An article by Zarrar Khuhro in The Express Tribune on the very day of the 2013 general elections began with the words: “Clichés are only clichés because they are repeated so often. And they are repeated so often because they are so often true.” It is hard to convince oneself of the worth of something, anything, that comes in abundance – be it something as concrete as a commodity or as abstract as attention. Once the mind has had its full, little can one do to feed it more.
That goes for lessons – the lessons educationists have attempted to instil in our minds since primary school. We read, we absorbed, we delivered. But we never really understood any of it because there are areas you can’t explore and questions you cannot ask. That’s a rule. So what we have in the end is a set of rhetorical statements that we are expected to drag along, all the way to the ultimate mortal destiny. They are called clichés. Words and phrases that we’ve heard so often that we are now tired of them.
It is hard to convince oneself of the worth of something, anything, that comes in abundance – be it something as concrete as a commodity or as abstract as attention
But here’s the catch: tired as we may be on our end, there’s a reason they’ve been there all this time. There’s a strength to these words that our attitudes are incapable of exhausting. It persists, regardless. And since it’s the eve of 14th August, let the patriotic ones be our case in point. Let this ‘sacrifice’ we so often speak of, be our case in point.
Today I chanced upon the usual truncated version of Quaid-e-Azam’s October 30, 1947, public address. In there are the words: Pakistan haasil karnay k le’ay hum ne buhat qurbani de hai (- We have sacrificed much to win Pakistan). Magar (-But), he adds with force and caution, humein Pakistan ko qa’im rakhnay k le’ay abhi aur qurbani karna ho ge (- we will have to sacrifice more still, in order to keep Pakistan).
Coincidences are a human construct. There’s a time and place for everything and it is the time and place intended by God. My, or perhaps our, being well in earshot of this audio today, was not a coincidence. Let’s just have a hunch at the way destiny works. Maybe, just maybe, this was meant so that we could finally make sense of this word ‘sacrifice’ that is ruthlessly restricted to its physical connotation.
Sacrifice is not death
The mention of sacrifice must not only invoke the image of a flag draped coffin making its way home to sad, but proud, people. Nay. Sacrifice is not death. It is the intentional bearing of loss. It is the act of a person who gives up goals in the interest of a cause. It is getting out of your comfort zone. It is subordinating your dreams. It is placing your Self at the disposal of another, higher, being.
Sacrifice is knowing what the right decision is and not taking it anyway because, sometimes, it is not the right decision that is required. Sometimes, you are required to jump into perils unheard of and offer services uncalled for. Sometimes, you have to take charge – to mend things you never damaged and solve problems you never created. Sometimes, you have to free yourself of the shackles of logic and dwell on the very rhetorical: If not now, when? If not me, who?
I hear fireworks in the distance as I write these words. Fellow countrymen are celebrating the 68th anniversary of Pakistan. I can only hope that they do not just see it for what it is today. I hope that they, and I, see it as the culmination of the peril, the blood, and the flood of ‘wrong decisions’ that went into winning it, and that must go into keeping it.
Happy Independence Day, Pakistan!