Yesterday, it was hard for me not to write a blog post on 6th September, 2018. As the daughter of an army officer, and wife of an air force officer, the day means a lot to me.
It means a lot to every Pakistani.
More so for me.
I was determined to get started with my Iqbal’s book ‘Message from the East’, the sequel book to ‘Tulip of Sinai’; so I decided to spend the day doing something vital. To bring our youth closer to the ideas of the man called Iqbal, and what he wrote in 1923. The more I read his work the more I realize, how forward looking he was. How important for our todays and tomorrow he is. In fact, his poetry is needed by the youth of the world today. It is amazing, how after the first world war, he was writing all this! Do you know what Anne Marie Schimmel wrote about him? That had there been another prophet it would have been Allama Iqbal!
In a nutshell, it is all about being oneself, knowing oneself, and not compromising on one’s values at any cost. It is his farsightedness that brought freedom to my country. He was the one who convinced Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah to make this country for us, otherwise, Muhammad Ali Jinnah had had enough of us, and had decided to settle in UK. Thank God, he came back. (Yes, I’m talking of the 1930s.)
Reading Big Magic these days where Elizabeth Gilbert writes about creativity and how it is meaningful, but not as meaningful as professions like surgery, teaching, flying etc. I realized that it is very true that literature and all creativity has its own place in our lives, but it has its own limitations. Paradoxically, poetry of a man like Iqbal has contradicted that statement. His poetry shared his vision, and gave courage and incentive to a nation to get out there and struggle for freedom. Today, I sit comfortably in this country mainly due to passion ignited by Iqbal.
Creativity does that.
Men like Nelson Mandela sang political songs in his youth, and later in prison and got the courage and strength to live out those twenty eight years in prison keeping his vision intact, through his songs. Finally, to free his own country. Somehow, creative works can be meaningful and bear amazing results.
Creativity is the poetry of songs, and the priceless songs sung by Noor Jehan, Mehdi Hasan and many others who stayed up nights to sing songs to give strength to the soldiers fighting at the borders.
Creative actions by musicians produce music and tunes which are then played by bands speeding on the marching soldiers.
‘As a kid in 1965, I vividly remember putting my small arms around my dad, seeing him off to the Front.’ He was going to Runn of Kutch. At seven years of age, it was hard to hold back the tears, as I hugged him. Even at that tender age, I knew, I may not see him again. I looked up at him with my tear-filled eyes. I thought he’d be affected by my tears. He wasn’t. He scolded me:
‘Is this how you say farewell to your father?’ he asked. ‘Give me a smile as you see me off!’
So, I managed to bring a smile to my face, as I saw him off in his army jeep. My dad was a major in 8 FF then. I stood and waved with my mother.
I remember sleeping with my mother in our bedroom, in the zero watts blue colored light every night. I was comforted by the knowledge that she kept a revolver under her pillow. She would load the revolver every night, and remove the bullets in the morning before putting it away. I knew this routine, and was taught to do so at that tender age too. All the other officer’s wives living in our area in Hyderabad were without their husbands too. We would walk all the way to the CO, Col. Ghulam Mustafa Janjua’s home every weekend, to be able to hear the crackling on the black colored dial phones hoping to hear our fathers’ voice. We were then told after many attempts, that they were fine. Aunty Janjua, and her children took special care of us. (Tehmina Janjua was my closest friend, who is now a ‘big shot’ in our cabinet, having been our Ambassador to Italy some years ago.)
Knowing that our loved ones were alive, was enough. We all would walk back later on, many times in the light of a full moon.
‘You people always get the best housing!’ taunted a colleague of mine, in Islamabad, where I was teaching in ICAS. ‘You people of the forces have all the fun!’ I was accused. I understood that she doesn’t know. Felt I had to share my ‘accommodations’ with her. ‘you haven’t seen the places we have lived in before these ones!’ I laughingly said to her. Have you ever lived in a house made of mud, and with scorpions living with you?’ She looked at me, shocked.
‘I have! In fact, I brushed off one from my daughter Nadiya’s head, with my bare hands, once.’ I lived in this house for two and half years, with a four year old Nataliya and two year old Nadiya. I’d find scorpions under carpets, and on curtains.
I could go on and on about the houses I’ve lived in. But I think that one told her what I meant. We moved house every year or two and laughed through the whole process, (was there a choice?) Many times, for months we lived in make-shift accommodations called ‘shelters’ till finally we got a house.
Once when I was in college, a friends’ sister came and said all sorts of things to me against the army. I asked her where was her father during the war? Since they belonged to a business family, she said, ‘here in Lahore. But he sent us all to the village.’ I told her, ‘I sent my father to the border!’
Officers dying and getting shaheed was a ‘normal’ occurrence. The dinner in the officer’s mess wouldn’t be postponed due to it.
After all, life in forces is used to deaths!
When Waliya was born, Brig Anwari’s wife, Kokab came to hospital with gifts and prayers. ‘May she have a healthy long life, and grow up in her parents’ sight. May he give long lives to her parents too.’ (apnay waldein kay saye mein jiye.)She said. I realized what a beautiful prayer it was.
In three months, her own husband Brig Anwari become a shaheed in Siachin, and Kokab’s own children were to grow up without a father! He left this world with hardly any cash in his account. Now, his own family had to struggle for the rest of their lives, without him. He was my dad’s cadet and his pride.
Too many stories, too many incidents.
Here are soldiers who knowingly walk into danger, because they love this land more than anything else in their lives. Don’t get side tracked by those laughing faces, they know how to laugh in the face of danger too!
They give their todays’ for our tomorrows.
They actually do.
Stay blessed with this freedom in this free land. Please look carefully at the price tag of this freedom once in a while…. It has blood stains on it.