I WAS recently with a deputy inspector-general (DIG) of police and a commissioner on a private visit to Punjab. They were accompanied by other civil servants. I was with them accompanying my friend whose brother was one of the officers.

As a common man, it was my first interaction with senior civil servants. I was inspired by their frank attitude towards their driver and I liked the way the junior officers maintained decorum in the presence of the two senior officers, who were very polite and caring.

However, I was amazed to see that wherever we went and were introduced to the locals, we got special treatment and protocol. People would greet us with great humility, they would bow as if they were the servants and we were their masters.

We also visited a holy place and I got irritated when the organisers in religious attire immediately after greeting us started discussing politics. It seemed as if they wanted to befriend the officials and make personal connections to draw out concessions and favours when needed.

As I have interest in history, I enquired about the history and traditions of that place. From my experience, I could tell that they had not read the history of that place about which they were boasting.

Then we went and met a landlord who claimed to be the owner of 900 acres of land. I observed that he was rather proud, not just happy, to have the guests at his place, elated that he was hosting a DIG, a commissioner and a bunch of civil servants.

He proudly told us that his daughter had qualified for the Civil Superior Services (CSS) and had graduated from an esteemed institution of the country based in Lahore. He also told us that he was exporting potato, and intended to grow garlic soon.

He might be thinking that he was explaining it in a fascinating manner, but we all knew that he was involved in self-projection. This landlord had a brother who was a PhD and I was delighted to know that as a PhD I could get in touch with him.

He was working on a project about ‘decolonising education’ through which he wanted to revive the pre-colonial education system of Punjab.

I took great interest and was involved in discussion on decolonisation. As we were having that discussion, a servant in bad shape, with dirty clothes, broken shoes and with a mask on, entered the room carrying a trolley with snacks.

The guests asked for water and the landlord in an angry and arrogant tone asked the servant to bring water. Whenever he would communicate with the servant, I could see sheer arrogance and contempt in his tone for the poor man.

As we were having tea, the servant stood there looking at us as if we were aliens. I was quite troubled by this and thought that if a PhD in the family was working on decolonisation, how a servant in his own home was being treated like a colonised person.

I was wondering what made that servant standing there getting treated badly and what made us so precious and important. For me, all humans are equally capable, energetic and talented. But the question is: why one is a servant and the other a master?

The problem is within the system. That poor lad could not get his basic rights, while we were enjoying a lavish hi-tea. This system has to be reformed by distributing the state resources justly

and equally. Also, we need some basic reforms in terms of our approach to life and the colonial mindset of the ruling elite. We need to decolonise our brains.

Muhammad Essa

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2022



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