Heros – But No Capes

Today, while driving past a busy traffic signal, I came across a man who forced me to put my camera down and look up- which is a big thing, considering how much hard it is for me to put that device away. We were in a hurry, an everyday story- late for the dentist appointment and stuck in a heavy traffic. My father tried to break the signal, it had turned red just as we reached the zebra crossing. I had my camera raised at a roundabout- a flock of pigeons looked ready to take flight and I wanted to capture just the perfect moment when they would spread their wings in a silhouette to the feeble sun. Father had his eyes on me, we were talking, some topic about cameras and photography, when he applied the brakes suddenly and honked, sending us all flying- me into the dashboard, the pigeons into the sky and a police officer’s cap into the heart of the crossing.

The police officer had jumped right in front of our moving car, his hands spread out in both directions, a gesture for father to stop. His police cap flew off from his forehead, and I watched it land right in the middle, where a heavy trailer loaded with two containers rode over it, squeezing it, no doubt, into a thin paper cloth. And then as I pulled myself back- I should have worn the damn belt- I saw the police officer give us a cheeky grin, his yellowing teeth opened just enough to let the zenith of his tongue protrude out. In that center of chaos and movement, we had a heavy silence, a paused moment in a blur video, me, father and that police drawing our breaths, as we all reached a mutual conclusion:

That man, that person we had never seen before, had just placed his life in jeopardy, and saved us from the fate of his crushed cap.

The thing is, not many of us value small acts of kindness as these, especially when they come from someone we view as inferior to us. We acknowledge them as our rights, convincing ourselves that it’s their job, their  halal kamai  (“legal earnings”) while it’s not. That moment, we were breaking two of the most important rules of careful driving: no seat belts, and ignoring the red signal. That police officer could have easily rolled his eyes and let us drive right into the trailer. Or else, he could have just given a whistle going sanu ki (“not my concern”) on us. But he choose to jump right in front of our car- knowing that father could have overlooked his presence, or applied the brakes a second late. For all that is possible, that man could have been run over by us.

 He did it anyways.

Let me link this event to our society. Being a police officer in Pakistan comes with a package of demanding work with menial salary. You’ll think about a fat man who sits in an old chair, smoking fifty packages and bribing, or getting bribed. Being a traffic police is worser still. I have heard countless narratives of friends and family, stories of how the traffic police wrongly gave them a ticket, and how under no conditions would they pay. And maybe things are different in the west, but this is how they go here. You can insult a man for he is doing a job which requires minimal education, never mind full physical involvement, you look down upon him for earning low, and top things by saying : “sari haram ki kamai” (all of his earnings is foul money), just because a police officer is known to bribe.

This is what we’ve turned into. A society of classes and grades, where we judge others by what job they do, never mind the effort and sincerity they put into it. A class system, where everyone spits on the person below him, and lick the ground the one above him walks on.

Let me give you a perfect example: on June 23rd, this year, a traffic police official was run over and killed by the car of Balochistan MPA Abdul Majeed, in Quetta. Argue with me that it was an accident. Go and type those keywords in youtube and look up the CCTV footage yourself. You’ll see a police officer standing in the middle of a road, minding his own business, as a black car suddenly knocks him off, and then drives away. No horns, no stopping after running over an innocent man. Just a dead body that slowly bleeds as people flock up around it.

If there’s any Pakistani reading this, then know that this is the minute when you accept that our nation is in trouble. Why was that police offical killed on 23rd June? Why did the car not stop after the first impact? All this goes back to the class system. It’s all right for a government offical to run over a mediocre man, but if a man challenges his decisions, then *atom bomb exploding*.

I wonder what that family went through when they saw the footage. I bet they held their breath- just like I did- and then cried out when the car didn’t stop. The dead body had to be taken, finally, in a public rickshaw. The least that MPA could do was to take the body to a nearest hospital. But he didn’t, and the man had to bleed there, on the open road, and by the time a vehicle was arranged, he had breath his last.

Fingers were pointed at the MPA, he was called to court twice, and then, the final verdict came. He was released, with a promise to help the family in all future financial crisis, and then this news was hushed up. Quoting a line from Dawn News,

MPA Achakzai confessed to involvement in the accident and claimed to have agreed to compensate the family members of the slain traffic policeman, Deputy Inspector General Police Razzaq Cheema said.

Compensation in turn for blood- is that really a fair price? Will any family agree to it? You kill a father, a son of a widow, a husband who is the only supporter of the family, and then you leave him to wither on the road in pain, there’s a footage circulating as proof. You show up at the court as a victor- I watched that vile murderer walk up, his hands waving at the press, the police flocking around him more like faithfuls around a king than an accused. And then you take advantage of the family’s poverty and offer them a bond of money? Would that honestly be enough? Exploiting the poor, bending the laws as you please, making money the price of life- has our level of justice stooped this low, where the poor are silenced and the rich allowed to tramp on them, over and over again? If it has, then I am ashamed beyond ashamed, for I am a part of this system- this justice represents me, it stands for us as a nation, and it’s based on nothing but pure feudalism.

Man is made of nothing other than dirt, and yet he learns to walk over it with a stiff back, forgetting that he’s going to return one day to its cold hug. We all do, we all have to. We walk tall on the concrete, our heads high, we treat some grains as golden flecks and others as the specs on the inner side of a glass window, forgetting that at the end, it’s all just sand. What MPA, what police officer, they’re all going to end up a part of the same soil. Our back breaks, the pride has its final roar, and we fall face first, onto the dirt we carried around in our veins, but forgot of.

I have raised this issue again, even though it has been long eaten up the media, because it didn’t get it’s rightful attention. The poor deserve a voice that they’re not getting, and the media is only too willing to help. The police officer I met today gave me a reminder of the man who died doing his duty. Had we not stopped on time, he might have faced a similar fate. And then again, had he not jumped, I wouldn’t have been typing this blog post. Saying that all police officers take bride is ridiculous, just like saying all Muslims are terrorists. The sin of an individual cannot be blamed on the group. Then again, who are we sinners to blame each other for sinning differently?

Father and I would have liked to thank that man, but he gave the car’s bonnet a quick tap, and walked away, probably to save the live of some other people running behind schedule. He has all of my respect, for I owe him my life. And that was when I realized to my surprise that I had indeed caught the birds in full flight. A bit blurry picture, but nothing that a good edit can’t fix. 

The truth is that not all superheros come with capes- some just carry a whistle, a grey uniform and a cap.


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