India vs Pakistan, Line of Control tensions

India and Pakistan, please stop before it is too late …

January 23, 2013

It is a confrontation triggered by Indian violations and Pakistan’s reactions. So both sides are playing some role. PHOTO: AFP

With the pressure being built up in India about the Line of Control situation, it has brought to the fore the question of how we Pakistanis respond to it.

Do we aggressively answer back in the press and other media?

Is it better to continue to quietly urge a resolution through discussions?

Or is it an option to just ignore the furor and let everything settle?

The stakes are extremely high, simply because this is a nuclear region and any error can lead to huge unintended consequences. Just to paint a scenario in the future of such a cataclysmic error…


Imagine a few months from now a Pakistani and an Indian are sitting together in the Bay area, around Silicon Valley in US. They are in their early 40s, have seven figure salaries, lovely children and great houses. They are avidly involved in their social lives and have great friends. From the outside you would be envious of their lives, but, the truth is that they are distraught and bereft of hope.

How could they do it, they keep asking each other?

How could they destroy our homelands?

But unfortunately, that is what has happened.

In a nuclear conflagration triggered by frenzy about LoC violations, everything from Balochistan to Assam (including Bangladesh) is now suffering from nuclear fallout. The region will be dangerous for decades due to radiation. No access, relatives and friends dead or missing, starvation prevalent and the world economy is itself , in recession – after all almost one in five people lived in this region.


Hard to imagine?

Well ask someone in October 1962, around the time of the Cuban crisis or those who remember the last face-off in 2001 between Pakistan and India. I vividly remember a drive along the border for almost a 100km to Narowal, when everything had been evacuated. A desolate drive never to be repeated in a lifetime, I hope.

But the lesson is, it can happen and brinkmanship is hardly the required behaviour.

So, to the present line of control situation!

Pervez Musharraf spoke on the issue recently.

“Beheading a soldier is inexcusable. However, knowing the Pakistan Army, I can say for sure it is not in our culture to do something like that. It’s a court martial offence,” said Musharraf. “The politicians and media in India are being hysterical about it,” he added.

I am not an expert to comment on his assertions, but the report by The Hindu on the LoC – which has investigated the actual story – rationalises the events. According to that investigation, it is a confrontation triggered by Indian violations and Pakistan’s reactions. Thus, both sides have played a role leading to this fight.

It is time to sit down and talk it over. We don’t want two countries with nuclear arms to go to war. Both sides can preserve their self-respect and yet have a rational discussion.

Simla in our collective history is a great example of even handed negotiations. However, I guess I live in an ideal world.

What we have going on today, is a barrage from the media in India. Maybe commerce is playing a role and ratings are the reason for this furor – whatever it is, this then drives and motivates politicians. You get hunger strikes and the extreme point of view takes over. One politician gets up in the Parliament and demands 10 heads to be sent back in compensation.

Is this  for real?

Are you really asking for murder to be sanctioned now?

And then the Pakistan media will want 10 heads back!

We could play tit for tat for the rest of the year.  So much for Aman ki Asha!

Oh, for some responsible people who will show maturity!

So why is better sense not prevailing? Maybe it is filters of a thousand years of history and the partition; regardless, sense should prevail because both parties don’t have options left.

Till now, Pakistanis have been cooler in their reactions. The media here has also not taken as much notice, perhaps because Tahirul Qadri, the Supreme Court and rental power case have taken prime importance. This quiet handling should continue and more discussions should occur sooner than later.

The LoC mechanism to sort skirmishes has already been activated. If that does not work, then the Foreign Secretaries or even Foreign Ministers should meet.

More headlines, alarmist columns or beating the drum is not the answer.

Exhibiting maturity and dignity is.

Read more by Sarfaraz here or follow him on Twitter @sarehman

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Tony Grieg: More than the sum of the parts

December 31, 2012

Having fought a lung cancer ailment, he succumbed to a heart attack in Sydney on 29th December 2012, aged 66. PHOTO: AFP

Having fought a lung cancer ailment, he succumbed to a heart attack in Sydney on 29th December 2012, aged 66. PHOTO: AFP Having fought a lung cancer ailment, he succumbed to a heart attack in Sydney on 29th December 2012, aged 66. PHOTO: AFP

The first time I heard of Anthony William Grieg I was listening into a Test Match special in 1972 – the first Ashes test at Old Trafford. The voice of John Arlott describing Grieg scoring a 50, when England was in need of runs. He scored another 50 in the second and then took a few wickets in Australia’s last knock.

The match is remembered for a late assault by Rod Marsh, when Australia looked down and out. It did not win the match, but for us serial non-England supporters created last session excitement.

In those days live television was rare and when I saw recordings on PTV, it surprised me to see this tall (six feet six inches) gangly cricketer. His bat was held up and there seemed an inviting gap for the ball. Cricket was traditional then – pre One-day – therefore trendy stances were not in fashion.

His bowling also seemed innocuous, yet he was able to get wickets, because the ball moved both-ways to create uncertainty in the batsman.

Grieg ended his Test career with a double, 141 wickets and 3600 runs with an average of 40 plus. In the non helmet days, a 40 average was considered the sign of a good batsman. It now seems to have gone to 50. All present day batting careers should be evaluated in that light. The helmet has had a huge effect on batsmen confidence.

Grieg’s career was mercurial, alternating between great performance and PR disaster.

When he ran out Kallicharran in 1974 as he left the field for close of play, a worldwide furor ensued; “This was not cricket!”

The decision was reversed overnight and Grieg apologised. Later years saw his famous racist undertone message to West Indies in 1976 that they would grovel that summer.

That it was England who was made to grovel by Sir Viv Richard, was a humbling experience. But, after the 3-0 defeat at Oval, Grieg made amends by dramatically falling on his knees to beg forgiveness and all was exonerated.

My two memories are just flashes and yet sped some light on Grieg’s character. Hyderabad Test match 1973, day five post lunch England were in problems at 77-5, pitch turning, still behind first innings lead and it looked as if Pakistan would win easily.

Not so, Grieg and Knott saw out the match, with some brilliant back against the wall batting. Cut to Brisbane 1974; a green and vicious pitch, Lillee and Thompson rampant. The English were physically dominated. Out walks Grieg and hits both all over the ground. Every time he hit a four he would signal boundary himself. It was classic aggression and brinkmanship.

He got 110 that day and it is regarded as one of the bravest innings in cricket history.

For all that Grieg would have disappeared into the annals of cricket history as a good cricketer, but for his two most famous contributions, post his retirement from Test cricket.

Firstly, professional cricketers owe him a debt of bringing money into the game. He was the one who led the WSC Packer initiative. At considerable risk to his career -in fact his career ended because of it- Greig ran the recruitment of cricketers as the front desk. Those who have not lived the division in cricket in 1977-78 would have no idea of the schism.

It divided cricket down the middle.

Pakistan’s own star cricketers faced the music also, being thrown out for two years, while the team lost badly in England.

Grieg faced the brunt; lost his England captaincy and his place in the team. Nevertheless, cricketer’s earnings went from a pittance to international sports scale and also cricket was totally revamped to the look it has today.

Second was Grieg’s reward for the sacrifice of his career. Kerry Packer and Channel 9 did not forget him and for 33 years he became the voice of cricket in Australian commentary. A South African, who ended up playing cricket as England Captain and then became the voice of Australian cricket; a strange and varied career! But Grieg graduated beyond Australian commentary, traveled world over to commentate on a game he loved.

He was welcome in Dubai, England, Sri Lanka etc and loved everywhere. Truly the status he achieved out of commentary, he could not out of cricket.

Fittingly, in June 2012, the MCC which had banished him in 1977 invited him for the Cowdrey Lecture to its members. It’s an honour accorded to few. There Grieg lay to rest the bitter acrimony which had ensued out of the Packer era.

It was just not his fate that he could enjoy this final triumph, on being recognised by former adversaries. Having fought a lung cancer ailment, he succumbed to a heart attack in Sydney on December 29, 2012, aged 66.

Read more by Sarfaraz here or follow him on Twitter @sarehman

So who exactly was Jinnah?

December 25, 2012

All the people of Pakistan want is their original father of the nation back as an upstanding visionary. PHOTO: AFP

We sat in the proverbial 22nd row of a small theatre room in Badar Commercial. My eyes were moist with emotion, when Talat Hussain turned around and said “Quaid-e-Azam zindabad!”

It was the end of the movie, Jinnah, and we were at its re-launch. How does one explain such feelings for one who is more important than all other humans, barring a handful?

Yet he died a decade before I was born. Moreover, our understanding of Jinnah, the man, comes down to us as various personalities, depending upon the times, the government and the filters of the individuals describing him.

Across the border in India, he was the breaker of a nation; a man who committed sacrilege by dividing a religious piece of land.

Further afield, six thousand miles away in the confines of Whitehall, he is considered cold, arrogant and a stubborn protagonist.

The man is solely responsible for creating the first idealist country, within a decade carving out of ‘almost nothing’ such passion, which has not been emulated in history and to boot, causing one of the great upheavals of all time.

Jinnah stands atop a pedestal admired by many, but also decried by a lot. Even his own nation does not know which mould to cast him into. So like a pinball, his persona has rebounded from place to place over the last 60 years.

Events that go back 75-80 years still affect us, it is quite fascinating. How does it happen, that what was said in a small room in London by Muslim League leaders to a quiet, slim and confident man in 1933, is part of our lives today?

This happened around the time my late father was born, to put it in perspective. My father lived a full life in the shadow of these events and departed, the jigsaw still unsolved. He believed that the man, who carved our country for us, was a one in a billion, nay one in several billions.

There was the Pakistan of the 50s, with a relatively harmonious people. Yet, these same people allowed the mace to be passed into the hands of those who destroyed Jinnah’s vision. Ghulam Mohammad, Justice Munir and General Azam of the Lahore Martial Law; subsequently, this distortion of Jinnah’s view of Pakistan was used by Iskandar Mirza and Ayub Khan.

We were told that the man desired a Pakistan which was efficient and self fulfilling. Yet most forgot that Jinnah was evolutionary in nature. His struggle for freedom lasted a lifetime and his struggle for Pakistan 13 years. Never once, did he take the wrong route, never once a short cut.

By enforcing two martial laws in the 50s, the short cut ‘Doctrine of Necessity’ was carved out for subsequent times. Jinnah’s Pakistan was strangulated that day in 1953, when General Azam swore he would bring peace to Lahore in a couple of hours. That peace has cost us four Martial Laws and still limited our nation.

What about the Bengalis? Their earlier father of nation was replaced by a later version of Shaikh Mujib. The comparison is like chalk and cheese – and not to judge, either varied personality.

Would they hold Jinnah accountable for the lack of ownership they were given in their Pakistan? To the extent that the language should have been Bengali for them, I suppose yes. But even in that, Jinnah’s thinking was nation building and his fear that regional languages would have surfaced. Perhaps the answer was no action.

Leave the language as English; neutral for all. Sadly not to be and that became a source of inequality, which festered and fermented into larger problems.

Subsequent years saw Bhutto use the socialist Jinnah. The socialist doctrine and Mahboob-ul-Haq’s concept of nationalisation were rampant in our 70’s world. Mao was supreme dogma. Only Jinnah was no socialist. Yet quotes popped up on media of how he espoused Islamic Socialism. Socialism was anathema to the man. He just wanted fairness and justice for all. The very basic argument of Pakistan hinged on Jinnah’s fear, that the Muslim in undivided India would not get a fair deal.

Later years saw Zia, the master orchestrator taking a damaging turn. Suddenly, Jinnah became a religious figure and was forever driving Islam. One cannot judge Zia’s motives, but what he did has led to the schism in society today and Pakistan is now a serving nation to the US and we are a fragmented society.

Bhutto destroyed the economic belief and Zia destroyed our social harmony.

Lastly the puppet, Musharraf! The darling of the West espousing “enlightened Islam” and an “enlightened father of the nation”. Jinnah would have despised the hypocrisy of it. To live nationhood in servitude, to survive on blood money given by the West, to play a role of a lota! There cannot be any good coming out of this.

We have taken an upstanding man and cast him into a soothsayer’s role. Wherever a ruler required help, they have rolled Jinnah out in a new garb. In marketing parlance it’s called brand stretching and subsequent image of Jinnah is now suitably garbled and fuddled.

But all the people of Pakistan want is their original father of the nation back as an upstanding visionary, who fought with courage on their behalf and no ideological caps please, just the plain old Jinnah cap.

Read more by Sarfaraz here or follow him on Twitter @sarehman

If I could have a chat with Jinnah…

December 18, 2012

The apparent dream of Pakistan he saw in 1934, which may have led him to come to India, all the more makes one want some answers.

Like many, I often wonder what it would be like to talk to an influential historic figure. One wants to sit with them, ask questions and find out what they think about things around them, but they no longer exist to answer.

I personally wish I had a chance to interview Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah – Jinnah now. The apparent dream of Pakistan he saw in 1934, which may have led him to come to India, all the more makes one want some answers. He isn’t here to answer, but one can conjecture, right?

I wonder if Jinnah would have given the following answers if I did, in fact, interview him.

Me: “Sir, what were you thinking when you came to India to lead in 1934?”

Jinnah: “I had been alternatively lectured and cajoled to lead. Generally, I do not change my mind; then perhaps because this was on my mind, I had a powerful dream. I do not want to go into the details of the dream but it almost immediately moved me to return to India and lead the Muslim League. The objective was clear – unite and move with purpose to form a separate homeland for the Muslims. We were not sure in what form or how autonomous it would be, but it would franchise the Muslims as a separate independent authority.”

Me: “What did you think of the Muslim League leaders?”

Jinnah: “Unfortunately it is true that the followers all came from the Sardari class – Raja-this, Nawab-that, Sardar-so-and-so. But that’s all we had. The common Muslim was uneducated and struggling in vocations. They were also not conversant in English or well acquainted with the prevailing 20th century culture. To move forward, we needed the landlord class. I hoped in time our people would arise and progress. Alas! I hear they still maintain their dominance. That was not part of my plan.”

Me: “When did you decide a Muslim homeland can happen?”

Jinnah: “There was never a doubt from 1934 onwards about this in my mind. Having started this struggle and gone on this route, there was no turning back. We knew the struggle would be bitter and long.

From 1937, I was certain; then, of course, the Lahore Resolution in 1940 defined our lands, which had been unclear till then.”

Me: “Do you think we could have compromised with the Congress?”

Jinnah: “You do not realise the backwardness of the Muslims and therefore our weakness in the coalition. I had already spent 20 years working on this unity, however, to no avail. You cannot blame the Hindus alone on this. They did not have an equal partner and in politics the stronger takes the lead and leaves the other to follow.

A separate homeland allowed the Muslims within their own security, to advance and become equals. And it seemed from the passion created, that we would be able to do it. If you have a vision and a value system (and we did back then) then the lacking ingredient is dedication and passion. We seemed to have that to spare.”

Me: “How did you miss out on Kashmir? And what about the loss of Gurdaspur?”

Jinnah: “They are both interconnected. You would say that it was naive to expect that it would work out. India wanted Kashmir, Hyderabad, Junagadh and other protectorates. We should probably have expected it. But then, remember we were totally focused on Pakistan’s creation and had no other thought. Our fear was that Pakistan may be lost. We were frankly ready to take a truncated Pakistan.

I knew my health was bad and it was passion which was keeping one going. So, really, the Gurdaspur factor did not enter our minds. Nawabzada Liaquat was heading the Muslim League delegation to the Radcliffe Border Commission and some games were played with the recommendations. It was extremely unfortunate and led to a huge loss of life. I class that as our biggest miss and I wish we could turn the clock back on that one.”

Me: “Sir, what about not taking Bengali as our language along with Urdu?”

Jinnah: “That, as events have shown, later turned out to be a misjudgment. But the reasoning was straightforward. Bengal made 50% plus of the population, however it was another province. Had we allowed Bengali the same status as a national language, soon all the others Sindhi, Punjabi, Pushto and Balochi would have demanded the same. Perhaps had we left English it would be better, but then people would say ‘why achieve freedom’? So you see our problem?”

Me: “Do you still believe that Pakistan was the right thought after 65 years?”

Jinnah: “The concept is still sound. We are two different nations and ensuing 65 years have made it even more of a divide. Culture and society are further apart than ever before. The problem is that it was our fundamental belief, and so we would not have gotten a good deal in undivided India. Nothing has changed that.

Our execution post partition has been bad, but do not despair. This is just 65 years. In North American plains, the US was a wild country throughout the 19th century. It started with fighting the Mexicans and then drove out its Indians and almost exterminated them. Simultaneously it treated its black population as slaves. Then they fought a war to sort that out, and for the last three decades, the white killed the white to gain power in the Wild West.

We are nowhere as bad. We will InshaAllah grow to be a nation yet. Without belief and optimism, nothing can be accomplished. Get your belief right and then all the others will fall into place.”

Me: “Thank you, sir.”

Read more by Sarfaraz here or follow him on Twitter @sarehman

Out with Di Matteo, in with Benitez

November 23, 2012

You could smell uneasiness immediately…and by the evening, the first speculation had hit the networks: Is Di Matteo about to lose his managers role? How can this be? PHOTO: REUTERS

It’s been a long standing quote that a week is a long time in football. In this case, in fact, it was five days ─ from last Saturday to this Wednesday.

The Saturday brought the mouthwatering North London derby and its share of controversy. As the commentator said, “It had to be him,” Adebayor sent off when Spurs seemed to have a better hand in the clash.

Traditionally, the clash of Arsenal with Tottenham Hotspurs is only second to the Liverpool derby and players being sent off is fairly common. Adebayor ─ once of Arsenal, and loved in the Islington area ─ is now almost hated there, and loved at Spurs in White Hart Lane instead. But, now, to ask whether he was victim or villain is irrelevant. He is one of those who come from the old-fashioned maverick school and thus create controversies wherever he goes in today’s more structured world.

Later in the day, Manchester United lost at Norwich. This was a bit unexpected, but again it is something that does happen a few times in the season. That still remains the charm of the EPL, even though it is less common than a few decades ago. But the real drama was being played out at West Bromwich. Little did we know of it at the time.

Chelsea commenced the season as Euro and FA Cup champions, and with new recruits, carried the swagger into this season. For the first two months they were dominant, but the new style and team were both very narrow compared to previous Chelsea teams. Also, Torres looked uneasy carrying the weight of 50 million pounds sterling in front of goal.

The squad, week in week out, functioned with around 14-15 players. Di Matteo’s inexperience as manager showed there. Ferguson, Wenger and Benitez would all have told him to keep 20 plus players involved, otherwise tiredness will set in.

At West Bromwich, who surprisingly are upbeat this season, Di Matteo paid the price. His team looked tired, narrow and Torres-strained.

Chelsea lost! That happens, but it was the manner in which it happened.

You could smell uneasiness immediately…and by the evening, the first speculation had hit the networks:

Is Di Matteo about to lose his managers role?

How can this be? Back in May, this man was lifting the European Cup and the Football Associations Challenge (FA) Cup ─ the first is the most prized club trophy in the world, and the second oldest.

There are not too many men around who have lifted both. Ferguson, Benitez, Mourinho and from previous decades Paisley and Busby. Even the great Brian Clough missed out on that record. Only Ferguson, Benitez, Paisley and Busby have done it for the same club.

So Di Matteo must be safe, right? Madness could not have progressed that far surely?

Sunday, the blogs were rife with the rumours. By Monday, the writing was on the wall. The pressure was being transferred to Turin. What an awful calamity for Di Matteo, that Chelsea had to go to Turin and face Juventes (the Old Lady).

Here was Chelsea fighting for survival in the Euro Championship, and to do it at the home of one of Europe’s traditional giants, with the manager under the cosh, was the outside of enough.

And so it happened. Juve 3, Chelsea 0.

Within hours of the defeat, Di Matteo was on his way, banished from his home without nary a thanks by owner Roman Abramovich; the seventh man to be dismissed in nine years.

But wait, who to replace him?

They interviewed Benitez, who smiled and said he did not know anything. Guardiola was also approached and made clear in his answer, not before the summer, as he is on a sabbatical from football. So now that Chelsea has hired Benitez, can you predict what will happen to one of the great managers in the world today? He will likely become the eighth managerial casualty in 10 years at Chelsea.

Watch out, Benitez.

That, my friends, is a week in football, as stated by many. But is it right? Today’s psychology of ‘winner-takes-all’, is killing sport. Sport was to be enjoyed, and then if you won, it was icing on the cake. Here, football  has become a must-win sport, but in the English Premier League (EPL) only some 23 clubs have ever been champions in 125 years of history.

In the Euro Cup, only 22 clubs have won in 57 years of history. So what about the rest? If we do not have also-rans then how do we have sport ─ sport which is loved and supported over the whole world? Not possible! The game would die, as those expecting wins will stop watching also-rans play and very soon the spectator, corporates and money will drift out of the game.

This is the bed we are making to lie on, and it only leads to the death of the game. FIFA needs to look at this ‘winner-takes-all’ mentality and change it fast. Before long, I can see the resurrection of the Big 14 league, which danger declined some ten years ago.

Fourteen clubs in a Euro League and all the other 1000 clubs will die. Watch out people! All you Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Barcelona supporters are killing the game by your endless expectations and by tweeting and Facebooking your clamour to the rest of the world. Look beyond your nose and think  further afield.

Please spare a thought for the poor manager who always becomes the first casualty.

Indeed, a week in football is a long time.

Read more by Sarfaraz here or follow him on Twitter @sarehman

What is it we can’t do as a nation?

November 13, 2012

I wish I could do something about this country, I wish things could change for us. Breathing a sigh of resignation, I finally closed my eyes and thought, some day I will… PHOTO: REUTERS

After a long tiring day, all I was looking forward to was a good night’s sleep. Life is really challenging here, I thought to myself. I wish I could do something about this country. I wish things could change for us. Breathing a sigh of  resignation, I finally closed my eyes and thought, some day I will…

Suddenly, there I was looking down on him with the whole UN General Assembly standing and applauding. As happens in such cases, I could not tell the time or date, it was sort of surreal. I wanted to get down there and talk to him.

But I knew they would never allow it.

And just then it seemed like the crowd just cleared away and I was in front of him, asking how he did it.

He smiled and in that alone he looked real, humble and human, unlike our usual rulers! He seemed to care for me, a common man.

“Yes at first it was like, ‘what is it we can do?’, and the answer seemed to be nothing at all. We seemed helpless. There was indiscipline; there was insincerity and it was a free for all. For me the answers in life are simple, as humans do not handle complexity too well.”

He continued.

“So if we could find a good group of honest people, use their honesty, sincerity and determination to find a purpose for our existence, we can have a start and set an end goal also. Once you have entered that tunnel of purpose, there is no drifting away, like we had done several times. You can see the goal, however far, and you progress… however slow. In time, you find others appreciate your effort and join in. Soon the trickle becomes larger numbers and eventually crowds, and soon everyone has joined. Nothing succeeds like success.”

“So that is what happened. I found rabble in the national assembly, but within that there were good, sincere people, too. We started talking and in time, I found them as motivated as myself. Very soon we had that group and then the elections and the people were dying to see good sincere candidates. People acknowledge sincerity. They see it. And we came through. That was the turning point. The later road was tough, but with us in control, we had opened the door at least. Till then the media and the rest were laughing at us. This election victory suddenly changed things.”

“First step: Make a team. We are in it together. Not one, but all! Next step find that purpose. Allah (SWT) gives a purpose to everything in this world’s mesh and our purpose was there also. We were to be a great nation that cared for its own and for others in the world. Put goodness as a purpose and it becomes difficult to justify anything bad. So everything would be done honestly and sincerely and ‘we, the rulers’ will be the shining example of that. Out goes the VIP culture. The ruler of the people is the servant of the people. Our own Prophet (pbuh) lived that example.”

“It seems slow at first my friend, but it cascades down to the lowest of places and in a few years we had a population sincere, honest, hard working and therefore disciplined. The battle was won.  Prosperity will follow where happiness exists. So that is what happened to us – a flood of happiness.”

“Today we are a happy nation. We have a large population, but it’s a cultured country. Its people are educated and diligent. Its issues with its neighbours are resolved. The water related issues are gone. The workforce known for its precision are exported all over the world. We have large gas, coal, gold, copper and aluminium deposits. We have huge alternative wind and solar energy. Our population feeds itself, on wheat, rice, meats, fruits and vegetables. The students go out and win awards, while our scientists and writers win Nobel Awards. The world has placed us high in the comity of nations. We sit on the G20 and make world policy. And today, we ask with confidence, but humbleness, ‘what is it we can’t do?”

Breathless to know the date, I asked,

“How long has all this taken?”

He smiled and said,

“Oh not long, just a matter of a couple of…”

And I woke up, as the Fajr azaan was being broadcast.

Back in 2012!

But the happiest dream I have had for a long time. I went out that day on the road, happy and hopeful. We can do it InshaAllah, with the right people. Hope lives eternal in the breast.

Read more by Sarfaraz here or follow him on Twitter @Sarehman

God works in mysterious ways

October 28, 2012

“Have you ever lost a home? I had a home and land. 2010 floods washed away the house and spoilt the land. I left my family at the village and came here.” PHOTO: AFP

As you drive down the road connecting Zamzama with Khayaban-e-Shujaat, you come across a market, at the border of Defence and Clifton Cantonment. The road itself winds down into Shujaat and if you are of the ilk, it shall take you down to the Sunday Bazaar in Defence Phase VIII.

In front of this market are a set of fruit and vegetable thela walas (street vendors), lined up against the wall of Zamzama Park. That section of the road is peppered with cars buying fruits according to their purchasing power. Inside the park, oblivious to their proximity, a legion of affluent people jog daily, unaware of the economic struggle ongoing just ten yards away. For this is the place of squeezing out a marginal existence, with no room for error in the thela walas life.

Even in that tough environment, there are three thelas that lie vacant. Sometimes for periods before Eid, beggars occupy these thelas at night. Recently, on a late evening, I stopped to have a conversation with one such beggar. The story he told is related below.

“Have you ever lost a home? I had a home and land. 2010 floods washed away the house and spoilt the land. I left my family in the village and came here. Allah’s (SWT) great trial is on us; there are no jobs here even among crores of people. My money soon finished and I ate at the lunger (charity food shelter) and slept on the road. One day some good soul gave me food and that’s when it came to me that I can beg.  Do you understand how low one falls, to beg? Imagine how I felt the first time I spread my hands out to another human? But even in begging there is a system. I had the protection of a Dada (beggar mafia leader) and he took my money. There’s not much you can do about it, unless you want problems… but I missed my family and had no money to go back.”

“I begged the Dada and he allowed me to bring my family, if I paid daily for them. I was desperate and they came. But the Dada wanted them to beg. I said no, so he threw us out. Saeen, I could not see my family on the road. We were respectable small farmers and never without a roof. So I went back. He said all my family will beg and if I pay him enough, he will find me space to live. In the meantime, he has deposited us here. My poor family does not understand, but every day they go out to beg. My wife cries at night and my baby boy, seven-years-old, he goes and begs at a crossing. How would you feel if your son was sent out to do this? Is dignity even not my right? You eat expensive stuff and drive big cars, yet my boy makes Rs100 a day and we give away Rs50 of that to the Dada. At the end of the day, the boy gets a roti (bread) and daal (pulses) to eat. So where is the justice in this?  I cannot even pray, as I am not clean; don’t have clothes and a place to wash. So even my right of prayer to Allah (SWT) is gone! Who is going to answer for that?”

Completely distraught, I just stood there.

My mind starting thinking of what I could do to help was there anything I could do to help? There was no point in donating money because the Dada would take it and the family would be back to square one. I am ashamed to say that at the time, my mind could not work out a solution.

No place for further servants meant that I could not house them.

No immediate vacancy for a job occurred to me.

I think we have become emasculated by the norms of present day society, or maybe too absorbed in our own narrow existence! So I said,

“Wait for a day or so and I shall come back with an answer. Maybe I can get you a job so that you could move your family and once you are employed and out of the clutches of your leech, I can support you with financial aid also.”

Feeling a bit better, I went home, spoke to my family and some semblance of a plan formed in our minds. We thought of moving them back home and aiding them in setting up from scratch. Alas, our lives are full of good intentions, which never quite come to fruition.

A couple of extremely urgent deadlines meant that I could not go back till the day after. When I went back, the thela was empty and the family gone.

Such chagrin as I felt then was not comparable.

I had been tested, called on and had not come up to scratch.

How was I ever going to justify this to myself and Allah (SWT)?

I had no answers.

And so, Eid day dawned and I went for prayers.

After the Eid namaaz I saw the man, in cleaner clothes, coming out of the mosque, following a sahib. I asked about his whereabouts. He said,

“Two days ago an angel of a woman stepped out of her large jeep and asked me my story. When I told her, this woman instructed her driver to collect the family and bring them to her house.”

Now they reside in her servant quarter. His wife does cleaning work and he does gardening and the children will go to school.

Alhamdulillah, miracles never seize to amaze. God truly does work in mysterious ways, miracles do happen and good humans still exist. I wished him and his sahib an Eid Mubarak, told him to thank Allah (SWT) and gave him my contact in case he needed it.

As I walked to my car, I felt as if there is light yet in this world and that there are possibilities for everyone. Good, loving humans renew this human spirit.

May there be many such endings.

Please let’s all of us do our bit of good. This world will be a better place for it.

Eid Mubarak!

Read more by Sarfaraz here or follow him on Twitter @Sarehman

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