Another Indifferent Labour Day?


While different countries observe Labour Day on different times of the year, vast majority do it on May 1st, and all do it to “celebrate the economic and social achievements of workers”. Its also a day where much is said of labour rights, and neglect and abuse of these rights, something that is widespread in our city Karachi, and indeed the whole country.

Yet ironically, as we wake up leisurely on this holiday to mark all that labour day stands for, the labourers we use our self will have no holiday. The maids that come to our places to help us in the house chores, the muhalla ke chokidars, your local cobbler, countless kids like the one in the photo that are out on the streets trying to help their families make ends meet, these real labourers of our society, the ones whose achievements we’re suppose to celebrate and whose plight we pledge to improve, they would all still be doing the hard yards come Tuesday morning.

They’d still waking be waking up at five in the morning, making tea for their families, leaving for work, work 10 or more hours in tough, sometimes downright appalling conditions, come back, eat little, make no complains and go back to sleep. Yet, for many of us here in Karachi, May Day, is just another holiday of the year, a good reason to have a day off from work, relax, put your feet up, and enjoy the break from work. For others still, its another day to where you can voice, in full flow, your favored political agenda, come out on the streets, take out rallies, chant slogans, give big speeches, dish out lots of rhetoric, make it to the local news channels and enjoy your 15 minutes of fame.

This is our culture of indifference. This culture, that many of us, including my self, are reluctantly and sometimes even unknowingly, are a part of; this culture that makes as forget about this boy, and many others like him in Karachi and beyond, for whom life is an every day struggle for survival, for him labour day is no different then the rest of the year, another day where he will probably go to sleep underfed, over-worked and tired…another day in the long, seemingly never ending grind of life in the lower ebb of society.

It unsettles and disturbs me that I can do little but observe our collective indifference silently. Are we really so helpless to bring a change, or is our supposed helplessness also part of that culture of indifference and apathy? Will there be ever a labour day that is different for this boy? It disturbs and unsettles me that I don’t have an answer. I feel fake, hypocritical and empty every Labour Day and I don’t know if this Tuesday will be any different. Do you feel the same too or will you labour day this year be different?

Image: Bread and Butter by Muneezah Hashim, originally uploaded at Flickr, reproduced here with consent

3 Comments so far

  1. Imran (unregistered) on April 29th, 2007 @ 6:50 pm

    That’s thoughtful Zainub.

    UAE does not observe a Labor Day. Surprise surprsie!! (Camel Kids, anyone?) :(


  2. PatExpat (unregistered) on April 29th, 2007 @ 8:05 pm

    I look forward to the holiday on labor day.


  3. wasiq (unregistered) on May 1st, 2007 @ 3:54 am

    the kind of i am i usually calculate the day from one week earliar…..for the newly weds but for the old couples its always a surprize….anyways,
    I’ll be praying for all the family and friends who are expecting this fall…..but let me remind you all that this is the year of THE PIG……!



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