Outside the bubble

Hassan Choudary April 23, 2010

I don’t like paying for car parking.

So it was only natural for me to make a bad face when this man dressed up casually in a jeans and a t-shirt approached me as I parked my car. “Where is your uniform?” I asked rather sternly. The young man, whose mouth was full of pan, spit on the side and replied very gently: “I have been collecting parking money for two years and I have never gotten a uniform or an identification card made. If you don’t want to pay me it is ok.”

“What do you mean it is ok? If it is your job to collect parking money you should do it but first prove to me that you have the authority to collect it,” my tone had gone soft as I was a little moved by his courteous attitude even though the pan-spitting act had signaled something else to me. “Sir, I never argue with anyone and I don’t like quarrelling over such a thing as I don’t like compromising my respect,” he said in the humblest and sweetest way possible. What followed was a 20-minute long conversation between the two of us in which he told me how some unfortunate incidents had turned his life around.

Thirty-year old Mohammad Zeeshan is one of the most articulate people I have met. I asked him at least 10 times if he was some sort of an intelligence agent who was posted there to keep an eye on the surroundings because I could not believe how such a well-behaved, well-spoken and well-informed individual was being utilised by our resource-deprived society in collecting parking money. I told him I work for a newspaper and asked him if I could write about him, casually mentioning it was an English newspaper.

I was surprised, yet again, when he said: “Yes I have seen the billboards of your newspaper. They seem to be everywhere.” My encounter with Zeeshan began with my being astonished at his civility and ended with me wondering if the only difference between us was that I was in a car and he was not.