Day 13 – The Servants in Pakistan

by Owaiz

child-domestic-worker

Today, I went shopping with my cousins. I didn’t buy anything because clothes don’t interest me anymore, but I had to go look around and browse before I could say that they don’t have anything I like. I even tried a shirt. Anyway, after I was done, I left the mall and waited for them in the parking. It was a no-smoking zone so I started looking around. I watched a family pass by. 7-8 members, including kids, all of them fair, stylish, elegantly dressed. That’s the type of crowd we have in the capital, my own family included. These crowds often include an outcast, very easy to spot. Dark, dressed in hand-me-downs, short hair (no matter boy or girl), and usually expressionless. This outcast is a servant. The outcast accompanying the aforementioned family was a girl of about 9 or 10. I wasn’t surprised, it is pretty common here; I have seen younger ones, in fact. When I say outcast, I mean someone who stands out from the rest of the group. The servants do a multitude of jobs. The job of this one was to take care of a baby. I couldn’t see the baby because it was in a stroller, but I could see the servant push the stroller while the elegantly dressed mother walked on the side in her high heels.

Pakistan is a country where almost anyone can afford a servant. The prices have increased in the past decade, but I think you could easily get a servant for less than $5 a month. Now it’s probably $20-50 a month. Still, pretty cheap, because the servants live with you 24/7. I say price, and not rate, because that’s how it is. There are people, poor people, who keep on having kids (no birth-control), knowing that they can’t afford to put them in school or even feed them. That’s usually the reason they will give you if you ask them why they put their kids up for this sort of work. I don’t believe it, though. They do it so they don’t have to work themselves, and won’t have to feed the kids either. You don’t see a tear in their eyes when they give their kids up like this. It makes me really sad. How can anyone hire a servant who’s 7 year old? But they do. Faith in humanity lost.

My aunt once had a servant girl who started working for her around the age of 8 or 9. When that girl finally left, she was above 18. They don’t get a penny from their earnings. There are no rules or laws to protect them, or to prevent people from putting their kids up for servitude. Once you have a servant, and you have paid for it, you are free to do whatever you want with them. You can feed them stale feed, starve them, beat them, keep them from sleeping, torture them, or be nice to them, it is entirely up to you. But people are generally frustrated, and who better to take your frustration out on than a servant who won’t talk back? I’ve seen little girls and boys, less than 10, taking care of spoiled brats who pull the servants’ hair and beat them. The servants can’t hit them back or anything. You can make fun of your servants, swear at them, hit them, whatever.

Sometimes they make headlines, like a teenager servant beaten, raped, and killed, or tortured and killed, or just tortured, or just raped. If they are killed, their parents take the dead body to the roads and protest. Probably another stunt to get more money. If the raped servant survives, well, too bad, because nothing happens. In Pakistan, where even the privileged class can’t get justice because the system is so corrupt, the lowest class can’t even get an FIR registered.

But I’m like what sort of fucked up parents are they? How can a parent give their child into servitude? Like, this one time, we had a servant who was around 14 or 15, and her mother gave her sister to us for free so she could learn how to work, and, when ready, she could give her to someone else and make more money. The said sister was about 6-7 years old, recently pulled out from school. She knew about 20 alphabets, had potential, could’ve had a better life. I have no sympathy for such parents. These parents are utterly fucked up. Even if their children die, they find ways to make money from it.

It is ironic. I remember when I had to wake up for school, the servant had to wake up a bit earlier to get everything ready. While we got ready to go study, they got ready for yet another day of working. The servants don’t get playtime either, even if they are kids. When we came back from school, the servant was sent to carry our bags for us, because, after a ride home from school in a car, we were tired. I didn’t let them carry my bag, but my siblings did. Our servant was very nice, and she often said, “It’s okay, let me carry your bag.” My mum would agree, too, “You must be tired,” but all I would say was: “While I sat in school, she worked. She’s probably more tired than I am, and I can carry my own bag.” I know it wasn’t much, but one less bag for her to carry. Our servants were allowed playtime and could also watch TV; the girl who worked for us loved Indian dramas. But that’s just one family. I’m glad our family doesn’t hire servants anymore. But there are many out there. They are mistreated, beaten, and suppressed. It is unfair.

I often look back to my childhood. To me, it was a time when I was truly free. There was nothing to worry about, except homework, maybe. I was free until I grew up. But then there are these servant kids who have to learn to be patient and tolerant at such young ages. Why? What kind of a fucked up world is this? What can anyone do about it when there are so many poor families, each with at least 10 kids up for servitude?

Pakistani people talk about Malala being an American agent. I saw an articled titled something like, “Malala we know who you really are and that’s why we hate you” and it went in detail to explain how Malala wasn’t really shot and it was all staged. Well, I saw fuck it! Fuck it all! Focus on the bigger picture. The servants, boys and girls, are supposed to be in schools. Focus on that. Morally, at least, support Malala in her fight for their rights. She’s bringing attention to an important cause, and no matter who she’s supposedly working for, the cause is totally worth it. Those kids should be back in schools! If you wouldn’t have your kid sweep someone else’s floors, no kid should have to sweep your floors either.

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