The Real Ones


The Real Ones

Something happened in the development sector

Something we forgot

Something we should have known

That humans aren’t blank slates

Awaiting our arrival

To scribble new thoughts, new words, new ways of living

Over their faces

That humans aren’t blank slates

Awaiting our arrival

To draw them anew and say

Now you know

How to live, how to think, how to behave

Now you have rights

We don’t walk into empty fields, we don’t walk into barren lands,

We don’t walk in with the only ploughs, we didn’t create the only hoes

The earth laughs, but not for us

The earth … she laughs at us

We are not her only children, we are not the only ones

We walk into communities that wrested life from an alien land

There was no water – they found ways to reach it, to bring it where they were

There was no food – they found ways to grow it, to bury seeds and bring up trees

There was no shelter – they found ways to create it, to turn mud into houses, wood into fire, fire into bricks

There was the earth around them – they found ways to live with her, high-roofed houses to keep the sun out, open courtyards to keep the sun in, the weather eye out to predict incoming floods and the seasonal move to save their lives

And there were people around them – they found ways to deal with that, too.

And then we walked in and told them: you did it all wrong.

Don’t you know all humans have rights? How dare you keep your women secluded? Don’t you know how backwards you are? How dare you remain illiterate? Don’t you know how deprived you are? Howdare you live without electricity and gas and water and paved roads and cars and computers an mobile phones?

And then we said, we will give you this

And then we didn’t

And they were not blank slates, but people with desires that we gave them and expectations that we smashed for them

And we write condescendingly about them, about how we gave them their very existence and how good we have been for them and how important we are to them

And they get on with their lives, without rights, without education, without electricity, without gas , without water

And they hold tightly to their customs, receiving guests like royalty, sitting in the sun in the winter and in their dark houses in the summer, commiserating at deaths and celebrating at weddings and loving their children and, yes, killing them too, when their customs say it is time to do so

And they laugh

And the earth, she laughs with them

Because we are not her only children

No, we are not even her favorite children

We are the madmen who forgot that all things grow out of the earth

Even humans

Even human societies

We are the madmen that forgot

That we are irrelevant

That, in-fact, we are positively harmful

When we walk into a land that is not barren

When we draw on a face that is not blank

We are the earth’s mad children

Whom she humors

By allowing us to see


To spout hot air

At each other

And in that blinding steam

Congratulate ourselves

On our indispensability

to the world

While the earth,

Old and clever and wise and sly

Laughs at our childishness

And shuts us up with each other

To blind ourselves

In our fog of steam

Bound tight, locked safely away,

Prevented from harming her children

The real ones

The ones who find real ways to really live

and laugh

Read Mahvesh’s previous Poetry Monday poem.


Mahvesh Khan

Mahvesh Khan grew up in Lahore and Islamabad. She obtained a Masters in Business, specializing in MIS and has worked in various positions, including in different organizations in the Development Sector. She has a deep interest in books and sometimes writes short stories, poems & essays.

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My Mother's Minced Lamb
Love, Sex & Dating After Converting to Islam
Squishes and a Journey of Learning and Unlearning