Thursday, February 9, 2012

Peace redefined by Akhuwat.

Signing of MOU with Dr. Amjad Saqib, Executive Director, Akhuwat


For me and the 12 other cyclists, the voyage was life changing and inspirational. From the outlook of it, many people will conclude it as an activity which would have tested our physical fitness only. I tend to disagree with those people; my disagreement will make me stand at least two football fields away from them.

I do not have the right set of words to express my gratitude to each and every one who stood with us during this journey. My first post after Pedal for Peace is dedicated to Akhuwat – The Largest Interest Free Microfinance Network inPakistan and our first supporter.

Each and every one from Akhuwat was so compassionate with us throughout that the last six (6) months felt like a fairy tale rather than a roller coaster ride. It all began when I decided to share the idea of Pedal of Peace with a mentor of mine - Saleem Ahmed Ranjha saab. He was in Saudi Arabia that time and we talked over Facebook chat about this.

I still remember that once I had explained him the idea that we wanted to promote the message of notable organizations that are bringing a social change, or I would call revolution in Akhuwat's case, his words were, "I hope it will not be uncomfortable for you." For him, my health and safety was first; for me to forget such a caring attitude is impossible.

He referred us to Dr. Amjad Saqib who is the Executive Director of Akhuwat. During the meeting with him in Lahore, I got answers for those issues which I had not visualized before and I might not have ever visualized if I did not meet him. After 30 minutes into the conversation it felt I was not presenting him an idea, instead it felt we had switched roles and he was the one sharing his idea. The sense of ownership he showed was astonishing; it was the defining point of this journey. We got a guide whose only job in the world is to empower the deprived and lead people towards peace.

Later on, a lot of other organizations jumped on the band wagon - national and international. The partnership with Akhuwat opened endless number of doors. Following were the other partners who joined after Akhuwat: Taaleem Foundation, Essakhel Foundation, Human Relief Foundation UK, National Highways and Motorway Police, Future Leaders of Pakistan, Islamabad the Capital website, Kuch Khaas, Focal Point Magazine, The News International, News One, Radio 1 FM 91 and Jemware.

Like any other journey, the hurdles one has to cross to reach the end always come unexpected. We had numerous situations were at times it looked like we would never be able to Pedal for Peace. But, the support and guidance from each and every person who stood behind us during the course of this journey boosted our morale to incomparable levels every day. We had three accidents on the way, I was involved in two. But, none was an obstacle which could have brought our effort to a grinding halt. We all moved on. 

From 5-8th January 2012, we were pushed into a realm of knowledge where emotions were going to be used in educating humanity about humanity. Dr. Amjad Saqib had introduced us to Anser Nawaz Chatta. The duo planned an itinerary for us which sparkled and revived the human in our souls which usually gets lost in the monotony of our professional lives.

After being flagged off from Faisal Mosque, we were welcomed by LRBT at our first stop in Mandara. LRBT is a welfare hospital which restores the eyesight of the needy. In the language of symbolism, it was surely an eye opener for blind people like us, who can see through eyes but are unable to see through our hearts; who are oblivion to the blessings, who take blessings for granted. Moving on to the next day, we were welcomed by organizations which are playing a significant role in providing solutions to special children and the deaf. We met such organizations at Dina and Jhelum.

On Day 1, it was more of a race than a march towards Peace. After meeting the children who these organizations were serving, we re-grouped instinctively and started looking for those who were in our group and left behind. The sight of those special children waiting to flag us off and waving their placards early in the morning brought a lot of cyclists to tears. Those who were fast on the track started to wait for the brothers who were slow. The transformation had begun; the seeds of brotherhood had been sowed.
 

The second day ended at the Bashir Hospital in Gujrat. Battling it out with the rain and in my case with injuries due to the two accidents I had, we all reached successfully to Gujrat. Dr. Ijaz Bashir welcomed us in the most jubilant fashion. For us it was a treat, to know about his work and effort for those who are suffering from cleft lip and palate syndrome. Staying at his house and the dinner was also a treat. 

The meeting with Dr. Ijaz Bashir and his brothers made us realize that success comes to those who are modest and fulfill the obligation which Allah has given them i.e. to help the human race with the resources Allah has given them.
Beyond doubt, that is a test Dr. Ijaz Bashir is passing it with flying colors. What else can be better than giving someone the ability to smile? He is doing that for twenty years by providing free operations to those suffering from cleft lip and palate syndrome.

We left from Gujrat after a heavy breakfast at Dr. Ijaz Bashir's house. We felt a little shy as there was gas shortage in the city on that particular day, but he and his family did not let it hinder the grand table which was laid in front of us - most of it home cooked food; channay, poori, halwa and I am still wondering why he forgot lassi?!

We left towards Gujranwala after being flagged of by the Dr. Ijaz Bashir, his brothers and the DC Gujrat with a lot of zeal, zest and ‘fat’ in our bodies - maybe that was the reason that we ended up at our final destination an hour earlier - which surprised the organizers on the way, in Gujranwala, and the District Government waiting to receive us at the Jinnah Stadium. It is the same stadium where Sachin Tendulkar made his ODI debut in 18th December 1989. 
 

On our route to Gujranwala, after crossing the Chenab Toll Plaza we were welcomed by The Knowledge School. Near Rahwali Cantonments we were welcome by students who could not hear but were full of life and positive energy. We were offered the traditional Gujranwala delicacy - Kulfi. We interacted with the young boys through the help of interpreters. They knew why we were on the road cycling, though they were not cycling with us but they assured us of their support.

One thing which will be fair to say is that throughout this trip the meaning of peace was being defined and refined – the evolution did not stop at all. Peace is just not a word to describe happiness, calmness and serenity; it is a subject which covers different aspects of our society which needs to be stable in order to call an environment ‘peaceful’.

Tiredness had taken a toll on our bodies now and some of us succumbed to it – we woke up late on the final day. Thankfully, we re-grouped and left Gujranwala; one and half hours late. Such was the effect of re-grouping, pep talk we had and the bond of brotherhood that we reached on time i.e. we reached 1 and a half hours earlier to everyone's surprise. Surely, Allah can do anything and everything. He shortens and lengthens and He makes the tests easier and tough to test His slaves. 

Children who could not hear, at Kamoke, waited for us. We could hear them; we could see they were full of lives. We could see they had to will to succeed, no matter what; having one sense less was no hindrance for them. I could see old and young in my group bursting and hiding their tears at the same time. Some wore glasses to hide their emotions, some just escaped into corners so they do not get noticed. Realization was sinking in, unfulfilled desires of life did not matter much for this group anymore; the revival had begun - the resurgence showed us that blessings can never be taken for granted.
 


Children at Kamoke
We entered into Lahore at 3.55 PM.

The road was cordoned off by NH & MP and the local police. Lahore was on a standstill when we entered, we had made it to Minar-i-Pakistan. In that moment of celebration near Minar-i-Pakistan and with all that noise in that area; we could still hear a strange silence inside us. It was the silence which we had set ourselves for – the quietness of peace.

Throughout this journey, I used to enlighten the cyclists and the supporters the meaning behind our idea of cycling from Faisal Masjid to Minar-i-Pakistan. The idea which created Pakistan was Islam and Minar-i-Pakistan depicts the success of the idea. Hence, in the same way Pedal for Peace (1st Edition) was a journey to show that ideas can become realities.  


We entered into Lahore and were welcomed by Dr. Amjad Saqib, Dr. Izhar Hashmi and some more Akhuwat members. For us, we concluded that this was the end of our endurance.

Dr. Amjad Saqib and Anser Nawaz had informed us that our night stay would be at Fountain House. After toiling on the roads for the past four (4) days in freezing temperatures, singing Chalta Ja Rey and Dil Dil Pakistan, we reached Fountain House. No one had ever heard about Fountain House and everyone who was asking me about the place where we will spend the night in Lahore before and during the trip, I used to say, "We will be staying at a guest house, by the name of Fountain House…". I thought it was some lavish guest house.

Early in my life, ALHAMDULILAH, Allah (SWT) had given me an opportunity to help a person who had reached to a level of depression which could have taken his life. So, ending up at Fountain House gave me that strong feeling of déjà vu. Fountain House is working for decades to help people who lose mental stability due to depression or drugs. It is a welfare hospital which accommodates more than 400 patients – men and women – who are provided with excellent food, living conditions and medical care.

The realization and reality was sinking in now; for once all this sinking feeling did not make me sick. Going through Fountain House and meeting the members (the patients) over there was a life altering. Throughout Pedal for Peace, I thought I was the shepherd who was taking his flock along to graze the field to give them an opportunity which can nurture them, but, instead, I was a member of the flock which was being nurtured by Akhuwat. The meeting with Akhuwat members in the end and knowing people like Ranjha Saab, Amjad Saab, Izhar Hashmi Saab, Anser Saab and a lot more was the best we could have ever got.

I can go on and on in elucidating which cannot be described. I can go on and on to share all the lessons our group learnt or tried to preach, but I do not have the right set of words to express my gratitude to Allah and then to Akhuwat and every member of its.

Thank you Akhuwat!

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