The one roomed home with a ten by ten courtyard stood a little distance away from the rest of the village, which adorned one side of the hill. I was led to the spot by my former ‘mali’, who had often helped me dig out stories for the weekly Sunday piece. A mud stove with a weather worn plastic makeshift awning adorned one corner of the yard, along with the only other piece of furniture - a ‘lopsided’ bed stead. I had wanted to visit the place since long, but had not been able to do so because of reasons that were, to say the least - trivial.
We were welcomed by a man in his early forties, who was joined by three boys that hung around shyly. I was terribly embarrassed at the frantic activity that followed our arrival. One of the boys was commanded to fetch a chair for ‘sahib bahadur’, while another was sent running out of doors into the ‘jungle’ to fetch ‘amma’. The first of the little ones emerged from the dark interior of the house dragging, what was once a fairly respectable chair, but was now held together by pieces of string. I apologized to my host for the intrusion and told him that I was perfectly comfortable sitting on the ‘charpoy’.
A short while later, the second emissary returned, leading a goat and followed by a woman, who salaamed and entered the room, to emerge minutes later with stuff for brewing tea. My vehement protests that I did not drink the beverage, were over ruled comprehensively, when the youngest of the three little ones, who had till now stood silently, sidled up to me and said, “Uncle, ‘chaa peo (uncle, have some tea)”.
As I chatted with this fascinating family sipping tea flavored with goat milk, I lost track of time. I sat there totally humbled in the presence of greatness, un-spoilt by wealth, power and arrogance. I listened in rapt attention to a couple, who had nothing (from the material point of view), but who were enriched beyond measure with the wealth of contentment and who in the course of their narrative ended every sentence by offering grateful thanks to their Creator.
I had on an earlier occasion met another man and wife, from the opposite end of the social scale, who had taught me the value of human relationship. I was sitting in the lawn of their expansive home in Lahore, when a bright smile suddenly appeared on my hostess’s face and she left us, to return seconds later carrying a toddler in her arms. The young child was clearly not a blood relative of the family, but appeared perfectly at ease, as she was fussed upon by master and mistress of the house. The inquisitive look on my face must have been very obvious, since I was made privy to a tale that warmed my heart.
The child, who had by now downed a complete bar of chocolate, was the first born of the ‘chowkidar’, whose wife cooked for my friends. With their own children having flown the coop, this elderly couple had offered to baby sit the little bundle of fun, while her parents went about their duties around the house. I had to virtually dig out the story in bits and pieces, since the couple were reluctant to volunteer it out of sheer modesty. It turned out that a considerable sum had also been set aside for the child’s education and marriage and similar arrangements had been committed for any subsequent siblings (as long as they were kept down to two).
It is stories of people such as these that keep my hopes for a prosperous corruption free Pakistan alive. I look upon these examples as beacons of light amidst a dark sea of corrupt rulers and politicians, who lack self-respect and moral courage to do the right thing. In my reckoning, the household in the one roomed home is far above in character (and the esteem that goes with it) than those, who cling to power even when sufficient doubt arises as to their moral right to do so.