Wake up and smell the slums

By Rabiyya Abdullah, TDT 1


I pass by this route daily for TIP, and each day see things that make me feel sad, depressed, emotional, and guilty and make me realize how selfish I am, yet I do nothing.

I saw two little kids today sharing out of a thrown away theli of dried up biryani on the sidewalk. I saw a small boy probably two, begging a shopkeeper for candy and the man in return throwing water on the little boy to move him out of his shop. I saw a tiny girl of around four carrying a bag of rice her size on her head while older men glared at her with hungry eyes. I saw an old man hitting a boy half his size for breaking a bottle. I saw a little puppy being kicked and the men around laughing as it whimpered. I saw a mentally handicapped girl of about seven, covered in dirt, lying on the sidewalk alongside a dog and eating what the dog ate, and being treated like one. I saw men making obscene signs at little girls who were walking to school. I saw a homeless man sleeping on a broken bench, with only an opened up cardboard box covering him.

This is what I saw today. This is what we all see everyday. Yet we do nothing.

Korangi today has a very large slum of its own.

We applaud the makers of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and sing Jai ho!, but did we actually learn anything from it?

Criticizing, looking away or simply drawing the curtains may make the truth go away for a while but it doesn’t hide the reality, this is just the easy way of getting away from it all. Making a change is harder.

Giving up buying an LCD for the café, or buying phone cards or a really nice dress to help someone is the hardest.

Have us proletariats (the middle class) really become just as selfish as the bourgeoisie (powerful upper class) that all we see are our own interests, needs and consider only our gains? We are no better than the very politicians we cuss at. Maybe its time we changed and did something ourselves today, instead of expecting others to.

47 Replies to “Wake up and smell the slums”

  1. A really thought provoking article!
    We shud ponder over dis matter and believe in ourself dat we can bring a change, create a difference in society.

  2. An amazing article that really captures how oblivious we are towards reality. Great job rabbiya!

  3. Great thoughts Rabiyya! And very nicely written. Welcome aboard!

    Has anyone ever visited the goth (Sindhi village) near TIP? People live in terrible conditions there. Perhaps we could take a step and be a part of the change making process starting from what’s closest. Can we set up a medical camp there on behalf of TIP students (with the help of Rotaract, maybe?) ?

  4. coming from a writer who has reamined higly oblivious to such thngs until now…a job wel done in portrayin the ground realities:)

  5. amazing!
    it reminds me of my route to MY uni!
    paints a very vivid picture of the unheard un recognised truth!

  6. Fantasy feeds fiction too.

    Imagine slumdog without fantasy, and we wouldn’t be giving a rat ass about slums or its minor dwellers.

    Its a fad to discuss slums nowadays. If you take inspiration from orangi project and not from some glamorized box office flick, its a better source, methink. Its more sustainable and can survive without adrenaline.

  7. Slumdog is just one of the movies about some of the stuff that happens in slums. The good part is that it has managed to reach the more ignorant of masses because of it’s Bollywood fantasy angle, so I wouldn’t criticize it.

    Orangi Pilot project was a noble idea, but I doubt if it directly influences any social phenomenon plaguing squatters (in reality and result). Now from this article (however idealistic it may be), we can deduce a lesson of realization – whatever helps one achieve that state; fact or fiction!

    At least that’s how I look at it.

  8. You’re right about discussions of slums, poverty and women rights being a fad especially among the chiffon sari clad aunties (running big NGOs), during their evening coffee sessions at Gymkhana. But I am sure there are some genuine people out there working their asses off as well.

  9. no furhan, there is an AWESOME lot of social restructuring involved even when people are moved from drinking nalay wala water to nal-wala water.

    orangi didnt only improved the lifestyles, it must have drastically changed thought patterns as well.

    Though dont get me wrong here, I am ALL for movies like slumdog. I guess I am turning into an old tired cynic.

    you keep it young and hopeful!

  10. Nice writing yo.

    Learnings from Slumbdog: Why work to get out of the slums, w hen you can win the lottery?!

    BTW, bourgeoisie is the middle class.

  11. AO maybe you should get your facts straight before posting here just for the heck of it. Bourgeoisie are a wealthy, highly privileged class of modern Capitalists. Typically composed of businessmen and others who derive their income from the labor of others. Known to take pride in affluence and spending heavily on luxuries.

  12. Rabbiya, thanks for your reply. Anyhow, you’re right, its a question of definition. The standard accepted definition (and origin) of the word differ from the way you define it. Nevertheless, you get the point across quite poignantly, the rest is semantics.

  13. @Rabbiya:
    Actually Abid Omar is right in the sense that the word ‘bourgeoisie’ is from French and originally meant ‘middle class’. However, in the Marxist context, it *now* stands for the ‘capitalist class’. And in that sense, it means: “the class of people in bourgeois society who own the social means of production as their Private Property, i.e., as capital.”
    Source: http://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/b/o.htm

  14. @ Kazim

    Couldnt agree with the link any less. Innate goodness of people can, at times, supersede their filthy surrounds.

    Besides, slumdog wasnt generalizing slum dwellers. It is a highly unique story of v individualistic nature.

    btw y r u red? are you a communist?

  15. Very intriguing article its funny you saw numerous of things when you were passing by probably you must be having good observation skills anyways didnt mean to critize on anything the point is if you want to help choose a platform that could facilitate you rather than writing an article about it and expecting all these bunch of fools making a fuzz about it.

    u know these people if they could spend time in thinking what can they do for this community than to pass a comment then we could actually do something for these people.

    think about it.

  16. Faiza,
    There are always exceptions like Engels, Bhagat Singh and Shaheed Hasan Nasir — they all belonged to the ‘filthy class’, yet their contribution to the cause of the proletariat is unparalleled. But we don’t define ‘class character’ on the basis of rare exceptions. One of the most basic maxims of communism is that “the consciousness of a person is determined by the environment he lives in — NOT vice versa.”

    So all post-modernist rhetoric aside, a person’s character is defined by the class they belong.

    I am a communist — and am associated with the International Socialist (Pakistan). I am red because this is what I believe to be true — if somebody convinces me of some other ideology, I will not take a second to convert. Communism is no religion where one has to live with things that don’t make any sense.

  17. “the consciousness of a person is determined by the environment he lives in — NOT vice versa.”

    I guess slumdog production team are not too much of a fan of your dialectic materialism hun? nor are the million of viewers who made it a box office hit, nor is Furhan, me or Rabbiya Abdullah, nor anyone at the Oscars.
    khair, are you Marx wala Commuist, or the Engels one, or our local version- the Bhutto Islamic one?

    On a serious note, what do you have to do to join International Socialist? and Pakistanis at IS, are they like atheists?

  18. @ Abid

    “the rest is semantics”

    Imagine someone telling Marx his ideas of bourgeoisie and proletariat is semantics!


  19. You are free to have your own opinion and I will not comment on your views about SM and the mass media’s gung-ho attitude to it.

    I am a Trotskyist communist — though this Stalinist-Trotskyist divide is a bit superficial in Pakistan’s context.

    Bhutto wasn’t, by any definition, a socialist — and I think he and his PPP are the worst thing that happened to Pakistan’s Left. A person (or a party) who declared Ahmedis a constitutional minority can be anything but communist. Workers’ processions were shot at during his government and the post-1977 PPP governments always adopted a ruthless privatisation policy. And there is nothing called Islamic socialism — it is an oxymoron.

    ISPak is a tendency — a political outfit, not a party. It’s an extreme left Trotskyist group and is currently led by Dr Riaz Ahmed of Karachi University. We have played a most active role in the lawyers’ movement and have campaigned tirelessly against US and Pakistani military operations in FATA and Swat.

    This Friday we are meeting at PMA House behind Nishat Cinema/IBA city campus at 5.00pm — to discuss the post-long march political situation. You are welcome to attend.

    Most of us at the ISPak are atheists but that’s another point. We don’t meet to preach atheism.

  20. Syeda, ideas can differ, but when it comes to meanings, all Marx did was to twist the semantics of populist terms to rally people to his cause.

  21. AO,

    You are perhaps ignoring the whole genesis of the word. Actually, it meant middle class when it was referred to the “mercantile class” of Europe which initially had neither land nor political power. But gradually, the land-owning class was weakened and the political power was shifted to the capitalist class to an extent that no war could be fought without their support.

    Therefore, the word lost its earlier meaning and by 1848 this new meaning was largely accepted by the general public. It is not that Marx used the word to rally people to his cause — rather the word had already acquired that new meaning by then. For a detailed discussion on the origin of the word, please see the first three pages of the Communist Manifesto.

    With time, words take new meanings and the older connotations are discarded — otherwise, it would have been an insult to call someone an “Aurat” these days because etymologically it is an extremely dirty word.

  22. @ Kazim

    I have to admit, you got me digging into my piles of books and dig out Marxist holy book (no pun intended)from the archives.

    And here it is, underlined in blue, something I didnt understand some five or more years ago (and still dont) about the manifesto:

    “The immediate aim of the communist is the same as that of all other proletarian parties: Formation of a proletariat into a class,overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of the political power by the proletariat.”

    (and then proletariat will establish the classless society and so on right?)

    When Marxists talk about “abolition” of the private property, what they are in essence saying is that its going to be “transferred” from the b to p. Its all about semantics. Since the very definition of b was that it owned the private property and the v defn of p was that they were the labor. Now when the property gets transferred to p, dont they by default and defn become b?

    And what guarantee s there that this new b will voluntary relinquish the private property to create a classless society?

    Infact, by what we know of the b’s nature, its not going to abolish the property at least willingly.

    And classless society? I have never been able to understand as to what good such a concept seeks to bring?

    you are aware of the criticisms against it. i dnt think i need to elaborate.

    and i like your blog. a lot, actually. are you a freelancer?

  23. Syeda,

    You seem to have confused socialism and communism. Socialism is the first stage and communism is the second, more progressive and the ultimate stage. Socialism is not a classless society and that is the reason in Marxist literature it is referred to as ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’.

    And no communist, literally NO ONE, says that the capitalists would voluntarily relinquish private property to create a classless society. Just look around and you will see why we call it a class-based society — because there is a ‘class struggle’ going on everywhere. There is NO voluntary action involved on the part of the capitalist class — they will resist change ruthlessly. And one more thing: this battle is not going to be non-violent.

    You should contact a socialist group (don’t be sacred!) and seek party literature. Don’t read wikipedia or any other unauthentic website. There is a lot of credible stuff to read and grasp the basics of communism. This material is available at a nominal price.

    Thanks for liking my blog. I am a graduate of TIP.

  24. After socialism which is the first stage (dictatorship of the proletariat), how does marx propose that it will lead to the ultimate stage – the classless society(communism)?

    I *seriously* want to know. Kindly elaborate since you are an insider to communism.

    can i say it here that just when the pope has discouraged the use of condoms,(65% of africa is HIV infected) amir liaqat is propagating on tv right now that organ transplantation is haram in islam even if its to save a life?

  25. A society is slave, tribal, feudal, capitalist or socialist on the sole basis of its “mode of production” or the economic superstructure.

    It moves from one stage to another because of its inherent contradictions. The tribal society metamorphosed into a feudal society and the feudal society turned into a capitalist society because of the contradictions that existed within. In dialectical terms, every thesis has an anti-thesis which results in synthesis. And a contradiction then emerges from within the synthesis and the process goes on.

    A classless society can be achieved only through “removing” these contradictions — and this will be done by us humans, not any prophet, messiah or imam. How it will be done can’t be summarised in a blog comment. I strongly suggest that you read party literature because only that will help you understand the lofty ideals of communism.

    We are neither MQM nor Jamaat-e-Islami — and are least interested in making people atheist. And if you have some doubts about ISPak, you may contact any other socialist group like CMKP — which has very active female membership — you must have noticed the presence of CMKP’s educated and urban women in the Harris’ long march that stopped for a while at the TIP campus last month to be greeted by the college faculty and the student body.

    Amir Liaquat is a moron — such people cash in on people’s fear of the uncertain — such as the life hereafter.

  26. Amir Liaquat is a moron — such people cash in on people’s fear of the uncertain — such as the life hereafter.

    I’m not interested in supporting that moron, Amir Liaqat, so this has nothing to do with him. I have this concept in my mind, but I’m not sure if I can explain it well. Let me try.

    I feel that it’s okay to fear the uncertain sometimes. It’s so natural, even psychology supports it. That’s why people make contingency plans in businesses, and life in general. Karma makes sense. What goes around, does comes around. And I am not talking from religious perspective. It works in both scientific and psychology theory. You will probably like someone back if they’ve been good to you, every action has an equal and opposite reaction, the theory of inertia, and so on. If it works so well in life that exists in this dimension, why is it so hard to only imagine the existence of the same for dimensions beyond most peoples’ levels of consciousness? You can give a certain idea any name you want, whether it’s God, hereafter and so on. Semantics again. It’s never wise to refute an idea if we ourselves are not too sure about it’s reality.

  27. @ Kazim,

    In the three step process that Marx has proposed for the inevitable death of capitalism and rise of communism, he says:

    1-Proletariat will rise and overthrow bourgeoisie (either through violent revolution or slowly and peacefully),and take over the private property.

    2-After this dictatorship of the “labor class” (which Marx failed to realize is not the labor class anymore, semantically speaking, since they are now the owners of means of production), in which the labor class will suppress the bourgeoisie, a classless society will be formed.

    3-Marx believed this will naturally give rise to classless society, since labor and property owners are now the same.

    Funny thing is why the heck this property owner class will choose to bring about classless society where everyone will get according to the needs, and work according to abilities?

    Arent they more likely to evolve into capitalistic bourgeoisie themselves.. earning money and hoarding money

    I get your Hegelistic explanation in terms of dialectical angle though. Its thesis, anti-thesis leads to synthesis, which gives birth to its own anti-thesis, and then there is synthesis again and so on and so forth. When the ultimate thesis is reached, that’s a classless society,rite?

    Actually that’s one of my issues with communism too. It seeks to establish that which is utopian.

    Plus, as I was discussing it with a relatively new friend of mine, (*hint hint*), Antagonism between ideologies doesn’t mean you should do away with ideologies altogether it means you should do away with the “antagonism” between ideologies. Just in the same way, conflict between classes doesn’t mean you have to do away with classes’ altogether, It only means you can do away with the “conflict” between classes.

    What do you mean by party literature? Is it something other then the menifesto or das kapital?

  28. @ furhan

    I dont know about others, but I can *so totally* connect to what you are saying.

    At least *someone* understands!

  29. Syeda,

    Actually calling communism “Utopian” is a general fallacy. “It doesn’t make sense”. “It is impossible to achieve”. “There won’t be any incentive to work”. “It is against the very human nature” and things like that. We can provide you with a dozen booklets on this question only.

    That’s why I am asking you to go through the basic socialist literature in a proper way. As for the specific statement you have made in your comment, please see Engels’ “Socialism: Utopian and Scientific”. In short, the different forms of socialism before Marx-Engels are called Utopian while the later version is (as a commie like me would say) scientific because it is based on dialectical materialism. It doesn’t invoke people’s “good/bad nature” or a “metaphysical superpower” to change society.

    I respect your view but firmly believe that the conflict between classes CAN’T be done away with in the manner you have suggested.

    Party literature is easily understandable material on introductory communism, socialism pre- and post-Marx eras, current affairs, global socialist movements past and present and party line on Pakistan’s issues etc. There is a lot of material to read before one gets to read the more serious stuff you have noted. There are hundreds of other notable Marxist thinkers to read. One has to go through it in a certain manner.

    And let me tell you one thing, in the whole of Pakistan, I bet you can’t even find 10 people who have read Das Kapital verbatim.

    OK. If you are reluctant to read party literature then go to Urdu bazaar and get a copy of “Musa Se Marx Tak” by Sibte Hasan. This is a wonderful book and is authentic and credible to the core — and a scholarly work that is equally beneficial for the starters. (But don’t buy any other stupid book whose cover says it is for beginners).


    You wrote: “It’s never wise to refute an idea if we ourselves are not too sure about it’s reality.”

    That’s the point I am making yaar. Neither Amir Liaquat nor Mufti Muneebur Rehman knows “for sure” that there exists another heavenly world where, if organ transplantation is allowed in this world, people will enter sans kidney and cut off eyes. On the contrary, what I am “sure” about is that if organ transplantation is not allowed, a young man/woman will suffer all their life in THIS world. Let’s agree on something we both are sure about?

  30. “And let me tell you one thing, in the whole of Pakistan, I bet you can’t even find 10 people who have read Das Kapital verbatim”

    I know 4, 3 of which have left Pakistan for good though. If you know 6 , we can beat your disappointment over general pakistani readership!

    plus, fine i’ll put musa sai marx on my list, but i disagree with you on the point that manifesto or das kapital cant be approached directly.

    Actually, I personally go through the primary works before going towards second-generation explanatory literature.

    In this way, your mind can critically analyze the primary work, without being moulded to think in a certain way.

    have you completely abandoned your textile career?

  31. I leapfrog; saves time and you dont have to go through the torture of reading ridiculously easy/boring stuff in b/w.

    Infact, even educational institutions, at large, should revise their curriculum methodologies to suit smarter and quicker minds of this age.

  32. Well Kazim, I don’t see why they have issues with organ donation. Not that they don’t have issues with every other thing that exists, but this makes so much sense. They don’t make as much noise about blood donation as they do about organs. I guess they aren’t aware that blood itself is an organ.

  33. @ writer Rabiya nice thoughts….

    @ ALL Participants..

    I think we must help people with in the TIP like guards….gardners they earn like 6 to 7K and you all know its not enough… if u like the idea suggest ways to collect the funds

  34. @ Humayun,

    I agree they are very low paid after the amount of work they do, especially the gardening team!

    But, I don’t think it’s a good idea to accumulate funds and offer them charity. The right way would be to press these peoples’ employer to raise their wages, and give them benefits.

  35. @ furhan
    haha dude dont press the employers instead give them the charity and ask them to extend those ppl the benefits..

  36. @Xaid

    They’re not beggars wanting charity. They want their hard work recognized and rewarded. If you want to do good, do it properly without killing someones pride.

    I know most of them will happily accept your bheek thinking of it as a gift from God, and expect it from you regularly, but we have enough bhikkaeez to want more, rather, to want to create more. It’s just not right.

    If you think the high ups don’t listen, you probably haven’t been trying hard enough. The same applies to our entire nation that likes to complain and give up before actually trying.

  37. Hello. Thanks for the thought provoking article I read today.

    I need data regarding slums in urban centers of Pakistan, particularly Karachi, Lahore,peshawar and Quetta. How many people in these cities are living in planned city and how many in slums?

    Would you kindly help?


  38. @ author nice piece of writing..

    @ fida dear i dun think v have planned cities here in pakistan… except 4 lets say Islamabad. v have newly developed areas here in Karachi as well, but they arn’t even planned properly best e.g Gulistan-e-johar

    well i think u mean v live in slums:>………….
    Wow i never thought of it:) thanx 4 wakin me upp..

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