The sky is speckled with grey clouds, small and big both. These scattered clouds and a dim sun form the cover called the sky. In the distance, amidst the trees, under shades, in the nests where they are, birds cheeping and talking, barely audible over the din of traffic. It all amounts to ragged noise. Out on the road, the asphalt is broken in the centre and at the sides so that every vehicle passes tremulously. A few meters off, there is a beggar on a wooden plank, whose eyes are filled with tired desolation. He is frail, his skin loose and his bones protest against a small starved ribcage. If he had clothes once, they are only remnants now, covering only half a shoulder. He says some days he sleeps hungry, some days insects crawl all over him, and some days passing cars stop only to scold him for not doing enough, for being poor. He tried once in a rich man’s house, washing dishes, pressing clothes but one day, a plate broke, and his master, whose temper was monstrous, thrashed him so much that there was blood, some bones were cracked, a spirit splintered. After that, this sad-eyed man could not walk. Long story short, the surgery prescribed was unaffordable. Tossed to the mercy of the roads, here he is, ravaged, hungry and with a detritus of the streets coating his skin. What we fail to understand is that poverty is a human-made phenomenon. Ignorance coupled with negligence does not let people think. Had he been given opportunities to study, to make something of himself, this man, perhaps would never have to sleep on the streets with stones for a pillow. A few days back, our Chief Justice walked into the hospital wards of Larkana and saw a world capsized. Negligence of the authorities combined with those of the people unleashes hellish conditions inside a place of healing. The perplexing thing is that the situation is the same almost everywhere; our country is like a dilapidated house with cracks, chipped bricks, holes in the roof and foundations that quake from time to time. The people, the common folks, the ones who toil day and night to make ends meet, whose bodies streak with sweat, for the summer has been relentless, and the principle of survival of the fittest (and the privileged) is still the order of the day. And soon, in the land of the pure, general elections are to be held, a process supposedly promising change. And yet, here they are, the people, in the pits of misery and despair. Looking into their eyes, you would find only tiredness and aches unattended to by governments which promise to deliver, one after another, with high sounding claims that fail to materialise time and time again. Once more, as the election campaigns unfold, the debate centres around verbal assaults, and jibes about who did the most corruption, all the while paying no attention whatsoever to the needs of those sections of the society who do not have piles of cash stored up, who are ostracised and persecuted for ideologies, who have to bleed from dawn to dusk for meagre wages, who have to starve, who get killed on account of their identity, who have no water, who get sentenced in panchayats, who are the downtrodden, and who make up more than fifty percent of the population. The people without privileges and provisions of basic needs might have forgotten to speak their minds, and even if some have not, the representatives are not paying heed Briefly put, it is the people for whom the gates to the necessities of life, such as education, health facilities, and fundamental rights are closed and the people who are meant to represent them only seem to be talking about things that are irrelevant to the lives of common people. In order to elevate peoples’ living standards, their grievances ought to be recognised and redressed instead of harassing concerned citizens for asking the right questions. If this does not occur, then misery brewed and stirred — by criminal negligence — will be our chosen fate. To sum up, lives are parched for some form of respite, and many have succumbed to the misery they did not create or vote for. They are burning away like a factory on fire that no one puts out. Miles upon miles, tragedies unfurl, tides rise only to dismantle. One ought to have been able to anticipate July’s general election as a harbinger of change, full of possibilities. Yet, something is not quite right here. We are running out of water and hope, and the powers that be are all chockfull of thin promises and pledges. Once the election is over, the common man (the poor, the hungry, the women, the persecuted, the students, the sick, minorities, etc.) will be cast into the back chambers, forgotten. The people without privileges and provisions of basic needs might have forgotten to speak their minds, and even if some have not, the representatives are not paying heed. In the meantime, currents of chaos are turning into tidal waves. In the offing are things not spoken of, things evaded, which soon would erupt into realities which might just swallow us. Lest we began to speak louder and louder, the worst is to be expected of times. We, the people, whoever we are, wherever we are, will have to articulate our demands, and the people vying for power have to listen if it is the welfare of this country they seek. The writer is a freelance columnist Published in Daily Times, July 4th 2018.