Inspiration Pakistan: When Ashiq Speaks, I Listen

Posted on July 10, 2007
Filed Under >S.A.J. Shirazi, People, Society
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S.A.J Shirazi

In some way sweeper Ashiq Mang knows so much more about life that anybody else does, about grief, about happiness, about pretense and falseness of life. There is nothing in his own life, which he would like to hide or not talk about.

Ashiq has been working at our home for two years. My friendship with him developed when brought me laddoos on the birth of his son. It was a very pleasant surprise though later my wife and children hesitated to share the sweets with me. I offered him a cup of tea over which he started talking and gave me the chronological narrative of the life, experience and reminiscences. Then we used to talk whenever got chance to meet on holidays mostly, when he was late doing his job at our place or I came home early. He may not be a good communicator, but has definitely enriched my vision. He is so candid and honest about every thing.

Happily married to a working woman for last 18 years, Ashiq has six daughters and a son. He has his own home consists of one room, verandah, bathroom and kitchenette where he lives with his family. His wife also works as a cleaning lady besides giving birth to and rearing children. He told me about the tube legation of his wife, her miscarriages and death of their first daughter and how they have had so many children for want of a son, whom he wants to educate.

At one point early in our friendship he started narrating his observation of the job.

“Every body is fixated only on keeping their house clean, oblivious of any thing beyond their four walls. It take four hours to clean that big bungalow whereas they pay me only for two hours. I work in six houses and they all want to get their house to be cleaned first. They have so many guests every day. They do not buy brooms and wipers in time. They litter the house thoughtlessly. Most of the educated women of wealthy families have neither time nor desire to keep their houses clean. Most surprising is that no body pay in time.”

“There is no love in that house,” he once told me about one of his employers, “no body talks to each other. Even the kids do not talk or laugh. Every one in the house is locked into a shell. It seems as people from different families are staying in a hostel. It is suffocating to work what to talk of living in their house.”

Then he told me about another superstitious character who would wash his furniture items like tables and sofas, pens, shoes frequently and his hands every time he would shake them with another human being. Ashiq said simply:

“Sahib thinks that not only the air is polluted but every thing is contaminated with lethal germs.”

Incisive analyses by a person who cannot read or write contain spontaneous and honest reflections of our society it seems.

After having completed 15 years of colored service in armed forces he is reemployed by a national company where he works from early morning till noon in addition to working at different houses. His wife also works at different houses. Remembering the period spent in the service he says:

“It was the best time of my life. I was young. I used to clean single men’s barracks meticulously and all service men used to look after me affectionately. There used to be Christmas greetings and gifts for me. Life was so orderly, organized and happy.”

He narrated an incident happily:

“During my days in service our company was given a quiz with a question: What is the name of the person who cleans your barracks? They had seen me cleaning the barracks several times, but most of the young soldiers did not know my name and in their paper left the last question blank. Before the day ended, every soldier knew my name. The problem with the present employer is that no body seems to bother about my name and the company deducts pay if I do not go to work even for a single day for any reasons.”

Ashiq Mang is leading a comfortable life in his pensions, pay and some additional amount he and his wife get by working at the houses.

“Wealth has nothing to do with happiness,” he once explained to me philosophically, “in my life I have seen people with lot of money living miserably miserly and unhappy.”

Proud of his job to contribute in making the world a little cleaner place to live in, Ashiq loves his life, wife and children. At the age of 47 years he says that he has never fallen sick despite of hard worked and always busy hours. He dreams a lot and is looking forward to his retirement, for the second time, when he will have all the time to play with his son.

Ashiq as I know is kind trusting and warm, willing to share his joys and sorrows, openly and freely. The only regret he says a little wistfully is that:

“People treat us discriminately due to our job. We are denied our basic cultural and social rights. We have to have our own utensils in order eat or drink at any house, in case they offer something. We are also human beings with emotions, passions and all”.

Credits: Photos for this article are taken from and they are NOT of Ashiq Mang. The photos show people in similar jobs as Ashiq Mang.

23 responses to “Inspiration Pakistan: When Ashiq Speaks, I Listen”

  1. Abdul Mateen says:

    The observations of Ashiq made us clear on issue of our family culture which is being developed in large houses in which everyone has a separate room to remain alienated from others.

    I think this trend in our society is demolishing the bridges of communication within families and will at last result in collapsing of family as a unit.

    I am afraid it is happening very fast, we should think how we can promote family a unit to remain.

  2. tina says:

    I once heard of a family who threw out an entire set of plates after an American guest ate with them, in the belief that the tableware was no longer halal. Don’t know if the story is true or not, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was.

  3. cynic says:

    neither our much maligned religion nor the medical science justifies or deems it necessary to maintain a separate set of utensils for our servants– christian or muslim. it is our wives who decree this.

  4. tina says:

    Gee, A., it’s so hard to find good help these days, as the old saying goes. Since life is so tough for you with all these ignorant servants why not skip the isue and clean your own da** house?

    No? Thought so.

  5. a. says:

    Aha, I see. Thank you for the clarification Mr Nizam, the subtlety of it had escaped me. The discrimination is indeed worse against people of other religions. There, it is seems that pakistanis are susceptible to instinctive perpetuation of a caste system. Combine that with our love of class distinctions & you have the present sorry state of affairs.

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