In Okara: Why Twitter is not enough
I had joined Twitter sometime ago, and was truly disgusted by the so-called thinkers sitting in the luxuries of their air-conditioned rooms, tweeting about how Pakistan is in dire need of help. Tweets about which city they are in, or which coffee house they are in will not help the situation of the people who need our help. "Why don't they go out and do something?" I wondered. Thus, I decided to be proactive.
It has been a year since I started working as the PPP president for Okara district, Punjab. Growing up in a political family, I witnessed my father working day and night. I clearly remember the many hours I spent waiting for my father; he was hardly ever around, as he was always at the beck and call of the people of his village. It was routine for us wait for my father to arrive to eat dinner. Often when he finally did arrive he would leave the table in a matter of minutes because a guest from Okara had come to visit him.
He loved them and they loved him.
His relentless hard work and determination definitely left its mark on me, and I too wanted to follow in his footsteps. However, it is easy to watch someone work whilst you reap all the comforts of this hard work - what is even more difficult than just earning a living is earning the respect of other people. In our family, respect is valued much more that than having all the wealth in the world. However, I never realised just how hard it is it is to earn peoples’ respect.
Okara is a large district, comprising of three tehsils. My grandfather migrated from the Indian tehsil, Ferozepur, to settle in a small village named Wasawewala. I grew up in Lahore because there were no schools for girls back home. However, now we have a number of government and private schools and collages for girls in our village. We even have a cadet college, and will have a university soon too. Furthermore, I am proud to say that the road network of Okara is one of the best in Punjab.
All of this development, however, did not occur overnight - it took 35 years.
When I went back to my village for the first time, I was excited and scared at the same time. I was excited as I would be doing what I always dreamed of doing, and scared because I did not want to make any mistakes. Now, I go to Wasawewala once or twice a week. It is a five hour journey both ways.
It is a very emotional experience for me to return to my village, and I am always plagued by the mixed feelings of happiness of being home and the immense sorrow of seeing people suffer so relentlessly.
I never go to Wasawewala with the objective to sit in an air conditioned office. I make an active effort to visit small villages and conduct meetings in order to give women from these villages the opportunity to talk and share their problems with me. It is heartening to observe these women who wait for hours before my arrival just to talk to me. They bring no applications or documentation. All they bear in their weak hands are copies of their identity cards.
At first, I used to get annoyed on receiving a mere copy of an identity card. “What am I supposed to do with this?” I thought.
However, on observing the relief on their faces when they handed me their ID cards, I understood that these women had so much faith in me that by just handing me this piece of paper, they believed that I would take their problems away. They felt a sense of comfort in my presence and perhaps hope that I could make their lives better. As this realization dawned on me, I felt a sense of responsibility and an urgent need to help them. This is why I have been visiting these women at least once a week for a whole year.
I will never forget the day when I went to Minchiriyan to announce the opening of a school for girls. There was no electricity, and these women just wanted a vocational training school for girls in order to teach them some hunar. As soon as I stood up and announced the opening of the school, the woman standing next to me started crying hysterically. They were tears of happiness.
On arriving in Lahore after every visit, I often have sleepless nights as I wonder what else I can do to help these women. At the same time, I feel relieved that I am making a difference in peoples’ lives and thus my existence is not useless.
This year I celebrated Eid in a somber mood with no mehndi on my palms or bangles on my wrists. I had been in my village for last three days of Ramazan, distributing ration bags in all the main cities of Okara. I wanted to make sure that every single bag went to the only the most needy people. I had 2,000 bags but even this was not enough, and many poor people did not receive ration before Eid.
However, I am glad that at least some people had a good Eid and were able to cook full meals in their houses. This thought brought a smile to my face. Even though these people can’t give anything except their prayers to me in return for my help, I am content to know that I am making a difference. I often wonder how I can use my resources to help them even further.
If more people stood up and came forward to help these people by just going to rural areas and listening to these people, Pakistan would be a much better place. We can help people by simply listening to them.
Please, make a group and visit the poor people in villages close to you. Even if it is just once a month, it can make a difference. It is hard work, yes, and it does require sacrifices. I too, just like my father come home late. My children wait anxiously for me just like I used to wait for my father. However, the feeling of achievement I get after helping those in need is unparallel to any feeling of joy in this world.
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