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Karachi

October 25, 2018
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Truck artist Ustad Rozi Khan believes in moving forward

Karachi

October 25, 2018

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“Every road leads somewhere; all we need to do is walk in the right direction,” says Rozi Khan resting on a few bricks on the edge of the Northern Bypass.

Rozi, whose given name in Rozina Naz, is a truck artist. She has been running a paint shop in Khilji Market, at the New Truck Adda on the outskirts of Karachi, for the past six years.

But she has been in this profession for 17 years now, since her first husband died. “With him gone, I was left with no option but to step out of the house. And I am proud that I chose work over begging.”

She started off with collecting discarded metal pieces. She would roam around motor workshops and find them littered there. It helped enough so she could feed her only daughter at least once a day.

“I knew that I didn’t have to work like this all my life. I was looking for better opportunities, and when Ustad Gul Khan offered me a job of painting vehicles, I happily accepted it.” Rozi has a God-gifted talent: she is good at drawing. In her free time at the workshop, she would draw figures. And people liked them; they would come up to her and ask if she could draw them their pictures. She would, but seldom did they like to see themselves through her eyes.

“Then I met Ustad Jhoolay Laal, who taught me the art of the pen. I was sure that I had found my direction, so I spent day and night in mastering it. And I think that I still have a lot to learn.”

She said that when she needed help, her relatives did not come to her aid. “And when they saw me stepping into the truck adda, they started discouraging me with ‘a woman should not be doing this’ and ‘don’t go there’ — things like that.” But she did not care. “I have always liked these verses: ‘Na dar manzil ki doori say, qadam aagay baRhaata ja; bharosa rakh Rab ki zaat per, qismat aazmaata ja.’ [Don’t be discouraged by the distance of your destination, keeping moving forward; have faith in God, as you keep trying your luck.] They don’t let me stop. I even tell this to others to encourage them in their hard times.”

With her commitment to work, Rozi has now earned the title of ‘Ustad’ among her contemporaries. She likes to wear men’s clothes and behave typically like them. But she keeps trying to motivate the women begging on the streets to work. “They make excuses that they feel shy. Liars! Actually, they don’t want to work.”

At the age of 38, Rozi has made a name for herself, yet she does not make enough money. But she is happy to have married off her daughter, bearing all the wedding expenses and buying herself a 70cc motorcycle in instalments.

“Sometimes I break down, when I think about my son [from her second marriage].” She said he works at a welding shop because they cannot afford to send him to school. “I am the second generation of my family fighting poverty,” she said, explaining that her parents had migrated from Delhi during Partition, leaving everything they had behind, and settled in Lahore, where she born.

“I was just an infant when my parents moved to Karachi. I studied until matric at a government school in Korangi and then I was married off.” The hardships that Rozi has endured may not have broken her spirit, but they have, of course, had an adverse effect on her appearance. Sporting a hat over a keffiyeh dropping down her head, she may look like a Native American dressed up in shalwar kameez. However, her voice gives her away.

Despite her hard life, she loves her work. “I enjoy it because that’s what I can do. To make it easy, I listen to Atif Aslam’s music.” Among the many problems staring her in the face, is her identity crisis. She is not a recognised Pakistani because the National Database & Registration Authority would not issue her a CNIC. “They ask me for my parents’ ID cards, which I don’t have, and they died a long time ago.”

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