A paragon - Chris Cork - Monday, April 11, 2011

Back in the days before the internet and emails and social networking it was possible to lead an anonymous life. One could walk unrecognised even if you are, like me, just a tiny bit famous. But all that has changed. My anonymity is not enhanced by having a photo byline, but it is the publication of my email address which is the key to Pandora’s box. That string of letters and numbers is the front door of my life, and a remarkable number of people walk through it.

An equally remarkable proportion of those that do, are beggars. Some just rattle the pot and ask for money, others are more circuitous and it takes a while before I realise that yet again I am being asked to fund several years of expensive education - and then there are those who don’t want my money but do want something even more valuable. My time. Something I have never got to grips with is the national habit of people treating other people’s time as if it was their own, and ‘spending’ it as carelessly as they would if it really were. Thus I turn down the endless requests to sit on this or that group, come and visit obscure NGOs in far-flung places or be part of the audience at yet another tedious bout of self-congratulatory speechifying.

But recently one request to spend my time made it in under the radar, and I am glad it did. It was a request to speak at a school event in Rawalpindi and it was the subject that beguiled me - ‘Why I chose to live in Pakistan’.

Come the day I put on jacket and tie in an effort to cut the scruffiness quotient, turned up on time, and spent three truly splendid hours bang in the middle of why it was that I chose to live here. I long ago lost count of the number of schools I have visited. They range from tiny outfits in the desert to grandiose institutions with an inflated sense of their own importance. This one was typical of so many. Started by a woman who had a background in education it had grown to have five ‘branches’ and served a lower-middle-class population with affordable education for boys and girls.

Over time, one develops a ‘nose’ for a school, and I can tell within minutes of going through the gate if it is good, bad or indifferent. This was a ‘good’ one. I and my fellow speakers (I was not the fish hooked by Ms J) were roped in to be the judges of a series of presentations made by the students, and it became one of those unexpected pleasures that go to make life worthwhile.

There was a pleasing diversity in the way teachers and students had created their presentations, which ranged from the kindergarten classes acting out village life and a wedding, through to the importance of respecting the rights of minorities up to what we judged the eventual winner; a marvellous representation of the ruins of Moenjodaro, then and now. The vignette was introduced by two well-rehearsed and confident girls who knew their stuff, and we were unanimous in our decision as to the winner. But every child and teacher and parent there on that day was a winner. Education was a winner. Ms J and her mother who founded this paragon of a school were winners. The time I spent there was time well spent and I begrudged not a minute of it. There are thousands of ‘reasons to live in Pakistan’ like that - we just hardly ever hear about them.

The writer is a British social worker settled in Pakistan. Email: manticore73@gmail.com

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=41076&Cat=9

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