.