Saturday, 3 April 2010

Of Iqbal and a legacy of greatness.


I’ll be upfront and frank about this. I find it hard, really hard to consistently hate Pakistanis. I mean, ever since the nation took birth, it has been a political thorn in my country’s neck (figuratively and geographically). But all these details of their irritating nature came to be understood by me when my age ran into double digits. That is, I learnt about Pakistan somewhere after I was 10 years old.

I had lived with Pakistanis for a long time, much before that.

Growing up in a quiet neighbourhood in Umm’Said, Qatar. I had few neighbour kids with whom I could share my age. And they were all Pakistanis. I remember Ali, Hasnain and Zeeshan. The four of us regularly played cricket or football and pretty much grew up fighting and exploring amongst ourselves. At that time, all I knew about their homeland was that Pakistan was a country near India with whom we played cricket a lot.

So I knew Pakistanis, before I knew Pakistan. This statement will explain itself in the next few minutes.

On Tuesday last week, I took a drop from a colleague somewhere on the outskirts of Sharjah’s industrial area, and hitched a taxi.

The driver who stopped had a very dignified look about him. Now I’ve seen some really fashionable drivers, some really messy ones, and quite a lot of indifferent ones. If you have read my blog before, you’ll know what I mean when I say I’ve also met some exceptionally interesting ones. This time was no different.


This man had a very neat look about him. And his face shone with a discipline which said he’d been living a principled life which wasn’t his choice, but something that had come with his birth.

I gave him directions in Urdu. And after a few minutes of silence, he asked me where I was from. I told him I was from south India. He must have had a surprised look on his face which I missed as I had sat behind with an intention of sleeping the trip off. His next sentence was ,
“Aapki Urdu badi saaf hai.” (Your Urdu is very polished)

I said, “Shurkiya, yeh hamare walid sahib ki badaulat hai.” (Thanks, I owe it to my Father)

He was pleased at that. And I told him that some of my earliest childhood friends were also from Pakistan.

I asked him, “Aap Karachi se hai?” (Are you from Karachi?)

He was surprised again and said , “Ji par aapne andaza kaise lagaya.” (Yes, how did you know?)

Maine dekha hai Karachi walon ki urdu, baaqi pakistaniyon se kaafi shaffaf hoti hai.”

(I’ve noticed that Karachi people speak a more purer/clearer Urdu compared to other Pakistanis, [Who have an accent])

He asked for my name, I told him my name was Luqman. And his name was Tariq.
Tariq Chacha.

The conversation immediately jumped to current affairs. And he smiled and asked me if I’d heard of Shoaib Malik & Sania Mirza’s wedding announcement.

I laughed and said, “Definitely, hamari ladki aapke ghar bahu banke aane wali hai inshaAllah.” (Our Girl is coming as a daughter in law to your home)

He laughed and went on to marvel at how matches are made in heaven, without any regards for man made lines.

He expressed grief over so much we share as a race, yet how far apart we are.

I told him how our national song was written by someone who went on to be a Pakistani.

Allama Iqbal. His face shone with pride and I knew we’d found common ground.

We discussed at length about Iqbal’s poetry. I told him how Ghalib was a famous urdu poet of our nation, but how I regard Iqbal as unmatchable by anyone. He agreed.

He told me how his Father studied in Punjab University in newly formed Pakistan. And how he and his friends would run from the university to a nearby masjid for early morning prayers. They would pass by a small chalet and would hear a voice reciting the Quran with a feel of every word. The voice would sometimes even cry while reciting the Words of Allah.

Upon inquiring, the caretaker told Tariq chacha’s father that that voice belonged to none other than Sir Mohammad Iqbal.
The poet, the philosopher, the thinker of a nation as described by the masses. Who didn’t only write poetry, but lived the advices they presented.

I couldn’t help but go on about how I first heart Iqbal’s Shikwa & Jawab-e-Shikwa (two of the finest works in Urdu poetry) and he was gushing with happiness. Dad introduced me to Shikwa and Jawab-e-shikwa. In a nutshell, the 2 works are inter-related. Shikwa is the complaint of a Muslim to Allah, and Jawab-e-Shikwa is the reply Allah has to each complaint the crier has.

He began talking to me about Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Gandhi and Jinnah, how the fathers of our nations made the mistake of partitioning one entity. Although, if Pakistan had begun its life on the teachings and guidelines of Iqbal, instead of Jinnah, I feel that there could be no better neighbours in the world today like India & Pakistan. He readily agreed with what I commented about the issue. He sighed aloud saying, if only their leaders and our leaders got to the end of their arms race, got out of all their petty differences and just ended the crying over Kashmir, then the most to benefit of this would be the common man, who is as of now the most affected by this conflict.

Conversing with Tariq Chacha was one of the most interesting and beloved talks I’ve had in a really long time. I felt like I knew him intimately. He told me how his parents and aunts and uncles and grandparents cried inconsolably when they had to leave Jalandar and move to Pakistan. How they got into the last train of the partition and saw the brutality first hand. There was a painful tone in his voice as he smiled and said that even today, a lot of his aunts are buried in India.

This is the ground reality. Take away all the nuke races we are having between our nations, the politicians on their side calling us manipulators and the politicians on our sides calling them terrorists. Take away the fact that men on either side of the border have created death and havoc in the eyes of the world. Take away the un-ending argument of who is right and who is not. And at the end of it you will get people like Tariq Chacha who are really sorry we parted ways. People who believe that we share more than we differ about. People who truly believe that once you take out the respective leaders and bureaucrats and the finger pointing, and you have 2 brothers from one mother who fight and argue but in the end just love to play cricket and tease each other about their respective performances.

He loved his motherland, I accepted that.

He respected my motherland too, and I simply admired the man for that.

I don’t ever think I’ll be able to convey the brilliance and the peace there was in our conversation. But I will share this.

Iqbal wrote the song, TARANE-E-HIND. Which is the national song of India. A song Mahatma Gandhi sung tirelessly during his days in jail. A song to which our army sets its quick march. A song which cannot stop gushing with pride on the greatness of India.

There is a stanza in that poem which doesn’t find its way into the traditional version of the song, I don’t know why. I recited that stanza for Tariq chacha,

Yunan Misr-o-ruma sab mitt gaye jahaan se

Baaqi magar hai ab tak, Naam-o-nishaan hamara

Kuch to baat hai ki hasti mitt tee nahi hamari

Sadiyon Raha hai dushman, daur-e-zamaan hamara

Greece, Egypt and Rome (empires such) were wiped from the world,

Yet stands alive even now, our name and our mark

There is something that our definition does not fade away

Even though time in all the ages has been an enemy of ours

(Rough translation, please excuse the crudeness)

When I finished that recitation, he wasn’t jealous or envious that Iqbal had written such defining words for us. He was proud, he was happy and if his hands were not on the steering wheel, I’m sure he would have applauded at the praise of my motherland.

We are 1 nation, divided by a line of lies, deceit, hate and power gamble on the part of a few people.

When a matter of the masses comes, we’re two bodies with one heartbeat.


1 comment:

Anu said...

I agree with what you say. Its some people who make bad choices, we can not and should not blame all the countrymen of that country for the choice of certain people. And I use the generic term country, because every country is a victim of its own brand of extremism.

It's sad that the lines man created for political reasons succeed in dividing humanity emotionally.