A home-made initiative
Not every theory is universal. If an approach is, despite anything and everything, being claimed to have a worldwide scope, its application would have metamorphosed dimensions as determined by the cultures it is being put into practice
Who does not want to become a story on Humans of New York’s page? At least every one in Pakistan undoubtedly awaited the moment anxiously when Brandon Stanton would come with his camera and ask to tell one’s story. With 30+ photographs narrating the tales of dwellers of different areas of areas of Pakistan, ranging from the northern valley of Hunza to metropolises like Karachi and Lahore, we all were expecting something remarkable and impactful out of his visit. Although all photographs highlighted important aspects of this society, the whole social fabric cannot expectedly be spotlight in only a few dozen pictures. It is strange enough to realise the awkward resemblance between American states and Pakistani cities. Some of you are already laughing at the idea but let me explain why I have drawn this congruency.
Despite beginning as a photography project in 2010 that aimed “to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers on the street”, Stanton’s HONY has extended its span to over 20 countries till now, including Pakistan, India, Jordan and Iraq.
“Somewhere along the way, I began to interview my subjects in addition to photographing them. And alongside their portraits, I’d include quotes and short stories from their lives,” writes Stanton on HONY’s official website.
This lay the foundations of the “vibrant blog” that HONY is today. Yet, it is naturally more disposed towards addressing and highlighting the issues prevalent in New York and the stories of New Yorkers. For Pakistanis we require pages like Humans of Pakistan (could be shortened to HOP), and for Lahorites we need Humans of Lahore, which by the way does not only exist but is also very loud, resonant and powerful.
“This idea was of course taken from Brandon who runs the page “Humans of New York” but it isn’t totally based on that theme,” claimed the admin of Human of Lahore page, Maham Naz.
“I started it about two years back during summer holidays. I was buying groceries from the nearby store one day and bought corn from this really old woman that sits right outside,” explained Maham.
“I started asking random questions about her life and how is it basically going for her. She opened up to me, making me realise that it was so easy to talk to a total stranger.”
She was quick in reaching the conclusion that people are mostly reluctant in asking others how they are because “well, that’s how it is basically!” It was then that she posted the elderly lady’s story on the page that now covers different aspects. “People also send in their stories and most of them get the help they need through this platform.”
This is exactly what I wanted to highlight.
Stanton pertinently mentioned on HONY’s official website that he is concluding “the Pakistan series by spotlighting a very special agent who is working to eradicate one of the nation’s most pressing social ills… Meet Syeda Ghulam Fatima, described as a modern day Harriet Tubman, Fatima has devoted her life to ending bonded labour… The organisation she leads, the Bonded Labour Liberation Front, is small but determined.”
He, without any partiality and bias, told the world about the freedom centres Fatima was setting up all over Pakistan to provide legal aid and advocacy in every bonded labourer’s access. He roused the chambers of generosity in context of global citizenship and provided the link where anyone wishing to help the cause could donate. By endorsing the mission and spreading awareness about the issue, the blogger certainly won everyone’s hearts.
“His support has been appreciated immensely and he has these kiln workers’ prayers with him,” Fatima had said back in 2015 while expressing her gratitude.
“It took someone from a different country coming in and spreading the word about this social ill that plagues our nation,” she had opportunely mentioned. He achieved in a few hours what years of campaigning could not. According to the statistics given on the official web page, the initiative helped raise US$1,275, 122 in just three days. But why this responsibility could not be given to a local page which would have equally, if not more effectively, awaken Pakistanis and called for their benevolent contributions.
A different yet comparably important perspective was highlighted by Humans of Lahore back in June 2016. What made it particularly unique was not the stereotype which was being challenged but the idea of gaining societal countenance to make it a norm.
“An uncommon thing, a new perspective, a fight against all odds,” read the post. “That’s what this lady showed when she was seen selling ice cream, in Harbanspura, to little kids so they cool off in this scorching heat while she makes a little money to save her kids from the hunger pangs they otherwise experience daily.”
We, as responsible citizens of this country who had vowed to share a common destiny by taking pledge to challenge the norm of living under the rule of foreign invaders, could have helped this woman and many others who are trying to make ends meet in order to keep body and soul together.
Not every theory is universal. If an approach is, despite anything and everything, being claimed to have a worldwide scope, its application would have metamorphosed dimensions as determined by the cultures it is being put into practice. Feminism, to illustrate, is about advocacy of paying women as much as men in the west, but in the eastern half of the globe it is still stuck at initial phases where women have no right to decide how many kids they want to have in the first place. Thus the fact that local problems can more aptly be addressed by locals themselves can be given blind credence to.
Why wait for another visit of Brandon Stanton before an issue of social responsibility could be brought into the spotlight? Why not do it on our own by appreciating such initiatives as these pages which have better outreach in terms of both identifying problems and disseminating the gained information? Why wait for HONY to post a picture of an A-level student, whose only source of income is a stall of home-made food, before we could take the responsibility of looking after such kids? Why not through these indigenous pages which can portray auto chthonic problems in all their bearings? Let’s answer these questions with sheer honesty and help those in need of change, whether economic or social.
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