Junipers weep as Father’s Day approaches…

credits: The Express Tribune

credits: The Express Tribune

Children in schools around the globe excitedly prepare for Father’s Day with messy, colorful postcards and a whole lots of love. Teenagers take out their stash of pocket money and hurry to the nearest mall for the perfect present. Adults just feel warm inside and thank God for giving them a father who is still alive and well. Fathers themselves feel an overwhelming feeling of pride and gratitude as they wake up to a day that is theirs to celebrate.

That is the perfect Father’s Day, in some fortunate corner of the world.

Quaid-e-Azam was also a father; a founding father of an entire nation. He also had similar feelings of pride on the day Pakistan was born. Even after his death, he deserved all the love and respect from his legacy – his people – his country. What he got instead, was a whole lot of disrespect showered with blood and agony. What he got instead, was destruction of his beloved sanctuary in Ziarat (Balochistan), one day before the much celebrated Father’s Day. The historical refuge where he lived on and off during his life, amongst the glorious juniper trees, was his gruesome gift from his children.

Sadly, father’s day celebrations had just begun. More bloody surprises were in store for a man who wasn’t even allowed to rest peacefully in death. A few hours after the Ziarat tragedy, fourteen female university students were killed in Balochistan from a ruthless blast followed by another blast where the culprits laid siege to the Bolan Medical Complex. More presents for the father all carefully wrapped in horror and disbelief.

I began this post with scorn and hate. I thought I would be able to vent out my anger.  I was wrong. No amount of contempt for the attacks can make a difference here. No amount of shallow words of comfort can mend the broken heart of a father. There is a limit to torture a father can bear. There is a thin line between what a father can or cannot forgive his unruly children for.  I believe this time, there is no forgiveness. There are only weeping junipers and a battered heart.

Sad Father’s Day to you all.

people with wings

Its always about the hero; that  magnanimous figure emanating light like an angelic apparition. In the exuberant world of fiction, sidekicks are faithful buddies dressed in silly clothes; usually skilled at blending seamlessly into the background while occasionally tossing golden nuggets of advice for the hero to ponder over. Who would have thought that Batman would get along so well with a meek little Robin; or that Sherlock Holmes would share such an interesting bond without the ever skeptical Dr. Watson. Yet, its always about the hero.

In the real world, things are not too different. The persona attached with a hero is almost an unreal one. Marvel comics might single-handedly be responsible for distorting our image of the hero forever. Normal humans tend to fall short by most standards. In reality, sidekicks sometimes befall an even more regretful fate. Walt Disney had Ub Iwerks, his oldest and closest buddy and the actual wizard behind the creation of Mickey Mouse. Yet whoever heard of him?  Similarly, Octave Chanute’s aviation designs were the inspiration for Write brothers’ glider designs. Octave generously helped them throughout this venture and was sidestepped as soon as they became self sufficient. (source). These are just a few of the many people history’s pages so conveniently forgot.

If fame were a mortal, it would be an extremely self-centered one. In its realm, there is always someone willing to forgo levels of ethical and moral decency for some intoxicating slice of fame. Two is almost always a crowd. However it is not always as disagreeable as it may sound. Many such people prefer sitting snug in the background. They do not need people creating a hullabaloo over their achievements. Whether the star attraction or the humble wise companion, their victory song is solely for their own ears.
Sometimes it does not matter if a person`s existence is shrouded by anonymity because it is not everlasting. As luck would have it, some might get plucked from a torrent of millions for no obvious reason simply to embark on fame`s notorious adventure. Sometimes its alright to be fate’s loyal sidekick. Its like a game of spin the bottle where destiny’s bottle points at you no matter what and within moments you miraculously emerge from obscurity; albeit for a fleeting moment. One such individual was Bashir Ahmed Sarban, a camel-cart driver surviving in the slums of Karachi, whose story I was introduced to just recently. In 1961, life completely changed for Bashir; destitute with a thriving mustache;illiterate with a talent of adorning his speech with delightful aphorisms. During Lyndon B Johnson’s (US Vice President) visit to Karachi, he noticed a camel and its owner sticking out from a cheering crowd as his motorcade was driving to the guest house. Out of goodwill, he stopped and went to meet the camel and its owner. “Come meet me”, was what he said to Bashir during their short conversation. Soon after, all was forgotten until a Pakistani newspaper published something about Bashir’s good fortune of how he would visit the US as the President’s guest. This  spread like wildfire and after much effort, Bashir traveled all the way to the US. When he came back, his life did not change much in terms of his financial condition as many would assume. Yet he became a downright celebrity, with people flocking to him like fish on bait. “People will not leave my life alone. They eat my life up”, was what he said when popularity took its toll on him. To the people of his community, he was their hero. The little kids in the slums looked at him with awe, almost as if he had wings. Every time some curious reader stumbles upon Bashir’s chronicles of passing fame; or when a little girl`s grandfather shares a heartwarming tale how magnanimous life can be, Bashir Ahmed Sarban`s name will surely live on.
Then there was Malala Yousafzai, a teenage women rights activist from a small city called Mingora (northwestern Pakistan). She had dreams as big as the universe. And when you have such high aspirations, everything just seems to fall into place, no matter how treacherous the yellow brick road. She survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban and became one of the most influential people of 2013. The way her life spiraled from complete abyss to skies of immortality, surpasses all things heroic. Malala will remain a symbol of hope and magic for any child who yearns to break out of archaic norms of ignorant societies.
Countless other people have lived to do extraordinary things but their untold tales have been swept away like life after tsunami. Similar to stars, every atom of their existence collides together to produce an endless array of energy in the form of inspiration, courage and immortality. These people have proved that no matter how ordinary a person may be, true worth is judged by actions and intentions. As long as you are true to your own self without fretting over shallow recognition, your moment to shine will surely come in its own right time. And yes, its always about the heroes; real life heroes.
“You were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life?”

With or without limbs…

Irony is a funny thing. But at times it becomes very difficult to smile or appreciate this piercing humor. A raised eyebrow or complete bemusement at best, is what you should aim for. Some time last year, I remember passing by a kid without limbs, barely dragging himself on an unforgiving bumpy land in excruciating heat. This is not an uncommon site in Pakistan, so why would I remember him now? Four words to be exact. ‘My life – My rules’ is what was blatantly printed on his t-shirt. Who was to know?! This fleeting image would leave quite an impact.  Like all teenagers, I am sure he also had a streak of defiance in him. Yet perhaps unknowingly (sheepishly assuming his lack of the language-that-must-not-be-named), he was fighting with the world through these words, trying to get his voice across, trying to instill his existence amongst us able bodied, arrogant and shallow people.

So what are these rules any way? And does one really `own` life so to speak? From what I have seen around me,  we cannot be our own bosses, no matter what the circumstances may be. You are always accountable for your actions; answerable to someone or the other. 2103 Elections in Pakistan symbolized a rampant mantra for ‘Change’. This deep rooted belief beckoned the people of Pakistan to step out of the comfort of their homes, to emerge from drawing room skepticism and take matters into their own hands. Their life. Their rules. Oh Really…

On 11th of May 2013, people of Pakistan woke up,  like budding new leaves in spring, full of life and vigor. They had decided it was time to steer their own reigns. Through it took a darn long 65 years to understand that. I suppose there really is no telling when grey matter decides to loosen up.  Notwithstanding the chants of a fair election spree, fraud and sham emerged victorious. Strangely enough, this would not have been an unforeseen action in the old Pakistan. But in the new Pakistan, this is beyond tolerance. They will not be forced to quiet down now. They will not go without a fight. They will curse. They will cry. They will complain. But they will not stop, for Pakistanis are a resilient nation that knows no bounds. And the best part is, this is just the beginning.

As of now, they all appear to be grasping for even an inkling of triumphant air; like an enthusiastic kite flyer unwilling to let go of his kite even though its thread ruthlessly slashes through his skin ; like the kid who refuses to go by others’ rules – with or without limbs.