The Real Ones


The Real Ones

Something happened in the development sector
Something we forgot
Something we should have known
That humans aren’t blank slates
Awaiting our arrival
To scribble new thoughts, new words, new ways of living
Over their faces

That humans aren’t blank slates
Awaiting our arrival
To draw them anew and say
Now you know
How to live, how to think, how to behave
Now you have rights

We don’t walk into empty fields, we don’t walk into barren lands,
We don’t walk in with the only ploughs, we didn’t create the only hoes
The earth laughs, but not for us
The earth … she laughs at us
We are not her only children, we are not the only ones
We walk into communities that wrested life from an alien land

There was no water – they found ways to reach it, to bring it where they were
There was no food – they found ways to grow it, to bury seeds and bring up trees
There was no shelter – they found ways to create it, to turn mud into houses, wood into fire, fire into bricks
There was the earth around them – they found ways to live with her, high-roofed houses to keep the sun out, open courtyards to keep the sun in, the weather eye out to predict incoming floods and the seasonal move to save their lives
And there were people around them – they found ways to deal with that, too.

And then we walked in and told them: you did it all wrong.
Don’t you know all humans have rights? How dare you keep your women secluded? Don’t you know how backwards you are? How dare you remain illiterate? Don’t you know how deprived you are? Howdare you live without electricity and gas and water and paved roads and cars and computers an mobile phones?

And then we said, we will give you this
And then we didn’t
And they were not blank slates, but people with desires that we gave them and expectations that we smashed for them
And we write condescendingly about them, about how we gave them their very existence and how good we have been for them and how important we are to them
And they get on with their lives, without rights, without education, without electricity, without gas , without water
And they hold tightly to their customs, receiving guests like royalty, sitting in the sun in the winter and in their dark houses in the summer, commiserating at deaths and celebrating at weddings and loving their children and, yes, killing them too, when their customs say it is time to do so

And they laugh
And the earth, she laughs with them
Because we are not her only children
No, we are not even her favorite children
We are the madmen who forgot that all things grow out of the earth
Even humans
Even human societies

We are the madmen that forgot
That we are irrelevant
That, in-fact, we are positively harmful
When we walk into a land that is not barren
When we draw on a face that is not blank
We are the earth’s mad children
Whom she humors
By allowing us to see
To spout hot air
At each other
And in that blinding steam
Congratulate ourselves
On our indispensability
to the world

While the earth,
Old and clever and wise and sly
Laughs at our childishness
And shuts us up with each other
To blind ourselves
In our fog of steam
Bound tight, locked safely away,
Prevented from harming her children
The real ones
The ones who find real ways to really live
and laugh

Read Mahvesh’s previous Poetry Monday poem.


Mahvesh Khan

Mahvesh Khan grew up in Lahore and Islamabad. She obtained a Masters in Business, specializing in MIS and has worked in various positions, including in different organizations in the Development Sector. She has a deep interest in books and sometimes writes short stories, poems & essays.

One Comment on “The Real Ones”

  1. Mirza Usman says:

    Proud to be Pakistani (Y)