Getting my hands dirty in Islamabad

Can we be happy living in a swamp as long as we have clean hands?

Shirin Gul March 03, 2011
Freak weather and climate change, have made for some beautiful Sundays in Islamabad. Yesterday was one of them. So, a friend and I decided to make the best of it by hitting one of the picturesque trails - the perfect antidote to the bureaucratic air that otherwise prevails the environs of the capital.

The atmosphere was quite festive. What a blessing it is to walk in the woods, I had thought to myself. The tribulations of the week were shaken off almost magically as we trudged along the trail taking in the scenery. Nature's palette was especially vibrant that day.

Bronze and gold leaves shaded the path covered with burnt orange berries.

Our commute with nature was disturbed when we spotted a chocolate wrapper entangled in the bramble, a juice box carelessly strewn among the berries and dozens of empty mineral water bottles on the grass next to the path.

When I noticed the litter, I shook my head in disapproval. But my friend started picking the trash up. When her hands were now full of garbage I joked at the unhygienic nature of the activity.

My friend laughed and said:
“This is the problem. We are happy to live in a swamp, as long as our hands are washed. How sensible!”

The statement had the desired effect and I proceeded to vigorously collect the garbage. We deposited it in a trash can at the end of the trail.

The authorities had provided trash can, if only we had the civic sense to use it.

Cleaning up Pakistan

My friend's statement stayed with me throughout the day. It made me think of our overall attitude. Is it enough to not litter, without feeling the responsibility to do our bit to clean?

Can we be happy living in a swamp as long as we have clean hands? How long can we tolerate a bad public education system, conveniently opting for private education?

How long can we not raise a voice against the mismanagement of energy sector, so long as the generator at our home/office is working? How long can we turn a blind eye to lack of health facilities, as long we can approach the best doctors in their private clinics?

The list is long and the clean hands are an illusion. The question is are we willing to pick up the trash - even if it means getting our hands a little dirty?
Shirin Gul A development professional teaching culture and research at a local university in Islamabad.
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