TEDxLahore - Asher Hasan - Of burgers and bun kababs

Uploaded by TEDxTalks on 31.08.2010

This is a tale of two cities: one symbolised by skyscrapers belonging to the rich and famous,
looking down upon the other, the downtrodden, decrepit urban slum
quarantined from the first, in a world of socio-economic aparthied.
This is also a story about burgers and bun-kababs.
The burgers in the story are represented by Salim Burger
an 11 year old boy from an affluent family from Lahore.
The bun kababs are epitomized by Salim Bun-Kabab
the son of a maid who has worked for Salim Burger's family for eons.
As young children, the two Salims were joined at the hip,
playing together, eating together, falling and getting bruised together. Even doing their homework together.
But the last few years of intense social conditioning have left them suspended into separate worlds.
Dazed, confused, and asking some pretty tough questions.
Salim Burger: I am told that my religion teaches us equality and social justice.
Why then, do my maid and her children have to eat from different plates and use different utensils?
Why do I get to eat the meat my maid cooks while she only eats Daal-Roti?
Why am I not allowed to sit in the front seat with my driver?
Salim Bun-Kabab: Does bottled water really taste better than the tap water I've drunk all my life?
Sometimes, I wonder what is in that green bottle that Malik Sahab hides from Begum Sahab.
Hmm, he must really like that grape juice with his cigarette.
Salim Burger: Our politicians will tell us that we live in a free country.
Am I truly free? How I yearn to escape from my golden cage,
and play Gulli-Cricket (street cricket) with the street kids, barefoot in the rain, eating Gola-Ganda, and slurping lasees.
But my life has become a mobile cocoon. One moment, whisked away from home to school
the other moment, from school to home, but never able to step outside my cocoon,
and spread my wings, my metamorphosis incomplete.
Salim Bun-Kabab: Laptops, iPods, PlayStations, Razor Scooters,
these are but the toys of my imagination. Yet I am surrounded by them whenever I go into Salim's bedroom.
I see them but I can no longer touch them, or feel them, or even play with them.
On his 12th birthday, Salim Burger invited all of his friends to his birthday bash.
On previous occasions, he and Salim Bun-Kabab had celebrated their birthdays together,
hurling birthday treats at each other. But now that he was older,
Salim Burger found himself, silently and passively observing his friends, making fun of Salim Bun-Kabab's
broken english and his baggy pants. Humiliated, Salim Bun-Kabab retreated to the back of the room,
excluded, forgotten. That night both Salims sat awake, tormented.
Their celestially conjoined souls cleaved apart.
An angished Burger wondered how, and why had he colluded with his friends in the marginalisation of his childhood friend.
What had happened to that innate sense of fairness and social justice he had as a 5 year old?
Was he also going to simply write a cheque every year, like his parents did and wash his hands off this problem?
Had he become part of a fringe, elitist minority that was looking from the outside in,
into a world where 4 billion people earned less than a dollar a day?
Was he actually on the inside looking out at a world that he had chosen not to see?
Salim decided he had to do something. He drifted off to sleep and began to dream.
What if all of his classmates in his elitist school were to be twinned to all of Salim Bun-Kabab's classmates,
in their NGO school, creating a life long relationship, where they could as part of their school curriculum,
collectively tackle deeply rooted social problems, such as poverty, pollution and child labour?
What if they could co-create art and music and participate in games and atheletics together?
What if they could break out of their bubbles, rise above the society that divided them, and see both worlds as one?
Salim's dreams grew even more vivid: What if each of Salim Burger's classmates were to extend a
micro-loan to their twins that would take care of their health and entire education?
A micro-loan that could be repaid once the twin had a job and a stable income into a fund.
The world's first child-to-child microfinance fund. So that other twins might benefit from this in the future.
This system of socio-economic apartheid that is so firmly entrenched in Pakistan and in other developing nations,
and indeed in some parts of the developed world, is a system that was built by our colonial fathers.
But it is the system that we have to perpetuated. And infact, is a system that we must
collectively dismantle. Denied opportunity, devoid of hope, stranded at the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid,
our country's youth seeks refuge in religion and often times succumbs to the temptation of violent extremism,
as a means to restore their battered self-esteem, as well as to escape from their reality.
We must ask ourselves: if we want to change the trajectory of Pakistan, and we know we can,
we know that we can make this country successful, we need to realise the full potential of all of our disenfranchised youth.
We need to enlighten our kids to break out of their bubbles to experience the real world,
outside of those bubbles. And we need to enable our low-income, disenfranchised and underpriviledged children
to unleash their talent and to be able to really get out of those boxes that they've been boxed in for so long now.
So that they may collectively move our country together forward towards a brighter Naya Jeewan (New Life)
Ultimately, we may be able to abolish socio-economic apartheid and build bridges,
sturdy, durable bridges that may cross these socio-economic divides, and actually be able to deliver us to a place
where everyone can live and breathe and be treated equally. For that though we really need to rely on the collective
genius of our children, all of our children.