I only met Mr.Edhi once.
This was outside Shifa International Hospital in Islamabad a long time ago when I was a child. He was sitting on the ground with a sheet spread out in front of him and had two to three young female with red hats emblazoned with the Edhi foundation logo with him. He also had a couple of books with him. A lot of people were huddled around him demanding that he sign the book for them and were taking pictures with him. I did not understand what was going on, so I asked my driver that was with me then. He told me that the man was a legend in Pakistan and was also recognized the world over for his humanitarian efforts and was begging. This was a “begging camp” hosted by him I was told. He told me how I should make an effort to obtain his autograph and possibly a picture with him. I abstained from what he asked me to do and instead thought of observing him. He sat there for a very long time and was not interested in the attention that was being given to him. Now that I recall, there was also a camera crew from some leading television channel present there. In very little time, the man had managed to raise a lot of money which would be used to aid humanity.
How did he aid humanity?
That is what I saw that day. The girls that were with him, who were known as his “Daughters”. These were the girls that were unwanted at birth, or lost their parents and no one wanted to keep them or were simply not welcomed wherever it is they stayed. Those girls had a huge beaming smile across their faces. They were running around managing everything for the man in whom they saw both their parents. Edhi was not smiling that day and from the interviews that I have seen of him he did not smile much; seeing so much pain must have done that to him but from what I know was that he was satisfied with what he was doing to help humanity. He was making that one particular effort.
Edhi had lit up the sun on the faces of those two girls. God knows what life they had lived prior to having been adopted at the Edhi homes. Normally, people throw their unwanted babies away in the dump, and with it, they think that they have gotten rid of the guilt they have accumulated. Imagine that, imagine being thrown away in the dump instead of being nestled in the arms of a loving mother. When a human being is weak, hungry and threatened his first attempt is to cry out for help and he expects an angel to descend from the heavens and aid him. An angel did come for those crying babies but this angel however, did not descend from the heavens; he was a mortal angel that would come to their rescue with all sirens blaring. The mortal angel passed away yesterday at the age of 88. His last dying wish was to donate his organs; the man did not leave any doubt in anyone’s hearts as to his greatness.
Seeing Edhi that day sparked an interest in his life. Over the past couple of years I have been thoroughly reading about his life and what he stood up for. There are certain principles that I learnt from him, although what he accomplished should have been enough to awaken an entire nation, I can only share with you what I have personally learnt from the man’s life and adopted into my own life since then.
- Never pressure for attention: The last final years of his life were painful to say the least. Even though this man ran away from all sorts of attention unless they helped his cause, others decided to use him as a scapegoat to gain attention. A very famous photograph ( I am old fashioned, prefer to call a selfie a photograph) was taken by a celebrity with no sense of respectfulness towards a man who was terminally ill. From what I saw that day when I met him, he did not care much for attention and neither should anyone else. Attention is given for two reasons: Either you have done something very good or something very bad, so sticking to doing good things will automatically grant you attention and attention hawkers should stick to doing just that and maybe something positive may happen.
- Live to make others happy:This is what I witnessed that day. Getting a job or starting a normal business would have gotten him the false sense of happiness that everyone else strives for. He did have a business and it was running really well but he sacrificed his own happiness for the happiness of those many that would have been stripped of it due to no fault of their own. We always live to make ourselves happy but living to make others happy would only help us achieve true happiness.
- Don’t like something, change it: Edhi did not like the fact that there were abandoned infants, orphans that no one cared for and ill trained nurses. Thus he took the gargantuan effort of rescuing 20,000+ babies, teaching and grooming 50,000+ orphans to be ready for life and training 40,000+ nurses. Automatically, those that wanted to help society as well but could not do so would either help in the form of donations or as volunteers. When you start something and if it is good. The system sets itself up around it. The idea is to take the first step without hesitation.
- There is no such thing as stooping too low for your mission: He called them begging walks – there were no “charity dinners” and no “fundraisers”. He could have easily hosted one but he didn’t. He taught me that there is no such thing as stooping low for your mission. And I don’t mean that you go out and do something illegal. What I mean is that nothing is beneath you when it helps you achieve your life’s objectives.
These are the 5 principles that I learnt from him and adopted into my own. Maybe he has inspired your life in another way, whatever he has taught you – do adopt it into your life and let yourself become AbdulSattar Edhi. Maybe this is the way we can turn the nation around.
As a personal tribute to the legend I share the following line from a song I really like:
“Here’s to you, Nicola and Bart
Rest forever here in our hearts
The last and final moment is yours
That agony is your triumph”
Nicola and Bart were two Italian immigrants that were executed on the basis of the principles they believed in. Edhi fought to his last breath against the corrupt system that ensures a regular supply of abandoned infants, dead that no one cares for and all sorts of other atrocities. The system tried to break him but instead he became a legend, an idea and lives on forever through his own system that acts as counterweight to evil.