Reaching out to Those in Need
By Tahir Ali
Pictures above: Glimpses of the ‘Eid-Social and Pakistan Flood Relief Event’ in Boston
Boston : It must have been my lucky day as I was able to find a parking spot right in downtown Boston. I thought loudly as my family joined with the many Muslim Americans, mostly of Pakistani origin, making their way into the John Hancock building. One could not help but notice Tahir Chaudhrynervously pacing the hallway floor with a cell phone pressed to his ear. Chaudhry - the chairman of the Pakistan Flood Relief Group (PFRG - Website: www.PakFlood.org) - had organized an "Eid-Social and Pakistan Flood Relief Event". The Pakistan Flood Relief Group, executive members include: Anwar Hakam, Tahir Chaudhry, Siraj Khan, Yasmin Khan, Khalil Khatri, Fareena Sultan, Malik Khan and Jamila Khalil.
Tahir Chaudhry was all smiles once he received a call from Congressman Capuano confirming his arrival within a few minutes.
The hallway leading to the entrance to the auditorium was converted into a make-shift bazaar that included food stalls, clothes and jewelry stalls, and a stall harboring quite a few items (carpets, paintings, coffee-makers, etc.) donated for the "silent auction" managed by Humayun Mirza, a member of PFRG, while Mona Ahmed, another PFRG member, was busy selling raffle tickets. The proceeds of all these stalls were to go to the Pakistan flood victims.
The Master of Ceremonies, Yasmine Khan invited the renowned Pakistani singer Alamgir to the stage to sing the national anthem of the United States of America. As the event got well on its way, Tahir Chaudhry introduced his group. Fareena Sultan, Marketing professor at Northeasten, talked about the " Life Box Drive."
Adil Najam, Professor for Global Public Policy, International Relations, Geography and Environment enlightened the audience with his witty remarks as he said, "We can look at the impact of the floods in light of many astounding numbers. From the 22 million people affected to the fact that an area greater than all of England is inundated. But at the end of the day, only one number counts. And that number is ONE. Because the power of ONE comes when it becomes EVERYONE. If we are going to respond to these floods each one of us will have to do so. We have to stop asking what others can do and just ask what we can do ourselves. Big or small, what we do as individuals will make all the difference."
As far as the 'slow' world response to the flood disaster and the relatively rapid response to the Haiti Earthquake and similar disasters were concerned, one can understand why the images of people covered in blood and trapped under the rubble would make more impact as compared to people struggling in shoulder high waters to find high land. However, what the pictures do not show is the after-effects, namely, the rise of water- and insect-borne diseases such as cholera, typhoid and malaria, scarcity of clean water, food and shelter that affect the survivors.
The professor elaborated, "In terms of the response, the one thing that is important to remember is that unlike calamities like earthquakes where lots of people die, here we have a massive calamity that allows us to help those who are still living. To keep them from dying. The sad part is that it seems that the word’s humanity gets invoked far more when people are already dead and cannot really be helped, than it is when they are dying (as in these floods) but can be saved with just a little help."
Tahir Chaudhry chimed to the same tune as he told the Boston Globe reporter, "When the floods happened in Pakistan, the world wasn’t paying much attention to it."
REUTERS reported on September 16: " Pakistan's worst floods in recorded history have killed more than 1,750 people and affected 20 million. The United Nations estimates 10 million people urgently need food and shelter. The floods have damaged millions of hectares of cultivatable land and crops, at least 1.2 million livestock have died. The government estimates the country has suffered up to $43 billion in damage"
Congressman Michael E. Capuano commended the efforts made by the group to help those in need and recalled that he was not only of an Italian background, but a blend of Irish, but yet he emphasized that he was all-American just like all sitting there tonight. He called out to the people to help out as much as possible; he argued that the first nation that responded to the crisis was the American nation.
Tahir Chaudhry thanked everyone for their generosity and participation, and especially recognized the following organizations: HDF, ICB Wayland, ISGW, ISBCC, MCSS, GBIO, APPNA, OPEN and PAGB.
Entertainment followed with traditional dance performances by the Boston Bhangra Group, followed by Alamgir singing his favorite songs. Despite ill health, Alamgir managed to enchant the audience with his famous songs. He had the front row sing along with him, while others jumped out of their seats to dance to his tunes.
Tahir Chaudhry, slightly disappointed at the turnout, nevertheless felt that his work was not done yet. His group plans to continue the "Life Box" drive to collect and send 'in-kind' donations.
"We wanted to raise awareness and money for Pakistan flood victims and we have done that," said Tahir Chaudhry. "I feel honored, humble and lucky," he declared.
The task of finding a parking spot so easily here in Boston didn't seem lucky enough, after all.
(Tahir Ali is author of ‘Muslim Vote Counts’)