Thursday, January 21, 2016

Andhair Nagri

I haven't written in a while. How's that for understatement? The urge to write has been only a twinge, buried under the weight of work and baby and home and family. And finally, those very weights have added themselves to the force of the twinge.

Two days this week, I took my baby to watch his brother play cricket at a local club. It's been the first cold week this winter, temperatures going down to freezing. Cold for this part of the world at any rate. Last night, the baby was sneezing. Baby's grandma and I decided it was too cold, and that baby and I should watch cricket training from the relative warmth of the car. Because moms and grandmas worry about babies catching cold.

Then today, I had a chat with a friend who has been working on the citizens' resistance to the Punjab government's disastrously ill-conceived Orange Line Metro rail project, about which expect to read more on this blog. Land acquisition for government projects is often a contentious issue, world over. The Orange Line project land acquisition is contentious, too. Several property owners have managed to get stay orders from the courts. Nevertheless, today I was told that in this cold, in the middle of the night, government goons show up, accompanied by police officers, and toss people out of their homes. The homes are summarily knocked down (these are lower and lower-middle class homes, for the most part), and the families who live there are left without any place to sleep, with no notice. In one case, the demolished property was a clinic. Patients were tossed out, still connected to active IV lines.

A little later today, the power went out in many of the larger cities in the northern half of Pakistan. Six hour power outage for us. Definitely not the worst we've experienced. We considered going out for dinner, but didn't want to expose the baby to the cold.

I spent much of the evening feeling grateful for the roof over our heads, and simultaneously anguished over the children who have been forced to spend this cold week on the streets. My baby was crying because it was dark; a few candles took care of that problem. Where will those other kids go? Are they crying in the dark? Are they too cold to cry? Have their parents managed to find food? Some kind of shelter? What is going through the minds of those moms, those grandmas?

The part of me that is always the detached observer notes that my anguish is a bit like Hope's deep sadness over poverty and inequality and homelessness in thirtysomething, and quietly mocks me for my privileged perch and comfort of my discomfort. It doesn't decrease the pain, however.

We are living in a land of darkness. Kab ujaala hoga iss andhair nagri main?

No comments: