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Who are we? Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Hira Nabi, Pakistan Feb 23, 2006
Human Rights   Opinions


Who are we? The evening was heavy with moisture. I could feel the humidity pressing in on me. Septembers in Lahore are hot, and relentless. Incidentally, I was born in September. It is assumed that I should be habituated to the stifling atmosphere. I try and laugh at the proffered wisdom, but I cannot seem to assimilate it. I don't even want to try to assimilate it.

I was sitting in a café with two other people; a friend, and a stranger. We were waiting to be interviewed by a Norwegian reporter about the Mukhtar Mai rape case. My friend and I were sharing an ice-cream sundae, while the stranger sipped coffee. Small talk ensued; there was plenty to talk about. Lahore is a small, very socially active city. It is also a city of veiled hypocrisy – I am often told that to live here, I must play by its rules. I disagree.

Why have we become accustomed to the ostensibly "oppressive" atmosphere that pervades Pakistan? How is it that we are so gullible? Attesting ourselves as naïve subjects so easily swayed by the half-truths and lies churned out by the powers that be, we have failed ourselves. Childlike acceptance of the status quo is not complete without possessing the childlike faculty of doubt, and speculation.

The reporter, who introduced herself as Rehana, came and sat at our table. Rehana was loud and voluble. She asked the waiters to switch on additional lights, and turn down the music. They did as they were told.

She started out with obvious questions: "'What do you feel about the Mukhtar Mai case?"

"Its not that I don't feel angry, and shamed, and even disgusted. I do, but the anger, the shame, the disgust, are all secondary. My first reaction, while being one of horror, was quickly replaced by immeasurable sadness. The weary knowledge that this incident is not the first of its kind, and even more painfully so, will not be the last. At least not until we change the societal structure, which perpetuates inequity. Not until we dispose of the judicial system, which dispenses injustice instead of delivering justice. Not until we learn to look deep within our very thoughts, and part with the prejudices that flourish there."

I was treading around the very edges of the rules. We have learnt to breed a culture of silence. It is a silence weighed down with acceptance, and excuses. How do you confront silence? I was lost in contemplation.

"How can you affect change in your society?" Rehana intercepted my thoughts.

"We are an army of people. Our weapons are simple; placards, chants, protests, vigils. But don't underestimate us just yet. We can amplify passive dissent to form a deafening roar. We can confront the empire; give us but half a chance." My voice resonated with conviction and passion.

The interview ended soon after. But my journey has only just begun. I stepped out into the hot night, and felt the pleasantly unfamiliar sensation of a cool night's breeze. I smiled to myself, and caught my world smiling back.



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Hira Nabi

for one day, i want to be a paan wala. just for one day. i want to stand behind the makeshift stall/counter, and have a zillion Lil vials, vessels and caskets in front of me, filled with oddments, spices, colourful condiments, old world scents, and indigenous flavours =)

Who Are We?
Gordon Nicol | Mar 21st, 2006
Hira, Thanks for a very articulate and evocative piece. I especially was attracted to your opening sentence which really painted a vivid picture of your setting and situation. Well done ! Gordon

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