And again, I can’t go back to work.
This is where Pehli Kiran School No. 6 used to be:
This is what things used to look like sometimes, on extra-special days:
Those were the good days, though. PK-6 was a “trouble school,” – there are many stories to tell, even from my single year there. But in many ways, I had a much stronger personal association with it than with PK-8 – the relatively accessible “model school”. It would most often be my school for volunteer activities and extracurricular stuff – that, and Schools No. 4 and 7. Some of the best memories are from practice sessions for the 20-year celebration of PKSS, when kids from PK-6 and PK-7 came together for a performance set to “Mein Toh Dekhoon Ga.” This is a beautiful song of hope and humor, about “the time that we shall see” – when children will rule the country, and politicians will go to school.
It took a little bit of an extra push, getting the same level of energy there. But a lot of progress was made, and there was help. The Association for the Development of Pakistan, for instance, brought in new sheds with aluminium roofing, that were also used by the community for weddings and meetings.
This is is what PK-6 looks like now:
I wasn’t even there to see it, to find out where the children would go, or what that boy was thinking, with his hand on his hips. ZQ said that the Administrative Coordinator, Ghazanfar sahib, had been dismantling the roof when the bulldozers came.
Much has been said about the planned demolition of the slums of Islamabad. I’ve done my own bit of ranting and futile analysis earlier, although it will do little other than satisfy a personal need to channel frustration. But there are others who have come forward and eloquently spoken up about the constitutional rights of citizens, and the basic, inalienable right of human beings to live with dignity. Asad Umar, Asim Sajjad, Tahira Abdullah and the angry people with the most authenticity of voice – representatives from the diverse communities – all have made a strong case for politicians and municipal authorities to pay attention.
So I have little more to say, other than this: if I, sitting at my laptop across the Atlantic Ocean, feel so keenly the violence and cruelty of this demolition, then someone needs to speak to that little boy in the picture.