Something Missing

imageAn early morning chat with an old colleague. He is now abroad and working in a big business, making steady money, saving a bit. His family has settled and while he has old parents in Karachi, they are happy for him also.

What I sensed between the lines was a restlessness; though to be truthful, he had not voiced any discontent. Having been down this road three times, I guess I am more qualified than most to talk about it. Thrice, I had left this land of my birth, with a lot of regret and sadness, but also with a sense of adventure. And over a large tract of years -a decade and a half- I had woken every morning with a sense of ‘something missing’.

So I wrote to this gentleman the following

“I have traveled this journey a few times and know that taking away ones home is a huge displacement in life. Some get over it, some never do. Despite doing this thrice, I always felt my destiny was written in Pakistan.”

His reply was

“You have exactly echoed my emotions, I wonder how you do this everytime with me. My wife and kids are happy, parents are also happy , I have cousins here but still I want to believe and pray that my destiny takes me back to Pakistan where my home is. Remember me in your prayers. Thanks”

In my experience, while the second generation do manage to settle in lands elsewhere, very few of the menfolk who emigrate, quite reconcile to the loss of a sense of belonging, the roots. Rahat Fateh Ali Khan has described this very emotionally in his song “Tere Yaad”. It hits the nail on the head.

What is this “something missing” for most of us? And I hasten to add that there are people who emigrate and never look back. In my writing here, there is no sense of judgement, of any right or wrong. It is just the way it is. There are many people who will always be out of sorts when they emigrate.

This is home. Through my formative years it reached into my brains, subconscious and created imagery, which became a part of me. For me the flashes of cricket, bun kebab, Bundu Khan, Sandspit Beach, friends playing cards, the Eids and the Independence Day, none can be detached from me. It is just part of myself. To take it away is to wrench the heart out of a working body. That is the something missing. You can reconcile and say that was the former me, but I have moved on and now the week of Christmas Holidays is my thing. Or Independence Day July 4th is my day. But rarely, if at all, will it be your thing. It will not quite touch the depth in your heart which creates that sheer joy, reminding one of younger days. Just changing a booklet, from green to blue or red, cannot change decades of programming.

When this happened, I found that my existence while well ordered and physically stable, became mechanical. The heart was not in it. For me it became worse. As the days and years went by, instead of lessening it became more and one day I realised, I was suffering from home-sickness. So there was no answer, but reverse ones step. Think of it as my mental cussedness, that I tried it three times before finally reconciling to it not being good for me. In the end we live life, not to function but to sense it, feel it and live it. In those years abroad, I was not living it. ‘Something missing’ kept popping up in my brain. So, I finally reconciled and decided to stay here. Alhamdulillah! I just pray that this status-quo remains, as I traverse this stage of life, where eventually physical dependence will rule more than emotions.

*Picture is from Dreamstime a free picture site.

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The Sacrifices for our Green

imageThis Ramadan among other talks, I heard one from Maulana Tariq Jamil, which resonated deeply within me. It was simply because of its similarity to my father’s history. I wrote about my father’s experience at the time of Partition in Newsline Magazine a few years ago, in the form of a letter to Pakistan.(https://sarfarazar.wordpress.com/?s=Letter+to+Pakistan)

Today, the sixty eighth Independence Day of Pakistan, I shall relate what the Maulana said, as it is a very relevant message for those who love Pakistan. I translate and paraphrase :-

‘When I was young, I used to listen to various personal stories about Partition and they were so earth shaking, that at times I felt that my heart would burst. This is the only country which was made on the base of an ideology, no cement or construction involved, just a foundation built on the bones of six hundred thousand people, who sacrificed their lives in a few weeks.

We are local people or have spent too many generations after the Partition, so we did not see or taste that sacrifice, unlike the original migrants. My father’s friend was one such migrant from Jullundur and once while sitting with him, he told us his own story, which I narrate now.

When he left Jullundur, his whole family had been separated, due to chaos and calamity all around. He was very young and the only one who survived. One single soul, in search of Pakistan; trying to hide in the fields during the day and traveling by night. One immediate and compelling objective; to survive the ire of the Sikhs, who were on rampage in the three bordering districts of the Punjab.

Eventually he approached the new border, at the banks of the Sutlej which in August was a raging monsoon river. In front was death by drowning or possible safety and at the back was death at the hands of the Sikhs. So, he grabbed a piece of wood and jumped into the river, risking drowning. As the torrent took him mid river, he saw that the whole Sutlej was full of bodies. Children, young, old, women and men. They had arrived at their final destination and their sacrifice was complete. Now the Sutlej had become a coffin and grave to their bodies. The same was true of the Chenab and Ravi in those few days, all three had become the bed of the migrant soul. But he (this particular young kid) managed to cross the Sutlej into Pakistan and survived to tell his story years later.

We should read our history. It tells us how we started and where we are going. This country was given everything – soul, soil, minerals and people. Unfortunately, it was just sucked into this one cancer. Its called insincerity and dishonesty. It could have been a Jannat on this earth. You know, this country has been bled dry, not by the little people, or the uneducated, or the workers. No, this sacrilege has been committed by very high class people, who are also well educated. Simply, they obtained degrees, but did not learn humanity.

Such big sacrifices in vain, by the many. All we are left with is thorns; we never really saw a spring. Had there not been some great humans, then the country would long ago have been sold. Fortunately, in the far corners there is still some light and it reflects in places. Somehow this caravan still proceeds on its journey due to these good people, despite the evil perpetrated by the so-called privileged.

One day those six hundred thousand will rise out of their graves, and demand restitution from all the insincere, whether they be here in Pakistan or settled abroad. There is no escaping this eventuality, because there has been ‘amanat may khayanat’ here.’

For my part I pray and say Pakistan Zindabad. The sacrifice of the many shall not go waste. In-sha-Allah.

*translated and paraphrased from Maulana Tariq Jamil. All credits are due to him. The figure of six hundred thousand death is presumably only the Muslim number, as many Hindus and Sikhs also perished. Total figures vary, reaching upto 1.5 mn in some estimates.

Independence Day Revisited

Juggoo, as was his wont, woke early and went down. Prayers and the initial cup of tea done, he had washed and changed. Out came the expensive, white shalwar qameez. Now he was sitting  on the bench outside the halwa shop.image

The road, rather gali, was quiet. He had not opened the shop. Normally by now, they would have been stirring. But today was August 14th and not much was going to open today. And in the quiet of the morning Juggoo’s thoughts traveled back these intervening decades to the early days of time. Time as he had measured it, all his life. Back to Ramadhan 1947, the month of August. A time of hope!

Juggoo had woken early and had cleaned the shop front and footpath. He placed the various trays in their place and then rushed off to clean up and get ready. It was an exciting day. His father would be coming down soon and will want him ready. There could be no excuses for delay, as punctuality was part of his upbringing.

When Juggoo came down, dressed in a kurta and pyjama, his father was ready and sitting on the bench. Without a word or much ado he got up and both of them set off purposefully. They were to reach Bunder Road well in time, so that they could see the parade. It was expected that the Quaid will be visible from an easy vantage point. Juggoo understood the enormity of the occasion, even though he was twelve years old. Today 27th Ramadhan, Allah had blessed his struggling people with a homeland. Where they could be safe, belong and do all the goodness they wanted.

In the end it had been awe inspiring. As the car came down the road, the murmur grew. It converted to cries of Allah u Akbar and Pakistan Zindabad, when the Quaid was near. One could see him waving and Liaquat Ali sitting besides him also smiling and waving. The love felt for this extraordinary Quaid was so visible. Juggoo himself had shed some tears when he saw the Quaid waving. He could die for this person and also die for what we had made today. This was his home, his identity and his Pakistan.

Juggoo’s thoughts rocked back to 2014, the present. His grandson was there in front of him. Smiling, smart and and also understanding what the occasion was. Juggoo, satisfied that Sheheryar was ready, leaned over and kissed his forehead. Sixty-seven years had gone by; He was now at the end of his time and this boy of thirteen was beginning his. They were going off together with some others and were to do a march down to the Quaids Mazaar and honour the one man in this land who should be honoured without any reservation by anyone. Because his gift to us was so great and so stunningly beautiful.

Against all odds Juggoo was hopeful today. This boy was so different from his father. He cared. He cared for this place and because he cared, so he believed and he wanted it to be right and sustained. He thought in centuries and not in moments. The father had not treated or valued the Quaids gift and squandered it, in frivolousness and pettiness. This one is so different. Large hearted and understanding the larger purpose of this land. It was a land for righteousness, freedom and happiness. Sheheryars generation will take it back to its rightful place. Today at the Quaids Mazaar, Sheheryar will pray to Allah and promise that he and his friends will deliver the Quaids dream. Bring peace to this land and its long suffering and searching people. There might be pain and darkness along the way, but InShallah this will happen. Our paths are set on this vision.

Letter to Pakistan

pak flag

Printed in Newsline Magazine – August 2012

Dear Pakistan,

I dreamt last night of a young boy who was cowering behind a trunk in a railway bogey. In the background, there were screams, gunfire and one could smell blood. Not to forget the broken bodies. They were everywhere! Then, the dream cut to another scene and suddenly this train arrived at a railway station, the young boy was lifted out of the bogey and there were shouts of relief, as others were also carried to safety. There it is, the signboard says Lahore Railway Station and is that not my father there lying on the platform in shock? He has survived but he has seen hell, my dear Pakistan. At the ripe young age of 14 he has seen hell. Awful dream and I woke with a start, in a sweat remembering those millions in 1947, who suffered just to be with you. Just to belong.

Years later when that boy had become my father, he told me the story. Of the great aspirations and love which went with the commitment to abandon all in India and migrate to Pakistan. For him the horrible events along the way, defined his love for you. It was worth it to give all that for a land where he would be free. Where he could live, marry, earn and not be considered lower than others. Not for skin, nor for sect or religion, nor for his language. He thought it was worth it, for the home this country gave to him for almost six decades. Right up to his last months, then a wasting disease took him to a more permanent abode.

I am so sorry Pakistan, because somewhere in the middle, while still loving and pining for you, I went away, I went abroad for long stints. Did not show the same dedication my father did. As justification I thought I shall earn and give back to my land. My commercial training and reasoning kicking in! Only, money never equates to action and sharing pain. When I came back, you had been robbed. I had left you undefended and they had come, raped and pillaged you and left you distressed. My fault. I did not consider that my home was worth raising my voice for.

Well I have been back many years now and have seen some light at the end of the tunnel. These young ones they are more like my father. They are ready to live for a cause. Oh I know you would say that the vast masses are insensitive and uncaring. But do not lose hope, my dear Pakistan. These young ones have a vision and a story they believe in and are beginning to awaken. The big, long slumber is over. They have a finger on your pulse, they know you are alive. My dear Pakistan, I feel you will finally get the leaders and people you deserve.

Inshallah.

Oh yes, I meant to write and say to you Happy Independence Day. A very Happy 65th Birthday!

Your hopeful citizen

Sarfaraz

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