Observing Aug 14 the Most Sensible Way
By A.H. Cemendtaur
A living saint, a modern day messiah, an extraordinary social worker, world’s greatest humanitarian, a philanthropist par excellence…people have been trying to define Abdul SattarEdhi according to their own perceptions, trying to put him in a familiar pigeonhole. Now that Edhi is gone, it is worth asking who was he, and how he was different than you and I.
Edhi was as human as everybody else: he ate, he slept, and had a strong desire to procreate, but in many ways he was very different than people we come across on a daily basis. First, Edhi did not fall for the temporal temptations most people fall for: of having financial security; of living in a big, comfortable house; of putting on nice clothes; and of driving cars that would make others envious of your lifestyle—the regular keeping-up-with-the-Jones-culture we are all familiar with. Secondly, Edhi was madly driven by a love for humanity; he rose above whatever identity he was given at birth, or was thrust upon him by the society he operated in. And lastly, Edhi lived in the moment, doing what he was driven from inside to do. That was Abdul SattarEdhi in a nutshell: a simple man who lived an austere life, who put humanity above everything, and who did not wait for tomorrow to do what he wanted to do today. Edhi saw a desperate need for humanitarian work in Pakistan, and saw the dispersed charity capital available around him. He became a superb enabler. Edhi collected from the masses and channeled the resources to places where they were needed the most.
Though the event was planned a while back, a documentary film screening on August 13 at the Pakistani American Culture Center in Milpitas appeared to be the most sensible way to observe August 14—the Quetta massacre of August 8 still fresh in many minds.
On August 13, a screening of “Edhi Sub ka” (Everybody’s Edhi), a 2014 documentary film produced by the Pakistani TV channel Geo, was followed by presentations given by two Northern California Pakistanis who met with Abdul SattarEdhi.
Overwhelmed by the emotions of reverence, prominent Pakistani-American journalist Ras Siddiqui recounted his observations from the occasion when Siddiqui visited Edhi in Karachi and interviewed him. Siddiqui said Edhi was a semi-Marxist who understood the gut reality of Pakistan, and operated at that level.
Ras Siddiqui said Edhi was loved by the common people because Edhi lived a simple life. In Siddiqui’s opinion Edhi’s greatest welfare idea was to take society’s abandoned newborn children. As for why Edhi was not given a Nobel Peace Prize, Siddiqui thought Edhi was too good for the Nobel.
Durriya Syed, a Sacramento resident, described her impressions of Edhi from a couple of meetings she had with him. Syed found Edhi to be very approachable; Edhi himself picked up the phone the first time Syed called his office to get an appointment to visit Edhi.
In the following weeks, Syed spent considerable time with Abdul Sattar and BilquisEdhi and closely observed the operation of the Edhi Center. Syed thought of Edhi as a Dalai Lama in action. Edhi confided in Syed his distaste for politics and religion; Edhi said the politicians did not have any humanity (because their primary goal was to grab power), and that religion divided people.
Syed said Edhi demonstrated what giving can be all about. At the end of her speech Syed read a tribute in Urdu she wrote after visiting Edhi.