(My overwhelming visit to The National Library of Pakistan, Islamabad.)
I have experienced in life, that …. everything really does happen for a reason. You may get to understand it or not.
It certainly isn’t all coincidence.
A few weeks ago, my mentor turned friend Abbas Husain called up, as he does, when he is in town. (I usually call him when I have a ‘reason’ like being in some kind of a problem of sorts.) Anyhow, it ended up in him residing in my guest room for a night. Naturally, I brought out my latest book on which I’m working and our endless talks began in my drawing room. – Goldmine of information that he is – he solved most of my quarries, there and then. At the same time, he brought out a few of my embarrassingly blatant matters of ignorance. (He has been my teacher, so as a student of learning, I can take it from him!)
For that evening, he just took over my book.
“Laptop!” he said, I brought it out. Then he went about exploring places on net to bring out information that I’d been searching for. I feel so alone in my quest sometimes, meeting such a well-read person, means the world to me. He said “just go to the National Library and find the book there, it’s the one place in Pakistan, that you can find any book!’ – “But,” he added, “First call their office, and ask them about the books, so that they are ready for you when you go, and you don’t waste any of your time.”
As usual, my ‘normal’ life got on top of me, and it was several weeks before I got made the time to go there. Thanks to the fact, that Waliya my daughter opted to take my dad to hospital for his usual check up that day, and so giving me the opportunity to go to the library.
So, finally I went to National Library of Pakistan, in Islamabad. I’ve always been a member of one library or other, all my life. This is a library which is reserved for research, so you cannot borrow any book from here. However, you can sit here and browse through as many books as you like. I’ve been there, for research, many times, years ago, when internet wasn’t such a great resource.
Anyhow, I was feeling a bit queasy, already, but I ignored it, as I’ve had enough of my ‘problems’ coming in my way, without my own health adding to it! The library was almost empty, luckily, I found a real shady tree to park my car. I immediately met, Muhammad Riaz, the Head of Reading Department, and Assistant Director of NLP. In fact, he met me on the stairs, and somehow, ‘recognized’ me from our phone talk yesterday. (I didn’t know, my looks match my voice that much!) He asked me to wait upstairs, and he would join me soon.
On the first floor an exhibition of books was on. Behind it on the wall was an imposing painting of Jimmy Engineer which was lighted up from inside. I know Jimmy Engineer, he has these huge prints of his paintings, on the human struggle behind the Independence of Pakistan. I could see this one was printed on opaque glass which was lighted up from inside.
The book of books “Payam-e-Mashriq” was placed in front of me by Mr. Riaz, himself. He told me “This is the first edition of Allama Iqbal’s famous book published in 1922. So, we do not show it to the public, as they may damage it. I brought it out, especially for you.”
I couldn’t believe it.
Tears literally rolled down my cheeks as I turned the pages, reading the Persian language, catching the few common Urdu words here and there. I’ve been reading its English translations for the last 25 years. That book has been on my bedside table or in my purse most of the time. Whenever life got a bit rough, I’d turn the pages, and find so much solace in the verses. As I’d read, paintings would get conjured up in front of my mental eyes. So, I painted several paintings on many of these verses.
This trip to NLP was aimed at finding the original Payam-e-Mashriq and to find the two editions of its English translation by M. Hadi Hussain, in 1971 and 1977. I had this copy of his 1971 version.
Mr. Riaz said “I need to have that book which you’ve got, to search for the other book you wanted. “ I said, “No, I cannot give it too, its’ too precious. I cannot lose it now!” He said, it will help me find the next version of it.” So, I let it be entrusted to the man, who had already entrusted me with a treasure in my care.
I felt dizzy. I sat down. It was a bit warm. I could see that the guard sitting nearby had turned his own fan towards me. I felt a little better.
In a daze, I kept turning the pages. I read the table of contents. The ‘Deebacha’, written by the author himself. Allama Iqbal’s own words….. Telling why he wrote this book, as a reply to Goethe’s plea to the East…. Made over a hundred years ago! It’s a long story. – A very exciting one.
Payam-e-Mashriq was written just after the First World War, when Europe was going though one of its ‘worst’ times. How was Europe, or Iqbal to know, that it would get worse, just a few more decades later, with the onset of the Second World War?
Anyhow, I see so many similarities, in those times, and the times of today. This is why Allama Iqbal’s poetry is so pertinent even today.
It helps an individual now, as it did then.
Can you believe it? His poetry brought about the existence of a country on the map of the world? Of course it wasn’t just his poetry, but it was the proactive factor.
Anyhow, the most powerful thing about his words is the strengthening of the individual. It is all about Self Actualization. It is also about clarifying one’s so called ‘religious’ concepts from the ritualistic mode, so attractive to most people specially the clerics.
It is all about being genuine, and true to ones’ own self.
His thought, and concepts are so modern. Pakistan has still not caught up with them!
So, while I was sitting and skimming though the precious pages, I also spoke to Mr. Riaz, the gentle white bearded personality about the book of mine for which I’m here. He said have you got the number yet? I looked at him blankly. My other four books were published by other publishers, Ferozsons in Pakistan and Dorrance of USA. So, I had no idea. They had done all this work for me.
He understood. I had told him, that I’m going to publish my next book myself. I’ve had too many problems with my earlier books, for some reason or the other. So, he said, “wait, I’ll help you.”
Within minutes he put some forms in front of me…. I filled them up and gave him. He got busy with them, with the respective sections in the same building. He said “ You’ll need to go downstairs to the next section to get your number.”
“I’m feeling a bit dizzy now.” I said. It was true. The whole room swirled around me!
After spending last few years running pillar to post for every single ‘problem’ that I’ve faced. Being told, a problem will be solved, in two days, and finding out after six months to a year, that its’ still unsolved. Then being told by some person you have been put on a wild goose chase … with the intent of just getting money out of me, with no results.
Here, was a man, telling me “it is all done now, you can collect it free of charge.” I couldn’t believe it. I had prayed hard today, before leaving my home, to my Someone Up there, to Help me please….. ! Here was the help. I was literally swooning, when the help did come.
The printer Mr. Qasim called me while I was there, he was excited too, as I had sent him an email last evening, about the cover page. So, we decided to meet around two pm today. His office was already busy working on my book, formatting it, and I could feel the zeal of Allama Iqbal’s poetry touching the people of the offices too.
That’s the kind of poetry Iqbal’s poetry is! Because he is the one who had written:
Zara nam ho, to yeh mitti bari zarkhaiz hai Saki. ….
(If it received a little moisture, it is a very fertile land, O’ God)
PS … could it be the moisture of tears? Or sweat?
Stay blessed, my dear Reader.