Tuesday, 7 August 2012

My Hero: Safwat Ghayur

Postcard from Delhi: Aneela Babar tells her child the story of her hero Safwat Ghayur 

by Aneela Z. Babar

Dear Child,

Three days into the month had me waking up one night in tears. A long time believer in signs and dreams I spent some time calling up your father cautioning him to be careful in the coming days. I was still not restful and woke you up a couple of times in the night as I paced about the room, praying for mercy. In my selfishness I feared the Purvey of the Horrors To Come to visit only my boys. I never imagined that my sister of the heart who as a child would finish that offensive mug of milk for me would now put her lips to the poisoned cup of pain for us as well. I am glad we were here in Pakistan for this my son, and that at some level you  too absorbed some semblance of what service to the nation beyond the call of duty means. That you could register the different colours of love, of valor, of courage, of facing pain with dignity. You were in the presence of a very brave woman that was generous with her compassion and patience. At a time when I raged and ranted (the tears were yet to come) it was only the touch of her cool hand in mine that reminded me how very blessed I am to have her and hers in my life. In the years to come you will hear many stories of a very brave man who smiled his ways into all our lives. He was our hero, now he will be yours. His story is not over, he was a most unusual person for our times and our world, I wait to see how the next chapter unfolds.

 Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamaare dil mein hai.
Dekhna hai zor kitna baazuay qaatil mein hai
Karta nahin kyun doosra kuch baat cheet,
                             Dekhta hun main jise voh chup teri mehfil mein hai 
Aye shaheed-e-mulk-o-millat main tere oopar nisaar,
Ab teri himmat ka charcha ghair ki mehfil mein hai
Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamaare dil mein hai.

 The desire for sacrifice is now in our hearts
We shall now see what strength there is in the boughs of the enemy.
O country, Why does no other speak?
Whoever I see, is gathered quiet in your party...
O martyr of country, of nation, I submit myself to thee
For yet even the unacquainted speaks of thy courage
The desire for struggle is in our hearts
We shall now see what strength there is in the boughs of the enemies.
When the time comes, we shall show thee, O heaven
For why should we tell thee now, what lurks in our hearts? 

Though I could have also played around with another famous dialogue from the film

Safwat Ghayur ke dushman ka sirf ek hi kasoor hai ......ki woh Safwat ka dushman hai! ...

    You can charge Safwat's enemy of but one crime...that he is Safwat's enemy

but you get the gist:
(July 14, 1959 – August 4, 2010

But going back to the enigmatic Mr Ghayur. Yes, I don’t think his fan group was remiss in placing him on a pedestal, not for him the human vices of sloth, pride, vulgarity, boorish behaviour or pettiness and laziness as someone who was born to such good fortune as him could have succumbed to—somehow this suave French speaking, globetrotting, head strong, incorruptible law enforcer reminded you of the heroes from popular cinema who would battle baddies, dodge bullets, with not a crease in their well stitched suit – and here I am leaning towards a certain Secret Service Agent and not the Jat, for our hero preferred to deliver his killer lines at a lower decibel. 

Interesting aside: Mr Ghayur has been to the local cinemas, well at least for one Pushto movie when he chaperoned a visiting friend. The said friend was pretty scandalized with our domestic fare and declared it made French erotica seem like a training manual by the Taleban for virtuous behaviour (or words to that effect). But I guess this excursion of his, gives us just cause to add the line “he was a patron of the local arts” to his resume, lest he sounds too pucca saheb for you.

Yes, yes nothing got to our debonair man in uniform, not battling the thugs, nor sweating out in the thanas, and the various encounters he found himself in--- or made sure that he made a detour to “find" himself in. Yes, not even the most hair raising adventure of all --that has people tearing out their hair ,  running out of the house in their pyjamas. Raising two under-twos!! Yup, he did that too. Unfazed, and as quite the dapper gentleman.

I first encountered this gentleman as the paramapada of an elaborate game of snakes and ladders a very charming young woman outlined on the dining table for her elder sister. That the young woman went on to marry the hero of our tale is- well -another story. She is a bit vague with the details, but how fortuitous for someone who answered  a "police officer" (when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up), to marry one when she ended up  in medical school instead.

But the same person who introduced us to Hotel California, played Everyone Loves Kung fu Fighting in a band in Bangkok. He had friends who set up restaurants in Islamabad THAT WERE OPEN AT 9 pm (which was really cool for a city where you walked on the wild side if you spoke to someone in a different BPS grade than you),  who drove off with his new bride in a car come rukhsati time, and a very nice car I should add! ALONE! gasp!(with no sisters, cousins, and the ubiquitous five year old niece who will tug at the bride’s veil for the entire journey) in the process scandalizing all the old aunts and well the not so old amongst us as well.

He was also the good son who abandoned a really good first job offer (yes teaching karate is a pretty fine job) to accompany his family back to Pakistan, who might have dreamed of joining the foreign service (and would have been very good at it ) but chose instead the police so he could be around when his family needed him –and in turn took care of a family far far larger than his own. Ok, fine! maybe, we should go ahead and call him the desi hero after all!

I don’t think I am the stage in my life when I can find meaning in the things that happen to our heroes—but I do find comfort and a lot of laughter in the image of the foolish young man who goes up there believing himself to be a martyr with all the 70 houris and rivers of milk and honey it brings and encounters Safwat Ghayur instead. 

Yes, perhaps there is some divine justice after all...

Aneela Z. Babar (Pindi/Delhi/Melbourne). When she is not busy being the bane of her three year old's existence, Babar works on gender, culture, religion and militarism (with a heady dose of Bollywood trivia).

ed note: some months ago, a man was stopped by the police at a crossing in Peshawar. ' Why can't I pass?' Sorry Sir he replied his boss was passing, his boss you see was a brave man you see and the target of the Taliban. 'A brave man? You only had one brave boss his name was Safwat Ghayur and he is dead!'
RIP Safwat Ghayur and all those who have fought the good fight
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