As much as they have tried to lure us into wanting one, no cartoon or movie ever managed to make me want a time-machine. I have always believed that if things – the good things and the bad things had not gone exactly the way they did, life would not be exactly as it is today. And for all the downsides that there are to it, I don’t think I would ever trade it for another one.
However, if I could get a time-machine, there is one thing I would like to do. I would like to meet the single most influential and inspirational figure in my life – Ashfaq Ahmed. This is my first blog entry and I have a number of ideas revolving in my head. But I would like to begin with an article I wrote on Ashfaq Ahmed’s death anniversary, back in September. Consider it both a tribute and a dedication.
This is my first blog entry and I have a number of ideas revolving in my head. But I would like to begin with an article I wrote on Ashfaq Ahmed’s death anniversary, back in September. Consider it both a tribute and a dedication.
“It’s been nine years since he breathed his last. Nine years since one of the few literary figures who stayed among us the longest, left us. The venerable intellectual, writer, playwright, radio broadcaster and television show host – Ashfaq Ahmed.
“Ashfaq Ahmed was born on 22nd August in Ferozpur, British India, 88 years ago in 1925. He earned a Master’s degree in Urdu Literature from Government College University, Lahore, that is alma mater to many of Pakistan’s greatest writers, poets, artists, scientists, doctors, journalists, politicians and civil and military officers. He pursued a career in teaching at the University of Rome, Italy. In regard for his services to the state, the Government of Pakistan awarded him with two of the highest civil awards – The Pride of Performance and Sitara-e-Imtiaz. He died in 2004 on this very day – 7th September.
“Libraries, book stores and TV and radio archives are replete with works of Ashfaq Ahmed, and it is a good thing we have managed to keep them safe through the years in letter, if not in spirit. But that is an issue as much as it is an achievement. Ashfaq Ahmed did not dedicate a lifetime to strengthening the national character, only for all his efforts to be confined to the realm of hi-tech AV records or even to that intellectually more acceptable medium that is books. He meant for them to be incorporated in the soul of the nation, and not just people, so that the essence of it could travel unchecked through the generations, regardless of time or circumstances. He meant for them to be constructive towards replacing the deep rooted stereotypes, misconceptions and indifferences in the society, with a better, more productive system. A system aimed at bringing mankind closer to the universe, and the undeniable importance of their individuality in it. And above all, he meant for them to clearly lay out the superiority of the spiritual over the material.
“Did he succeed? I would not say no to that. Where Ashfaq Ahmed did make a difference, he moved mountains when he not only directed his pupils to a course of action, but also guided them through it and caused paradigm shifts in the most stubborn of heads – myself included. However, as is the case with all great teachers in world history, his teachings have largely been forgotten.
“If you are looking for a direction and for someone to direct you, then Ashfaq Ahmed is the man you are looking for. I do not mean to deny the place that religion, mysticism or philosophy has to the same effect. No. Ashfaq Ahmed is not a man who would take you away from your religion, whichever it might be. He is a man who sees spirituality in the smallest of things and believes that everything, every single thing happens for a reason and is meant to teach us something. And that is exactly what he has done in his works – used examples from everyday life and ordinary people to illustrate his point. I only mean to say that he is the first step you can take to reach the top. When you read him, and I suggest you begin with Zawiya, you will see.
As is the case with all great teachers in world history, his teachings have largely been forgotten.
“Three years ago on the same date, I did not know Ashfaq Ahmed beyond his name. One year later, I found myself immersed in his books night and day alike. Today, he is the man I owe a lifetime of thanks to. He gave me a lesson easy to learn, a direction easy to follow, and a path easy to walk.
“I, in my humble capacity as an ordinary citizen, request our Ministry of Education to redesign academic curricula such that Ashfaq Ahmed’s name is a regular occurrence in it. If that is done, our upcoming generation will be a generation that appreciates the little things in life, lives to love and serve, finds peace in proximity to the Creator and the created, and finds it often. A generation that does not pass verdicts on people. A generation that is contented with life as it is and gives thanks for it. For indeed, Life is Beautiful. It takes an Ashfaq Ahmed to see that.
“Allah hum sub ko aasaaniyan ataa farmaye aur aasaaniyan taqseem krnay ka sharf ataa farmaye. Ameen.“