Finally, the winter seems to be signaling its imminent arrival. No one can be happier about the fall in temperatures than I, who have literally lost all hope in alternative sources of power, such as the flimsy UPS, the fuel-consuming and noisy generator, or the battery-operated pedestal fan. I have decided that the permanent solution to the ever-worsening power crisis in Karachi is patience and fortitude, the lesson taught to me by the Quran. Time management also comes in handy, because I save the tasks which I have the least time for, to get done when the power is out – such as slicing onions, cooking a meal, taking a shower, correcting my students’ assignments (yes, nowadays I am teaching a subject – The Muslim’s Belief), praying nafl prayers, or reading a book. When the power is there, I am usually in front of my computer.
They say that any kind of adversity works like a sieve or filter: it identifies the strong, steadfast and patient people – the kind that live at the level of sacrifice, shunning material wealth and luxuries, becoming leaders of nations, and providing others with hope and positivism – from the negative, cranky, greedy and selfish ones – the kind who are called “complainers” – they live only for themselves, striving hard day and night in the pursuit of personal wealth and luxury, who are the first to criticize others and the last to perform any big-hearted, selfless act of charity. The first concern of the latter before taking part in any endeavor is, “What’s in it for me?” and their last concern in life is, “How can I be of benefit to mankind at the highest level in the least possible time?”
Adverse situations identify the ones who stick it out, adhering to their principles and morals, bearing strife and difficulties for the sake of their beliefs, and rising as a beacon of light for others to emulate and find inspiration from. The complainers, on the other hand, are a perpetual burden on others, so much so that even their company and conversation proves to be a major turn-off for those around them, because they have nothing better to say except the usual complaining, cribbing and criticizing. When people leave their company, they feel despondent, hopeless and angry about the adversity everyone is faced with.
The past few years of decline and chaos in Pakistan, coupled with increasing immigration to foreign lands, has really identified these two kinds of people. Even those who have lived here for most part of their lives, receiving their education and having enjoyed a normal, safe family life here, can only “bash, bash Pakistan” when they visit from abroad. Any tryst with them is literally an audio recital of the problems and corruption prevalent in their birthplace. As for the problems they face in their lives abroad, such as the high cost of living, racial discrimination, loneliness (yes, this is a permanent part of their lives, even though they’ll never admit it), embarrassing run-ins with public displays of affection and nudity – not a peep is mentioned.
I for one have no intention of jumping ship, even with the perpetual risk of being blown away in a bomb blast or having my car or cell phone snatched at gunpoint. The reason? Do I love Pakistan? Not really. Am I a die-hard patriot? Again, not really. What is it, then? Actually, I have to list down some things I have observed which are the reason for this, and they are as follows:
- This country was acquired in the name of Islam, after a long, bitter struggle by thousands of people, most of who died in the process.
- This country is the place that forms my identity. No matter how many foreign passports I may acquire in my life, I can never change the fact that by ethnicity and place of birth, I am a core Pakistani.
- If the early-education system of this country was so pathetic, its doctors, MBA’s, engineers and scientists wouldn’t do so well after migrating abroad.
- This country is still quite young; much younger than others – it is only 51 years old, with the majority of its population dirt-poor, illiterate and uneducated. What can you expect from uneducated people, those on the verge of homelessness and famine, except chaos and mayhem, particularly if the educated ones abandon them for ‘better’ lives abroad?
In short, I see the positive side of the picture too, not just the negative side. And I refuse to acquiesce and accept hypocrisy in any form. Here are some things I do not agree with:
- Accusing the leaders of the country for lying and deceiving the masses, when you yourself lie through your nose and cheat others without batting an eyelid, in your personal life. Want examples? You don’t want to attend a wedding or dinner party. What do you say? “I got sick” or “I have to go somewhere else,” and that’s it. You lie. And then you sit in your comfy drawing room accusing the leaders of being corrupt.
- Making the pursuit and acquisition of material wealth and status the highest goal in life, and inculcating the same life-goals in your children’s minds from a very early age. Whether it is designer toys or clothes, eating out at only the expensive restaurants, or taking admission only in the prestigious, elite schools, what morals are you ingraining in your children? Then you accuse the leaders of the country for embezzling government funds for their personal benefit? They, too, are driven by avarice for material wealth rather than upright morals, just like you.
- Not doing anything in your life as a selfless community service to others. Whether it is monetary help to a poor family, taking out time to teach someone how to read, recite the Quran, or do their homework (without taking pay, mind you), or volunteering for a good cause that has no prestige or publicity factor attached to it – how many hours in a month do you give out to your community? Do you spend some time with the poor, talking to them about their problems, offering a shoulder to cry on, and a ray of hope? Do you give your money, your skills, or your time, free of cost, to anyone other than the well-off people in your social circle? And if you don’t, why do you crib about the country going to the dumps?
Maybe we just want to have our cake and eat it too – to enjoy the spoils of war without actually fighting or risking our lives before the enemy. We don’t want to be the “great” ones who selflessly give to others without expecting monetary returns, who pave the way for future success of the coming generations; we just want to be the ones who enjoy the safety, cleanliness and progressiveness of living in a developed nation.
Any nation, home, or business follows an upward curve of success. The lowest part of this curve is linear – that is, it takes humongous effort, hard work and sustained sacrifice over a period of time to initiate the latter stages of success, and the gains or profits are very low or non-existent at this beginning stage. The entity has to keep going simply on the foundation of upright belief and consistent hard work. However, once the initial hard work starts to pay off, the curve becomes more uphill, producing profits and gains with less time and effort. This “law of farm” applies to all human endeavors, and we can not escape this law, whether we are Muslim or non-believers, small households or large organizations. Every successful endeavor follows this law – be it the poor medical student burning the midnight oil, who twenty years later earns thousands per hour, or the struggling food vendor who one day owns an international restaurant-chain – everyone has to endure the throes of struggle, deprivation and hard work in order to taste the sweetness of success. There no cutting it any other way.
Nothing has driven this law home more in my life than the experience of motherhood. When I had my babies, I found a new respect for every older mother out there, because now I know what she had gone through to raise those kids who walk beside her today. The endless effort, sleeplessness, worry, concern, and physical hard work over each child make up the initial linear curve of the graph of motherhood. I realize, however, that once the first 2 or 3 years of sacrifice (per child) are past, things will get much easier with time, and Allah willing, I will enjoy the fruit of this hardship, (particularly the investment of the back-breaking rigors of pregnancy and delivery) for many years to come, without sacrificing this much effort or time.
Sadly, we as Pakistani’s are not willing to stick out this linear part of the progress graph for our country. We can not sacrifice our personal time, wealth, children or success, for the sake of this country’s progress. We therefore opt to (or for others, are forced to), live an expatriate, second-class-citizen life abroad, loving to hate Pakistan for all it promised us but failed to deliver. What we didn’t realize though, was that we had to rise above a life of material luxury, safety and lawfulness to endure the problems, in order to ensure a better, progressive future nation for our coming generations. Instead, we handed over our future generations, their young minds and talents, to other nations.
So when I lie in my bed in the afternoon swathed in perspiration, watching my sleeping children perspire through their clothes, as the ceiling fan refuses to move before the two-hour load-shedding time is up, yes, I DO consider “jumping ship”: the Middle East, Malaysia, UK, or North America? Then as I keep doing dhikr of Allah in the stifling heat, with the roar of neighborhood generators and the honking of horns by uneducated drivers breaking the silence, I feel tears well up in my eyes as I ask myself, “You too, Brutus?”