KARACHI: On January 22, social activist Perween Rahman would have been 65 years of age. Unfortunately, on March 13, 2013 her life was cut short by those who did not want her to keep serving the underprivileged. She was brutally killed by four gunmen at a juncture in her life when she was director of the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) looking after vital issues such as housing and water supply. Ever since, she’s become a legendary individual in the field of social service that many look up to. Rightly so.

On Saturday, Google paid tribute to Ms Rahman by making a thoughtful doodle on her 65th birth anniversary.

Describing her invaluable contribution to Pakistani society, the search engine writes, “Rahman was born on this day in 1957 in Dhaka, Pakistan (now Bangladesh). In 1971, she relocated with her family to Karachi. Rahman studied architecture and went on to earn her master’s in housing, building, and urban planning from the Institute of Housing Studies in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Rahman’s personal experiences of displacement inspired her to pursue a career advocating for housing security, and in 1982, she began working as an unpaid intern for the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP). This organisation focused on sanitation, housing, and healthcare in Orangi Town on the outskirts of Karachi, one of the world’s largest informal settlements…”

But the most remarkable thing about the doodle is the considerateness with which it’s made. It shows her bespectacled figure in simple attire looking out a large window which opens into the area that she used to care the utmost about. To her right, there are drawings/maps indicative of her ceaseless effort to give a proper structure to the aforementioned settlements. There’s seriousness on her face (in profile) that speaks volumes for her concern for the neighbourhood she worked in and the people she cared for. And all of it — that is, the world she’s looking at — is suffused with a yellow mellowness. The colour yellow often symbolises the sun, implying hope. There’s hope here, too, but it’s mellow.

Perhaps it is also inspired by a short film Into Dust directed by Orlando van Einsiedel based on the life and work of Ms Rahman. In the Google image, what she’s wondering about has a hazy, a bit dusty touch to it — optimism and pensiveness in equal measure.

Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2022

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