By Humayun Gauhar
I’m back. Many things happened during my brief absence, but the saddest was the passing of our famous poet Jamiluddin Aali’s beloved wife Tyaba Bano at the age of 95. She was a niece of Nawab Ismail Khan, star of our freedom struggle, grandson of Nawab Mustafa Khan Shaifta who was of Mirza Ghalib’s friend and patron – “Itney na barha paaki-e-daman key hikayat,” said Shaifta. “Daman ko zarra dekh, zarra band-e-kaba dekh”; and “Voh Shaifta keh dhoom thi hazrat kay zohad key; mein kya kahoon keh raat mujhay kis kay ghar milay”.
I remember Aali Sahib from childhood as he was with my Uncle Tajammul in Government College, Lahore, and thus also knew Altaf Gauhar, my father. Related to my in-laws, my ‘khush daman’ – which means mother-in-law in chaste Urdu – called her Tyaba Apa.
Aali Sahib, of course, is well know for his witty couplets or ‘dohas’ – “Aali this Diwali holiday proved difficult; we went all decked up but the belle called me brother” – “Aali ab kay kathan para Diwali ka tyohar; hum tau gayay thay chaila bun kay, bhiyya keh gayee naar”. What is less known is Aali and Tyaba’s rapturous love – he was 18 and she 25 when they got married. My wife and her mother tell me that she was the nicest person they knew, without an iota of malice. Everyone loved her; no one disliked her. She was always there in everyone’s grief or happiness. Hers is a life to be celebrated, not mourned. I told her son Raju that death is a problem for the living; the dead have gone to a better place where the spirit is no longer captive in the body. And I told her younger son Murad that its untrue that time is a great healer; you just get used to the pain. May her soul rest in peace. Her family will get used to it. They should remember that God never places a burden on anyone that they cannot bear.
Now back to the mundane in which we are stuck a while longer. I didn’t write last week because of a terrible cold brought on by the inevitable turn in weather, maniacal travels and my left eye gone nearly blind. Many people sent messages of sympathy and concern and prayed for me. I’m most grateful to them all.
When Dr. Zeba chided me for taking so long to get a check-up and I told her my travel schedule, she said tersely, “That’s not my problem. Its yours.” True. But then its easy to take a scolding from a pretty girl – my wife does it at least once a day and when she doesn’t I feel unwell – and not so difficult to get an injection in the eyeball from one either. I did, and am much better for it. “Focus on something on the ceiling so your eyes don’t move,” ordered Zeba. “Last time you told me to look at your face,” I replied. She smiled, “No, that makes your eyes go too far back.” So my eyes moved as the needle entered and the injected one went slightly red. No problem, my problem.
I told Zeba that I couldn’t understand why I am so tense these days since I have no personal problems and I love my wife very much. “That’s so obvious,” she said. “Perhaps its because of seeing the country decline,” I said. That’s it. Problem is, I think too much, not like “yond Cassius” for I’m neither lean nor have a hungry look – but because I think too much. Good Lord! What a sentence. Either good or atrocious, you decide.
I should remember what I always say, that we are a very lucky generation witnessing history in the making at fast forward, historical forces in a perfect storm. Problem is, we humans also get ground to dust by historical forces. People suffer. States go into oblivion as new ones are born. While the process of history entails a lot of progress it also entails a lot of pain. One worries about one’s children and loved ones. What will happen to them? This is where one’s faith in God is tested. He knows best.
For us Pakistanis there’s nowhere to go considering every country is in decline and who would accept us anyway? The Indian who became Miss America was reviled as a terrorist, though she is Hindu, so much is the distrust, dislike and prejudice. Our only option is to save our country and ensure its progress for this is the only country we have. It is an imperative, a vital survival necessity.
Sometimes, analytical ability of sorts and a sense of history can be a bane, because you realize how much worse things could get. Often times, their absence can be a boon. A little knowledge can be a very dangerous thing, sure, but ignorance is bliss too. This is the first time I envy those who are oblivious to what could lie in store. See how fast peace and life-as-usual evaporated in Syria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia… The process will continue in other states in and beyond the Middle East, east and west.
As I’ve often said but sometimes forgotten, I would rather celebrate witnessing our man-eating system and the inhuman status quo it engenders hurtling to its inevitable demise. One should hope and pray that a beautiful phoenix will rise from its ashes, as it did in 1947 but we made a hash of it.
Since my last article I find only one thing of national pride, that a Pakistani film ‘Zinda Bhaag’ has been nominated for an Oscar. The rest is bad. A little girl was raped in Lahore and the fiends are still at large. A little boy was raped by his school’s principal. A small girl was flogged in one of our many primitive areas. A tribal court or Jirga in another of our primitive areas ordered alleged criminals to walk over burning coal to determine guilt: innocence was ‘proved’ by soles not getting burned! Punishment: the wives of the ‘guilty’ were killed. We gleefully write articles titled: ‘Rapes rise in India as economy declines’. Look at yourself, man. Anyway, how does another’s misfortune help us?
A PIA pilot was arrested drunk in Birmingham from the cockpit of his plane, as were three stewards. He was going to fly hundreds of innocent passengers to Pakistan in an inebriated state. When society collapses such things happen because standards, values and morals collapse too, as does the ability to tell between right and wrong. Human life loses value, as you see with the rampant terrorism and criminality in Pakistan, where rulers and law enforcers are the largest Mafia. This pilot is the son of a former general of the big moustache whose bombast, bluster and stupidity were even bigger. He claimed in my presence in the Royal Free Hospital in London, “You want to see the man who hanged Bhutto? I am the man who hanged Bhutto.” Apparently our pilots, not only this scion of a silly general, have been found drunk before, but so degraded have our values and common sense become, and so low is our respect from human life, that we keep them in the cockpit – the name comes from a pit in which they held cock-fights, thus ‘cockpit’. Let your imagination run. This man should never again be allowed in a plane or outside a bottle.
That’s not the worst of it. Once in Medina we are permitted into the room where the Holy Prophet (pbuh) is buried. The then general manager of PIA in Jeddah, not in our group, tried to get in too in a totally drunken state. Talk of propriety, PIA didn’t sack the animal or send him to rehab but posted him back to Karachi to serve out his term. “Great People to Fly With”, what? When those who run our vital institutions behave like this, what chance does our country stand? That such things happen in other countries too is no excuse. Rather, look at how they make such culprits pay for their misdeeds and misdemeanors.
The most lamentable was yet another All Parties Conference held after our politicians walked over the carcasses of many APCs past. This one was to involve one another in negotiating with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and to rightly create the perception that they gave ‘peace a chance’. I’m all for giving peace a chance provided it doesn’t mean, ‘give terrorists a chance’.
Peace doesn’t stand a chance when you look at our objectives and the terrorists’ objectives. Our objective is to end terrorism. Their objectives are to take over the State, impose on it their own version of Sharia that is at great variance to God’s Islam (which means peace) and get Shias declared non-Muslims. They cannot give us an iota and, hopefully, we cannot pander to their demands a jot. But with our rulers you never can tell. That the terrorists are not interested in talks was made evidently clear by their nonsensical terms and four terrorist attacks that followed, one of which killed a major general, a colonel and a non-commissioned officer. Where is the meeting ground? This week is still too early to write about this. We have asked the Saudi king to mediate and bring the TTP to the negotiating table, thus publicly acknowledging that our Saudi ‘brothers’ are the terrorists’ patrons. Next week.