When you buy in bulk, you can get a discount. There are wholesale stores that typically give you a five to ten percent discount. But when you are poor, you cannot afford to buy in bulk. You may have money only for a meal or two.
I do most of our shopping at such stores. I buy half a goat for mutton in one go, and we freeze the meat. A poor person would never be able to buy mutton here. It is so pricey. I switched to mutton because of my increased Cholestrol level. I do not eat fat, and I am very thin, but it seems my body manufactures cholestrol from everything I eat. But the expense is making me think of going back to beef.
For the poor though, beef is also out of question. In fact, they are lucky on Eidul Adha, for we Muslims typically give away at least a third of our sacrifice. When I used to get my sacrifice done here in this city, I would see little kids coming and taking away meat and bones. Once on Eidul Adha, I saw this little girl with her even littler brother. She came back a few times to get more of the bones and the meat. Finally she was carrying a cow's head. I gave them a lift to their flat in one of several decrepit buildings housing low-level employees of the government. I asked her wouldn't the meat rot in the heat. She told me this was the only time in the year they could lay their hands on meat. So they salt and dry the meat for use later.
Every day I see kids and old men and women collecting papers, cardboards, and other recyclable items from rubbish bins. Rubbish bins, I tell you - smelly, bug-laden rubbish bins. Sometimes they pick up a half-eaten rotten piece of fruit, and eat it. These kids have developed skin diseases.
Everyday when I go out, there are kids begging in the markets or the traffic signals. I know where they come from. There are shanty settlements housing displaced persons, like Afghans and other migrants, whose parents or uncles deposit these people in the respective begging points, and collect them at night. Begging is an organized racket/ and for some a necessity.
I have stopped giving them alms, but I wonder if I am doing right. Just give them something to eat, I tell myself. Money will encourage their handlers. But some kids say they give the money to their mothers for housekeeping.
Secondly, in the West, at least in the initial phase, the ethnic store owners are themselves poor, so they too buy their wares in small quantities. Add to this the transportation costs, and they are not making huge profits. The reason the quality is poor is also because once having bought their wares, they have to sell it eevn if it gets degraded with time. They cannot afford to throw these away.
As the cost of living goes up and up, my wife quietly subsidizes our living, and this when my pension is quite reasonable. What of the people who have to live on one-seventh of my pension? And what of people who are unable to get jobs, and hence have no money?
The elite, the powerful, get free rides and breaks, while the downtrodden get pushed down even more and more. There are more than fifty ministers in the Federal cabinet. The last President wiped off all cases of corruption against the politicians and the bureaucrats. There are quite a few Pakistanis in the US and Canada with at least tens of millions of dollars as commissions and cuts. Others have the loot in Swiss and Luxemburg accounts, and in the UK.
After the demise of his wife, Mr. 10-50-100% is now the President. Typically these so-called leaders go on private tours disguised as official ones, taking with them 100 or so free-riders. They stay in five star-hotels, hire limousines, live it up in nightclubs, and meet a third or fourth order bureaucrat to make their trips official ones.
At a minimum, any deal carries a seven percent commission for the person signing the deal. Those who facilitate the deal, get their cut, too. Sometimes the deal is a 90% cut.
This is the democracy about which Mr. Zardari said: "My democracy will deliver".
Laughable. All our leaders are corrupt or clowns, but they are clever enough to hide their loot in the Western democracies.
The so-called aid that the third world countries get isn't much when the cost of the Western consultancies is paid for. Since these are tied to buying from the donors (this is what they call themselves, they are actually lenders) at inflated prices, the real benefit is even less. Add to this the percentage that is paid in foreign exchange, and hidden in the lender countries, and clearly the poor carry the burden while the powerful pocket the "aid".
Are these the times when Tasbeeh will suffice for food, or is this the time for a change?
The Pakistanis have been found to be the most givers, yet the poverty seems to keep growing. Where is all the money going. The government increased the price of petrol to Rs. 85 per litre from Rs 30 when the oil hit $130 a barrel. It was brought down to Rs 57 when it came to $100 a barrel. Since then oil has come down so much $35-50 a barrel, but no further cuts. The Supreme Court eventually ordered the government to bring the price down substantially within a week, and it has now been cut by Rs. 1.50
I mean, can you believe it.
Roti, the staple food, has gone from Rs. 2 per piece to Rs. 5
Women, old men, kids, maulvis, and charity organizations, too, keep ringing bells. All they ask for is wheat flour for making roti. One bag of wheat flour. One measly 20 kg bag. At Rs 32 per kg, it is only Rs 640, but it won't go far, for a family of say five. Typically the families are larger. And the maulvis are asking for the wards in their madrassas. It has become so common, one's immediate reaction is "no", for one person cannot solve the problems of all.
As for clothing, even the lunda bazaar (second hand clothing stores, mostly donations from the West) is way too expensive for them.
I am glad I am not poor. I have had one unfulfilled desire - not having to see poverty any more. I want to continue to see, but not poverty.
If the Western governments were sincere about helping the poor countries, they would confiscate all the money held by the Zardaris, the Bhuttos, the Musharrafs, the Rehman Maliks, in short the Generals, the Presidents, the Ministers etc. Then return these monies to the countries from which the money has been looted. But they provide safe havens to the corrupt, and the poor pay for the loot.