It was time to buy fruit again. I groused to my mother about how I find these repetitive, endless tasks the epitome of tedium. She replied I had to do it if anyone wanted Anwaratols for dessert, which was both true and thought-provoking: most of our lives are comprised of doing boring, mind-numbing tasks that we can’t really avoid. The fruit and vegetables have to be bought, the drive to work has to be done twice a day, children have to be bathed, bills need to be paid on time and cars have to be serviced. Nobody likes making spreadsheets and doing laundry but we do it because someone has to, and we are obliged to be responsible, and it makes our lives better. My being responsible makes my family’s life better—they are happier when they have plenty of clean socks and proper dinner on the table and there are enough Anwaratols for everyone. You could say I lead the house, because I’m in charge of it and consequently members of it look to me to set the tone and pace of how things get done.

Now all I need to do is have a chat with the chaps who run the country.

Let’s see. We have one set that can’t think straight when it’s dinner (or tea, or lunch, or elevenses, or breakfast) time. There’s the set that can’t stop their in-house squabbling for five minutes and get their act together unless there is a container to gather around. There’s the lot that runs Karachi like their personal inheritance. Charming, really. The Zardaris were so terrified of whatever they imagine the aftermath of the BBC detonation will be, that they got onto the next plane and legged it to Dubai. The Chief Minister of Sindh, much like the CM of Punjab, was blithely clueless about the hundreds of people dying in Karachi because he was in Naudero and didn’t have any signal on his cell. Because Naudero is Mars, naturally… although it is farther away than being in the CM house, where Sharif junior presumably was when Tahirul Qadri’s supporters were being gunned down. “I didn’t know” was never an excuse even one’s class five teacher would accept if they caught you doing something utterly foolish and disallowed; I’m not sure how it’s magically all right for adults to use it and be taken seriously.

For once I would really, really like to see someone stepping up when it’s needed. For anyone to get their heads out of whatever cloud they are in to realise that a democracy means that you should at least pretend to care about the people whose welfare has been entrusted to you. That means showing up, that means putting on your joggers and your sola topi and going out to Karachi and doing a round of hospitals. It means getting your underlings to help the volunteers handing out water and installing water coolers. It means turning off that insanely ridiculous giant fountain in the ocean and using the money to find space for the mass burials Edhi is carrying out. If nothing else, get on television and at least say how terrible you feel for the people dropping like flies, how you are in solidarity with them and how you will try your best to help.

We all know how messed up every institution is in this country. We know how pernicious and soul-crushing the system is. We know that it has and continues to chew up good intentions and spit them out. But leadership means that you have to rise above that. It means doing the decent thing at the right time. It may not be convenient, or entertaining, or glorious. It will be hard, it will mean saying difficult things and having to put on a face to meet the faces you meet. But you are responsible, just as I am to my family and the way we are, and continue to be, to each other.

One brilliant, shining thing I can look to is how we rally for humanity, and continue to. How Karachi has erupted with hundreds of people doing their bit, with people all over pouring in money and time and manpower to pull each other through this most terrible, but not hopeless time. As long as we keep that spirit alive, we will be our own leaders in the truest sense of the word: we set an example for each other and to our children to show up and take charge. To be the masters of our own destiny, in whatever way we can. And one day I hope that the people charged with our welfare will realise the truth of what exactly it means to be responsible, for we are a nation with grit, and we deserve better.