The Age of Miracles
By N.A. Bhatti

“ They say miracles are past.”
- William Shakespeare in All’s Well that Ends Well

While browsing through my Titbits File the other day, I came across a clipping from a national English daily. An advertiser invited applications from suitable candidates for posts, among others, of Electrical Foreman having a Diploma in Electrical Technology, with at least 15 years experience in the maintenance of airport electrical equipment. Age: 20-35 years.
I took particular note of the lower age limit and started doubting the validity of the popular notion that the age of miracles had passed. If England produced Lord Kelvin who matriculated at the age of ten years, Pakistan was about to achieve nothing less than a miracle. After all, hadn’t the press reported the news a few days earlier about a Pakistani genius who had invented a motor-cycle that ran without petrol or gas?
I kept thinking about this while lying in bed until I drifted into dreamland. I fantasized a bright young lad seated across the table from the Director (Administration) interviewing candidates for the post of Electrical Foreman.
“You are a little over 20 years old, isn’t it?”
“Yes, Sir.”
“You have at least 15 years experience in airport electrical equipment, I presume.”
“No doubt about that, Sir.”
“That means you started your career at the age of five.”
“So it would appear, Sir.”
“Considering the fact that it took you three years to earn your diploma, you must have matriculated at the age of two years!”
“Elementary maths, Sir!”
The Director picked up his red telephone, the hot line to his Director-General.
Director: “Breaking news, Sirjee! We’ve a candidate here who matriculated at the age of two years!”
DG: “Raja Sahib! You feeling all right?”
D: “Fit as a fiddle, Sirjee! I’ll put up a draft for your approval.”
DG: “What the hell are you babbling about, Raja Sahib? I know this weather is intolerable but you seem to have gone cuckoo!”
D: “I mean to say we should get on to the Guinness people. This is the first 21st century miracle and it’s going to bring us on to the world map in a big way, Sirjee!”
DG: “And if I retain my sanity, it’s also your last day in office, Raja Sahib!”
The DG slammed the hot line telephone with a crash loud enough to waken me from my reverie. I opened my eyes and found the morning newspaper (The News, June 9, 2005) lying on my bedside table.
Shahid Salim’s letter in News Post caught my eye and I read it through thrice. His ‘Family budget’ hit the nail on the head and was a perfectly accurate diagnosis of the crime and corruption rampant in Pakistan. If our ‘Islamic Welfare State’ can, given the data in Shahid Salim’s letter, ensure a bare livelihood for its people, Shakespeare stands refuted as miracles are not over, at least not in The Land of the Pure.
I was discussing the so-called awami budget 2005-2006 with Chaudhry Sahib the day we both read the News Post. He is getting on in years but possesses quite a fertile brain. He doesn’t indulge in negative criticism only but suggests positive steps as well, no matter how wacky they seem. With his permission, dear readers, I have the honor to unveil his solution of the awam’s financial ills.
The minimum basic necessities of all human beings are food, clothing and shelter. As far as food is concerned, scientists tell us that in the not too distant future, the universal food for human beings will be algae, that green stuff you see floating on stagnant ponds. It is formed with the simplest and cheapest of Nature’s free gifts: water, air and sunshine. If you live within easy access of the sea, you may be happy to know that the largest animal in existence is the blue whale. The biggest of them, 107 tons, lives on krill and plankton in seawater. What’s wrong with Pakistan being the pioneer in this scheme of popularizing universal consumption of algae and plankton? Food problem solved!
It is vital for clerks to be smartly dressed if they want good ACRs (Annual Confidential Reports). However, the prices of cloth and tailoring charges having soared sky-high, clerks should ensure that they are born in families of tailors. They should also be married into taxi drivers’ families so as to ensure punctuality in their offices and avoid messing up their clothes by commuting in what pass as buses in Pakistan.
Accommodation should be no problem even though he is 25,000th on the waiting list. With the thousands of trenches left uncovered after utilities like electricity, water, gas and telephones have been laid, a large tarpaulin shouldn’t be too big an investment for a chap who wouldn’t mind living like his remote ancestors did in prehistoric times. In any case, there is no dearth of spacious habitable caves in all our mountains and hills. Then there are those millions of open uncovered manholes in which a small family can safely take protection.
Chaudhry Sahib is planning to write a book: “How to live in an Islamic Welfare State on Rs.3000 a month.” It will include the formula for getting rid of the excess baggage in the shape of extended families in vogue in Pakistan. Patricide and matricide are no problem, neither are infanticide, fratricide or sororicide (no such word but you know what I mean). Suicide with insecticide is no big deal either. Leaping off the roof of Posh Plaza is a trifle messy, though.
I am with you, Chaudhry Sahib, and I look forward to participating in your book-launching ceremony. With your genius, we can all see the light at the end of the tunnel leading from grinding poverty to the genuine Islamic Welfare State envisaged by our financial wizard who laid down the amount of Rs.3000 as the minimum wage. A miracle! He was after all following the footsteps of his Grandpa whose forthcoming posthumous bestseller includes the fairy story of how Pakistan’s military budget for the 1965 war with India was only Rs.20,000. Another miracle! Shakespeare stands refuted.


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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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