The news of attack on Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal in Narowal was heard with mixed responses. Besides some sincere wishes for his recovery, he was also criticised for deciding not to be treated at Narowal and being moved to Lahore for treatment. Since he is a political representative from this area, he was taken to task by his opponents for not developing health facilitates in his very own constituency. This incident reminded me of my personal experience almost two decades ago of my first posting as a lecturer in Narowal Government Girls College. The romance with Marxism was still afresh leading to an emotional commitment to change the destiny of unprivileged sections of society. This was my opportunity to serve in an underdeveloped region of my country. I could “bring a revolution” of my own through educating young girls from lower stratum. My husband was adamant that I should take a leave after the formal joining. I thought I would convince him later (early years of marriage when you are confident of your convincing powers).I was too weak for my high ideals. I strongly recommend best possible health and education facilitates to be made available to all, at affordable prices everywhere in Pakistan including Narowal but I am just not in a position to criticise Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal for not staying there for treatment. I didn’t stay in that beautiful city eitherWe went via a, so-called, road for the joining. On our way I kept listening patiently to my husband’s plans to prepare leave documents while rejuvenating the revolutionary inside me. There was a class fellow of my husband posted in the local government hospital. He came to meet us in the office of the college clerk where my joining documents were being prepared. He introduced himself as the only doctor in the vicinity. I was surprised at the fact that he was the physician cum surgeon of all sorts cum anesthetic in the hospital. He dealt with all sorts of cases single handedly. While my husband was busy conversing with his “all rounder doctor” friend, I went to see the principal and other faculty members. The principal was a good administrator and had maintained whatever infrastructure was available in the best manner possible but was a bit too firm as a disciplinarian. When l told her about my year-old son jokingly hinting at bringing him along, she gave me a ‘terrifying’ look. A baby in college was considered a monster. I pacified her by assuring the child will be left home with a helper. She sarcastically said that she knew I wasn’t going to teach there, so was the opinion of some faculty members l had just made friends with. I reiterated my commitment to serve as a teacher and proceeded to find out accommodation options as married teachers weren’t allowed in the college faculty hostel. Quite a ‘marriage-unfriendly’ overall environment it is, I thought to myself.Now the quest for a rented living place started with the help of two lecturers who lived in a nearby area and knew of a family unit available for rent evacuated by a teacher recently. We had to take the side wall gate of the college. There were groups of young students enjoying their break time. The news of a new teacher had already been spread (it was an all-women environment of course). I could hear young ladies murmuring, quite loudly actually, that l was the new teacher from Lahore who would be teaching them now. Young girls are like that, they develop hopes swiftly. I had already started feeling the bond being developed. This was my first day at employment and I was dressed quite excitedly for the occasion wearing high heels also. The side gate opened and there was a pond of mud with some bricks laid down for footsteps. I was flabbergasted at the ease with which I was told by my colleagues that this was the only way to that residential area and they had been crossing it daily. With a bunch of excited young students right there looking at me overwhelmingly, the idea of slipping into a mud pool was rather embarrassing. It was a “white man’s burden” situation. Anyways I was able to cross successfully onto a street … yet another muddy path but there was room on the sides to walk. After crossing all these hurdles, we reached the destination. The keys were brought from the land lady, her representative reminding me of how fortunate I was to have found this family unit vacated. The entrance door was opened, which was a toilet. Yes, a toilet. I stood there spellbound. I was assured that when my husband comes to see us on weekends the land lady would allow him to use their portion’s entrance from the other side. This was awarded as a free privilege. The residence was a shabby quarter. This was the best possible accommodation available in the town and teachers like myself had been living there or managing to live there. I kept on thinking of my hygiene freak husband who would boil our son’s spoons and bowls and was almost paranoid about him roaming around in any unclean area. I thanked my newly made friends and we proceeded back. They had already figured out my disappointment but were courteous enough not to embarrass me by reminding me of my conviction to serve the cause of education by all means. I walked with the dilemma of the accommodation l had just visited, a child hating boss, a hospital where you had a ‘jack of all trades’ doctor, the mud pool to be crossed daily and a home you entered through a bathroom. Then there were those ideals, commitment to serve, changing the destiny of the underprivileged, passion for contributing to less developed parts of my homeland, revolutionising in my own capacity. It was like carrying my idealism as a cross on my shoulders knowing the reality of crucifying dreams. I crossed the mud pool back to the office where my husband had gotten my leave documents prepared. The disillusioned revolutionary signed them. I never had the courage to go back to those young students and apologise for the betrayal.I understand that my experience is an outdated one and conditions are much better in the city of Narowal now. I salute the doctors and teachers who have been serving in underdeveloped areas of Pakistan in most difficult working conditions. They may not have brought about a revolution but have surely made a difference to the destinies of a big number of people, saved numerous lives and built many personalities. I was too weak for my high ideals. I strongly recommend best possible health and education facilitates to be made available to all, at affordable prices everywhere in Pakistan including Narowal but I am just not in a position to criticise Interior Minister Iqbal for not staying there for treatment. I didn’t stay in that beautiful city either. I have since then taught in an elitist institution commuting from my comfortable residence to a friendly work environment. I teach theories and principles of Marx knowing that many years ago, l had failed him miserably.Published in Daily Times, May 13th 2018.