Published in Dawn, November 6th, 2016
FOR millennia, the symbol of the ship epitomised hope and the promise of new horizons. With the discoveries of new lands and the onset of trade, the image of the ship was besmirched with the sufferings of human cargo — the slaves — transported in and out of continents. Then, more recently, emerged the phenomenon of boats full of refugees and immigrants capsizing on Western shores. What remains hidden, or not so visible, in our collective consciousness is the story of ships being broken down across South Asia’s shores, bringing in their wake death and despair to those who dismantle, bit by bit, the decaying, hazardous, mammoth machines.
Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2016
“…Every acquisition that is disproportionate to the labour spent on it is dishonest.”
— Leo Tolstoy
BRONZED-FACED, wearing faded red shirts with a number stitched in white, soaked in sweat, coolies old and young sit astride a pavement under the scorching sun, waiting for passengers to arrive at the Karachi Cantonment Railway Station. A few balance loads of luggage on their red turbans as they walk briskly towards the platform. A precarious livelihood, you might say. Indeed it is, and worse: coolies have to pay a 30pc commission to their contractor from their meagre daily earnings, plus a monthly fee of Rs750 — sans any workplace facilities.
Yet the contractor is not satisfied: he wants his cut raised to 40pc. Sounds outrageous?
Published in Dawn on January 12, 2016
‘Let the sky fall, when it crumbles, we will stand tall and face it all together.’ — Skyfall, Adele
Natural disasters aside, white-collar workers can’t even imagine the sky falling down on us, literally, while we are at work. Neither can they imagine what happens in that flicker of a second, and thereafter, to the body and soul of the workers on whom the roof crumbles as they toil for a pittance, or to the families when their dear ones die or are injured. ‘Standing tall and facing it all together’ seemingly is not in our collective ethos. Hence, incidents of factory collapse hardly make a ripple in the power corridor or in society’s consciousness.