Islamabad knows cold winters and this is my first winter here in the capital. When winter arrives, it walks beside you like a constant companion; its silence never really leaves you. At times, such silence gets suffocating and like every soul who calls Karachi home, there comes a point when I begin to feel numb. Writing, it appears, has been helping in preventing numbness from reaching the rest of me. As I write this, there is this need to go back to the place I have been, to reach out for what was familiar that now appears strange.
For a long time now, I’ve been wondering how I’m surviving away from home. Yesterday, I met people who have never known any homes except for those which they’ve found with each other. What I learned is what I would like to share with you.
I learned that each human has the capacity to endure way beyond what he or she believes himself or herself to be capable of enduring. We may weep aloud or silently when we face loss but we can and do make it through. I learned that even the calmest of cities can hide the ugliest of truths. Here in the capital, you will find homelessness and hunger and pain of the worst kinds and forms. Islamabad is green and very much alive but there are people on the streets, under the shelter of the trees, who are careworn and need a place to rest their heads in dignity. The city gives the impression of being distant from the rest of Pakistan because it’s more organised, less chaotic and that it takes care to beautify itself in every season it weathers. But it’s the people who make up a city, for “what is the city but the people?” (That’s Shakespeare for you. Coriolanus. One of his best and highly underrated plays)
There was something about loss which I needed to understand. I had to know that there always is a comfort which every soul yearns for: to be loved, to be safe and to be warm. When that is taken away, souls suffer. You may not tell it in their radiant smiles or feel it in their wrinkled hands. You may not find it written on their faces or spot it in their words. But if you look hard enough, if you speak gently and kindly enough, if you are patient enough, you will know what they have lost.
It’s easy for me. I’m learning how to carry home with me, wherever I go. I’m learning to tuck away my fears, to look forward to what is to come in a constant state of hope. But what about those people who live in homes for the homeless? They were left behind because they could not keep up, because they were unwanted, because they could not talk or look at the world their parents did. Will you – or lets not bring you in, lets talk about me – will I give them a home when they are in most need of it? Will I let them enter my home, wherever it is or however it is, when they have no place else to go? Or will they be left on the streets or at the doorstep of another stranger like me?
If you are reading these words, I only ask this of you: Please don’t forget the family who may or may not be always there for you. Don’t forget to call up those you know, to go meet them even if it means going out of the way, and to ask them how they’ve been. I am writing this to let you know that sometimes all it takes is one person who can tip the balance, one phone call which can save a life and a walk in the winter morning which can help put everything into perspective.
If you are in Islamabad and would like to volunteer, please call up Edhi Homes and let them know when you’d like to come over. I hope to see you there.
Edhi Homes, Islamabad Near Shifa International Hospital Sector: H – 8, Islamabad
Phone: +92 (51) 4435129