معمارِ حرم باز بہ تعمیرِ جہاں خیز
از خوابِ گِراں خوابِ گِراں خوابِ گِراں خیز
ادھر آ ستمگر ہنر آزمائیں
تو تیر آزما ہم جِگر آزمائیں

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

I am a TELLI

A few months ago I got an opportunity to visit Mona Depot. It is the largest depot of its kind where military horses and mules are bred and trained. It was a family trip and my family along with my father’s friend’s family went there for an overnight stay. These people had recently returned to Pakistan from US, where ‘uncle’ was a part of Clinton administration.

After the trip was over and we were walking towards our cars, there came a comment from this ‘uncle’.

“In US vets are very highly paid and they charge heavens for treatments and what do we to them here in Pakistan? We call them ‘dunger daacter’.”

Everyone had a laugh at dunger daacter’, while simultaneously agreeing to this profound observation that had horribly stigmatized our society, not to mention how it paints a serious and honourable profession derogatorily. The sound of it made it look as if this is one of the biggest problems that Pakistani society must rectify if it wishes itself to progress.

But this very statement for its analysis invites many questions, which seek answers for better understanding of societal behaviour. The very first question that can be raised is that why vets are not better paid in Pakistan? Secondly, are vets the only ones who hold a label such as ‘dunger daacter’?

In my opinion there are two reasons for vets not being better paid in Pakistan. The first reason for this trend is the same for all professions, including doctors, engineers, scientists, etc. In short general wage rates are lower here. Second reason is that Pakistan is a poor country where about 25% of its population lives below poverty line; I think people have better things to do with their hard earned money than to spend it on pets. This makes demand for vets abysmally low and thus reducing their income.

The second question is that whether this attitude is restricted to vets alone? A deeper look at the society around will tell you that this is not the case. There are various other professionally attributed names that are looked down upon. Some of the examples are; tarkhan, telli, kumhaar, mochi, julaha, lohar, etc. Here, with the exception of mochi, you would not see many of the workers using these names for themselves. They would be reluctant to even admit to the idea that their work is somehow related to these professional names. The phenomenon is more vocal in urban centres and gradually reduces as you move to rural areas of the country. In other words, this practice is proportional to educational level of people. As for mochis, they are always from that segment of society that is illiterate and downtrodden anyway to bother about such issues.

A close observation would tell you that a tarkhan would never use this word for himself and nor likes it being used for him, but if you call him a “carpenter” he feels elevated and thinks of it as a respectable profession. In the same way a person working in oilfield or associated with its business might frown upon you if you call him a telli, but he would be fine if he is called as “oil-man”. The same goes for kumhaars who prefer “potter” or “ceramics worker”, julaha prefers “textile engineer” for himself.

So what is with these words that are disliked? Is dislike for these professionals the main reason behind this attitude? Are these professions considered menial to be labelled like this?

I don’t think these professions being menial or disliked is the main reason behind this, for they are well paid comparatively. The only thing that is common between them is that they belong from “Urdu” language while the preferred ones are from “English”. Although a remnant of our colonial past, this social attitude has gotten embedded in our society that it is barely noticed.

In my opinion the problem was seeded in colonial times and it flourished after independence. The elite class being educated from British schools and colleges spoke English and thought everything British being good. Rest of the crowd tried to conform to these attitudes adopted by elite in an effort to look like them. Hence slowly and gradually this attitude seeped into our thinking process and made itself a permanent home. Although in later years America replaced the British in preference but it did not change much apart from the fact that now we started to copy American accent.

This behaviour is not limited to language alone. It is present in almost every aspect or our thinking. Whether it is any commodity, or newspaper, or fruits and even educational degrees, foreign is always subconsciously equated to better while local is inferior. A seed implanted by British education in colonial times and flourished on our own wrong decisions and personal prejudices of the ruling class in post-colonial era.

Coming back to the language, recently there was massive hue and cry raised for implementation of constitution and restoration of constitution in its original form but the ruling class conveniently forgot even the mention of article 251(1) of the same constitution which states:

The national language of Pakistan is Urdu, and arrangements shall be made for it being used for official and other purposes within fifteen years from the commencing day.

One line of argument that might leave you inches from accepting the hegemony of English language is that ‘you cannot progress in science and technology unless you speak English’. But wait a minute; a nation just north of us got its independence two years after us and in almost the same condition as we were at that time, zoomed past us in all the fields including that of science and technology so much so that it is even out of our sights now. Its local language was never a hurdle in its technological advancement, then how come ours is?

Probably the reason for non-implementation of article 251(1) is that if it is implemented it would make educated class the same as illiterates and the elite would not be able to flaunt in front of the rest of menial Pakistanis. The absurdity reaches its pinnacle when people are asked as to why English is used and they would try and give self-justifications reinforcing their views with ‘facts’ such as that the whole world speaks English and this makes it easier for communicate with the rest of the world, or simply put English is an international language. Now if you scan across the globe you will find that, not more than 5% of continental Europeans speak English, the same goes for Russia, Turkey, China, Central Asia, while Latin America might have a higher population of English speakers but still that is certainly not as overwhelming as you might think. So where is this world that speaks English? It is most of the third world which was colonized by the British at some point in their history and is still to get its minds independent from their colonial masters.

On a lighter note, I myself work at an LPG plant. It makes me a telli. Do I like being called like that?