I would have given my life for Quaid-e-Azam: My mother’s Pakistan

Published: August 14, 2013
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"He was a weak, frail man. But when he spoke, his voice was like a lion’s. He stressed each word. Strong, determined voice."

Dementia is ruthless. It doesn’t give you a choice about what you want to forget and what you don’t. But while the words may disappear at the cruel hands of memory loss, the feelings often don’t. My mother may at times confuse the names of her children, but she never forgets that she is ammi and we are her children. She also never forgets what Pakistan means to her, and to us. Her eyes still light up when she hears the name “Quaid-e-Azam”.

She hasn’t forgotten the most important things in her life – the good ones and the bad. Milestones are etched in her mind. Her days as a young girl in her teens who volunteered in the partition movement are a milestone for sure.

And so, for me and my siblings, Independence Day can’t be just another day. Every year, we sat around her, and in later years my nieces and nephews as well, listening to those anecdotes, stories and patriotic songs till they became a part of our own memories. The tradition of telling stories verbally is sadly fading. Thankfully, my mother kept it alive for us. Those sessions have been an inspiration for the activism in my life, I suspect, though at that time they were nothing but stories we enjoyed listening to because ammi –  a poetry lover and a literature buff – told them so beautifully.

On August 14, my mind is filled with random excerpts of those sessions with my mother… oral history from the lens of a teenager who saw Pakistan being formed and got a chance to contribute. Through the glimpses from her memories we were acquainted with a revolution that changed the lives of millions; a revolution, the essence of which is now being doubted.

“He was a weak, frail man. But when he spoke, his voice was like a lion’s. He stressed each word. Strong, determined voice. As a child, I stuck close to the radio, waiting to hear his voice; hanging on to each word. My elder sisters were part of the Women’s Guard and although I was young, I would tag along.

Thousands of us. One cause. I don’t even remember any of us asking each other who was a Punjabi, a Pathan, a Balochi or a Sindhi or any ethnicity for that matter. We had one leader, and we trusted him. I would have literally given my life for him as would have all the young people of the time.”

Ammi would then sing in her lovely voice:

“Millat ke liye kya hee ghaneemat hai tera dam

Ae Quaid-e-Azam

(What a blessing you are for this nation, Quaid-e-Azam)

Maana ke hai purpaich buhut zaada-e-manzil

Darpaish hai mushkil

(Agreed, the path to destiny is winding and we are faced with challenges)

Tu qaafila salaar humara hai to kya gham

Ae Quaid-e-Azam”

(When you are our leader, why should we worry, O Quaid-e-Azam)

My mother, a Punjabi by descent, lost her father at a very early age. My nani (grandmother) widowed with five young children faced a tough challenge.

“But when we heard that trains full of our muhajir (those who migrated to Pakistan) brothers and sisters are coming to us, the doors of our hearts opened! We saved every penny and with that cooked loads of food and took it to the Lahore train station, waiting for them, trying to make sure they don’t go hungry or thirsty when they arrive. Sometimes, the coming of the train was not a very happy occasion. Many had already embraced martyrdom,” she’d say.

Through it all, my mother’s narrative never reeked of hatred. She talked of her Hindu friends, whom she missed because they migrated to India. These were not memoirs based on anger and hatred. These were actually memoirs based on unity, faith and discipline.

Today, we are in a different world altogether. Some of us even doubt if Pakistan should have come into being in the first place but thanks to my mother, I never do. I know the purpose behind this country; it was a nation’s way of asserting their right to their identity and to practice their faith. That never meant denying that right to followers of other faiths or those who differed in opinion. It was taking everyone in the fold of Pakistan.

In some ways, it’s nice that ammi is not as awake to the bitter realities of today’s Pakistan. The killings of the Hazaras in Quetta and the Punjabis in Mach, the children in Lyari and the innocent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – my mother’s peaceful soul would not have not taken all this well.

Thanks to ammi and her memoirs, I refuse to give up hope in better tomorrows for Pakistan. I refuse to be jaded and refuse to stop trying. Things may look bleak, but hope is all we have.

So today, on August 14, I am going to sit with her and remind her of those chants and slogans and show her the green and white flag fluttering away; just the way she did for all her children.

The slogans are not all obsolete. Specially “Hum Pakistan banayein ge” (we will make Pakistan).

It is time once more to re-build parts of Pakistan that are hurt and damaged; maybe this Independence Day we can all get the wheels of transformation to start moving – with unity, faith and discipline we can accomplish anything.

Pakistan Zindabad!

Farahnaz Zahidi

Farahnaz Zahidi

Farahnaz is a writer and editor, and has worked as the Features Editor with The Express Tribune. Her focus is human-centric feature stories. She now writes as a freelancer, and works in the field of marketing and corporate communications. She loves literature and traveling. She tweets on @FarahnazZahidi. Her work can be seen at chaaidaani.wordpress.com/

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

  • Indian 2

    Very nice article.
    Happy Independence Day.Recommend

  • Anon

    When you were removed from your toxic environment you found yourself gifted with good qualities after a steep learning curve. Great realization and a good personal journey.
    But I don’t think what you’re trying to teach here ,is a lesson 99% pakistani’s will swallow kindly.
    The national psyche won’t accept your wisdom.Recommend

  • Tarannum Ahmed

    Wonderful piece of writing. Reminds me of how my mom would say that our Khala Jan cried so hard when she saw Quaid in person; how weak and frail he was yet had an unwavering determination and a powerful personality.Recommend

  • nikhil manek

    Superb article. happy independence dayRecommend

  • Hella

    No point in reminiscing about Jinnah. One needs to live in the present. Jinnah’s Pakistan ended in 1971, when majority Pakistanis, including those who supported Pakistan resolution in Dhaka, opted out of it. Present day Pakistan has been created by Yahya Khan, Pakistan army and Bhutto. Better to honour these true founders, in whose Pakistan you now live.Recommend

  • Naya Pakistan

    ” It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

    Jiddu KrishnamurtiRecommend

  • KAY

    he was a man of character, truthfulness, wisdom, dignity, modernity and vision. I am proud to emulate his attributes.Recommend

  • Vishal Kaul

    14 and 15 August world most worst day for humanity Recommend

  • ZH hashmi

    A very positive write up , we need such simple and optimistic literature. happy independence day. Recommend

  • Saba

    Farahnaz that was one beautiful piece of writing. I completely agree with you. It is our land and we need to build it. We cannot imagine the sacrifice our elders made for us. We cannot imagine what they went through to make Pakistan. Hope is what I hold onto now Hope for a better Pakistan. Hope for Jinnah’s Pakistan.Recommend

  • mind control

    She talked of her Hindu friends, whom she missed because they migrated to India.

    Migrated?
    But why?
    They did not ask for a separate country.
    Muslims migrating I can understand, they were going to their OWN country.

    What did the Hindus migrate for?

    These were not memoirs based on anger and hatred.

    I am sure the ‘Migrants’ must be feeling very grateful for not being hated.
    Thank You.Recommend

  • Rizwan Nasar

    As an adult man you are not supposed to cry… You made me cry today. Long Live Pakistan!Recommend

  • Parvez

    Nicely put………….and there’s about 30 minutes to go for midnight so it would be in place to wish all our Indian friends, even the nasty ones :-) , a very Happy Independence Day.
    Recommend

  • http://tradersutra.com h.Mani

    Do not blame the idea of FREEDOM,Pakistan or Quest for ones Identity,Muslims deserve their place in Sun,deserve their own country,where they are not suspect,and weave their own destiny.Having said that,sheer ,mere adulation for Quid is not enough.True he died too soon,yet he left you his rich ideas and Dream for you.If you do not even reflect,look back & analyse where you are going or what have you done to his Pakistan,that is something else.Just think,he was Muslim,not Sunni,Shia or Khoja.He even wanted minority to be equal, citizen.a fair and just nation.That’s what you should ask on 14th Aug.I will not answer that.Touch your heart and answer it.You will hear it loud and clear.I think in sub-continent we all have messed up,botched up,and this was not our reward after 250 years of slavery,poor show,very little to be proud off.I really admire Pakistani never die,attitude, & your love for unfortunate nation.We ex- Indians have mostly given up on Congress and politicians.95% Indians have nothing good to say about what is our Congress GOI has done in 66 years.NOTHING.No malice,just fact.H.ManiRecommend

  • Hamid Siddiqui

    @Hella: A news for you, Quid-e-Azam’s Pakistan is been divided, but is alive and still known as Quid-e-Azam’s Pakistan, every kid is thankful to Quid-e-Azam for getting them Pakistan, every kid is sorry for not taking care of Pakistan as hoped by Quid-e-Azam, and every kid is trying to start caring for this beautiful country which is a blessing of ALLAH, for every one lives in PAKISTAN.Recommend

  • Raja Islam

    “But when we heard that trains full of our muhajir (those who migrated to Pakistan) brothers and sisters are coming to us, the doors of our hearts opened! We saved every penny and with that cooked loads of food and took it to the Lahore train station, waiting for them, trying to make sure they don’t go hungry or thirsty when they arrive.”

    These same brothers and sisters are the ones who want to colonise the sons of the soil and kill the same people who provided them with food and shelter.Recommend

  • Zog

    Wonderful article. Your (and my) parents generation were a breed apart. Well done for writing this article.Recommend

  • Fiz

    Beautiful! It reminded me of my father, who as a student of Ali Garh University, took part in the movement for Pakistan and travelled through subcontinent convessing for it’s creation. As a child and then later in my life I, along with my sisters, listened to his stories many times. I, in my mind, am not at all confused why Pakistan was created. Indeed it was created for muslims ( all sects & not any particular one) to practice their believes without any fear from hindus. Today I look back and marvel at those peaceful days. What have we done to our own selves? Why have we become so intolerant? Where did we lose the track? These thoughts haunt me and then I am thankful that my father is no more to see this downfall of ours. At least he was spared this torture!Recommend

  • Milind

    @Parvez – “….wish all our Indian friends, even the nasty ones

    LOL!!!Recommend

  • Gp65

    @Parvez:
    Well thank you. A good time to wish all Indian and Pakistani readers a happy independence day. We all are indeed blessed to be born in independent countries. We should cherish our freedom ( freedom of speech, expression, association, worship) and work hard to preserve it and not let bigots and hate mongers snatch it from us.

    By the way, as opinionated as I am, I hope I am not one of those you classify as nasty.Recommend

  • Nandita.

    @Parvez:

    Happy independence day to you too buddy :-) Recommend

  • Saba

    @Gp65:
    Happy independence day to you as well. :)Recommend

  • Parvez

    @Milind @gp65 …….after nasty ones, I put a smiley face, how did you’ll miss that.
    ………..and @Nandita. Thanks.
    Recommend

  • Milind

    @Parvez – I might have missed the smiley in my comment, but didn’t during LOL!!!
    Happy Independence day!!!Recommend

  • http://pak usman

    Nice article: I was the greatest statesman of last century Recommend

  • http://afiasalam.wordpress.com afia

    beautiful sentiments.. beautifully expressedRecommend

  • sana

    now i know why my previous comment didnt get posted because author is a senior sub-editor ..well done, hats off to your professionalismRecommend

  • sana

    we got fooled by the birtish and the rulers of those times …started killing off one another in the name of religion, got fooled by politicians Recommend

  • sana

    omg seriously guys, what was wrong with my last post. u cut off more than half of it …Recommend

  • observer

    @Fiz:

    I, in my mind, am not at all confused why Pakistan was created. Indeed it was created for muslims ( all sects & not any particular one) to practice their believes without any fear from hindus. Today I look back and marvel at those peaceful days. What have we done to our own selves?

    In retrospect it would appear, it is the Hindus who were keeping the peace.

    Now you have No Hindus and No Peace.Recommend

  • Fiz

    @observer:
    I am sorry you got me wrong. I wasn’t born before patition, so have no recollection of those days (about hindus keeping the peace). I was talking about the time when I was a child, a young university student, a person starting a practicle life (all of that in PAKISTAN) and days before the troubled times we are living now. Please don’t be cynical just for nothing. ThanksRecommend

  • Raj Kafir

    I would have given my life for Quaid-e-Azam: My mother’s Pakistan. Nice title, but Baba-i-Qaum’s only daughter preferred to stay in India. Baba-i-Qaum’s only grandson is a multi millionaire in India.I do not think you know Mr Nusli Wadia, owner of Bombay Dyeing and an IPL franchise Punjab Kings IX.

    PS: Sorry, Pakistanis hate IPL…..but the fact is Punjab Kings IX is owned by the only grandson of my favourite world leader Mr Mohammed Ali Jinnah.Recommend

  • Anand

    Happy independence day to all Pakistanis!
    It’s not only Pakistanis, but Indians as well should be grateful to Qaid-e-Azam. Without him India would still remain united with it’s almost 600 million Muslims.
    Love, respect and regards to the great man for partition of India.Recommend

  • http://www.Centcom.mil/Ur US Centcom

    We would like to extend warm wishes and say, “Jashn-e-Azaadi Mubarak” to
    each and every Pakistani living in and outside Pakistan. We hope that
    this day brings with it a sense of joy, pride and unity among all
    Pakistanis. We honor the sacrifices and the struggles of your founding
    fathers, from motivational poets like Allama Muhammad Iqbal to prominent
    statesmen like Muhammad Ali Jinnah. We hope to see a strong and stable
    Pakistan leading its way towards prosperity and peace. Pakistani
    Zindabaad, Pakistan Paindabaad.

    Ali KhanRecommend

  • Bharat

    Pakistan is facing challenges like other nations as well.

    Those challenges will always remain for every country Recommend