An Eventful Start to the ELP 2015 US Visit

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New York- A City Full of Diversity and Colors

New York – a city full of diversity and colors is home to innumerable cultures and a variety of restaurants. In a very short span, you get an opportunity to experience so much life and activity that going anywhere else may seem dull and boring. That is the one downside, if any, of experiencing New York City.

The fast-paced life of Manhattan, where everybody seems to be on the constant move,appears quite an attraction. The incessant stir and pace gives off a clear message to keep up, to build and work towards the next big thing, otherwise you will be destined to fall behind.

The First Formal Meeting

Preparation for the fellowship’s formal meetings proceeded with many expectations and preconceived notions.

The very first meeting of the fellowship creates an excitement and curiosity that touches the sky. Out of utter inquisitiveness, you start visualizing the characters you are expected to meet. You picture individuals dressed in tuxedos,with a classic look straight from the 1920s, flaunting neat hair and an elegant persona, and possessing a capitalist and domineering attitude.To ones utter surprise, however, the reality of ELP’s New York City visit is the complete opposite.

For the first meeting, we were greeted by a grey-haired man,flaunting a ponytail,neck imbued with huge pendants, fingers assorted with a variety of gemstone rings, and dressed in jeans and a t-shirt reading, “JUSTICE.  RIGHTS.  RESPECT.  DIGNITY.”

NYTWA2Shattering all our preconceived notions, this very man is one of the most prominent rights activists in New York City. With a solid and assertive voice, he talks not about Adam Smith or Milton Friedman but about Marxism and Lenin as his mentors and Fidel Castro and Che Guevara his inspiration.

This man is Mr. Tariq Javaid, the Co-Founder of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA). His story is indeed inspirational, overwhelming, and a result of many years of untiring and dedicated efforts. His struggle is quite exemplary. However, his life before being a taxi driver is quite eventful.

From being a political party worker in Pakistan to working as a DJ in Germany, Mr. Javaid then worked as a photo journalist in New YorkCity before he started driving a taxi.He forewent all his ambitions and aspirations for the cause and thus, has uplifted the lives of New York City’s 50,000+ taxi drivers through his non-profit union.

NYTWA’s latest tremendous achievement was the passage of legislation  safeguarding the rights of taxi workers. Through Mr. Javaid’s efforts, the taxi drivers have been heard from the JFK Lot to the Mayor’s Office!

Despite all odds including acts of harassment, robbery, and assaults on NYTWA and its members, Mr. Javaid is determined. Hestands tall and firm to ensure and protect the rights of taxi driversin the future.We learned from his example, it takes courage, patience, and perseverance to achieve what you believe.

The inspiring story of the NYTWA Co-Founder’s struggle rejuvenated the spirits of the ELP fellows and sent out a strong message to continue working for the respective causes, against all odds, with renewed commitment, zeal, and vigor. The meeting help hugely in setting the stage for the upcoming meetings, since it shattered some of the stereotypes linked to social and economic penchant of American people. It also helped us feel comfortable at the rest of our meetings. Most importantly, the meeting consolidated the idea that people in the United States are open to difference of opinion and diversity of thought.

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About Danish Ali Bhutto

Danish Ali Bhutto is an aspiring public policy expert with a passion for research, legislation, and social welfare. He currently serves as the Program and Coordination Officer for the Women's Parliamentary Caucus. Danish considers poor implementation of gender-sensitive laws as one of the key hurdles in combating violence against women. He aspires to be a progressive public policy expert in Pakistan.
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