Naked Punch Reseach unit REPORT NUMBER: 01. DATE: 15/2/09. LOCATION: LAHORE, Pakistan. AUTHORS: A. MOhsin, M.SHAhZHAD.
TITLE: CASE-STUDY OF shops in a Kachi Abadi.
1. David Barkat
2. Tufail Masih
APPENDIX: 1. Photograhps from the Christian Kachi Abadi. NAKED PUNCH RESEARCH UNIT
0. Introduction Some times we are too familiar with the people around us that this familiarity – in a rather paradoxical manner – becomes a hindrance in the way of having a true understanding of these people; their pleasures and problems, their life and lot, their sense of the world around them. Or we think that we know them (or, deep down, we believe that there is nothing about them that qualifies as knowledge and therefore should be or could be known). Ours is an attempt to understand the people beyond stereotypes and clichés, beyond this mere presumed sense of knowing them. We had been entrusted the task to interview petty shopkeepers in one particular Kachi Abadi (which can be translated at, ‘broken houses’, or, what are elsewhere called slums) of the many that exist in Lahore. Entrusted to ask them about their lives, their family genealogy, their festivities and trails and how do they view the policies being formulated for them (as authorities at every level from local union council, city government, provincial government to the national government claim it to be working in thier name). The Kachi Abadi is widely know as the Christain Kachi Abadi. Presumebly, because the majority of the inhabitants are Christain. It lies at the backside of Forman Christian College, Lahore, Pakistan. The heart of a Kachi Abadi is an unnamed street with shops, snooker palours, video games aracades, pan shops, fruit shops, hair dressers, and much besides. What is the academic utility of such a project? We were forced to ask ourselves this question. Why should we visit these ‘not-so-important’ people? Why should we not sit on a chair with a heater on one side, covered with warm clothes, and make notes from the books that are piled on the table in front of us; protected against the harshness of the cold air, the pollution and dirt of the ‘outside’? Against these doubts we constantly battled and to cast the spell away we reminded ourselves that traditional academic discourse, with its hindered sights, its objectivity – which is well considered to be nothing less then a euphemism for ‘academic callousness’ - though, privedliged and supported by wealth and capital has grave limitations. It does not, nay, can not - will not - touch, feel, understand, acknowledge ‘the wretched of the earth’. It will be appropriate to clarify here that we tried to have a sympathetic understanding of the people we interviewed. There are twenty one shops on the surveyed street. We have interviewed every third shopkeeper. This means that we have interviewed seven shopkeepers. The project contains narratives that are autobiographical in nature and we have presented them, as far as possible, as narrated. Though being careful to verfity accounts. Here, in our first report we present two of the interviews. Further, work is to follow. Our future work will continue to present such cases. For it is the belief of the Naked Punch Research Unit that until we understand - within the possibilities of sympathetic knowledge - the lives of the ‘wretched’, we are unlikely to devise a social and political programme/movement that takes our societies towards ‘Justice, Liberty and Equality’.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The Research Unit is inspired by the work of Muhammad Yunus. See, M. Yunus (ed.), Jorimon and Others, (Dhaka: Garmeem Bank, 1984).
1. David Barkat
1. David Barkat David Barkat is an old man of 55. He shares the religion of the overwhelming majority of the Kachi Abadi, which is Christianity. He has never been to a school. He was born in a village in Okara district, Punjab. He migrated to Lahore 25 years ago. In Okara, like other poor people of his village, he used to weave carpets on home-based Khaddi (a vertical arrangement of threads interwoven horizontally and vertically, usually along side a wall). He has five children. Three sons and two daughters. He has a approximately 35 square feet house in the Kachi Abadi, which he owns. Since arriving in Lahore, in 1983, he has been making a living by selling peanuts and oranges in the winter and ice in the summer. As it is winter, he is selling peanuts on a wooden-cart. This cart, then, is his shop. A fallen tree trunk, behind the cart, serves as his seat. He daily brings peanuts from the Sabzi Mandi (Vegetable Market). He leaves at 6.30 am and arrives back at his shop by 8 am. The cost of peanuts fluctuates. This year, Barkat has been buying five kilograms for 370 rupees (roughly Rs.74 per one kilogram of peanuts). His main customers are local children and teenagers. They buy in low quantities, paying between 2 to 10 rupees. He has set a price of Rs.100 per one kg. He sells between 4 to 5 kilo’s per day. If he sells four kilos then he makes 104 rupees for the day. If five kilos then 136 rupees. He stays at his cart until 8:00 pm. As he had mentioned he also sell oranges in the winter. We asked him about this. He replied, ‘mera koi pakka karobar nahi hai’ [I don’t have a proper business]. He went on to explain that he rarely has the capital to buy both peanuts and oranges from the Sabzi Mandi and that he – more often than not – sells only one of the two. Choosing the item he can get at the lowest price. He explained, that for him the most difficult question to be answered every evening is, “kia meray pas kal mandi janay kay liay paisay hain?’ [Do I have the money to go to mandi tomorrow?]. Often it is a qualified ‘yes’. He explained his reasonsing: ‘Han meray pas kuch paisay hain ya phir mein kisi se 50 rupay udhar lay sakta hoon, lekin mein mungphali ya sangtray mein se koi aik hi khareed sakta hoon. Aap meri reri pe mungphali dekh saktay hai kuon kay wahan sangtray nahi hain’ [yes I have some money or I can borrow Rs.50 from a friend, but I can afford to buy only peanuts and not the oranges and vice versa. You can see peanuts on my cart because oranges are not there!]. In the summer he sells blocks of ice. He buy 4-5 blocks every day from (4-5 on daily basis) from an ice factory. This is roughing 10 kilometers away from his house. He takes a local bus to and from the factory. One block costs 80 rupees. He sells at 110 rupees. Thus making 30 rupees pe block sold. When he sells four blocks he makes 120 rupees. A local University hostel buys most of the ice and because of this Barkat is happier with his summer business. All of his children are married. His three sons live with him in his three room house. None of his sons has been to school. He gave a detailed account of why schooling was always going to be impossible for his children. He explained, that when the children were young he had to feed seven mouths. This left nothing for ‘luxuries’ like schooling. The bellies, he said, have to come first. Secondly, he needed his male children to start earning from an early age to share his burden. Finally, he explained, that school-going children have their own needs that can be fulfilled only by money, which David never had. He concluded, ‘ham to bachon ko parhanay ka khwab bhi nahi dekh saktay
thayâ€™ [I could not even dream of getting my children educated].
His two daughters are married and now living with their husbandsâ€™. The three sons are working. One of his son works with a sign-board making company as a laborer, the other is a waiter in a local hotel, and the third son works at a bike repairing workshop. Barkat voted for the Muslim League (Quaid-i-Azam). He told us that representatives of MNAs (Member of National Assembly) and MPAs (Member of Provincial Assembly) collect his ID card along with that of others. These representatives get these IDs photocopied while original ones are returned to the people. Barkat stated that at times you go to the polling station only to discover that your vote has already been cast. David is hopeless as for as future prospects are concerned. He says that with ever-increasing inflation his life is becoming miserable. To ask someone who has been selling peanuts and ice on a wooden-cart for 25 long years to be hopeful is a to demand too much from him, and why should he keep hope? For his cries and complains has always fallen on deaf years. Do our policy makers want to change his lot? How many years would he have to wait? Another 25 years? And even so, do they know what type of policies would support his work and life ambitions?
2. Tufail Masih
2. Tufail Masih Tufail Masih is 52 years old. He is a kabaria [a person who collects material that can recycled]. He has never been to school and considers himself illiterate. He was born in village Kore Pind, near Walton at the outskirts of Lahore. He retired in 1999. For 25 years he worked for the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) where he worked as a sanitary. He got two hundred thousand rupees on retirement, which was all used to build his house in the Kachi Abadi. His work begins at 9 am and ends at 8 pm. Primarily, he collects card-board, newspapers, glass bottles and leftover bread pieces. Most of the material is sold on to recycling plants. The bread he sells to locals who make use of it to feed their horces, cattles, and donkeys. His shop consists of an area marked out on the street we surveyed [see appendix, pic 5]. A large size balance, with an iron pole drenched in the earth, two large iron plates tied through chains to a long iron bar, kept horizontally on the iron pole and a storage area make up his shop. Tufail told us that it is not his own business. Three years ago a friend needed two hundred rupees which Tufail provided. In exchange he got business on the condition that when the borrower returns with his two hundred Tufail return the shop back to his friend. One day the borrower will return and Tufail has to do something else. He earns between 100-130 rupees per day. Tufail collects large amounts of cardboard and newspaper. The card card boards comes from local shopkeepers and local garbage collectors. The newspapers come from local houses and hotels. He pays 5 rupees per kilo for the cardboard, for newspapers he pays between 10 rupees per kilo, and for empty glass bottles he pay one rupee per kilo. He sells these onto a local collector of items, named, John. John, then sells his collected goods to a recyclying plant. Every other day John sends a donkey and cart to buy Tufailâ€™s good. John buys cardboard from Tufail at 7 rupees per kilo, he pays him 12 rupees per kilo for the newspaper and 2 rupees per kilo for the glass bottles. This gives Tufail a margin of 2 rupees per kilo on cardboard and newspaper and 1 rupees on glass bottles. Tufail gathers between 10-15 kg of cardboard, 3-6 kg of newspaper and 1-4 kg bottles. Though, the amount he collects varies. Tufail told us that he earns between 100-130 rupees per day. While his daily household expenditures are 180-200 rupees per day. He meets the deficit with the help of his youngest son. Tufail has six children. Three daughters and two sons are married and have moved out of the family home. The youngest son is unmarried and lives with him and his wife. He works as a barber and earns 150 rupees per day. None of his children went to school and have no formal learning. As was the case with Barkat, for Tufail, whose days are consumed with finding food for the night meal, the idea of schooling for his children remained a dream.
Appendix. 1. Photographs from the Christian Kachi Abadi, Lahore, Pakistan. by Qalandar Bux Memon
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