While growing up I was first introduced to the name Edhi when my parents used to donate clothing and other goods to the Edhi Foundation located near Sohrab Goth.
I still remember how on most Eid ul Azha, despite local political pressure, my father always used to gather the animal skin, dump that in the back of car, drive all the way and donate it to Edhi Centre, sometimes with cash donations as well.
Hustle bustle, life went by. We used to pass by from Edhi Centre Sohrab Goth a lot, while living in a nearby area. Mom always gathered clothing, piled it up and used to say; ‘yeh Edhi centre main dein gey’.
His name was such household. In late 90s, one day I was skimming through the Sunday Magazine of Jang, when I read Edhi Sahab’s interview. What engraved my mind was an emotional account from his side. One of his worker and him were taken by this one incident, the interviewee had asked them about the most heart wrenching incident ever, they told him about a mother and her six children drowning in the sea, a suicide case by the mother perhaps. After I was done reading the sensational details of how their bodies looked and what stream of emotion did Edhi sahab and his colleague felt, I kept the magazine aside.
My mind echoed only one question: Why would a stranger (Edhi) feel so much pain about the drowned mother and 6 children? What was the connection? Why did he get so emotional that he couldnt sleep for nights, he cried and couldn’t take it off his mind? My young naive mind didnt know that time, I could not reach any conclusion. Today I know one word answer for my thoughts: HUMANITY.
Time went by. Once I was passing from outside Quaid’s mausoleum in our car, looking at something, my heart skipped a beat. I saw Edhi Sahab sitting in a very basic tent facility under the scorching sun . Later I read on social media that for months, he used to sit there everyday for few hours a day, to gather donations. We stopped the car.
We had a breif eye contact, my heart was pounding fast, he smiled. I was too overwhelmed to see him this close. I was too shy to say anything, I couldnt, words left me. He smiled again and nodded. I wanted to sit close to him on ground, look at him, talk to him, but my mind only wandered here and there; what if he asks me something? What if he says something and ill not be able to answer back? He just smiled. I was too shy, to say anything, to even make a courteous gesture, I left. Without contributing. Without playing my small part to his big releif efforts for others. This ache will never go away.
Once on TV I saw him with the brave Bilquis Edhi, his wife. It was the lighter side of both. The woman was making fun of one of his affairs that devastated him financially. He laughed, and exclaimed embarrassedly , that he was taken by her beauty, but she scared him. It was only human. But how much did we all scar him? Did he ever cry because of us? Or he laughed us off too? My mind races.
October 2014, a chilling breaking news runs on TV. Someone robs Edhi Centre’s Headoffice. Rs 30 ml worth of jewellery and cash snatched away. I see a wrinkled man, teary eyed, sad and depressed on TV. Heart sinks. But he doesnt curse. Just talks about that how many lives would get effected from this carnage, what will he tell to people whom had trusted him with these, he’s feeling so much pain and embarrassment. Malik Riaz announces to compensate, we move on.
Morning Shows and Inaam Ghar’s storm our televisions everyday. I see Chipa Sahab, Ansar Burney and various other philanthropist and humanitarian workers on TV. Sharing their stories. Telling us about how their relief efforts work, how to donate, what they go through. Enduring stories. Each time I looked at them, I paid my respects, I made duaa. But a part of me always got a lil’ jealous.
Where was Edhi Sahab? Why is he not invited on morning shows? Why doesnt he represent his organization in Inaam Ghar’s? Why he doesnt sit on TV all day and brags about his deeds? I only realise it today, when he left us all in tears.
He was beyond any recognition. He was beyond any publicity. This trait is very difficult to acheive.
Key Board Jihadist like me, flood and trend a cause, we all wanted Edhi to be nominated and win Nobel Prize. We tried so hard, we googled all his efforts and stories, and put them under 140 mere characters. It was us dying for recognition, not him. We wanted it so bad for our flaunting. If our country’s philanthropist won, we all will be so proud… We were attention seekers, while he quitely worked for a better tomorrow for others.
The real chilling silence came from our government, who didnt bother to make correct proceedings. The govt didn’t let us have that proud moment, now that he’s gone we are back to keyboard jihad and trying very hard to let all know how much he deserved to be the Nobel winner, we failed him, each time.
A man slept under open skies with homeless Palestinians, took care of bodies dumped in gutter, garbage and all known odd places. He cared for Christians, Hindus, any one suffering alike. What we gave him? A few phone calls for extortion money, a lot of political pressure, a continuous stress that only he could endure, and real-fake praises on TV and print interviews. Most of us failed him.
But then how did he move on? How did he become so selfless? What kept him on his tracks? A few Pakistani’s who helped him with whatever little or big they could. A few kind hearted like him strenghten him over the years, but it was him and him alone who never deviated from the path he had chosen.
I read in one of his interviews; his mother gave him rs 10 for pocket money and always instructed him to donate rs 2 to the under priviliged. Upon his returning to home after the day, his mother always inquired whether he gave away the share or not? That instilled. Forever. Salaam to the greatest mother who made sure her son does her part.
And he did. More than he should have had.
Geeta from India got a home to reside in Pakistan, Edhi Home. She took away so much of a better Pakistan that none of us could have given. Till last hours of her departure, Edhi Sahab and Bilquis Edhi Sahiba made sure she was delivered in the right hands.
Today all of us mourn his death. We are crying. Because we only realize a person’s worth when he’s gone. Edhi Sahab has left us. And while he left he made sure he will brighten someone’s life with his eyes. He donated. Again. His only properly functioning organ; a part of his body will lit up someone’s life; his corneas have been donated. What’s holier than that?
You want to contribute a little to his cause? You want to be like him? Donate here: http://www.edhi.org
Abdul Sattar Edhi: 1928-Forever
Title/ Accolade: Baba e Khidmat (بابائے خدمت)