There have been innumerable stories of hate, violence and oppression from Pakistan and very few of hope, resilience and compassion. Not because we lack compassion, but because stories of hope are quite often drowned in news of hate and violence.
It has become increasingly difficult to not be disheartened given the circumstances we live in. May it be political, financial, social or religious – everything seems to have taken a massive toll on us. Making it almost impossible to remain anchored between times of grief and hopelessness.
We often talk about issues – pontificating, categorising, (over)analysing our many issues but often forgetting to offer an alternative. It is important to introspect but at the same time offering possible solutions is crucial, to help fill the void. In fact, the past couple of years we have been stormed with a deluge of issues; call it information overload if you may. But the truth remains, we desperately need an outlet or a platform that provides a glimmer of hope. That one little push that will make the journey easier and keep us motivated. In my attempt to find the much-needed optimism, I came across a few stories that inspired me in many ways.
Rukhsana Batool, mother of two, lives in New Pakki Shah Mardan, a small village at the left bank of the river Indus (35 kilometres from the city). Her story is that of hope. Batool got herself enrolled in Class-I at Government Girls Primary School. Among her class-fellows are her two sons, whose enrollment in the primary school rekindled her hopes of continuing her own education. Like many other women, Batool’s desire to seek education was cut short when she was married at an early age. Yet, despite all hurdles Batool, now 25, is determined to fulfill her dreams.
Zeenat Shaikh who ruled the hearts of Sindhi and Seraiki music lovers with her melodious voice for years, was forced to beg in the streets of Thatta. However, recently a news story highlighting her plight, resulted in an out pour of support from the community. Radio Pakistan Hyderabad arranged a benefit show bringing together renowned writers, artists, politicians and philanthropic organisations. The show not only honoured the artist but also promised a life time stipend of 10,000 rupees per month, along with gifts and funds from prominent residents of the city. Shaikh’s story is about resilience and a reminder of the forgotten folk industry, which is an integral part of our cultural heritage.
Bishop Andrew Francis of the Diocese of Multan, emerged as a man of compassion at a time of devastation. Bishop Francis and his team travelled miles to help those affected in the flood-hit areas of Southern Punjab – one of the worst hit in the country. By bringing supplies such as food, clean water, warm clothing, blankets and medicine to thousands in need, his team managed to raise over $25,000 in donation. It is heartening to know that the Church’s relief efforts helped the Muslim community as well as the Christians in the region.
According to the Bishop, “Many flood victims asked me to pray or to offer them a blessing, even though they did not share the same faith.”
“For me it was a great opportunity,” Bishop Francis said. “It has brought a lot of good will and broken many walls of prejudice and misunderstanding between Islam and Christianity.” His story is that of compassion which knows no boundaries.
These are but a few unheard stories and unsung heroes that still exist within our society. It is people like these that give us hope even in the most disturbing times. All three of them live in Pakistan and they represent us. Each one of these stories is different and yet so relevant. We could all do with a little note of hope, resilience and compassion from each one of them.
Like Faiz Ahmed Faiz said:
Ab iltafat-e-nigar-e-sahar ki baat suno
Umeed-e-sahar ki baat
(From the one who travel in the dark desert of tyranny
hear him speak of the beauty of dawn
hope of a new dawn)