Small villages, big families
While passing by the Public College, Gilgit, the other day, I was stunned to hear two boys of about 10 to 12 years of age discussing the growing trend of suicides in Karachi.
I might not have been surprised if I had overheard this conversation in Karachi or Islamabad. But that it was happening in this oft-neglected and far flung corner of the world called Gilgit, was shocking. Indeed, the media has revolutionised our society.
I paused for a while to listen to what the boys were saying.
“Ye sub kuch gurbat ki waja say howa hay. Becharay garib log or kia karain,” said one. (This is happening because of poverty. What else can poor people do?) “Suna hay Karachi bohot bara shehr hay. Kia koi nahe tha jo un ki madad karta?” said the other. (Karachi is said to be a very big city. Didn’t anybody turn up for their help?)
I felt shaken as the scenes of men and women committing suicide flashed before my eyes. I started comparing the society I live in with Karachi’s and drew a conclusion: Karachi had everything which Gilgit didn’t, but what Gilgit had perhaps Karachi can never have again – a strong family system.
As I walked on, the phrase “Karachi bohot bara shehr hay” dragged me into my past when I had spent some good time in Karachi in 1994. Indeed Karachi was a ‘big’ city and it looked even bigger when people like me moved there for the first time from small valleys. The crowded markets, the towering plazas, the swelling traffic, and much more… But what was missing was the element of interdependence. The rapid urbanisation has torn apart the fabric of the society. In Karachi, one is oblivious of his or her next door neighbor, let alone help them in need.
Living with big families in small villages is not a bad idea compared with living in big cities with small families.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2010.