November 21st, 2017

Hope for Recovery – CGL VIII20

L.O.N.G P.O.S.T

Jazak Allah Khair to Yasmine, whose post Hope for Recovery is the inspiration behind this post. If you have some time on your hands, I suggest you read her post first, and then read this post. If you are short on time, I recommend reading her post alone; for this post is nothing but another comment gone lengthy.

Its the 8th of April today; exactly six months since an earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter Scale turned the northern parts of Pakistan upside down, in many instances quite literally so. Entire villages were wiped out, and scores of towns were flattened. Cities that had taken decades to build were reduced to rubble in a matter of minutes. It was a catastrophe no-one could ignore.

The initial reaction was that of shock, which was ensued by a massive outpouring of greif, sympathy, and compassion. As if by a miracle, our country which had lost faith in its people, and our people who had lost trust in each other were transformed overnight. The greif made us all cry, the tears turned the sympathy to empathy, and compassion became the dedication with which the people from the land of the pure came to fore.

I was fortunate to witness some of the most heart rendering scenes at the Pakistan Counsulate, Dubai, which was one of the largest points where the Pakistani community in the UAE, and quite a few other communities including Indians and Philipinos, poured their resources to help with the aid effort. Aid came in all forms, and within a week of the earthquake hundreds of tons of blankets, tents, clothes – generally used and washed, but surprisingly often also new, food items, water, medicines and other medical goods, were piled up in the counsulate; and there was more coming all the time at all four gates of the counsulate. People were coming from far and near, their vehicles overflowing with their tangible compassion, and pretty soon it was becoming a logistical nightmare.

The counsulate did not have to ask for volunteers to help with the logistics. People from every walk of life were ready to offer themselves. Most people will remember that the earthquake had struck during the month of Ramadan, and October is still very hot (and often humid) in the UAE. The work-hours during Ramadan are shorter, and people used the opportunity to dedicate their hours after work to the cause. Before long there was an army of people working shifts till early morning, and bucking each other up as they went about.

It was my stint at that heavenly place which re-affirmed my faith in the generosity of the human spirit, the goodness of my own people, and the courage and strength of Pakistanis as a nation. I am listing below some of the events and some of the people that left an indelible impression on my heart:

I was stationed at the gate once with the responsibility to politely decline goods from people who brought in sacks of rice, flour, pulses and used clothing. The former three were not immediately required, plus there was little hope of air-lifting such heavy cargo when lighter and more urgent cargo like medical supplies, blankets, tents and food items awaited their turn. Part of my responsibility was also to assist with the off-loading of aid goods people were bringing in, and to answer any queries they might have.

Quite often, people would ask if more people were required to help with the sifting, packaging, loading and unloading of aid goods. More people were needed all the time, not only because the amount of goods demanding action was enormous, but also because people who were working tirelessly since 3.00 p.m. needed to be given a break. All I had to say was “Yes”, and almost always, these people would find parking for their cars and come around asking to be stationed somewhere. May Allah reward them all for their spirit.

Once when I was at the gate, two bearded gentlemen arrived in a car, and said they were in the textile business, and would like to donate bundles of warm cloth lying in their stocks – cloth meant to be stitched into men’s suits! I suggested they buy “Kafan” (white sheets used to wrap the dead) instead and donate, to which they said they thought warm cloth was more needed. They said they had brought some in a pick-up and that another pick-up would be arriving with the bundles. They left after that. I was left wondering.

Everyday when I got there, I would find two girls hard at work there already, sifting through items, separating and helping get them packed and doing what else not. In due course I got to know them, Fatima and Afifa, and found out that one was a student while other had a day job, and that did not keep either of them from being there everyday till midnight. They earned great respect amongst their brethren, and soon I saw old men with white beards, who by the way were some of the hardest working men in that group, and young men alike going to them for directions or asking what else needed to be done “Baji”. It would have been hilarious, if it had not been so beautiful, so uplifting. May Allah bless both those ladies, and all the people who rallied around them. Ameen.

On the lighter side, there also used to be this young girl with these two ladies sometimes, clad in a Jeans an a T-Shirt, who would insist on lifting heavy objects by herself and refuse to ask for help. She made a point of telling the other girls that she worked out, and did not need help with lifting stuff.

There was this bunch of young guys, apparently friends since their school days and all in their early twenties, who had already earned the title “Sher” (Lions) because of the energy and speed with which they set out to do a job at hand; be it unloading a truck, loading a container, or simply moving stuff across from one gate to the other because the pick-up on which it had to be loaded was parked at the other end. They were a lively bunch, five or perhaps six of them, and one of them was a doctor by profession, and pathan by accent.

They worked hours on end, jumping off and on trucks, calling out to each other and working as a cohesive unit. They just did not get tired! A couple of days later, I saw them at the same place, and all of them had bandages on all their fingers, and two of them had their wrists wrapped in elastic bandages. Such was the wear and tear their limbs were subjected to, but did it slow them down? Unfortunately, I have forgotten their names, which is not so bad, because I always did call them “Sher”. Jalali Baba, he who is endowed with the gift of making instant friends, got to know them well, and perhaps remembers their names too.

The real hustle bustle would start after Iftari, when the blue-collar Pakistanis would arrive at the scene. They were a sturdier, stronger, and an amazingly loveable lot. They arranged themselves in small groups of ten to twelve and took up the jobs all over the place, relegating us “babu-guys” to telling them what needed to be done, bucking them up, and getting immensely impressed with the sheer strength they packed in those muscular bodies. I remember a bunch of us were trying to lift a sack of grain that must have weighed some 100 kgs, and we were all, with the exception of yours truly, young guys who worked out at the gym and wore T-Shirts to prove it.

Along comes this tall and lean pathan brother, who does not look much of an incredible hulk, takes the sack by the ears, puts it on his back, turns around and asks where it needs to go! Dumb-struck I bring his attention to the fact that he might be injuring his back lifting such heavy objects single handedly, to which he laughs and replies in his gulabi urdu: “Aer-condiotioner is se bo’t baari ‘ota ae” (An airconditioner is much heavier than this). That shuts me up. May Allah shower His blessings on this brother, and all his comrades, and may He make life easier and rewarding for them.

One evening, a truck arrived with some 120 odd large tents in it, and we had just finished unloading some 40 bundles of blankets and were visibly tired. Someone went out and found one of those task-force teams of labourers/taxi-drivers to help us out. They stationed us in the truck and asked us to just pass the tents out to them, and within minutes the truck was empty. They went at it like a school of piranhas. They were led by this babaji, whose beard looked as if it had been sheared off the back of the whitest of sheep, and whose voice boomed with a strength we only hoped we could muster. Everytime, one of us dropped a tent, he smiled indulgently, picked the darned thing up in one arm and walked off. May Allah give him continued good health and many more years of youthful strength.

There were of course Mohammad Ali and Furqan who were the contact points for all activity in that place and who took it upon themselves to take care of the volunteers. They arranged for Iftari, and I heard also for Suhoor for all the people who were working there. They ensured a steady supply of water and tea for the people, and a steady supply of vehicles, containers and what not for the goods that needed to be moved. Later when we had returned to our lives, they continued with the good work, and here is one of the projects they have since been a part of.

    These, and many many more that I have not mentioned or cannot remember, are examples that I was witness to myself in a couple of days of working at that place. These are people and stories that will stay with me for the rest of my life, and remind me what a great nation we are capable of becoming. I was as overwhelmed with these acts of selflessness and compassion as I was by the catastrophe that had made them necessary.

    The effort in Pakistan Counsulate pales in comparison, however, to the phenomenon that we witnessed in Karachi in response to the call for help by Fakhr-e-Alam. Apparently, it had all started out with an sms he had sent out, and it turned into the biggest phenomenon in Pakistan. Thousands of people responded, and they did so minus the chaos and strife that is sometimes associated with this city of 14 million people. Roads leading to the collection point were jammed for hours at end, but the people patiently waited it out, and my own Karachiite friends tell me that there was no honking, no shouting to be heard anywhere. Here is an excerpt from a report on bitsonline:

    On the 10th of October, Fakhr-e-Alam announced that he was overwhelmed by the response of Karachi’s citizens. He had aimed to collect relief supplies to fill one truck but in under 48 hours, 40 C-130 planes worth of supplies had been gathered. WOW! In fact, he requested people to stop sending goods as they were having a dreadfully hard time organizing all the supplies and also didn’t have the means to despatch them.”

    I remember Fakhr-e-Alam sitting in that program, his face swollen with fatigue, and his eyes bloodshot through lack of sleep. I remember tears welling up in my eyes when he had dozed off sitting in his chair. May Allah reward him manifold for his dedication, and may He reward his parents for bringing up a hero in their home.

    I remember Fakhr-e-Alam himself bursting into tears while thanking the people of Pakistan in general, and Karachi in particular, for their self-less devotion to the cause, but at the same time pleading with them not to go over-board in their enthusiasm and lose the steam in later days when the whole world would have forgotten October 8. His was not a prediction, it was a statement of fact.

    In the immediate aftermath of a tragedy the newspaper headlines are hard to miss, but soon the world has moved on to current issues, while the victims of a tragedy two months ago are relegated to the confines of memory. That, as activist after activist kept pointing out, is the time when our responsibility increases, because the devastation brought about by such a massive catastrophe requires years of rebuilding effort, tons of dedication, and oodles of compassion. A sustained effort, even if low-key, is obviously more helpful than bursts of work followed by amnesia. The former takes super-human dedication to the cause, while the latter, with or without amnesia, is a natural human phenomenon.

    We set new examples in our exhibition of the natural human phenomenon. On this day, six months after the tragedy struck, we need to re-affirm our commitment to the super-human dedication required to rehabiliate thousands upon thousands of our brethren in the affected areas, and to help them get their lives back on track.

    May Allah grant us the strength and courage to commit ourselves to our people, and may He bless us with the resources required to fulfill that commitment. Ameen.

A Month Ago…!1

This morning, at precisely 8:51a.m. PST, it will be a month since a devastating earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale struck the northern areas of Pakistan; or at least that is how most of us will see it. There will be some amongst us, who will choose to interpret it as 30 days since their fellow human beings were devastated by this calamity. However, for the three and a half million, whose lives were turned upside down on that fateful morning, all sense of time is lost. It is as if the earthquake broke all clocks in the region, and time now stands still with no needles to prod it on, no pendulum to help it swing from one minute to another. For most of these people, it has been one long painful moment of misery that refuses to pass.

Tragically, for many, as many as 73,000, time did stop that morning. Then there are those, who fervently pray for time to stop this instant, because every new second brings with it untold misery, unimaginable pain, unprecedented gloom, and new forecasts of doom. 73,000 dead is the official death toll, which has come under fire for being conservative to the point of understating the tragedy. The NGOs have near unanimously put the death toll in excess of 100,000 already; gangerine, pneumonia, diarrheoa and diseases of the respiratory tract threaten to kill untold numbers still, and looming over all of it is the harsh winter of the northern region which it is feared might freeze over a 100,000 people to death in the coming weeks.

Yet, these are not the gravest threats faced by the people of Azad Kashmir and Northern Pakistan. The greatest threat that these people face is human failure, our failure. Hundreds of hours have been lost in pledging this and that; in explaining why this cannot be done and why that is not feasible; in pondering if this might be the right course to take, or that; and in not believing that such a collossal tragedy has strcuk such a large section of the earth’s population. Countless hours have been lost in not pushing those who have the power to help and contribute to saving the lives of those struck by the earthquake and stuck in the face of fast approaching death. Innumerable failures have beset humanity as humans have struggled to put aside limitations they impose on themselves.

The earth has a population exceeding 7 billion, and every hour lost in not ensuring that those affected by this tragedy are saved, provided shelter, food and security is equivalent to 7 billion hours lost. I agree, it takes a utopian naivete to expect every person in the world to contribute to this cause, and that too with this urgency, but I wonder if it really must require a utopian world for each country of the world to take responsibility for the reconstruction and rehabiliation of a village, if not a couple of villages. The UN has 191 members. When something this tragic strikes humanity, humans must rise above themselves, and set new precedents with an urgency with which they would expect others to come help them if such tragedy befell them. I wonder if it is too late to set new perecdents now?

For to most of us, it was a month ago….!

What If?3

In a few hours from now, it will be exactly a month since a devastating earthquake rattled the Richter Scale at 7.6 in the northern areas of Pakistan. Baffling as it sounds now, the official death toll by the end of that day had not exceeded 100. Consequently, the world community’s response to the calamity was lukewarm, evidenced by the USD 100,000 pledged in aid by the US on the first day.

Earthquakes are devastating, and with the exception of earthquake prone Japan, which is one of the best prepared countries to combat earthquakes, an earthquake brings with it large scale death and destruction. Almost a decade ago, on January 17, 1995 Kobe, Japan was jolted by an earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter Scale. The earthquake had lasted 20 seconds, and the death toll from this earthquake was 5100 people. This in Japan, where afterwards Japanese seismology Professor Tsuneo Katayama had written that he “had opportunity to observe the damages causd by the 1989 Lome Prieta and the 1994 Northridge earthquakes”. However he had thought that Japanese structures would not collapse as the US structures had in those earthquakes. He was wrong, Japanese structures did collapse, despite the fact that they had been constructed under stringent earthquake safety regulations, and in so collapsing brought death to over 5000 people.

I wonder what were our poeople thinking when they spent the whole day covering Margalla Towers, when they knew full well that the epicentre of the earthquake was 90 miles to the north of Margalla Towers, and how did they arrive at the ridiculous figure of under 100 dead at the end of the first day, when they knew the eqrthquake had measured 7.6 on the Richter Scale? Did they think, our construction models were superior to those of the Japanese?

I just cannot stop wondering what might have been different had we reacted 24 hours earlier than we did…

Blog Quake Day9

Today is Blog Quake Day, well technically it was yesterday, but I have yet to sleep. I found out about BQD from Rambling Monologues, whose blog is one of the best blogs linked to your right, and who has written heart felt, informative and very useful posts about the earthquake, and how one can help the victims of the earthquake.

I do not know where to begin…that feeling of helplessness and uselessness, which first descended on me when I saw the pictures of that massive devastation for the first time, pervades my days and nights here as I, and pretty much everyone around me, otherwise go about our lives as usual. For the first time in my life, I share my parents’ unbounded disappointment at my not having got into a medical school; perhaps I could have been of more use, had I been a doctor. For the first time in my life, I am disgusted with myself for living the life of that anecdotal cricket who saved nothing for tomorrow; perhaps if I had been saving something in my bank, I could have put it into good use at this hour. Not for the first time in my life, I feel a total failure. I am wrong of course; I am what I was destined to be, and prior today I have always believed that saving is for middle aged people – if at all; my needs and wants have always been taken care of by Allah, and will be taken care of by Him always. I have never had ambitions to build a mansion, buy acres, or stock up on the yellow metal. I know I am not a failure when I look at the wonderful people, and whose love, Allah Almighty has blessed me with, family and friends alike. Yet, I cannot help but feel that way. that has been the effect this earthquake and its aftermath have had on most of us – they have jolted the very premise of our philosophies.

I am invaded by a feeling of guilt each time I spend a dirham towards items not essential to my survival, as it rears up images of those devastated, cold, hungry, and desparate people who would kill for each of these dirhams right now.

I shudder at the thought of being in their predicament…and beseech Allah to ease their suffering, and spare all His creations, including my family, any such suffering. I pray and pray and pray…

Yet, there is no denying the fact that those five million people affected by this catastrophe went to bed after Suhoor on the morning of eighth, with not the slightest hint in their minds that their lives, if at all spared, would be turned upside down in the next few hours. There is no knowing what lies in store for us, and it just underlines the importance of making the most of this time we have to carry out our mission on earth, and our mission on earth is to follow Allah’s commands, and He commands us to refrain from shirk, worship Him, and spend on and for the betterment of our brothers ans sisters in need, out of the bounty He has given us.

Donate, donate and donate, because this is the only way of loaning out to Allah, and Allah promises to be the best repayer of all loans. www.pakrelief.org lists the various channels through which donations can be funnelled into the affected areas, take your pick, but remember to donate as much as you can, and then some.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, we have all seen and heard uplifting stories of sacrifice and devotion from all segments of the Pakistani Society and from multiple sections of the world society. It is unfortunate to note that it took such a collossal tragedy to bring out this compassion and sincerity in us. Yet, there is a dire need to keep this spirit alive until the victims of this earthquake have been rehabiliated, until the women widowed by this earthquake are freed of concerns about how to go about the rest of their lives, and until the children orphaned by this earthquake are all provided the compassion, love and security that we all want for our own children. The Abdalians, alumni of the Hassan Abdal College, have shown this spirit and have adopted two villages and its people, vowing to cater to the needs of the people of these two villages, until those villages find their own feet. It is not possible to put a time frame to the life of this spirit, but it is easy to see that this spirit calls for more than just digging deep into pockets today – it requires for all of us to make a long term commitment; a commitment to continue to open our hearts and pockets for our people until these people, especially the old, the widows and the children are self sufficient. It could take years, and if it must, we must be ready to come through for those years.

Lastly, we must remember that this is not the last earthquake to jolt us humans, but it should be the last one that comes to jolt us into humanity.

Perhaps, then, there will be fewer earthquakes; perhaps then they will strike in unpopulated areas; and perhaps then, we will have completed our mission.

Test – theirs and ours.10

People have been saying, implicitly or explicitly, depending on who was saying it, that this earthquake was Allah’s wrath. Why are we so fatalistic, I wonder? I came across these ayahs in Surah Baqara recently, and I found an answer to all such deductions.

“155. Be sure we shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere,

156. Who say, when afflicted with calamity: “To Allah We belong, and to Him is our return”:-

157. They are those on whom (Descend) blessings from Allah, and Mercy, and they are the ones that receive guidance. ”

Why do our people not understand that life in the world is not a fairy tale affair, where the princesses are pretty, princes handsome, and villians ugly. If it were that simple, everyone would be a believer, save the Abu Jahal’s of this world. No, faith is just that – faith, and it is tested by bounty as well as by tragedy, and it is not easy to fare well in these tests.

The earthquake that shattered much of Azad Kashmir, and parts of Frontier (Pakhtoonkhwa?) on the 8th of October is the biggest test we as a nation have had to face. It is a test of faith, and of character. It is a great test for those who have lost loved ones in an instant, and must now come to terms with injuries, hostile weather, hunger, disease, and uncertainty. “Sabr” according to the Quran is where they must find solace, in Sabr and in Salaat, in patience and in prayer. For in these times of suffering, in these times of weakness, shaitan will attack them from all sides, and create in their hearts doubts of all kinds, raise questions in their minds as to why did Allah choose them to be victims of this tragedy. He will remind them of their good deeds, and make them skeptic of their value and importance. He will ask them if those good deeds were all of any good at all? Through patient and perseverant belief in Allah’s mercy alone will the people be able to stand up to these devious attacks, and I know it is not going to be easy for them.

It is not easy to hold on to one’s sanity after a calamity of this scale, and under such circumstances, to hold on to one’s belief is all the more demanding, all the more daunting. It is much easier said than done, and I am aware of that. We, who start complaining at the slightest inconveniences that hinder our daily lives, can have no idea of how much faith, and how much strength of character this task requires. One can only pray that Allah’s unlimited mercy arrives for them from all sides, and brings them comfort, relief, and reassurance.

It is an equally great test for the rest of us, who have been spared the horrifics of the earthquake. While, those affected must delve deep into their hearts to find the belief and the strength to come to terms with the after math of the earthquake, we must realize that just as their response to this collossal test could bring them the rewards of heaven or more misery from hell, so will our response determine our place in this world and in the hereafter. As Muslims, and as fellow humans, it is binding on us to reach out to our brethren in need, to do all in our power, and more, to lessen the impact of this catastrophe on their lives. This entails not just opening our wallets and digging deep in our pockets to donate, but it calls for us to open our hearts and dig deep in our souls to sacrifice. Donations alone cannot and will not help 3 million people made destitute in a minute; no amount of money, not even the five billion dollars the authorities say are required to rebuild the devastated areas and their people’s lives, can heal the scars left by crashing ceilings and crushing losses.

The money is only one factor, just the begining, what is required are lasting love, timeless devotion, and above all sustained sacrifice. Because it will be love and devotion for our people which will enable us to empty our pockets for these people, but it will be the spirit of sacrifice that will keep us from putting this tragedy behind us in a few weeks, or months, and getting on with our lives. Today, we need to decide to sacrifice our relatively secure and carefree future for the betterment of our brethren affected by this earthquake. Today, we need to realize that our people will need our dedication and attention for a longtime, they will need our support until the time they are stable themselves.

We cannot absolve ourselves of all responsibility once we have made our donations. The money sent today will be spent tomorrow, and might not be there day after, but it will be required for months after that. What happens then? Today, we need to set aside a portion of our incomes for a long time to come for the victims of this earthquake. Today, we need to own up, and take responsibility for specific people, specific children, or families until they no longer need their brethren’s help. We are a nation of a 150 million people, which means there are a fifty people to take care of each person affected by this tragedy. Essentally, every person needs to take care of his designated person for one week every year. It is a simplistic calculation, but it should become the premise for a large scale initiative. Yes, any such initiative will need thinking out of the box, but we must realize that after 7.6 on the Richter scale there cannot be a box – all boxes get demolished in a 7.6!

A tragedy that eliminates all structures in a society, a calamity that wipes out an area’s civilization cannot just be grappled with by money. It requires a structured approach, and a sustained effort until new strcutures are developed.

So, let us take stock of our lives, do we have a week?

7.6!19

I learnt about the earthquake, when Madi sent me an SMS from Karachi asking me to check on my folks back in Mirpur and Islamabad. Ironically, I got the SMS as I sat with the morning paper, reading about the tragedies of the day before.

Understandably, my reflex action was to start calling home, but all lines were jammed, and I could get through to niether home, nor my sibling based in Islamabad. There were moments of despair, and frantic praying, as attempt after attempt at calling home failed. Finally, I got through to both places, and was relieved to know that everyone in my family was safe and sound, and that our city Mirpur had been spared the severity which had jolted Muzaffarabad, Rawlakot, Baagh, Mansehra, Abbotabad, and so many other cities of the country.

Friends started calling in, and the duo M&K were the first two people to call, one after the other, may Allah bless them for their kindness, generosity, love and affection. I went about checking on the few other people I knew from the affected areas, and thankfully, no-one I knew was affected directly by this catastrophe. When I say affected directly, I mean no-one had lost any of their near and dear ones to the earthquake.

Quite a few people reported damage to property, and when at 10:00 p.m. here, I met Shah Saab, who hails from Abbotabad, and has family residing there, he told me that his folks were sitting out in the cold, under pouring skies, because till about half an hour ago, they had been getting the tremors at regular intervals. Abbotabad is up in north, and winter has already set in there. Nightime temperatures hover around zero degree centigrade, which makes sitting under the rain at night no mean feat. It was only then that the true magnitude of the catastrophe began to sink in. May Allah have mercy on people trapped in these conditions, and may He make the ordeal easy for them.

Fact is, I am still over whelmed by the tragedy, and the challenges it poses for the people affected by it. After the initial shock of casualties is overcome, and it is not a shock easy to overcome, thousands and thousands of people must muster the courage, and find the resilience to set out on the uphill task of rebuilding their lives – a task easier said than done, especially so for those people, who even before they were pulled into misery by the loss of their loved ones, and their homes and places of work, had little to celebrate. People, who after a lifetime of toiling and suffering had mudbrick houses for their ‘property’, and a change of clothes for wardrobe.

The live coverage beamed by the Pakistani channels had me under the impression that the worst consequence of the earthquake had been the crumbling of the Margalla Towers’ block. I can understand that MT was the easiest to access site of damage, and of course there is no undermining the tragedy that has struck the families residing in those 60 apartments. However, Margalla Towers was singled out in the coverage in such a way that it pretty much seemed like the epicentre of the earthquake had been the MT rather than an area 90 miles away. The President and the Prime Minister issued statements standing in the rubble of what was once the prestigious MT, and every newschannel telecast pictures of MT as it covered the earthquake. Sure, there were footages from the Muzaffarabad hospitals, and other places, but it would all come back to MT as if all else was secondary and the primary scene of destruction was MT. Perhaps, the coverage could have been more spread out.

The people living in those mud houses in villages are affected as much by this calamity as are the people of MT, and in times like these it is the poor who need additional coverage so there plight cab be brought to fore, and aid and assistance can be mobilized for them. Hopefully, the survivors from those luxury apartments, will have some sort of financial cushioning to fall back on, while people who lived in mudhouses might just have lost everything, and may need to start from scratch. Both these people, the poor and not so poor, have lost loved ones, and any surity of tomorrow they might have had prior to this tragedy, and in these times will need their fellow countrymen, their fellow Muslim brethren to stand fast by them, and to reach out to them with a helping hand.

This Ramadan, more than ever before, we need to exhibit the spirit of Ramadan – the spririt that requires us to empathise with those who have lost, and those who do not have enough, the spirit that needs us to sacrifice our comforts to bring comfort to those who have not seen it or lost it. This Ramadan our cause, and that of the affectees of this earthquake, will be better served if we make an even more concerted effort to stop our excesses, excesses that unfortunately have become synonymous with Ramadan, contrary to the very spirit of this holy month, and pour our resources in to help our brethren in need.

The morning newspapers today put the death toll from the earthquake at close to 20,000, and counting. There are four times as many injured. The sheer numbers are heart breaking. However, for those brothers and sisters, who are blessed with the means to donate, and/or the will to sacrifice, these numbers also represent the number of opportunities we have of redeeming ourselves – so let us stop and think, do we really need that extra pair of clothes we are about to spend money on? Must we wear new clothes this Eid? Is there a blanket in our house that would do better keeping a brother or sister back home warm? Are there any warm clothes in your wardrobe you can do without, but your brother or sister affected by the earthquake can’t? From today onwards, we must realize that every penny that we plan spending might just have a better use in the earthquake areas, and that every dirham spent unnecesarilyt has an opportunity cost, our brothers and sisters in our country cannot afford.

May Allah guide us all, and give us all the strength and conviction to perform our duties.

Failed Superheroes …0

I was sitting in the front seat of the school bus. Next to me was Omer Talib Roohi. It is strange that I still remember his full name. Its almost 18 years since, and he was not even my class fellow. And he did not have any sisters. Wonder why would I remember his first, middle and surname. Come to think of it I even remember his brothers’ names too. Haseeb and Muneeb.

Anyway, what does it matter? The point is I was in the front seat of the bus. And that used to be something in those days. The previous night I had seen this epsiode of some super hero show, where the guy had tele kinetic powers, if that is the correct term. He could move things with his eyes, and all he seemed to do before he achieved that was focus on what he wanted to move. So, I thought of putting in my own focus on the road. There was this car in front of us, and I started focusing on it. I do not remember what exactly did I wish to achieve by moving a moving car. Come to think of it, isn’t it wonderful I failed in my endeavour? But, not before I got this twitch in my left eye which led me to believe that I was on the verge of succeeding.

Failure was distressing and painful. Not as painful though as it was for Jalali Baba when he had tried becoming a super hero. Mausoof donned a superman costume and jumped off the balcony to land 20 feet onto ground. To this day, he throws a tangent each time he points straight ahead with his right arm. That must have hurt a lot more than not being able to move a moving car with your stare.

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