My favorite story is about the man, who picked up a bicycle pedal from somewhere and asked his wife to keep it under lock and key. Every day the man would ask his better half if the thing was safe and sound. One day, thoroughly fed up with her hubby’s daily query, the wife lost her cool. “Why are we keeping a pedal and why in Heaven’s name are you so obsessed in treasuring it?” she asked. “My good woman, I am doing what I do because there will come a time, when I will be able to add a bicycle to it”. 

The couple in the above story may or may not have got their two-wheeler, but I know of many individuals with similar optimism and iron wills, who dreamt a dream and then achieved it. Take for example ‘Billa’ (this is not the person’s real name). This robust looking young man set up his ‘chikarcholay ki rehri’ near a hospital cum medical college complex in Lahore. Now, I have always been a sucker for this particular food and it was for this reason that I became the man’s regular customer. During one of my lunchtime visits, I asked him if he had some notion of advancing his business. He gave me one of his sunny smiles and said, “Jee Mian Jee, this ‘rehri’ will one day stand in front of my hotel”.

My professional commitments forced me to leave the city of my birth and it was eight years before I could return to Lahore. A nagging impulse to dine on ‘nan cholay’ took me to my favorite spot only to find it without my ‘rehri’. It took me some time to come to terms with the situation and some more time to find someone, who knew what had happened. Minutes later, I found myself standing in front of a modest looking two roomed, but neatly run eating place with ‘Billa’, sitting on a cushioned chair, calling the shots. What pleased me more was the sight of the old ‘rehri’ decorating the front of his hotel.

It was another two years before I passed the spot again, to discover that the two roomed hotel had now expanded to a four roomed establishment serving breakfast, lunch and dinner - my friend had finally attached a bicycle to his pedal. The ‘chikarcholay’ story is but a part of hundreds of similar tales, where people have achieved what they have set out to do, disproving those that say that Pakistan is a land, where hard work does not pay.

I and my colleagues often dined on what was decidedly the best ‘rice and lentils’ dish in Islamabad. This delicacy was sold through a counter placed in one of the commercial centers dedicated to each sector. About two months ago, we discovered to our concern that the counter had disappeared. We went without our standard lunch menu for many weeks, when driving through the ‘markaz’, I saw the proprietor of the ‘rice and lentil’ service operating his trade from a spanking new shop located nearby. A query revealed that the man had moved up in business from the footpath to a proper one roomed restaurant. Where he goes from here is anybody’s guess.

A leading furniture manufacturer of Pakistan proudly acknowledges the fact that his father was a carpenter and went to work on a rickety bicycle. I have great respect for this person and his sons, who are as humble as their father, in spite of the fact that they have studied in prestigious universities abroad and are fabulously rich. To me these are the people, who embody the spirit and future of Pakistan – these are individuals and families with the strength of character to acknowledge their origins and the fact that whatever they are is due to nothing, but hard work. These are the people, who are living proof that in spite of all the criticism, we are definitely a land of opportunity.

The writer belongs to a very old and established family of the Walled City. His forte is the study of History.