Walk on, boy

“A nation reflects on the roads”, our eldest cousin Mudassar Khalid Abbasi who is Former Justice at Lahore High Court and currently an Attorney at the Supreme Court often says this—perhaps out of his experience and wanderings. What transpired today on the pleasant walking tracks of Sector E7 in Islamabad makes me say it like this: “A nation reflects on the tracks too”.
We were walking through the tracks today when I, being on the outer side of the pavement, noticed a boy sitting strategically on the green patch with his cell phone tilted just right to film the people walking past. While I chose to ignore it, what we heard from the background soon after was a lady’s shout asking him to put away his cell and stop filming right away. ‘Good Call’ was what I heard next as a comment.
Not to take anything away from anybody but why can’t we not ruin a park with the menace of unwarranted filming and gross behavior by boys at large? Just like there is room for improvement, there’s also always room for allowing privacy and decency of conduct. The three lives namely personal, public, and private are in an eternal loop of ‘being’ forever. The more we embrace this truth of civility and conduct, the merrier our public lives and public face would be.
Why this mayhem, though?! Because we haven’t really built anything of our own. That’s why. As our teacher from yesteryears Sir Asif Saeed told me last week: “We have borrowed the digital space from the West; and when we borrow something, we don’t borrow its etiquettes.” The need for speed must have lost its fair share in the population here, for the need to go berserk with the digital stuff handy has gained an ugly motion. Resultantly, a lot of bad examples in that space gnawing badly at the fort of fine inspiration. “Don’t open somebody else’s car’s glovebox”, “Never open somebody’s purse”, and “Never open a letter which is not in your name” are some of the few etiquette reminders which are surely capable of training hearts and minds to show some etiquettes along the same lines here and there. Just like Thanks, the best way to show etiquette is to wear it – even if it’s only once. Etiquettes also help with fostering inclusion and the ability to sustain it through, almost everywhere. We have been witnessing tweets on this subject earlier too, where such undesirable behavior in public parks has irked citizens to the point of regretfully tweeting it out. However, at the end of the day, it’s called a public park for a reason: no one can, and no one should ban or restrict the public from using any such facility, but the users must show and wear its etiquette. Their right to access it can’t be revoked, but this must not make them believe that they have nothing to lose. It’s a non-zero-sum game; grotesque behaviors in public spaces can’t make the person doing it win—it’s a net negative, fire shot. Makes us all lose a lot more than what could possibly be compensated or restored.
Let me leave you with this: If you are the third one on the track in a group walk and you hear a runner approaching in the background, then decelerate for a while to step back in your stead and allow her or him the place to run past. If a lady is stretching near the bench, let her, please. You can walk past with your gaze lowered. Safe is always a space, and each one of us contributes towards creating or destroying a collective one.
Walk on, Boy.

The writer is an aspiring coach and freelance contributor.

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