Pakistan (4)

A story of two boxes

I am a box. I live in a small grocery shop in Lalkurti in Peshawar in Pakistan. I came to this shop in 2013. The shop owner had recently recovered from cancer. His treatment at Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre was free. Whenever he asked who was paying for his treatment, he was told a box was paying for his treatment. He resolved to have the box in his shop.

Initially I was not happy in the shop. A money box has to have money to feel proud. I doubted if I ever would fill up as the people of the area had little money for food and milk. Why would they worry about a cancer hospital? It is for the government to worry about.

They however did care about cancer. They continue to contribute small denominations mainly because they know that each donated penny at Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre helps to save lives. Therefore, there is never a day when I am penniless.

I have lived happily in this shop since 2013. Today the shop owner’s son visited the shop. He told his father he has found a friend for me. I was very excited to learn all about this new box—the online donation box for Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre in Karachi.

The shop owner asked his son who can contribute to the online box. The son replied anyone in the world can contribute anything, even a small amount to the box. The shop owner then asked why the son has set up the box. The son replied that there are millions of people in the world, if those millions can contribute even a pound, a dollar, a rupee, the first Cancer Hospital in Karachi would be constructed.

Karachi has a population of millions and cancer patients in thousands. Every day dozens of people die of Cancer. A Cancer hospital is needed in Karachi. A small box like me cannot generate millions, but an online box can generate millions. Unlike me who has to wait for people to visit, people can reach out to my new friend from anywhere in the world as long as they have an internet connection. I love how my new friend can travel to so many cities around the world and then share with me all about his adventures—such as the small boy who donated his pocket money, a professor who donated in the loving memory of his mother. Just one share on Facebook, Twitter, or email, and my friend can travel to so many cities within a few minutes!

The shop owner smiled and replied. For us to construct Cancer Hospital in Karachi, needed is my box and your box and very importantly are needed people to contribute. My box is never empty for no one ever thinks of the smallness of the denomination, what they think is the greatness of the aim to which they are contributing.

They are saving lives. They are giving hope to a mother whose son is dying of cancer. They are fulfilling a dream of a child whose father is dying of cancer. People will contribute to your box if they believe the same and they should believe the same.

They are educated people, unlike us. They are people with money unlike us. Like us they know cancer kills and a life of regret also kills. If the Cancer Hospital in Karachi is not constructed, will anyone among us ever forgive ourselves?

So contribute anything to online box or a box like me near you. Let us be part of a miraculous milestone! Let us make Pakistan proud again!

Keep donating and sharing my story!
You can donate online for Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre or create your own Fundraising page by following this link:


First Class

On my way to my Economy Class seat passed by the spectacularly lavish First Class and the blissfully blessed Business Class.

The First Class was technologically state of art and leisurely a masterpiece. Equipped with a Spa, shower, workstation and am sure fantastic selection of food and movies, anyone enjoying first class would have a forever memorable experience.

The business class was definitely spacious even though a bit strange. Everyone sat in a silo- kind of! Not very conducive to chatting face to face but hardly matters in the times that we live in. Everyone has technology as company.

By the time I got to my economy class seat, I was tempted scheming as to how one day I could forever become a first class traveller.

Well I would need loads of money. How do I get so much money.

I decided to read Financial Times to find out which shares got best investments. As I read through FT, it was full of stories of greed triumphing over morality leading to personal and organisational ruins.

First class was forgotten. Started prognosis of greed. What compels a person to cross the line from white to black?

Is it First Class?

Maybe yes!

Maybe there is a moment when you fall to temptations that may have accumulated over a period of time. At times hard life, at time the pursuit of excesses of riches, at times rivalry, envy or at times simply that one moment when the desire to have all triumphs over everything else cherished including reputation and honour.

But is life full of temptations for all. Then why do few fall prey to and few do not. Why some can pass through first class and not even desire it while some desire it but do not stake all for it and some do it.

Is it difference of DNA, value systems, education, upbringing, exposure, ethics or spirituality. Or maybe nothing of this except a momentarily lapse of rational thinking.

Life is not simple for people of today. Media makes rich glamorous. Aspirations for luxuries may have always existed but the attitude to embrace unethical means to achieve them may not have been so rampant.

Is ambition unethical?  Steve Jobs ambition resulted in radically transforming life styles. Lance Armstrong ambition on the other hand resulted in radically denting trust in athletic excellence appreciation.

Why one ambition is applauded- the other cursed?

Maybe both desired fame and riches but one in achieving it wanted change for all and one for only oneself. Maybe when oneself becomes all important that the boundary between white and black becomes blurred.

Do not know.

As I pondered, the tiredness of the very busy day overcame my thoughts inducing a peaceful sleep disturbed slightly by call for food which I had no desire for.

As the plane landed, due to a jolt got up.

The quality of the sleep was the same as first class!

Will you?

The news of the boy working at a Tandoor topping Punjab’s BA/BSc examination flamed a Tandoor of thoughts in my mind.

What does his countrymen have in store for him?

He was a private candidate, probably did not have enough money to afford university education. He must be a genius. He must be very talented. He must be very determined.

So was Sher Khan, the man from Banu who got a first division in BA and now drives a taxi in Dubai. His father also owned a Tandoor. He worked tirelessly to give Sher Khan school and college education. Sher Khan himself sold newspapers to make his parents and his dream possible. He did graduate with what he himself called flying colours.

Having graduated he wanted to work in a bank.

As per him he knocked each and every door but he did not have a reference. In despair he started teaching in an English medium school. The salary was satisfactory but his self pride was insulted regularly.

Teachers and students alike would mock his Tandoor background. He struggled to manage the students. His services were soon terminated as some parents had reservations about his background.

His parents were getting old. Their dreams shattered, they did not have the will to live. Sickness became their companion. He had other siblings to feed and educate.

An opportunity came to immigrate to Dubai as a driver. Happily he availed the opportunity. It was far better than living as a socially frowned individual in one’s own country.

The chat with Sher Khan in Dubai rekindled memories of a conversation with a fellow PhD student in Ireland. He was a professionally qualified accountant. He was trained at the best audit firm in the world. Now was pursuing PhD at the best private business school in Ireland.

We were exchanging notes about our families.

When James revealed his father was a carpenter, he  jolted my myopic thinking about society and status.

How could the son of a carpenter achieve so much? How did he own a BMW? His place was somewhere in slums! Was it not?

On that Irish wintery evening too a Tandoor of thoughts was burning in my mind. Very similar to the one burning since last evening in the monsoons of Lahore.

That evening in Ireland I had felt a revulsion for myself. How could I, an otherwise educated girl have such biases. Who was to be blamed for my biases?

Last evening I had felt anxiety bordering on despair. Will this Tandoor man get a job? Will his dreams be realized?

Will this society respect him for his credentials or mock him for his background?

He must have struggled hard. He needs our respect and our support but will we a nation full of contradictions for once contradict ourselves and embrace a Tandoor man as one of us.

Why not? Let us do it in the spirit of the independence day.

It will make Pakistan much happier than all the celebrations of its birthday!

I think so do you and will you?

May Cricket Win!

You know you are not happy. You know things can be different. You want to change things but you cannot. You can either accept things beyond your control and act as if nothing has happened or you can resent the situation. If you resent you become angry frustrated person. If you accept the situation you live with a smile.

Behind that deceptive smile is an internal agitation,resentment,anger that you suppress by laughing appearing brave. There are many un-shed tears that over a period of time can be lethal but you want to show the world nothing has happened.

Then one day the situation changes and takes a turn for the positive. What you wanted happens. Tears flow down your cheeks. World thinks those are tears of joys but you know those are the hidden tears- as they flow you realise in acting brave you have caused yourself some pain.

Maybe you would have been better off being an angry person but no- you were the optimist your optimism was source of hope and maybe the reason for change. You thank the change agent with words that you struggle to find just like I do not have the words to thank Bangladesh cricket team for agreeing to visit Pakistan.

Bangladesh – do you know all these years when no one wanted to visit us I pretended we were better off without any cricket in my country. But every time I passed the cricket stadium something within me died. I did not want to accept it.

But I found myself questioning whether one of the harshest punishment suffered by Pakistanis has been the international cricket ban.

Memories would come flooding when Pakistanis cheered Indian victory on their soil, applauded Sri Lanka as the world champion, sympathised the beginning of the decline of West Indies, gracefully accepted the victory of Australia in the World Cup semi final of 87. By all means what happened to the Sri Lankan team was to be condemned but maybe the punishment has been too long and harsh.

But now it is all past. One must not remember the past except to learn from its mistakes when the opportunity to positively change the past is given.

It is time to welcome the Bangladesh cricket team, to cheer them and us, for new records to be made. Importantly hopefully as always it may be cricket that would help Pakistan come out of its isolation and how fantastically fabulous it is that Bangladesh is the country supporting Pakistan to do so and that also in Pakistan’s beloved city of Lahore.

Lahore-this is your chance to show your historical hospitality and contemporary enlightenment. Celebrate cricket!

I know you will do it pity I will not be there to see a dream come true. To see the passion of Pakistanis return to the passionate city of Lahore.

May the best side win but more importantly may cricket win!