Skip to main content

BOOK REVIEW: Half of Two Paisas - The Extraordinary Mission of Abdul Sattar Edhi And Bilquis Edhi

Published in Daily Times / 09 March 2013 under the title MISSION I(A)MPOSSIBLE

Author(s): Lorenza Raponi and Michele Zanzucchi
Translated from Italian by Lorraine Buckle
Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal



Described as an ‘agent of change’ and a shining example of ‘humanitarian Islam’ by one author and hailed as a modern day ‘St. Francis of Assisi’ by another - the simply dressed old gentleman who sits unobtrusively in the front row is merely on a stop-over before he runs off again to save some lives. Many present at the launch of ‘Half of Two Paisas - The Extraordinary Mission of Abdul Sattar Edhi And Bilquis Edhi’ - co-authored by Lorenza Raponi and Michele Zanzucchi, are already part of the ‘Edhi’ admiration society.



Lorenza and Michele met ‘The Edhis' during a trip to Pakistan in 2005. The philanthropist on the frontline of poverty who founded the Edhi Foundation and charmed the visiting Italians has been playing the part of the savior for over six decades. Ms. Raponi first heard of Abdul Sattar Edhi in 2001 while on a Pakistani Holiday. The Italian translation of Tehmina Durrani’s book on the living legend published the same year as part of a series on great religious leaders, eventually became the basis for this research, and – as Lorenza admitted, ‘ the beginning of an enormous curiosity’.



‘Half of Two Paisas’ was originally published in Italian in 2007 – the English version was launched in early 2013 at the Karachi Literature Festival. It is a slim little volume profuse in its praise of this ‘tireless messenger of peace’ referred to in the Western world as the ‘Mother Teresa of Pakistan. Both Edhi and his wife Bilquis have been featured in the book that re-traces the outlines of their incredible journey through the gritty streets of Karachi based on a road-map of their own making. The Foundation’s remarkable reach and Edhi’s personal philosophy is embedded in the narrative that delves into the challenges faced, sacrifices made and lives saved.

The book takes readers deep inside the world of organized charity led by an ensemble cast of helpers. It has been described as ‘an incredible introduction’ to the Foundations ‘way of life, which aims to make personal ascesis a springboard to the purest and most radical form of charity’. The visit includes a trip to the poorest area of the city where Edhi launched his rescue mission with a dispensary for the underprivileged all those years ago. The scope of Edhi’s humanitarian operation will stagger even those used to the sight of his little ambulances whizzing past them day and night and aware of the numerous centers dotted across the city.

He is a recipient of several awards among them the prestigious ‘International Eugenio Balzan Prize for Humanity’ for his admirable role in providing a continuous lifeline to the needy. That he does not receive grants from Pakistan or other countries or large donors for that matter may not come as a surprise. That 99% of his funds come from his fellow citizens might please many. Readers prepare to meet the man whose reputation precedes him where ever he goes. When a young Saudi was kidnapped in Pakistan, distraught parents have turned to Edhi to appeal to local authorities for recovery. The John Doe taken to an Edhi centre in Tokyo is successfully traced back to his hometown. But subsequent passages dealing with the fate of missing people and referred to as a ‘dramatic and mostly inexplicable facet of Pakistani society’ are less hopeful. Most never see their families despite the organization’s best efforts.

An outsider’s perspective adds another dimension to these findings. The halo is never in question when a lone voice functions as a bulwark against tyranny and neglect, but the writers occasionally stop to observe the limits to his benevolent vision. Their encounters with society’s rejects at the Edhi Village on the receiving end of ‘palliative treatment’ that gives these people ‘an infinitely better quality of life than they would have had on the outside’ set their thoughts off in a different direction.

The Foundation’s compassion extends to all God’s creatures and the same sentiment resurfaces at the animal shelter. ‘…we are plagued by a sense of unease and incompleteness …’ they state, later wondering if ‘…the sense of ingenuousness that this place conveys to us is’ because ‘the next step of recovery and rehabilitation is missing.’

The other book on Edhi has the Foundations stamp of approval but, according to the writer did not have space for personal opinions. ‘Half of Two Paisas’ promises detailed insight into the man and his mission. Lorenza had called him not just ‘a star for his country but a star for us as well –and for humanity’. Every aspect of his courageous life is carefully woven into the tapestry and the little sanctuaries he helped create drawing upon an inexhaustible stream of good will, fortitude, humility and selflessness. Yet the forlorn faces stay in focus. Society, at its weakest in dire need of reformation remains a part of this picture. We get a chilling view of what the nation would be like without his intervention followed by a surge of relief that there are men like Edhi at the tiller to ensure that the flickering flames of empathy do not die. This book helps promote Edhi’s legacy of tolerance and the Foundation’s infinite reservoir of optimism.

Two weeks after the book launch, shock-waves from a devastating bomb attack left Karachi reeling. In an atmosphere of deepening rifts and in the absence of State assistance, the good Samaritans on the social media stepped forward redirecting donations to Edhi centers. At a time when the nation stares into the abyss, a feeble looking man tagged as a ‘weapon against militancy’ solemnly plods on unmindful of the real/ideological minefields.

Lorenza Raponi Image taken at KLF 2013, CopyRighted.
Book Cover taken from net.

Comments

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

BOOK REVIEW: Pakistan: Beyond The ‘Crisis State’ / Author: Maleeha Lodhi

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, June 18, 2011

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

Published under the title: 17 Reasons to Hope

“History will be what we make it. If we go on as we are, history will have its revenge and retribution”— from the movie, ‘Good Night, & Good Luck’

A region known for most “terrorist sightings”, a place feared for harbouring medieval mindsets next to progressive thinkers and a nation shunned for having an affinity for nuclear toys. By turns a cautionary tale, an indispensable ally and an international pariah, Pakistan does not fit into any mould — for long. But its name crops up whenever things go awry.

Pakistan: Beyond the ‘Crisis State’ is a compilation of articles put together by Maleeha Lodhi that countermands the grim prognosis. When Ms Lodhi, who has served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US and UK, acknowledges that “resilience has been part of Pakistan’s story from its inception, obscured by the single issue lens…

Quarter Preview: ‘MANTO’

The Good Times GT Magazine (Friday Times) published the official images sent with this write-up, posting the coverage here.

Manto is all the rage these days.

The writer who orbits the South Asian literary stratosphere recently marked his centennial anniversary and now appears as the subject of a new film. It has been directed by Sarmad Sultan Khoosat, who also plays the title character and scripted by Shahid Mahmood Nadeem. Babar Javed produces. Media men & women invited for a first look in August had high expectations.

Contrary to what many thought, this was not a curtain raiser but a quarter preview, and the attendees found themselves at the screening of an extended teaser of ‘MANTO’ - the movie at Nueplex Cinemas – Karachi. The private showing also unveiled trailers of upcoming serials courtesy of GEO Films Production. The figure of Manto himself stays in shadow till 11th September – a day red flagged after 2001, but one that has always been significant for Pakistan and observ…

VIEW: A (Deep) State of Denial

First Published inDaily Times / 31 Dec 2012 (Monday)

By: Afrah Jamal

Thank you to the folks interested in publishing this in Urdu


Hapless polio teams are in the crosshair of extremists and people have come up with their own theories to explain the presence of health workers in the montage of violence. If a polio team does not reach any home, the residents can call a number and let them know. Many houses were left wondering about the fate of the drive this year after the three-day carnage that claimed nine lives, six of them women. A maulana on the media attributes the sudden spike in polio-related violence to government. More polio means more $$, he hisses confidentially. Twitter-sphere assigns the subsequent instability to the dreaded ‘deep state’.



According to them, it can sacrifice anything and anyone on the altar of national interest or in this case — the lure of more dollars. Every ‘whodunit’ begins or ends with a deep state cameo. Apparently, their interference is legendary, as is …

BOOK REVIEW: Thinner Than Skin

Published inDaily Times (Pakistan) / 23 Feb 2013
Author: Uzma Aslam Khan
Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal



Uzma Aslam Khan is the author of critically acclaimed, award winning books like Trespassing and Geometry of God. Her new novel, 'Thinner than Skin' goes off the beaten track for inspiration. A realm built upon incomprehensible layers of intrigue, violence, fairytales and legends provides the stage. People foraging for a lifeline become the props. And the inevitable soundtrack of radicalism now coursing through every fibre sets Pakistan’s modern heart to an ancient beat.

It is these paradoxes that bring its US-based protagonist, Nadir, along with a German-Pakistani girl, Farhana, on a trek from northern California to the Kaghan Valley. Wesley — the American in the background — is drawn to the mating glacier ritual, which is an actual thing. And their trusty ally/guide Irfan charts the course to their path of self-discovery past majestic mountains and ice encrusted lakes.

Their quest …

KARACHI DIARIES: KOMAL RIZVI VDO Launch / Press Conference

First Published in Economic Affairs (Islamabad) / June 2014



This brother / sister duo came highly recommended. Their music video launch / press conference held at Port Grand, (Karachi) will be the talk of town. And their experimental new sound would be put up for review.



Komal Rizvi, who made her debut as a singer / actress / VJ in the 1990’s, was staging a comeback with her new single - ‘Kalli Kalli’ in April 2014. Hasan Rizvi stars in the video with his sister; Sohail Javed directs. It would be Komal’s first launch and Hasan’s umpteenth choreography.



The filming had been eventful, the storyboard toyed with the elements - water, fire,,,, etc, as did the musicians; one was scorched, the other drowned, several times over reportedly. Nothing had dampened their ardour, or kept them from bombarding Sohail with a steady stream of creative input. ‘Add a tabla’ one would say, ‘how about a sitar’ the other would suggest.


The award winning director survived, and was later hailed for his …

INTERVIEW: What makes a Fighter Ace? (2006)

Written many moons ago when i was an Asst. Ed with Social Pages.

Published in Defence Journal September 2006

Republished in PROBENEWS(2006)


Legend has it that a Sabre took off from Sargodha airfield to intercept Hunters on a fateful September morning & landed back with an Ace.

120 Seconds: Squadron Leader Alam in a Sabre is on Air Combat Patrol accompanied by his wingman. Upon observing IAF Hunters exiting after an unsuccessful air strike over Sargodha, Alam sets off in hot pursuit of the enemy formation. He pursues a fleeing Hunter and eventually shoots it down with a missile shot.


He spots the other members of the Hunter formations flying very low and as he approaches the trailing member he is spotted and the entire formation breaks (violent turn) in the same direction - a fatal error as in less than two minute Alam has taken out four of them, (as confirmed by more than one independent eye witness) 1 bringing his tally for the mission to five…… And an Ace is born - a legendry ins…

BOOK REVIEW: Hira Mandi / Author: Claudine Le Tourneur Dlson

Published in Daily Times Saturday, February 11, 2012

Reproduced on Claudine Le Tourneur Dlson's Website

Translated from French by Priyanka Jhijaria

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

A programme about Hira Mandi did the internet rounds a couple of years ago. It claimed, among other things, that the sons of the ‘dancers’ reportedly end up as lawyers, doctors, artists — a few join politics and some even reach the military. These outrageous statistics may be one of the reasons the documentary was banned from the mainstream media. That and its primary premise — the plight of the fallen women — would prompt the conservatives to howl with dismay before scurrying off to bury any evidence in the backyard along with other bodies.


Claudine Le Tourneur d’Ison embeds such wrenching moments in a bold narrative where its doomed protagonist can hail the brave new world and its genteel patrons from an extraordinary vantage point. The expedition to the underworld with the unfortunate progeny and the hapless…