A true patriot lost with the demise of Chacha Pakistan

Published: October 23, 2012
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Pride of the Wagah Border, "Chacha Pakistan" passes away at 90. PHOTO: ONLINE

A man called ‘Chacha Pakistani’ was at the flag lowering ceremony at the Wagah border every single day of the year.

The flag lowering ceremony, a ceremonial thumbing of the nose by the troops of India on one side and Pakistan on the other, has taken place at the Wagah border since 1959. Even though the contempt has since been toned down, it remains a sort of civil baring of the teeth on either side, or as Michael Palin described it, a ‘carefully choreographed contempt,’ of one neighbouring country for the other.

Born Mehar Din ninety years ago, Chacha Pakistani moved to Pakistan a bit after 1947.  Never married, or, as  far as one can tell employed, he lived with his nephews and imposed this border routine upon himself after the 1971 hostilities between India and Pakistan. He donned his special clothes every day: the green Pakistani flag complete with the crescent and star made into a long shirt, a white shalwar, and a green hat. His white beard and erect bearing, coupled with his resonant patriotic slogans audible well across the border, rendered him somewhat larger than life, as much a distinctive feature of the ceremony as the exaggeratedly turbaned soldiers on either side. So much so that the Pakistan Rangers were moved to confer an award upon him for his services to the nation.

When he recently failed to appear at the border for some days, however, officials do not appear to have enquired why. The reason of course was that sadly, following a period of illness, Mehar Dina aka Chacha Pakistan died yesterday (Sunday, October 21,  2012) at the age of 90.

When larger than life personalities die it is almost too mundane an act for them to be caught at, something they’d never do while alive, not but what a person only ever dies while alive… but you know what I mean.

It appears that Pakistan can boast more than a single ‘Chacha’. There is the other Chacha Pakistani, a Mr Jawed Akhtar…and a Chacha Cricket, a Mr Abdul Jalil. Jawed Akhtar is known for travelling from mausoleum to mausoleum (Jinnah’s to Iqbal’s) on his motor bike, every year, trying to raise patriotic sentiment among the youth, while Mr Jalil is a sort of live cricket mascot, adopted by the Pakistan Cricket Board, a familiar figure at every cricket match played by the Pakistan team.

It makes it an interesting reflection…all these Chachas, why do they do it?

Why did Mehar Din, make such an effort to get to the border daily for the past 40 years and shout his support for Pakistan every single day?

Is this being a patriot?  Which is what, exactly?

Mark Twain was not too impressed with patriots, because he defined a patriot as a person who hollered the loudest without knowing what he was hollering about.  Adlai Stevenson, on the other hand defined patriotism as the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime, rather than short, frenzied outbursts of emotion.

Chacha Pakistani lived in the small Pakistani village of Chandrai near the Wagah border. When I say ‘near,’ I mean in terms of a comfortable ride in one’s own car, because Chandrai is just 40km from the border.  For Chacha however, who neither owned nor drove a car, to attend the flag lowering ceremony meant a hitched ride or two and even a walk part of the way every single evening, for the past 40 years.  Surely, this is a tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime, even though he did holler louder than everyone else once there.

The origin of the saying that ‘there is more than one way to skin a cat’ is lost in the mist of time, but every so often someone comes along who lives the idiom. The various Prophets of history have stressed that each man worships according to his ability, and worship manifests itself in different guises. Was it the Prophet Moses who received a divine reprimand for chiding a woman on her very personal method of demonstrating devotion to God? The same surely applies to other sentiments, including patriotism.

It is not within every man’s power to build bridges, or lay down his life for his country (in fact not everyone who can does build bridges). Patriotism, like religion, has to be an expression of love for a homeland to the best of a person’s ability. And against such a definition, Mehar Din was a patriot, because he was steadfast in the expression of his love for his country, to the best of his ability, almost all his life.

May his soul rest in peace: Amen.

Read more about Rabia here 

Rabia.Ahmed

Rabia Ahmed

The author is a freelance writer and translator.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Hashmi

    SAFMA mentality in Pakistan were mourning Yash Chopra while there was no mention of our very own Chacha Pakistan, our beloved.Recommend

  • I.

    RIP Chacha Pakistan !! Great man indeed !!Recommend

  • Parvez

    You have over romanticized the chacha and the patriotism bit.
    Years ago this ceremony at the border was a dignified affair worth watching. Toady it is a ceremony that is simply loud and completely tasteless. Mr. Kamran Shafi has correctly called for this to be toned down drastically, many times, but remains unheard for unexplained reasons. Recommend

  • Maliha

    It truly is a loss for Pakistan. No political or religious agendas, just one man and his untainted love for his country. An unsung hero indeed. May Allah grant him success in the hereafter, and may He help us love our country as much as Chacha Pakistan did. Recommend

  • Zain

    RIP chacha. You will be missed. What signifacance does Yash Chopra have, in front of the greatest patriot? You rocked us at the border Chacha, nobody can replace you.Recommend

  • efe

    A true patriot with unconditional love for pakistan, May ALLAH bless him .Recommend

  • Cynical

    @Parvez

    Very well put.Recommend

  • Syed
  • She

    I had a chance to visit wagha border this year in June and had a photo of him in my album. RIP chacha! It was a pleasure and honor for us to have a patriot like you. Farewell!Recommend

  • http://professionalshub.org waheedkhan

    we salute Wahga baba.he was true patriot and tru love of PakistanRecommend

  • abdul rashid behlim

    ALLAH bless himRecommend

  • Sane

    This, I term a great loss from Pakistan’s perspective, more than Yesh Chopra. Media please wake up to show what should be shown. There must be an exclusive program on every channel about Chacha Pakistani. A self-less and true Pakistani. May ALLAH The Almighty bless him and rest his soul in eternal peace.Recommend

  • Parvez

    @Cynical: Thank you.Recommend

  • http://asianetpakistan.com/ Sharjeel

    Chacha Pakistan is such a great motivation and spark for us. i really feel proud to see CHACHA PAKISTAN in all Pakistani matches among the world and also in the Wagha Border. CHACHA Pakistan can be known as a “Patriotic Spark for the Youth”.Recommend

  • Raj Kafir

    Without Uncle Cricket ( Cricket Chacha ) Cricket will not be the same in Pakistan. He was Rooh of Pakistan Cricket. RIP Chacha Cricket….Recommend

  • Rabia

    @Raj Kafir: Uncle Cricket is one of the other Chachas, the Abdul Jalil I have mentioned in this blog.Chacha Pakistan was older. I’m glad i was able to give you this piece of good news, because far as I know, Uncle Cricket is still alive and kicking:)Recommend

  • Zeta

    That’s terrible. My prayers for ChachaRecommend

  • Raj Kafir

    @Rabia:
    Thanks Rabia. Uncle Cricket’s love for cricket is second to none. Long live Cricket Chacha. My prayers for this Chacha. These Chachas are messengers of peace on this planet.Recommend

  • Sane

    @Sharjeel:

    There are two different Chachas. One is Chacha Pakistani (Wagha Border) and Chacha Cricket. Probably you are mixed.Recommend