Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Donkey Pump: Excuse me and Screw You

Before I begin, there are a number of terms which I need to explain to non-Pakistanis. Pakistani readers can skip on past the italics.


Donkey Pump: Basically a water pump, named ironically after a jackass.

Muslim Shower: I'm not going to explain this. Just go here.

Phase 5: An affluent neighborhood in Karachi

Phattoo: A Phattoo is a wuss in Urdu. A person of weak constitution/will who is thereby ineffectual, and who usually merits a tight slap for being annoyingly wussy. I will not delve into its origins or literal meaning.

Water Tanker (Tanker): A ‘water tanker’ is a truck/lorry bearing a massive tank of water. In Karachi, water is sold by certain agencies (including paramilitary forces), and is then delivered by water tankers to private consumers at their houses. On arrival, the water is then transferred from the tanker to the internal water tanks present within the home.

The Issue

We live on a street. There are a number of houses on this street. Given that this is an affluent area, our houses are large, posh and occasionally gaudy. The people that own them and reside within are industrialists, bankers, lawyers, businessmen, corporate bosses, military officers and doctors. Our gardens are manicured, our family sedans are mostly Japanese but increasingly German. Our children are taught within good schools and by even better tuition teachers.

Despite our good fortune or perhaps because of it, we are also
selfish phattoo idiots .

I will now proceed to substantiate these allegations.

Steal My Flow:

There is a pipeline running below our street. In times of yore, prior to the manifestation of idiocy, the happy insulated residents of this community would receive an equal amount of water flow water from this pipeline. The Housing Authority would then charge us a flat rate for our connection to the pipe, and not based upon how much water we drew from the pipe. Some people used more water, others used less, but the flow of water was the same for all, and everyone received the same amount of water per hour.

As with most things, the problem began with scarcity. The flow of water in the pipe decreased for a time. It began to take longer for people to fill their tanks, as less and less water was distributed amongst the same houses.

This is where the selfishness comes in. Resident 1 (lets call him Amjad 1) installs a Donkey Pump in his house, and begins to suck water from the main pipeline into his own water tank.

The water flow to his own tank increases, and the flow to the other houses drops. Amjad’s tank fills up very quickly, but everyone else's fills up a lot slower.

Resident 2 (lets call him Pantshirt 2), also resides on the street. In addition to being a selfish bastard, he is also a phattoo. Two options are available unto him.

Option One: Pantshirt 2 can rally the residents of the street to petition Amjad 1, thereby shame him into stopping. If unsuccessful, they can subsequently take action against him, by complaining repeatedly to the Housing Authority that Amjad 1 is hogging the water. The complaint can then be followed up patiently for a period until Amjad 1 is irritated into submission and Donkey Pump disarmament.

Option Two: Pantshirt 2 can install his own donkey pump.

Being what he is, Pantshirt 2 proceeds to install his own donkey pump. He thereby diminishes the flow of water to everyone else on the street even more. He also strengthens the hand of Amjad 1 by being his ally in the Donkey Pump Camp. Now if Resident 3 (lets call him Banjo 3) wants to petition or complain, he’s got two selfish bastards to deal with.

Banjo 3 obviously has no desire to tackle the issue. He is also a phattoo, only wants his water and doesn’t care if everyone else's supplies are even further diminished, despite the fact that they’re all still paying the same flat rate every month. He installs a donkey pump, and is followed by Resident 4 (Macho 4) and his good friend Resident 5 (Parveen 69).

Soon, about 20 houses on the street have donkey pumps and are sucking up all the water flow. Assuming that their donkey pumps are equal, those 20 houses are effectively sharing the water flow amongst themselves after having appropriated the share of the remaining 10 houses. Any meagre water surplus is divided amongst the remaining 10 houses and basically amounts to nothing. Tragically, M
uslim showers everywhere run dry.

Given a choice between:

Option A: a lifetime of paying the flat charge, receiving no water from the pipe and then additionally having to purchase expensive water from a tanker service

Option B: a donkey pump

Eventually everyone gets a fucking donkey pump. And finally, when the last house on the street gets a donkey pump (which was my house today), then every single house on the street is receiving an equal share of the water flow, JUST LIKE THEY WERE BEFORE FUCKING AMJAD INSTALLED HIS JACKASS PUMP.

And that is why all this is really really stupid.

The Serious Bit

We as Pakistani’s make donkey pump choices all the time. Parents counsel their children to be accountants and lawyers, not leaders and artists and writers. Not enough people are voting or paying their taxes. Too many people are chilling on their armchairs while mullahs spout hate and hypocrisy or when our politicians and military leaders make stupid or corrupt decisions. We love to blame the system, go with the flow, excuse ourselves and screw each other.

Take for example, the school I attended during my O’Levels. There have been repeated instances wherein the administration behaved arbitrarily and unfairly. Personal lives were interfered with over petty issues, individual students were punished by having their prospects of university admission reduced, through expulsion, non re-admittance and possibly through tarnishing personal references sent discreetly to the child’s universities.

While it is beyond me to substantiate any of these claims or rumours, the fact remains that at the very least, there exists an unequivocal perception of unfairness and abuse of position amongst parents and students alike. Regardless, when some wrong is perceived to have been done to a student, nothing is done, and no action is taken. The children complain to the parents but are told to remain silent lest their own university and career prospects are jeopardized. The choice for parents is once again as follows:

Option A: Rally other parents to petition the administration and the school board, and to collectively decry what is perceived as injustice or unfairness against a student, until such point where the message has registered with effect or the situation is duly remedied (this process works within civilized countries)

Option B: Shut the hell up and tell your kid to shut the hell up too, and tell him to stay far away from the victimized child. This would be the Donkey Pump Option.

Everyone I know opts for B. Hence the parents deserve the education and school administrators their children receive. It is through this process that the school's administration has remained instated and incumbent for 20 odd years or something equally ridiculous. The same child who is counseled to abide by Option B may be the next to suffer unfairly, and when his or her parents look desperately to other parents for support, they will receive as much as they themselves were willing to offer.

Postscript on the Donkey Pump War

Where were we? Ah yes. Our whole neighborhood now has donkey pumps. At this point Amjad 1 will inevitably sit and ponder. He’s started a movement, a trend. He thinks to himself;

“All these bandwaggoning bastards have employed my clever idea, thereby neutralising its utility.”

Amjad now has another brilliant plan. He will install a bigger and more powerful donkey pump, with two horsepower this time! What’s more, it will possess two belts instead of one, and will come from Japan, or even Germany!

“Muahaha!” he says. “I’ll screw those assholes with my pump!” Amjad 1is kind of grossed out by what he has just said, but not really.

Amjad 1 installs pump. Pantshirt 2's flow is reduced. Pantshirt 2 then figures out what’s happened and upgrades to an even better donkey pump. The entire neighborhood follows suit and the same stupid process repeats itself again and again until were all left having spent billions of rupees installing thermo nuclear donkey pumps in our houses while still having achieved nothing more than the original pathetic trickle of crappy pipe water which if not boiled causes diarrhea, which is precisely what we deserve.


Anonymous said...

At around Rs 10'000 for a local donkey pump and about 30 houses (though im guessing there r more), thats Rs 300'000 paid out to get back to square one. Awesome.

Ahsan said...

ah, sub-optimal outcomes. they're the best.

Ismat said...

now you're making me feel like a chay for owning a donkey pump for 12 years. thanks a lot NB!

ayla said...

oh dear.

Hmm.. regarding your dad's new Donkey Pump, i have an idea! Maybe you can build a sort of 'donkey pump house' and then invite your friends (including me please) for swimming and BBQs in the middle of the beautiful sea :O)

ayla said...

I really am desperate for a holiday... hmm

NB said...

Anonymous: Its probably more like a Hundred odd houses for my street, and 15,000 a pump (though they go as far up as 25,000). So more like Rs Rs 1,500,000. And thats just one street on one pipeline. Imagine what the whole of Karachi has simply 'donated' to the donkey pump industry.

Ismat: Youre Evil!

Ahsan: Man I knew there was some game theory in here.

Ayla: Dude. You are welcome to our donkey pump island anytime, (however i shoudl mention our karachi beach is no where near as nice as in that photo). Holiday seasons coming up though. Any place in mind?

Ahsan said...

Well, it's not so much game theory in the traditional sense (prisoner's dilemma, stag hunt) as it is the tragedy of the commons. in fact, there is one crucial difference between this situation and the tragedy of the commons that forces decision makers to be EVEN MORE selfish than in the traditional tragedy of the commons. in the usual understanding of the TOTC, actors will act selfishly in a situation where the benefits of defecting accrue solely to the defector and the costs are shared equally among everyone in the group, including the defector. this is the case with fishing (each fisherman has an incentive to fish more than "agreed" because he wants more fish to sell, and the entire community of fishermen will suffer because there will be less fish left in the sea to procreate) and grazing (each shepherd has an incentive to bring more cows than agreed to the pasture, and the entire community of shepherds will lose because there will be less grass left to eat). however, in this case the crucial difference is that cheating is doubly rewarding. in the TOTC the benefits go to the cheater and the costs are shared by everyone. in the water pump case, the benefits go to the cheater and the costs are shared by everyone OTHER than the cheater (because water will continue pumping for the forseeable future and so he is not losing in any way, whereas everyone else is getting less of the alotted water). so the cheater gets all the benefits and none of the costs which seriously incentivize water pumps. the only way around this dilemma would be (a) raise the cost of water pumps to a prohibitively high cost so that it is not "worth" cheating or more realistically (b) have the community members all pay each other to NOT use the resource above an agreed upon limit. the level of that payment will depend on the scarcity of the resource in question and its value to the community.

ayla said...

I don't have a holiday... i have exams until september and then I will become a professional job seeker ;O) (No, I don't know why I'm smiling.)

Anonymous said...

Only after I read a letter to a Pakistani newspaper which mentioned that the water mains only provides water for 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour in the evening that this story began to make sense.

This situation is similar to one I encountered when I visited Mombasa, Kenya in 1993. Because the water mains infrastructure has become leaky, they no longer keep pumping water into it continuously but have two periods when people are supposed to use pumps to fill their private tanks (unlike when I lived there in 1960s) - I guess the Karachi city govt. is just as incompetent as that of Mombasa!

On the subject of water purification , may I suggest Trojan UVMax whole house ultraviolet (UV) water purifier system - it could be cheaper than boiling water (unless your preferred beverage is tea!)

Sheila Ali said...


NB said...

Hey Sheila, glad (and pleasantly surprised) to see you're reading us!

Anonymous said...

great post! kudos for coining the term 'donkey pump decisions' -- i'll definitely be using it.

NB said...

@Anonymous 443

Hahah thanks! So far that makes you and me.