“I sit on a man’s back choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am sorry for him and wish to lighten his load by all means possible….except by getting off his back.”
―Leo Tolstoy, What Then Must We Do?
At times, it seems that in Pakistan, you are either house help or you have house help. Nothing in the country works. There is no security. Law and order. Water. Electricity. Gas. Education. Health care. Everything is self service. The rich buy all of the above. The poor do without.
But here is what does work in Pakistan. Privilege. This is why people of my segment of society, my friends and family prefer to live there. Many have foreign passports and bank accounts as back ups, in case the sleeping masses come knocking on their doors back home, but they prefer meanwhile, to live in Pakistan where they have access to the only thing Pakistan has in abundance; a pool of poor people willing to do anything for next to nothing.
In Pakistan, people like me, are what replaced the British. We might live in the country, the same way, the British occupied India, but our interactions with the “unwashed masses” are limited to the caddy at the golf club, the sweepress who scrubs sahib’s feces off the toilet bowl, the badmash cook who thinks he is entitled to beg for a day off, the asshole traffic policeman who dared stop us for driving through the red light, the crotch scratching thelawala dripping his sweat into the pani puri sahib is having to show how he is really one with the people.
And the nerve of these people. Imagine that maid of mine asked me for a raise; doesn’t she remember how month before last, I put her in the car and drove her to the doctor myself? I even paid her bill and bought her the antibiotics, and yet she wants a raise. That bloody bitch. Shakal dekhi hai apnee! And that ugly maid and the damn chowkidar, getting it on in the servant’s quarter. Such shameless creatures and both of them married. I told them both to straighten up or I will kick them out.
My type live in a world of air conditioning and generators to compensate for the electricity outages. My type donate generously to the poor. My type attend gala events to raise money for their charitable causes where they further their connections and find ways to make even more money.
My type are part of the system. My type are the system. They give away millions. They pat themselves and each other on the back. Oh, they are such do-gooders. Applause all around.
They don’t seem to question why in a country where most cannot even afford a single decent meal, they feast on lobsters and caviar. They proudly step out of their air conditioned cars to take the five steps needed in their Jimmy Choo’s to enter the most happening coffee shop in town.
Day after day, you hear stories of some poor 7 or 8 year old domestic servant who had the living daylights beaten out of him regularly, and day after day, my friends and family members congratulate themselves for not being that type of person.
It’s like a murderer feeling morally superior to the serial killer. The molester looking down at the rapist.
In Pakistan, we don’t have caste. In Pakistan, we have classes instead. Servants are only allowed to eat from dishes set aside for them. They have separate bathrooms. They sit on the floor. They press your feet. But you do not hug them. They smell bad. They smell of unwashed sweat. How could they not? They don’t spend their entire day in air conditioned comfort, popping into the shower the minute the body does what it does in hot temperatures. Sweating is so uncivilized.
For the longest time, I thought that I had left that world behind and come to a better place. And then my husband started receiving corporate invites to premieres and charity galas, and I got a glimpse into the same culture over here in Canada.
Old, white dudes giving aways obscene amounts of money and applauding each other for good deeds done. Interestingly, the recipients of the charity, even when within Canada, look like Nasir and me. Of course, with international donations, the money is sent to help alleviate the shittiness of “shit hole countries.”
Class creates its own caste system because poverty stinks. And the rich can afford the exclusivity of private jets, first class seats, private schools, gated communities, and the admission fees to top universities, and private clubs.
Shit stinks. Sweat does too, and same goes for unwashed feet in chappals walking on dirt roads that lead nowhere.