By Humayun Gauhar
“You look glum,” said Maverick the Monkey. He had decided to come visit me in my jungle from his jungle. “Is your new restaurant keeping you awake.”
“No, I love it,” I replied. Chand Tara is my passion. And I’m not glum. I’m deep in thought. I can’t do anything about my face.”
“You haven’t shaved for days,” observed Maverick. “You look terrible, scruffy, like a tramp.”
“Just laziness. I’m giving my face a rest. I’m not about to get married, you know. I’m not looking for a girl. I am the faithful type. Ask any girl who knows me. It was my thirty-seventh wedding anniversary last Thursday and the honeymoon still goes on. No need to shave and look good.”
“If you go on looking like this the honeymoon will soon be over,” said Maverick laughing. “So what were you thinking about?”
“That everyone keeps asking me what’s going to happen and I don’t know. Nobody does, not even those who are going to do it. They don’t think things through. All I know is that whatever is going to happen in the short-term is not going to be good either for Pakistan or for the rest of the world. Everyone is in disarray. Everything is wobbling. Common sense seems to have exited the world. Imbeciles thrashing around like beached whales are running the world. currencies are on the run. Economies are collapsing. Banks are bankrupt, virtually all of them. The efficacy of capitalism and its economic and political systems is coming to an end as communism did in the Soviet Union a couple of decades ago. Everything has a finite life. As it comes to an end and before anything new is born there is depression, chaos, uncertainty. Ask the people of the former USSR and east Europe what they went through. Now they are going to go through it a second time because they opted for capitalism’s systems when Soviet communism died. What else could they choose?”
“No wonder you look glum,” said Maverick. “You’ve thought yourself into a corner. Like yond Cassius you think too much though your look is far from lean and hungry. Man cannot predict everything; he can’t prophecy anything. He can only surmise and guess what’s coming and prepare for the worst. I agree with you though that whatever happens in the short-term is not going to be good for the world. Be ready to roll with the punches. When you don’t know what’s impending its best to leave things to God. He is most kind, most merciful.”
“I’m thinking that my articles ‘Equity and Balance’ and ‘The Ten Pillars of Justice’ fell on deaf ears. Obviously. It would have been foolhardy to expect anything else. But one goes on reading, writing and thinking, not least to clarify one’s own mind. Martin Luther King said, “The day we see truth and do not speak is the day we begin to die.” So one goes on writing and speaking the truth as one sees it at any given time. It’s a compulsion. It’s an elixir of the mind and soul. Any self-respecting writer’s motto has to be, “Mujhay hai hukm-e-azan, La Illaha Il Allah” – “I have been Commanded to speak the Truth – there is no god but God.” Speak the truth, for God’s sake and don’t dwell on the opinions of others unless they speak sense, which is a rarity.”
“That’s pretty arrogant,” said Maverick. “Said words are sweet; those unsaid are sweeter still” as the poet said.
“That’s for politicians,” I retorted. “Words that can be for the greater good but are left unsaid amounts to cowardice provided you ensure that what you say, privately or publicly, is true as best you know and will benefit society. Else it’s better to break one’s pen and still one’s tongue. Its better to make a statement than be silent. You never know where it will go.
“Look,” I continued passionately. “An ordinary fruit seller of Tunisia started revolutions by burning himself to death and became an extraordinary man. It wasn’t suicide really. It was an enormous statement because he actually set tyrannical Arab regimes on fire by setting himself on fire. That’s some statement.”
“Don’t go and burn yourself, you silly chap,” said Maverick alarmed. “Things will work out; they always do.”
“I don’t have the guts. But I’m burning inside. Words are water that douse infernos inside and make life tolerable. Let me speak.”
“Who’s stopping you?” asked Maverick. “The real question is: who’s listening?”
“It doesn’t matter if anyone is listening or not. Even if one person listens and understands and accepts he can start a revolution, like the fruit seller in Tunisia did. He must have thought a lot. Karl Marx sat in the British Museum and wrote and wrote for years. It seemed as if no one was listening. But they were. So to did Rousseau. Their words brought about revolutions in humankind’s mindset. They changed the world, for good or for bad depends on one’s point of view. It matters little if no one listens and one’s voice is drowned out in the din of hypocrisy that one hears endlessly. One day the din of our collective conscience will awaken and the din of the hypocrites will be drowned out. It’s happened many times before.”
“There goes the idealist,” said Maverick. “But you were right when you once wrote that idealists change the world, romantics cause revolutions, pragmatists and realists don’t. They seek to protect the status quo, however iniquitous, because they are afraid of change. Revolutionaries, idealists, romantics and dreamers overthrow status quos.
“Don’t necessarily expect too see revolutions in your lifetime,” continued Maverick, well into his stride. “There are many who catalyze the process in different ways and pave the way for revolutionaries of the future whom history regards as the leaders. But whatever the ways of the catalysts, writing has to be one of them. Communications is the main thing. When God sent us his Messages in his Holy Books, what was He doing? He was communicating with us in our language, for the language of God would have blown our minds. I think God’s language is pure mathematics, by the way. Look, would Nelson Mandela have made it without Oliver Tambo leading the African National Congress during his ‘long walk to freedom’ or Steve Biko sacrificing his life, and so many others? Could Mao Zedong have succeeded if there had been no Sun Yat-sen? Could Jinnah have got Pakistan without Iqbal?”
“You’re right.” I said. “I, and many others like me, will go on writing and speaking knowing that somebody, somewhere must be listening. If none is, at least God is. I think I will go and shave.”