The other day I happened to meet a gentleman holding a responsible portfolio in the Islamabad Electric Supply Company (IESCO). I was pleasantly surprised at his courteous and friendly manner, which was proof that all was not completely rotten in government departments. As we talked of this and that over a cup of green tea, I complimented him on the way he handled the public. He rose further in my esteem, when he wistfully admitted that his attitude was the result of a particular gentleman, who taught Urdu at Gordon College - his alma mater.
Nasrullah Malik was a teacher, who masked his outstanding qualities of head and heart behind a socialist outlook. Malik Sahib’s lifestyle was largely bohemian and free of cosmetic behaviour. One often found him pacing the street in front of his simple home - his head hung low in contemplation and his long shoulder length locks distinguishing him from afar.
It was during one such evening that a group of his students stopped by to say “hello”. After enquiring about their welfare Malik Sahib suddenly asked: “What is that one single thing, which if controlled, can prevent conflict and mayhem in society?” Looking at the silent young men around him, this great man then uttered just two words - “your tongue”. One of these young men was the IESCO official in this part of my story.
Dr Shafiqur Rehman and his brother ran a clinic somewhere on the Railway Road in Lahore. It was said that this mortal angel had the gift of healing just by the manner in which he handled his patients. He would hold the suffering individual’s hand, while the latter described his symptoms nodding his head in rapt concentration. The good doctor would then prescribe the medicines and looking intently into the patient’s eyes with a smile illuminating his kindly face, explain in the softest of voices, what was wrong and how it would be treated. My father often said that almost everyone left Doctor Sahib’s clinic feeling better, even without taking his prescribed medication. So much for the power of the ‘tongue’!
In one of my early columns, I wrote about a gentleman called Dr Allah Ditta. In reality, the ‘Dr’ before his name was a title given to him by his doting patrons, for Allah Ditta was a medical assistant or ‘compounder’. One could spot this unique individual’s lean figure pedalling up our drive on his ladies bicycle with a small metal container resting in a basket fixed to the handle bars. The purpose of these visits was usually to inoculate ailing members of the family. It was often that I found myself at the pricking end of this gentleman’s hypodermic activity, which was accompanied by the gentlest of conversation and a feather-like touch. I can say without an iota of exaggeration that we did not feel the ‘injection’ at all, due, perhaps, to the soft voice that accompanied the whole operation and which acted as an anesthetic.
There was once a lady, who was the life and love of her family. It was common for family members to bring their problems to her and her advice was taken as the last word towards the resolution of these disputes. This woman was unique, as she did not bear a speck of malice, even against those who meant her no good. It was said that her emotional makeup had a part that was missing - the part that produced anger. Her tongue was soft, gentle and was never heard to utter the language that was harsh or abrasive.
The house next door to this gentle woman was occupied by another female with an attitude. In an inexplicable act of hostility, the latter instructed her servants to do everything in their power to teach next door children a lesson. The end result was that the young ones were often subjected to bullying and insulting language. When this first happened, the youngest of this lot went sobbing in humiliation and anger to his mother and told her what had happened. This great woman held him close, kissed his forehead and said: “Son, have patience and never retaliate for you will always be judged by the words that you utter.” In time, these children grew up to make a name for themselves in their respective careers, but always kept their mother’s words as one of their greatest treasures. I should know - for the gentle woman was none other than my mother!
This world would, perhaps, be a better place if only we could read the message behind these stories - a message that preaches patience, magnanimity and kindness and, above all, the need to control what comes out of us as words.
The writer belongs to a very old and established family of the Walled City. His forte is the study of History.