6 Things I Learnt From Edhi
|Image Credit: Mobeen Ansari|
Wow. What an emotional weekend. Edhi sahab's passing will be one of the most significant emotional experiences for us as a nation to have gone through. I'm glad that we could deliver on his farewell with the honor it deserved and each one of us was able to feel the loss with a pain you only have for someone you deeply care about.
But I was personally taken aback by how much it impacted me. I spent most of the weekend with a heavy heart, a deep sense of loss and a very conflicted mind. I am ashamed to admit that I have never made a monumental effort to directly contribute to Edhi sahab's cause. I know his cause is to benefit humanity overall so any contribution, anywhere, counts. But when his larger-than-life methods existed so conveniently for anyone to access and work with, I feel embarrassed that I haven't ever remotely tried to be a part of it. I have admired, appreciated and respected from a distance but always taken it for granted.
So I was surprised at how profoundly his passing affected me. When I'd spent my entire life mostly being a casual bystander, it was odd to suddenly experience so much.
I think there are moments in your life which really shake you up and alter the way you look at things. I feel that way right now. And it makes me overwhelmed to realise how someone can touch your life not just while they're alive but even once they've left.
I know a lot of us have said that we need to learn from his life and keep the spirit going. I feel afraid that we'll say it and along the way, lose it. We'll name something after him, remember him on his anniversary every year (both, important things nonetheless) but if that's all we end up doing, it feels like he'd be terribly disappointed.
His cause needs much more than just wishing well. It needs to be immortalized through all of us.
After a weekend of being shaken up about all the unbelievable things about his life, there were some that struck me real hard and that I decided to make actionable in some way. Because just introspecting and not following through is my standard operating procedure. What can I do differently now. Most of my thoughts are raw and possibly pointless to some, but I decided to share these anyway - if they work for even one person, I'm very lucky.
1. Do more actively. I feel most of us contribute to different causes - helping with someone's education, paying someone's rent, getting someone new clothes. I don't intend to shame anyone because I believe everything matters, even teaching someone to say a simple 'thank you'. But I realise that I hardly ever do anything that requires me to step outside my house and do something for someone with my words or hands. I have never gone to a facility for kids or the elderly for example, and I've rarely ever performed something selfless physically with my hands. While a simple monetary contribution does so much for the recipient, I'm convinced that the act of doing something noble where you are an active participant is what truly transforms you.
Actually seeing a smile that you are responsible for, giving someone the gift of time and seeing their joy - these are gifts that give just as much back to you as to the person receiving them. I've decided to find out where and what I can do and every month take out time to go serve someone physically. It's still not much but it's a beginning and I want to commit to it. My passive contributions are necessary and important but they need to be complimented with more active behavior. Sometimes at the grocery store, I buy whatever a construction worker, in line with me, is holding and the smile on their face is so deeply rewarding. Imagine doing a whole lot more and not just a tiny shopping list. I believe that why Edhi sahab was able to do so much was because consistently helping others and then visibly seeing the reward, truly kept transforming him and making him as great as he was.
2. To simplify. I always knew how simple Edhi sahib was and how basic his life used to be. It's inspirational how someone can voluntarily choose to live such a life and depend on nothing at all. It's embarrassing and disappointing at the same time because despite having all the means to execute such a life plan, I don't have the courage to do the same for me. I thought about this long and hard and I realise that I really am a coward for not being able to push through on this. This is what our life is today. We want things we don't need and we hold them close to us like our lives would be incomplete without them. I don't believe in being too harsh on your own self when you're learning because I feel it stunts growth. So while I do believe I lack courage, I also realise that I haven't been aware of this before, so perhaps in my journey, this is a step?
I have never wanted things too big, have always been clear that I want a small home, never buy branded stuff or want it, don't shop more than a couple of times a year, consciously don't blog about luxury stuff, and always tell myself to be minimal. And I thought I was doing fine. And yet now I feel deeply dissatisfied about how still so far from true simplicity this really is. I've been looking at what I own and it's made me feel a little repulsed with myself. I'm going to take action and simplify more. I've decided to do a deep cleanse on my belongings and get rid of half my things - shoes, clothes, accessories, and be even more mindful about my shopping habits. I know I'm weak right now and it won't be substantial but I don't want to deny myself even the tiniest prospect of personal growth and I'm going to do what I can.
3. To change life perspective. I lived in Karachi for 6 years and in Pakistan for 21. Yet, I never once tried or even thought about wanting to meet this absolutely remarkable man. If someone had told me George Clooney was as accessible as he was, you can bet I would have done ten backflips and made sure I met that guy. I'm ashamed at my perspective on life. Most of us don't try to meet the real heroes in life, actual inspirational people who would change us with just a single conversation. We follow gossip websites, shamelessly watch celebrity interviews about their can't-live-without pizza toppings and buy concert tickets to see our favorite bands perform months in advance (some people even travel for it). I cannot believe how naïve I was that such a man was available for a meeting, not just anywhere in the world, right there in my own country, and I didn't even have a fleeting thought to make that happen. I don't know who can be as fantastic as Edhi sahab but I'm going to alter my perspective on which humans I want to take time out my life to meet with or even just go see. I wish I'd realized this sooner, I'd have taken all the children I love (nieces/nephews/best friend's kid) to share this experience with as well because that's a gift better than most others we give.
4. To not identify with artificial identities or respond with them when someone asks me which religion/race/sect/caste I belong to. We're all responsible for these religious and social divides among ourselves. We all respond with Sunni/Shia/Ahmadi/Syeds/blah blah. We speak against using them and yet when someone asks, we promptly respond with what we've been told we are. These divisive religious, sectarian, social, ethnic identities are absolutely artificial and I'm going to now refuse to oblige anyone who wants to know 'who' I am. Unless the question is to share cultural experiences and enrich each other's lives by talking about ethnic backgrounds, let's say (different foods, crafts, etc), I am going to refuse to share anything that only separates us from each other. (I don't care if you don't consider a certain group 'Muslim' - it's a good thing it's not your judgment call anyway).
5. Do what you want to do. Edhi sahab was technically a badass and he did what he wanted to do despite so much external pressure. His operations felt so smooth but the more I read about it over the last few days, I realized how much he faced and how much he rejected with a quiet power. We have about a dozen excuses for something we say we want to do but don't because 'it won't work out'. If you really want to do it, then believe in yourself and do it.
6. Get drawn to your religion, not thrown into it. The number of times I've been told why I won't go to heaven because of some technical thing I'm not doing right religiously, blows my mind. And while it annoys me at times, I've realized it doesn't need to. Do your religion the way it speaks to your conscience. We waste way too much time and energy on discussing technical aspects and critiquing people on them. While I don't appreciate even those people who oversimplify religion and adapt it to convenience their lifestyle, I also don't value the inputs of those who've lost (or never acquired) the softness of their religion and are only geared towards individual practice and become harsh in their interpretation of life. I have a relationship with my God, I need to commit to being honest to it - if I'm at peace with that, the rest can go on mute.
Naturally, there are about a gazillion other things that resonate with you when you think about Abdul Sattar Edhi, this is just a snippet. Gender equality, humility, honesty, courage, perseverance, trust, vision, there's so much, it's overwhelming.
I'd love to hear your (positive) thoughts and if there are any actions you plan on taking to honor this incredible man.
What a regret to not have met him. What an honor to have lived while he was alive.
If you don't know who Abdul Sattar Edhi was, he was known as one of the biggest humanitarians and other than the beyond extraordinary work he did for Pakistan, his organization did relief work the world over such as for the Hurricane Katrina victims. If you're interested, here's a tiny glimpse into his life. If you read more about him, it will definitely change your life.
Note: The blog will be off tomorrow because I am still in a bit of a contemplative mode. If this was a regular job, I'd have shown up to work and done my thing but with the blog I have a choice, and I'm choosing to not post tomorrow. You guys know I write in an excited tone most of the time and because I'm not feeling it, I'd rather not post as an obligation. See you Wednesday, friends.