October 08, 2010Print : Opinion
In the dew of little things, the heart finds its mornings and is refreshed.
Way Forward for Pakistan. To begin with, I was not even sure if this was the right time to think of a way that could take us forward. The junction, we are stranded at, appeared to be a dead end. But I somehow managed to prepare an outline.
I had collected some impressive literary facts and citations from books. I had thus prepared a sermon to impress the readers with my knowledge and develop an argument that others could only agree with. My role ends as soon as I am done with my 1,000-word sermon. On July 28, 2010, the smell of burning fuel and human flesh in Margalla Hills dispersed my thoughts and left me with little strength to put them together again. I waited a little more, till I could collect myself.
The barbaric incident of Sialkot left me numb, and I felt as if we are going back in time. We are emerging as a new type of cannibals, the only difference being that we have not yet started physically feasting on our human prey. Then the ruthless waters from the north that swept valleys, grasslands and countless lives drained me of the little energy that I was left with. It seemed as if we were under a Mathew Effect, a term in sociology describing a phenomenon where "the rich get richer and the poor get poorer." Deaths attracting more deaths, and more.
I decided not to write until I met Sailab Khan -- yes, Sailab Khan, one of the babies born on a street in Karachi's Mehmoodabad slum. His parents had come from a village in Punjab. They were farmers and were now living under the open skies. Like floods, life and death have their own course. It was time for Sailab Khan to arrive into this world under the open skies, without any medical facility, needless to say. Women in the neighbourhood covered the mother with their sheets. They made a little bed for the baby and clothed him, with whatever little they had. His parents told me, smiling, "He came with the floods, so we named him Sailab Khan." When I saw him, he was fast asleep in his mother's lap, not aware of what the future might hold for him or for his parents. "This flood is from the Lord. We can't stop it, but we can cope with it. Crying and complaining will not help."
The first thing I did on returning home was to delete the folder containing all the literary jargon that I had collected. I had found the way forward--not in the books, not on the web. It was everywhere. It was in the will of the people of Pakistan. It reflects itself in the everyday life of the common man. I felt insignificant before Sailab Khan's parents. Their resolve had taught me what I had not learnt in all the years of formal education. The entire philosophy of life was enclosed in their brief statement.
The cover of Newsweek Pakistan's first issue has the picture of a young boy displaced by the floods, with the words, "The World's Bravest Nation" at the bottom. Every Pakistani would agree with it. We have faced the world's worst terrorism, earthquakes, political instability, endless violence, floods, crime, inflation, poverty, scandals, etc. The term "failed state" was coined for us. But there was something that kept us from falling apart, something that kept us moving forward. Some people attributed it to the ignorance of the average Pakistani. This doesn't sink in. It is the "will" of the common man that makes him fight the ugliest of situations he is placed in.
Other than will power, it is he ability of an average Pakistani to "let go" of the past. Unlike the men and women in the corridors of power who have refused to let go of the most trivial of matters that serve their egos, and who thereby block all the roads that take us forward. The average Pakistani has the wisdom and spirit to rise above problems. Pakistanis have not forgotten their past, but they don't want to carry it as a burden either. They have the insight to learn from it.
In the book The Power of Now, by Ekhart Tolle, is a message for Pakistanis. He illustrates an import point by giving the example of two ducks fighting. The fight is usually brief, after which they fly off in opposite directions. Then, each flaps its wings vigorously, thus releasing the tension of the fight, and floats peacefully as if nothing had happened. This is the approach that will take us forward as a nation. Ekhart Tolle's lesson for us is "Flap your wings," which translates into "let go of the story that is your past" and return to the only place of power--i.e., the present.
Will power and the ability to move forward blended with basic education will pull Pakistan out of the darkness it is receding into. At present we do not need rocket science to solve our problems. We need to rebuild our foundation through education. We have seen the response of villagers in the Karakoram, where American humanitarian writer Greg Mortenson has build a string of schools for girls. He has received tremendous response and support, not from the influential but from ordinary Pakistanis. They had the will power to move forward, let go of their past. They realised that their prosperity lies in educating their children--both male and female. What happened in the villages of northern Pakistan and in Afghanistan was the result of one man's mission. Mortenson didn't aim to bring about an overnight revolution there; he set in motion a change in the mindset of the local people. The fruits that they are reaping are immeasurable.
For some reason, we are looking for the way forward in the wrong corridors. We are looking up to the powerful and the influential to show us the path. It is true that every act needs supervision and every nation needs governance. But in the present situation, one needs to come to the level of the common man. To move forward, we need a change in the mindset of the common man, and that comes with education. A change that comes with empathy. A change that comes with letting go. A change that comes with forgiveness. A change that comes with will and determination. A change that finds hope in little things. A change that comes from within.
And one can already see the metamorphosis--the devotion and sincerity with which one Pakistani helped another during the floods, rising above the differences of Sindhi, Baloch, Punjabi and Pathan. Relief was handed out by people without the giver knowing the recipient's cast, creed and religion. Haven't we found a way forward? The process has begun, just don't let it stop.
The article won the first prize in an essay competition held by "Rally Pakistan" (www.rallypakistan.com).
The writer is a speech therapist. Email: [email protected]