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: Quiet Diplomacy: Memoirs of an Ambassador of Pakistan / Author: Jamsheed Marker

PUBLISHED IN Daily Times /February 06, 2010

REVIEWED BY: Afrah Jamal

Jamsheed Marker belongs to an exceptional cadre of Foreign Service officers entrusted to keep things on an even keel on the diplomatic stage. Providence chose him to fill the void brought on by a sudden influx of newly independent nations and the subsequent need to expand diplomatic service during the 1960s. A stellar career in fostering global diplomacy as the longest serving ambassador has earned him a special place in history.

This veteran Pakistani diplomat has a striking resume. With ten posts and nine accreditations, his name appears in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the only person to have served as ambassador to more countries than anyone. He took his curtain call when Pakistan declared him Ambassador at Large in 2004, and has been on the faculty at Eckerd College, St Petersburg — Florida as Diplomat-in-Residence. He ended his tenure with a wry observation, ‘the batting card on the scorecard to M…

OP-ED: What’s In A Name(sake)?

First Published in Daily Times / 2 Sep 2013

A beloved cricketer’s name adorns the billboards but this is not a biopic. The cricketing world it allegedly represents provides a compelling front but it will not be a return to his old stomping grounds. Main Hoon Shahid Afridi (MHSA) draws upon a living legend’s legacy to leverage the passion and throws in a cameo or two, but that is the extent of Afridi’s involvement. Meanwhile, somewhere in a small little village, a disgraced cricketer turned coach who trains a rag tag team will be moved centre-field. And the one thing that binds the nation together and provides the soulful soundtrack will become the anchor.

The newly minted flight is bound for cricket-ville and in some parts of the world that is reason enough to join in the festivities. Humayun Saeed, seen at the helm wearing a number of hats as the producer/actor enlists the classic underdog formula to launch his ambitious vision. The village club is in danger of being shut down, and m…

The Book of Davis - Reading between the lines

Published by Global Affairs / Aug 2017

Raymond Davis is a champ. A team player, who puts the needs of his comrades in arms before himself. He is savvy. He is a man of integrity - a survivor - a trooper. Ray, the epitome of courage runs headlong towards danger and into a minefield - literally. He is all this and more. This is his story after all.

6 years ago, he was a trained Special Forces SF, undercover ‘contractor’, forced to navigate the cramped alleyways of Lahore on a routine mission – the details of which remain a mystery. His book ‘The Contractor: How I Landed in a Pakistani Prison and Ignited a Diplomatic Crisis’ with Storms Reback, revisits the scene of the crime to solidify his innocence and along the way take a few potshots at random players who helped secure his release. It’s a hair-raising ride.

His style is conversational, his demeanor - amiable. The case is still fresh in people’s minds and his intent to set the record straight ignites yet another round of controversy…

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…

VIEW: WOMEN in the PAF: AN ENSEMBLE CAST

PUBLISHED in HILAL (Pakistan Armed Forces Magazine) Feb 2010

By Afrah Jamal

Progressive - Conservative - Contemporary - Professional; separately these terms could apply to any service; together they were reserved for just one - the PAF.

Pakistan Air Force has kept in touch with its roots through its glorious traditions and kept up with the changing times with innovative thinking. Oftentimes, traditions that made it stand apart have also stood in the way of, well - progress. Consequently, the service nimbly skipped past the one proposed change that was going to have a profound effect on the lives of countless young girls and would forever alter the way society perceived their womenfolk.

Before 1994, Lady Officers were a rare sight in the PAF. So rare in fact, that when male cadets donned wigs to represent the female species in annual variety shows, nobody wondered why. By 2010, women have become an indispensable part of the service. While, PAF was no stranger to a woman in uniform, a f…

OPED: The Afghan Policy in Perspective

Published in Global Village Space / Aug 2017

True to its reality show inspired template, the Afghan strategy was rolled out after months of speculations, suspense and dithering. It used memorable taglines and inflated figures. ‘Agents of chaos’, sunk costs described as ‘billions and billions’ and going all in seeking victory against all odds. It offered to be tough on Pakistan, even as it was vague on the outlines and predictable in its deployment.

Reading between the Lines

This is essentially the new, improvised policy meant not just for Afghanistan but also Pakistan and India. With it the U.S. administration appears to have heeded the advice of keeping the enemy in the dark. They have also dismissed the necessity of keeping their allies close and have instead embarked upon a strategic vision that aims to expand the theatre adding India to the volatile mix and potentially widen the gulf between allies.

Yet it is not the public performance of the commander-in-chief that catches the e…

VIEW: GOING DUTCH (2008)

Published in THE POST May 18, 2008

What does Cadbury have to do with 12 sketches and a 17 minute film? Nothing, really. Cadbury is neither Dutch nor Danish. But by now most Pakistanis - if not all - have probably received a text message stating otherwise. And thus begins a boycott campaign of all things Dutch or Danish. The self righteous lot, in their overzealousness, would acquiesce willingly. Yet, few who have received an email or sms that proclaimed the success of this boycott and lobbied for its continuity - or witnessed the demonstrations meant to convey outrage against both Denmark and the Netherlands for their alleged laxity in safeguarding certain religions’ sanctity - will stop to reflect on the virtues of pushing a hostile policy intended to coerce but neglecting to convince. Fewer still will bother to dig deeper and corroborate details of such episodes.

The cartoon controversy returned in 2008 – helped on by the aptly titled film ‘Fitna’- similarly denounced for its unflat…