I cannot forget that particular time and date. It was 4:25pm on November 25th 2014, right after I had come home from burying my father.
A man, who I had never seen before, dressed in a police uniform, approached me. “You don’t know me, my son,” said the man. “My name is Ashraf and I work as a city traffic policeman. I am very sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you. You are very kind,” was all I could muster, something I would try to say to everyone who offered their condolences.
“Your father wasn’t just a great man, he saved my life. I was just out of my job and I had my family to support. I was so poor no one was willing to hire me. Someone told me to go meet Ahsan Rashid saab (sir). I went to his office to seek his help.”
At this point, Ashraf eyes started to tear up. I felt like everything around me went silent— all the noise from the large number of people who attended the funeral— and I couldn’t hear anything, but this man standing in front of me.
“I asked your father for some money, and he gave me some cash to help me. But not only that, he also arranged for someone to hire me. I now work as a city traffic policeman. I just wanted to tell you that your father saved my life. I can support my wife and children and give them a life they deserve.”
My father, Ahsan Rashid, wasn’t just a father, but a “lifesaver” to many people like Ashraf.
In the days that followed my father’s funeral, I met numerous people, from all walks of life, who had similar stories to share. Some of them were people like Mr. Rizwan Khan, the country manage for Coca Cola and Mr. Ashiq Hussain, the honorary counsel of France as well as Dr. Faisal Sultan, the CEO of Shaukat Khanum hospital. Then there were people from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (the political party he founded along with others and Imran Khan in 1997) from senior leaders to grassroots level party workers. Then there were those people who come from underprivileged backgrounds, such as our cook’s brother who now works in Saudi Arabia, whose lives were touched by my father. It was indeed a remarkable experience, and a privilege and honor, to be able to hear all these powerful stories about how their lives were affected for the better.
While I can write pages upon pages of these stories, there was one that made me realise the far-reaching impact of my father’s generosity.
One while at a traffic light, a child selling fruit approached my father. As always, my father asked the child why he doesn’t go to school. When the child merely replied that he’s so poor he can’t afford to, my father drove all the way to the child’s home and met his parents and paid for his school fees.
These were stories I was hearing from other eyewitness, from friends, from relatives, from the political workers who worked with him and he became an example of extreme humility to me.
I personally remember the times when he would go for his regular chemotherapy at Shaukat Khanum Hospital, and while lying down on the bed, he would make a huge effort to talk to the nurses there as well the patient on the hospital bed next to him. At times, he would walk over to the children’s wards and just say a quick hello. The compassion in his heart was evident.
Why am I writing this today? Today, 25th November 2016, is his second death anniversary.
I haven’t fully grieved his death. A part of me still wishes that he would walk through the main door and join my mother and I at the dining table for dinner.
There are man life lessons which he successfully imparted to me and the people around him, like staying positive. I was in 2009 that my father had cancer. My journey with my father and family began on this day as we all huddled together and strengthened our connections to be there for our father. During his five years of struggle with cancer, he never stopped living his life. He traveled the world over- from the United Kingdom and Europe to Middle East to Turkey to India- and didn’t let his cancer bother him. In fact, he would be so brave about it, he would never let anyone one of us ever feel that he’s unwell.
He also took part in the elections and fought like a brave soldier. He attended all meetings and traveled all over Punjab, as far as to Waziristan. He had this beautiful spirit within him to keep living positively and to develop a curiosity to enlighten his mind to keep on discovering what the world has to offer. He was very fond of reading and some of the last biographies he read were of Louis Armstrong, Narendra Modi, Nelson Mandela and Steve Jobs.
It is this spirit that I have embodied: to stay positive.
The doctors had given him three years at the most to live through his cancer—yet my father defied the odds with his sheer will power and positivity and lived for five years. He had gained two extra years. He became a living example of what mind power and positive thinking can achieve.
My father had a very generous heart. He would give and give and give. His heart was so generous that at times we would tell him to not give money to someone who we think is cheating him- he would still give. “My intentions are pure. I am giving in good faith. Rest is up to God.”
I remember I was still in school in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia when in one of our drives down the corniche by the Red Sea, he shared an important life lesson: “Mansour, when you give money to others with good intentions to help them, trust me, you will see more money coming back to you.” At that time, my finite mind could not grasp this all important truth. Today, as I am nearing 40, I’ve seen this principle work in beautiful ways.
The greatest lesson I’ve learnt from him was to “count your blessings.” This was something he would repeat over and over. When I would travel with him to far flung regions in Punjab during his tenure as Punjab President PTI, we would pass through small towns and villages where the inhabitants had a very backwards life. Dilapidated houses, unclean water, no sewerage and pitiful living conditions would arouse a huge moment of gratitude for all the blessings we have.
Moments like this my father would say to me, ‘count your blessings Mansour.’
If a situation would be a negative one, my father would find the positive in the situation. If he had come back from an MRI that didn’t go too well, he would still be grateful that he was able to get a scan to diagnose his results.
My father’s life was a larger-than-life story, starting from the moment he left India during the partition with his mother and sister, to settling down in Lahore at Temple Road. Destiny took him to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where his hard work allowed him to rise to a prestigious position eventually becoming the President of Fuchs Petroleum. Throughout his rise, he never forgot where he came from. His calm demeanor showed a lot of strength and resilience. He fought his battles with grace and dignity. He was a thorough gentleman, giving respect to others always. He rarely scolded or shouted at us but treated us with love and honor.
It’s only been two years since he left us. My last living memory of him was on the morning of 24th November 2014. I consider myself lucky to have fed him his last meal while on the hospital bed: two pieces of bread with a fried egg. After having fed him with my own hands, he requested me very clearly to get him two packs of mixed fruit juice, which I got from the hospital cafeteria. I had to rush to the airport to receive my elder brother who had flown in from London, and upon our return to the hospital, our father had already started slipping away.
Through this humble piece that I’ve written, I only wish to keep his legacy alive. His life was about integrity, honesty, charity, kindness and love and we should celebrate that.