With Eid-ul-Adha just a couple of days away, those who can afford it are dutifully meeting their religious obligations by doing the rounds of the animal bazaars that, as always, spring up all over the place at this time of year. While, those who cannot afford the luxury for, sadly, this is what it has become, of offering up an animal of their own, either share the cost of a small goat or whatever, with family or friends, resort to offering simply a chicken or, as is the case for so many now, have nothing to slaughter at all. Indeed, they are lucky if they have food on this special day or on any other day of the year come to that.
The fact that this year Eid-ul-Adha falls on October 16th which is also ‘World Food Day’ (As announced by F.A.O. – The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization) when possible ways of resolving world hunger are, yet again, brought to global attention gives, no pun intended here, food for thought. With way over 58% of our population existing on, or below, the recognized poverty line, ensuring that everyone has enough nourishment to sustain them is a rapidly disappearing human right.
It is so easy – far too easy – to go through life totally oblivious to the hunger which is, if you dare to open your eyes and your mind and really look, all around us: It is there, in one form or another. On every single street in this ‘The Land of the Pure’ whether the street be in the poorest or richest part of ‘town’ – the latter being, especially during daylight hours, populated by exploited servants – read ‘slaves’ – work for paltry amounts. That they cannot possibly maintain their dependants and critically observing that ‘they shouldn’t have so many children if they cannot afford to feed and educate them’ does not make the problem go away and it is not the ‘fault’ of a child that he/she was conceived and born.
For those who refuse to accept this truth, for truth is exactly what it is, if you happen to be in Islamabad – these scenes are replicated daily throughout the country – I dare you to take a stroll along the main road, in F7/2, just around the corner from Rana Market/Bazaar, around lunchtime: This is where, early in the morning, day labourers gather in hope of being hired to perform a decent days work for a decent days wage. If they are lucky, a meal thrown in to seal the bargain but, if they are still there by lunchtime – an increasing number are in these days of rampaging unemployment and rampant inflation – their already cadaverous faces are pitiful to see yet they hang on for two reasons. Firstly in the fading dream of being hired for something, any menial task no matter what as long as it brings some pay. Secondly, this does not happen everywhere by any stretch of the imagination, for the arrival of a certain private car, not a brand spanking new, high value car but a ‘middle-class’ kind of car, from which cooked food, nothing expensive but certainly strengthening, is regularly distributed on a first come, first served basis and – this is horrifying to witness. The unemployed labourers literally race, oblivious to traffic, to pocket their pride and be fed but, naturally, this does not feed their hungry dependants and there are few such generous people in this sickeningly materialistic country of ours but at least, ashamed as these men are of having to accept food for free, they still have, unlike so many others, pride enough not to go out and beg.
In circumstances such as these, don’t forget that there are starving millions here who refuse to beg. It will be, as it is each and every single year, brutally criminal to see both the unforgivable gluttony and the shameful waste which results from the ritual slaughtering and – although this is not adhered to as it once was and as it is supposed to be – the ritual sharing of sacrificial animals and cleaning the streets of offal, and other such ‘waste’ which was perfectly usable when fresh, will go on for days and will cost an absolute fortune. If used wisely, it could have at least helped to feed a large percentage of the hungry, along with their dependants, for a reasonable length of time or, even better, could have been used to create some form of gainful employment for those who so obviously and honestly desire to work.
There is, for example, so much unused land, both urban and rural, on which the poor could be taught how to produce their own food. They could be taught to receive some kind of stipend, along with the shared results of their shared labour, whilst they learn and this knowledge, particularly if women are involved and their children given even basic education, will be handed down to help generation upon generation. They could live, feed themselves and survive as decent human beings who are able to help create a sustainable, peaceful, society for all.
This Eid, let us all not just think of but actually, in some way, help those whom need it the most and, if you possibly can, make this one, two or three days, a lifelong commitment not just on both Eid’s but on each and every day that you possibly can. And never ever throw food or clothing away: Sharing and caring are the answers to much.
The writer has authored a book titled The Gun Tree: One Woman’s War and lives in Bhurban.