It was a week of mourning for us Pakistanis.
I, personally, often remark my disdain for the useless lifestyles and fathomless cruelty that humanity frequently exhibits. But, now and then, even I look upon someone and wonder if perhaps there is more to humanity than I think.
The one from whom that thought is more often than not inspired is none other than the legendary philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi, who, unfortunately, has passed away on 8th July 2016.
Effectively dubbed ‘the world’s richest poor man’, Mr. Edhi has been an inspiration to millions of humans not only in Pakistan, but throughout the globe, including myself whose primary ambition is to mirror his exemplary example as a human being.
Many of you may not be aware of who this amazing man is, hence the reason for this article. My sole purpose is to inform you of this man’s incredible achievements and staggering humbleness.
Mr. Edhi was born in Gujarat in 1928, but migrated to Pakistan in 1947 when it gained independence from the British and India. His mother, who was suffering from mental issues and paralysis, was not at all aided by the state, hence developing him a sense of altruistic compassion. It was most likely the first reason for his eventual philanthropy. Prior to her death when he was 19, his mother used to give him 2 paisa (local currency at the time), one for his own food, and one to give to a beggar. Soon, he established a welfare trust named ‘Edhi Trust’.
He would later marry Mrs. Bilquis Edhi, a woman who also has her own remarkable story. Mr. Edhi would marry her as he recognized her own compassion, and she would later found her own organization the ‘Bilquis Edhi Foundation’ which she heads.
Now, you may be wondering what exactly this man has done to be so widely loved in our nation.
Mr. Edhi was a philanthropist of the humblest kind. Having run his organization ‘Edhi Foundation’ for the better part of six decades, he and his organization have provided several services to both Pakistan, as well as other countries. These include, but are not limited to, a 24-hour ambulance service with over 1800 private vans, free hospital services, free childcare services, free drug rehabilitation, as well as shelter for the destitute. His and his wife’s organization, have rescued over 16,000 unwanted babies. His own organization has rescued over 20,000 abandoned infants, rehabilitated over 50,000 orphans and trained over 40,000 nurses since its inception. It runs 330 welfare offices throughout the nation in both urban as well as rural areas, which serve the purposes listed above, and more.
It is no exaggeration to say that he has single-handedly changed the condition of welfare trust in Pakistan.
But, there is the admirable thing about this man. Despite his achievements, he has remained unequivocally humble.
In a recent interview, he claimed that he had failed his mission as he had been unable to eradicate poverty. In addition, he has never taken a salary from his organization, owns only two pairs of clothes and lives in a small apartment over his clinic in Karachi. Never glorifying his own name by appearing in TV shows and rejecting government donations, he is the very epitome of humbleness.
When former president Asif Ali Zardari recently offered to transport him abroad with better medical services when he was fatally ill with kidney problems, he refused, and instead took treatment in a local hospital. While lying in bed near death, he requested that his organs be donated to those who need them, although unfortunately, due to the unhealthy condition of his organs, only his eyes can be donated.
When he was asked about how he felt due to a failure in winning the Nobel Peace Prize, he replied that the look of happiness he saw on the faces of the people he saw was enough reward for him.
That is not to say that he has not been recognized, however.
He has been the recipient of several awards both domestic as well as national. He has received the Nishan-e-Imtiaz (Order of Excellence), which is the highest honor given to any civilian in Pakistan, the Ramon Magsaysay Award, the Lenin Peace Prize, the Gandhi Peace Prize, as well as the Ahmadiyya Muslim Peace Prize. He is loved throughout the nation and his sad demise left many, including myself, stunned and disbelieving.
After reading just one chapter of his autobiography, I felt a pain in my heart. Unlike certain autobiographies written by celebrities that beat around the bush and talk with an air of arrogance, Mr. Edhi’s autobiography was completely frank, honest and humble. Never does he acknowledge how famous he is and how much people respect him. He speaks in the language of facts. His tales, for example the story of how his young grandson was burnt by a psychotic woman and consequently passed away, truly tug at the hearts of even the coldest of hearts.
He has personally inspired me. It is because of him that despite me being a mere fifteen year-old, I give a small share of my pocket money to charity every month. Sometimes I pride myself on that, but then I remind myself that my meager donation is nothing compared to Mr. Edhi and his effort to eradicating poverty. Similarly, I try myself to live humbly by avoiding the usage of the AC, in spite of the hot weather, use few lights, consciously save water and develop in myself a feeling of compassion for others. And, similarly, I sometimes pride myself on that, but simply by remembering what Mr. Edhi has contributed to the world, all my arrogance diminishes.
Although I know that we will never have another Abdul Sattar Edhi, I pray that more philanthropists like him, who genuinely strive to inspire change, rise up in the world and help the unfortunate people who are suffering terribly.
I would like it if you would spread the news of this man’s legendary life and career and bring to light the potential that humans have to become something truly awe-inspiring.
I would like to end this article simply by saying:
I salute you Mr. Edhi. Rest in Peace, sir.