The dynamics of human responses to grief are strange and perhaps something that qualifies to the rank of inexplicability. At times it is relatively easier for us to suppress grievous thoughts from our consciousness as if nothing associated to them had occurred in the first place. While on the other hand, there are moments, instances when all attempts at obliterating certain memories or even repressing those fails, and those melancholic indicators remain etched forever in our cognition, becoming a part of our collective memory, something that will be reminisced generations after generations.

The tragic demise of Edhi is one such densely shocking loss, scarring the Pakistani nation for times to come. His demise has not only orphaned the frail state of Pakistan , but has generated an inexplicable void, a void which cannot be defined, described or attributed, since the tragic reality, the demise that instigated it , is just too shocking to be put into words.

How do you reflect upon a person, who taught others to live, taught them to embrace life despite its afflictions, and in dedicating his life to instilling hope and faith in humanity, died in the process? How do you revere a person who died pursuing his unified goal of providing social services to the needy, the disenfranchised segments of the society, the quarters shamelessly ignored by those at the helms of affairs?

Born in 1928 in Bantva, Edhi since a very young age, displayed a positive interest in aiding the afflicted segments of the society, since suffering had been something he witnessed through a close lens. It was his personal contact with disturbing human tragedies at a malleable age that instilled in him a sense of realisation, a sense of doing something good for mankind. One such perturbing episode was the grave shock that the 11 years old Edhi had to go through when his mother became paralysed and psychologically unstable. Her untimely demise in 1947, when Edhi was only 19 years old, came as a severe blow to him, making him ponder upon the transitoriness of life and the exigency of rendering something for humanity itself. During the same year, when Edhi along with his family migrated to the newly created state of Pakistan, and witnessed the harrowing state of affairs of the migrants, was the moment that further pushed his resolve to serve his life for the likes of the sufferers, for those whose agonising eyes looked up for assistance amidst turbulent times, whose countenances reflected a terse maturity brought about by the painful realisation of the apathy of the larger populace in the face of their destitutions.

It was Edhi, who moved by grim manifestations of suffering, throbbed with an intense yearning to bring smiles to such painful countenances. Starting off from setting up a free dispensary in Karachi, he went on to lay the beginnings of Asia’s largest voluntary service foundation, the Edhi Foundation more than six decades ago. Since then the Edhi Foundation has been engaged in spreading smiles, in bettering lives, in inducing tolerance for a happier Pakistan, a happier world. Be it their ‘jhoolas’ , the baby cradles installed at various points in the city where unwanted babies abandoned by their families are taken possession and care of by the Edhi foundation, or the ‘Apna Ghar’ project that aims at providing shelter to mentally challenged individuals and runaways , or be it through their rather extensive ‘Field Ambulance Service’ , the Edhi Foundation speaks of the legacy of man , who refused to be bogged down by the apathetically intemperate human attitudes. It speaks of the resolve of a saint who contended on serving humanity as a whole, without any social religious tagging’s or barriers, since he believed that ‘humanitarian work loses its significance when you discriminate between the needy.

Being a man of his words, honouring his commitments we saw Edhi working tirelessly for the social uplift of Pakistan. In his autobiography, ‘A Mirror to the Blind’ Edhi reflects on his approach towards life when he remarks, ‘work is accomplished by doing it, not thinking about it’. This spirit of activity as opposed to passivity in the face of turbulent times is what Edhi Sb advocated throughout his life as is evident from his endeavours.

While our seasonal leaders fought political debates, held sit-in’s, mindlessly investing billions in building the glossy Metro-Buses and Orange Trains, it was Edhi, our real leader who sat on the pavements collecting money for feeding the hungry, for cladding the destitute, for sheltering the abandoned. While the political parties engaged in blame game over natural disasters as floods, earthquakes or national disasters as terrorist attacks or explosions, the Edhi Ambulances were one of the first ones to rescue the populace awaiting the forever delayed majestic responses of the government. Such was his vehement commitment and messianic resolve. I have always maintained that it takes something special to be hailed as a leader. Not everyone can assume the posture of a leader since it is a cachet earned through sheer hard work and Dunkirk’s spirit. Edhi was our leader and ideologue, imparting treasurable dictums of love, peace and austerity, the leader that others could not dream of becoming.

Each and every aspect of his personality reflects his tenacity that speaks volumes about the munificent soul he possessed. His was a richly resonant soul that believed in resolving differences, in uniting mankind, in generating ripples of peace to erase hatred, bigotry and intolerance. He believed in seeking peace from within that curbs the violence from without, a peace only attainable by resorting to simplistically altruistic modes of behaviour.

A strong advocate of the humanitarian basis of all religions, Edhi highly disapproved the reduction of Islam to a series of mere mechanical rituals beyond which it tends to lose its significance .Islam for him was a way of life , a way of austere simple humanistic gestures that provide one the solace of heart and mind. Instead of breeding hatred by holding differences over to what posture one needs to assume while performing different rites and rituals, religion for Edhi centered around its essence and spirit.

Pakistan is in tatters today, a poor country that lost its father that lost its saviour. Today as we stand bereft of Edhi, bereft of all the munificence that he stood for, the nation mourns the loss of a messiah, who not only inspired many but restored the people’s faith in humanity itself, it needs to be realised that no justice can be done to the philanthropic services that he rendered, by naming places after him or awarding him with posthumous honours. This just trivialises his efforts. He was above this credence. He did not need any of this to validate his endeavours since his was an odyssey of selflessness, altruism and leadership, a story that kindles hope in an otherwise dark and dreary world. Following the legacy of Edhi it is time to ‘convert our pain into practical energy.’ Let’s honour the ideology that he espoused, let’s try emulating his efforts and strive to become forbearing and conscientious human beings, for this is the only sagacious manner of paying tribute to the legend that Edhi was.