“My crown is in my heart, not on my head, not decked with diamonds or Indian stones, nor to be seen; my crown is called content, a crown it is that seldom kings enjoy…” — Shakespeare
Last night, Pakistan lost its uncrowned king. Abdul Sattar Edhi was the ruler of all hearts in this divided and divisive nation, the unseen member of every Pakistani family, the one role-model everyone unanimously agreed on, a walking-talking picture of virtue personified.
In a city filled with tales of violence and hatred, Karachi mothers would inspire their kids with the legends of its living saints, Dr. Ruth Pfau of the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre, Sister Gertrude Lemmens of Dar ul Sukoon, Prof. Adeeb Rizvi of SIUT, and foremost among them, the man who was known only by his instantly recognizable surname, Edhi, a word that became synonymous with humanitarianism.
It’s ironic that Edhi Sahib will be leaving on the day that our other ‘ruler’ is arriving. The contrast could not be more glaring. Edhi will leave on a simple bier with millions of mourners across Pakistan and the globe bidding him a teary-eyed farewell; Sharif will arrive on a specially requisitioned 777 in pompous style, with a bunch of sycophants huddled around him, shunned by his nation, to disappear surreptitiously behind the guarded gates of Raiwind palace. On the other hand, every Pakistani is certain that Heaven itself is preparing to give Edhi a rousing welcome, and a standing ovation. His funeral, like that of Amjad Sabri, could be an object lesson for our megalomaniac politicians, but it’s a vain hope that they’ll learn anything. To borrow a common-man’s phrase from Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘Fan’ — “Rehn de, tu nahi samjhe ga.”
In retrospect, it’s a blessing perhaps that Edhi was not awarded the Nobel; it was a prize too small for a titan like him. God didn’t want him to be in a list that often included recipients unworthy of the honor.
Edhi Sahib was a breed apart, and deserves to stand on his own.