He who changed my life
I was part of the elite ─ the privileged, the damned. Yes, I was a part of those cadres of people who have dominated this country since its inception, crippling it in the nexus of nepotism and corruption.
Fickle lives and distraught ambitions were what defined me in that period. Life was great or at least it felt to be so.
All that changed on that fateful night. The night of March 3, 2005 changed who I was.
It was around three in the night. Coming back from the usual late hangout with my friends, I stalled at the Atom Chowk, since the traffic light had turned red.
Humming the hypnotic tunes of Floyd, I looked around casually.
And there he stood; impairment is a hard folly to be blessed within our part of the world ─ it seeps away your propensity to be counted amongst the living, leading to dark clouds of misery engulfing your entire person.
But he seemed different; he had that spark of living at the center of his dark pupils. I was transfixed by his aura of teeming life, which dispelled all notions of weakness to oblivion.
It is said that the purest ores are found in the hottest furnaces while the brightest lightning is produced by the darkest clouds. Maybe life had equipped him with the very notion of living it to the fullest. He was Ishmael and I am glad I met him that night.
After the light had turned green and the constant buzzing of horns brought me back to the real world, I decided that I had to talk to him. In hindsight, he served a jolt to my nerves bringing me back from my dazed existence. I found courage to address him and in that moment of courage found, my mirage of indifference was discovered to be so capricious.
In our memorable conversation, he told me how he had lost his legs in a brutal accident which was caused by reckless driving of a drunken elitist son like me. He confided in me that his parents had accepted compensation for his injury because the accuser’s family had offered a hefty sum, around Rs50,000 for each leg. Also, there was no point in prolonging the matter since the local SHO had told them emphatically that there was no way that he could charge a case. Rs50,000 for each leg sounded like a good deal and, of course, that ensured an apt dowry for his elder sister’s marriage to the local paanwala.
The marriage was successful, he remarked, although his sister always had bruises to hide whenever she came to her parent’s home.
Then, he narrated the story of his mother’s death. He told me that doctors had asked them to deposit around Rs200,000 for the treatment of acute pneumonia she was suffering from. His father told them clearly that he did not have the money. She died a peaceful death two days later.
Tough woman she was, he reminisced. According to him, it was for the first time that he felt the moisture which swells up inside one’s heart and never becomes prominent at the watershed of belief and destiny, leaving the two fields relatively drought-stricken and parched to death with the cruel sun of decrees.
I do not know how exactly was I changed in that space of an hour for I do not possess the gift of imagination, which can help me in finding the answer to the dilemma concerning how a lone, impoverished and poverty stricken child of fifteen could melt the moulds of narcissism which had been engulfing me until that point.
How could I, Rumiat Karos, son of one of the largest land-owners in the country suddenly have found courage to see the light within the truth ─ the truth that has always belonged to the outcasts, downtrodden, deprived and penurious?
There was one thing at the end of that fateful night which that friend said, the enduring strength of which can be felt resonating even after so many years:
At the end of the day, sahib, we are all soldiers. Some are drawn to the centre of the battle while others wait for the time to be engaged. The victory, however, belongs to the persistent fighters. So what, if I am a poor, nameless cripple? I have my own destiny to fulfill and my own promise to live. The only thing that matters and which I can recount to my Lord in the next life is that, I did try at least.
I have been trying, too, since then, while being on this path of self-realisation. Along the way, I have become complete in my freedom from complexes and learnt to cherish people like Ishmael.
My movement for the outcasts grows.
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