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. Sager says:

    Seperate utensils are no big deal, my wife has seperate set just for her :(
    Some guys just get used to it.

  2. Amna Raheem says:

    Thank you for sharing this. Ashiq Mang seems to have the right things right while I fret over the wrong things – my career, my car, my shoes. He seems to have achieved the right goals – stable, happy family and led an honorable life. That is the core of being Muslim, isn’t it? I’d say he is on a straighter path than I am, despite our last names.

    Regarding the utensils, that is just disgusting. I remember being about 6 years old and driving around Lahore in my dada’s pajero with the air con on full and looking out the window and an elderly man working in the midday heat. I have always wondered what stars aligned to put me in the rear seat of an air conditioned car and him in the middle of a dangerous road on such a hot day.

  3. faraz says:

    I have also seen ppl use same glass or “katora” for pets as they use for servants.

    Edhi once write to 10000 rich ppl of pakistan to sponser education of their servant’t childrens. Only 22 replied and only 10 actually replied postive.

    The division between rich and poor is more deep then we may think.

  4. people like aashiq mang are important part of a society n our descrimination with different masses on thier job role has a long standing effect on out environment. thanks for the food for thought.

  5. friend says:

    I was amused to read that most of the sweepers in pakistan are either christians or hindus. i live in Uttar pradesh and majority of sweepers are muslims. That is because only the affluent muslims migrated from the hindi belt whereas almost all migrated from punjab.
    The caste system runs deep in India(even muslims and sikhs follow to some extent) despite all the progress made in many fields. mayavati(she is chamar by caste) has become chief minister and brahmins touch her feet although there are still some high caste people in villages who will not eat or sit with lower castes hindus and muslims.

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