Honest actions in our society almost always take us rather by surprise. There has been so much talk of corruption, wrongdoing of all kinds and other malpractices in our midst that we seem to have lost our sense of perspective and become obsessed by these notions. Even small acts of honesty make news — as is the case of the report from Gilgit of a teenage boy from a poor family in Hunza, who found a wad of notes totalling Rs5,000 in a bazaar and, rather than pocketing, took it to the office of a media organisation so the rightful owner of the lost cash could be tracked down.
Perhaps the action of young Shahid Karim stems from the emphasis on community and a spirit of common sharing engrained in Hunza society. This reminds one of the hotel employee in Gilgit who last year returned a large sum of money left behind by a Japanese tourist and received an award from the then Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer for doing so. But are these actions truly exceptional? It is possible that given the deprivation we see in our society, many would be tempted to pocket cash they come across. But it is also true, for all the petty corruption we see, that there are many who still choose to do the right thing. Not every story makes the media, but we hear now and then of rickshaw drivers who have returned valuables left in their vehicles or shopkeepers who have gone out of their way to trace out those who left a wallet laden with notes in their store.
Perhaps we have been guilty of over-demonising our society. From time to time, we need to turn to what is good within it, to the work of philanthropists who donate silently, to those who work to reunite lost children with families and to others who regularly offer their expertise as doctors to those in need. In a time of growing hopelessness, it is also important to consider all that is good and, perhaps, to consider ways to expand it.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 14th, 2011.
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