By Umer Raza Bhutta
Spending good amount of years, in the peaceful life of Islamabad one finds it difficult to move to any other city in Pakistan. Islamabad, of course, offers the joys of living in one of the most beautifully made cities. Its roads, markets, margallah hills, (to come extent) better cleanliness, no ugly traffic and of course the presence of a good number of expatriate make Islamabad a place worth living and letting your kids grow. When in Islamabad, I visited Lahore and other cities occasionally and found other city to be dirty, noisy and lacking the basic traffic sense. But I moved to Lahore just last month and started experiencing a very different benefit of living here. For the purpose of clarity and to satisfy the appetite of all the cynics I will limit myself to only one benefit (though a controversial one) of living in Lahore. I also promise that this benefit turns into blessing once one enjoys using this benefit.
This is an old phenomenon and a known critique about big cities and especially about Lahore that whenever one moves out i.e. outside any shopping arcade, at the traffic signal or at any other public place one finds someone knocking at your car window. These are beggars as well as those who earn by doing menial jobs such as cleaning your car. Lahore is in the grip of such people for long and by the day their number has increased. Are they a nuisance?. Yes to many they are a nuisance.
One does not like it’s million rupee car’s window to be knocked by a dirty figure, or wind screened to be wiped by a tiny water cannon. But when we see the counts of blessings from these people it turns out to be more than the worth of nuisance they create. When you roll down the window and pass on a coin you actually enhance your self-esteem by becoming a giving hand. When you pass on the coin you receive the blessings from the person. Whenever, I receive such a knock on my car window I recall late Ashfaq Ahmed sahib. He once said (in Punjabi) “toon kara apni jeeb to dina hay to whee tay ditay wichon dina hay” (What if you give something to them, you do not give from your own pocket, you give from what is given to you).
There are many theories about these beggars. Some say when you give them something you reap a habit with them to continue begging. Some say they are professionals and when you give you actually confirm their professionalism. Some say they must be caught by police and government must take action against them. Some also say that one should not help them once but help them becoming productive citizens by asking them to work. There are also some perfectionists who think we must evaluate and give only to the genuine ones. All these theories are true. Here I again recall a program by Ashfaq Sahib in which he narrated “It is not you to decide if the person asking you for alms is genuine or not, his job is to ask and your job is to give – you just do your job”.
When I see this begging happening in Lahore and I see people giving them alms I feel that is why Lahore has abundance of resources with it. I see the abundance of food being served in Lahore. I see the abundance of fruit being sold in Lahore (and that too at a reasonable price). I see the abundance of wealth in Lahore. I see the abundance of everything in Lahore. This abundance, may not be directly proportional to the alms we give, but it has a very satisfying relationship with the concept of giving.
The Lahories have this blessing of having knocked at by someone. Allah has given the Lahories this wonderful opportunity to enhance their self-esteem, become a giving hand and thus enjoy the abundance of wealth created by Allah. Now it is the choice of Lahories to count this random uninvited knock in nuisance or blessing.