The People’s Response
I accompanied a few friends as they shopped for relief supplies. We went to Icchra bazaar first, to get blankets and kaffan ka kapra (burial shrouds)….As large a bazaar as Icchra is, it was as if an army had been through its narrow winding streets, clearing the shelves of required items. Shopkeepers told us how most blankets had been sold out a few hours after the bazaars opened. Lahore is out of tents as they’ve all been bought and donated. It does good things inside. We underestimate the inherent goodness of people.
We then went to Fazal Din’s drugstore in Main Market to get medical supplies. Syringes, glucose solutions, antibiotics, painkillers, sanitary pads, cotton, etc. Everyone seemed to be working in overdrive mode.
My biggest shock of the day was when we went to Jalalsons to get food supplies. They were flat out of masoor ki daal, which cooks the quickest. We found out the next quickest daal to cook is some green variety, of which we found only one packet. It had all been bought, and with the same consideration for the affected ones’ needs as we were showing but somehow didn’t expect from others. If we were thinking about cooking time, we somehow assumed other people wouldn’t be doing the same. Keeping in mind the 10-15 kg weight limit of the supply boxes, the 1 kilo and 1/2 kilo packets of rice were out too, and all they had were packets of 2 kilo and up. These boxes must be carried by hand, on foot, up the uneven paths in the affected areas, and people are making sure they buy items in smaller sizes even if it costs them more than buying economy size packs.
Everywhere we looked, people were piling up supplies on the counters, all of them going to the relief fund. A clerk at the store told us all they had been doing since Iftaari was replenishing stocks, and as we left we saw a neverending supply of milk cartons and water bottles constantly being unloaded into the store.
A friend told me her friend had set out to collect goods and donations from people, and had collected 4 lakh rupees in a few hours.
There are smaller, private efforts in the shape of trucks leaving by the dozens every few hours, organized by small groups of people. My main bet is with the Army’s relief camp in Fortress Stadium. Not only are they organized and CENTRALIZED, they have priority access to the hitherto unreached regions as the roads open up, and are in a better position to disperse the supplies. I also think a centralized effort is more coordinated and thus better informed about the larger picture in terms of how much of each item is needed. But every little bit, in whatever form, helps. We are not yet in a position to choose, and nothing can go to waste.
Hats off to the media. Showing uncensored coverage of the devastation has sparked a personal response in each of us. While some get motivated by thinking it could have been them, others find it easier to relate to what our folks up north are going through. And the media coverage has been exemplary. I cannot explain what I felt when I saw images of Balakot flattened out, and school buildings collapsed on top of students who have been crying for help since Saturday morning. I used to think that one death was equal to a thousand deaths…that just the magnitude of deaths occurring simultaneously or from the same cause makes no difference. But it does. A thousand deaths ARE different from a few deaths. I guess this sentence sounds horribly stupid. To me, this is the first time I’ve realized it.
God bless us all. From a purely objective point of view, seeing the humanity pouring out of the people – not as hot-headed sentimentalism, but as a calm and patient goodness – explains a few things to me and puts a stop to my questioning mind, at least for now.