A regular reality check-up
Not a week has gone by when I haven’t received a story on child marriages and I have lost count of all the rape stories I have edited.
I can’t recall when I first heard the expression ‘ignorance is bliss’ but it never really sat well with me… until now when I wish I could seek refuge in it. As part of my job, I monitor and edit stories from Southern Punjab on a daily basis. I feel oddly possessive about the district pages or ‘Page 15’ of our Lahore paper because somehow over the past few months they have provided me with my daily dose of much needed ‘reality’.
Despite living in Pakistan where one is seldom at a distance from the ‘reality’ of terrorism, corruption and crippling poverty, most of us who are able to read and comprehend these words tend to survive in the midst of our little bubbles. Bubbles with paved roads, clean water, air conditioning and delicious food. For me, the ‘district pages’ are a daily mirror into how those less fortunate live. A morbid reality that needs to be communicated, now more than ever.
Daily I come across an average of four to five stories of a brother/father murdering a woman over ‘choice marriage’ from the six to seven districts I monitor. I encounter an average of six daily suicides (two usually directly linked to poverty); four honour killings; three murders and at least seven to eight robberies. Not a week has gone by when I haven’t received a story on child marriages and I have lost count of all the rape stories I have edited. So much so, that part of my job consists of identifying whether a rape case is ‘unique’ enough to merit going into print or not.
It is often said that a journalist’s job requires a degree of detachment from gruesome reality. We are required to edit stories on flash floods that wipe out entire cities while keeping our mind on the ‘latest death toll’; to treat rape with ‘sensitivity’ without contemplating what the act means.
Headlines such as ‘eight-year-old raped’ no longer invoke emotion or dread in me and this is terrifying. Six days ago I saw a picture of the eight-year-old in question who only merited 120 words on our pages and I though “who would rape a child that small?”
But I quenched the question immediately, because I need my job and I need to be able to continue doing it.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2010.