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The power of common man

Once in a while in life, even the worst of experiences leave you with something to remember, to reminisce and realize that if a particular unfortunate incident hadn’t taken place, you would have missed the opportunity to view something with a totally different perspective. On the evening of 17th July, I had one such accident as I found myself locked outside of my car with the car keys inside.

A day before Eid, on the way back from shopping, my husband parked the car on the side of the road and descended to buy groceries while I sat inside. A few minutes later, I felt anxious and got off the car to check what was taking him so long, totally forgetting that the car keys were still inside and soon enough we found ourselves locked outside. Unable to find a locksmith nearby, we were left with no other option than to proceed to our home to bring the spare key. Geared for this arduous task, we hailed a taxi and headed home. As luck would have it, when we were about to cross Star Gate Chowrangi,  unexpectedly the traffic police popped out of nowhere, blocking the road leading towards Natha Khan Bridge for a VIP convoy. I knew this meant waiting for at least an hour in the taxi while our car stood on the side of the road, unattended. As I sat cursing the VIP culture, I witnessed a man moving forward towards the traffic police.

“What have you stopped us for?”

He shouted at the traffic sergeant who was on a white bike parked right in the middle of the road, blocking the traffic passage. I could not hear what the sergeant replied yet his answer enraged the man further and he screamed at him,

“You know who pays your salary? It comes from the taxes I pay! And here you are, stopping me for these VIPs who don’t pay a penny. Does their baap pay your salary?”

He moved forward and screamed at the traffic police to let us pass. The traffic police replied in the negative. The man, furious, turned towards the waiting cars and bikes, beckoned them to move ahead and yelled, “Move forward! Don’t listen to them!”

As if waiting for this opportunity, several men on motorbikes moved to the front, their engines revving to rush forward. As our taxi stood in the front row, the man in the vehicle behind us started thumping the boot of the taxi shouting, “Chalo chalo”. The man urged all the drivers to start honking their horns and start driving without stopping for a VIP. The traffic police shouted, “Bus do minute aur (Only two more minutes)”

The man shouted, “Tumhara baap dayga humay ye do minute”

(Will your father give us these two minutes?”

All the people started inching their cars forward. The women rolled car windows down and with their heads thrust outside, started shouting “Let’s go, let’s go”. Engines started, bikes hummed, women screamed, men yelled and amidst this cacophony, the traffic police who were only six in number found themselves helpless in front of such a massive and extremely charged crowd. In no time, the public had crossed the line the traffic police had set up and we moved forward, stopping for no one and with the VIP cavalcade moving right in front of our taxi. It was exhilarating as well as liberating.

Since the tiff between the PTI and PML-N started, I have been a casual observer, someone who just read what was happening in the Nawaz election rigging trial on newspapers or Twitter. Similar to majority of Pakistanis who have been brought up and raised abroad, there is a pessimistic inside me who thinks that Pakistan is beyond salvage now.

However, on this day I witnessed the power of the common man, and the manifestation of his frustration against the government. At that particular moment, even I felt the animal inside me coming alive. I longed to ram my vehicle and break this barrier not for the reason that I was in a hurry to reach home or to get to my car, but on the grounds that maybe this was my only chance to get back at the politicians who raise the fuel prices and food prices every day, making all my increments seem smaller and smaller, who drive me mad with worry every time a loved one doesn’t come home on time because I know my city is not safe,  who cause me to question every two days whether cancelling my immigrant visa to stay in this country was a wise decision. I have never wanted, don’t want, will never want to stop for them and maybe this was the only day I could get free.

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