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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Not only do I believe in miracles, I consider them my due!

WARNING: This is not a piece of general interest. I just had to put some thoughts on paper as I relax at Bealieu-sur-Mer, a little resort on the gorgeous South of France coast.

Imagine: almost broke, recovering from a bout of an uncomfortable ailment that had all but taken away the wind from my sails, feeling depressed - really depressed - for the first time in my life, I get a call from Madanjeet Singh (a remarkable man by all standards; read his book The Sasiya Story; it's also downloadable in PDF, so search for it in Google). He invites me and my family to spend a week at his villa here. Out of the blue! Nothing short of a miracle, right?

I have always believed in miracles ... though not in the 'religious' sense of the word. I think of miracles as those events that happen just-in-time and when they are totally unexpected. Some call it 'luck' or 'chance' - but both these words seem so incongruous (and I really do not believe in them at all) in comparison to the enormity of the events I am thinking of. And I am not even including escaping the three crazy, near-death experiences that could have cut me off in my prime.

The biggest miracle, I guess, was my being born to the set of parents who could not have been better. It provided me a nurturing that was staggering: growing up surrounded by Indian (and, later, Pakistani) poets, writers, musicians, politicians! And books, books, books! The qualities I remember most about them is their sabr, their unwavering principles and gaiety in times of their greatest stress and losses (1947, the lack of money or material comforts, for both; Abi's constantly failing health; Ummi's 27 years of widowhood and - for long periods - absence of her only son: my career at sea brought me home for only very short periods each year). And their sense of humour that really saw them through all this.

Among the greatest miracles in my life are: finding Nuzhat for a wife; no one could have done as much as she has for me. It could fill a book! Having the sister-gap filled by Jehan Ara, was also a major event. If ever a statue was to be made to personify 'selfless affection', it'd bear her face. The arrival of my daughter, Ragni Marea, when there was not the slightest inkling or hope of this joyous bundle, made even more miraculous by the way she was born and survived. How she has, over the years, made me proud with her sensitivity and values! Meeting Sabeen, and finding in her the attributes that rekindled hope in the generation to come, was another milestone. I don't know of anyone else (especially in her age-group) who combines such values, abilities, and resolve as she does.

Not all miracles directly involved people, of course. My running away to sea provided me opportunities I had not imagined in my wildest fantasies or dreams. How could I have ever predicted that I'd be travelling around the world, more than making up for the formal education I had abandoned early, coming into contact with the people I admired most, among whom the single most important name, without any doubt, must be that of Bertrand Russell. Or dancing to the Beatles, when they were just a small group - almost unknown - in a little club in Liverpool. Or watching The Doors, Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones in concerts. And an untold number of Jazz Greats at the New Orleans Jazz Festival. Or attending Woodstock, a really defining moment in my life.

Being part of the 'hippies', remains the greatest of influences, for - even today, when most of my contemporaries have succumbed to 'yuppiedom' and a conservatism, even religiosity, unimaginable in them (it has spread almost like a disease among some of the top names of the period) - I retain my hippie-anarchistic attitudes. Amen!

The route that led me to my ICT career is no less miraculous. I had to give up a 25-year-long seafaring career I loved … because of circumstances that were sad: Ummi became almost invalid. But it was also joyous to be with Ragni as she grew up.

I gave it all up for something I had never considered doing. To set up a business, when totally broke, may have been my idea of 'daring'. But, finding myself in this successful position, as I do now (albeit not in a financial sense; but who cares!), is often incomprehensible to me as I look back. Equally miraculous, for someone who abandoned formal education, is my having acquired a place, however small, in the World of Education, serving, for a while, as a Head of Department and holding a teaching position at a University.

Regrets? None, whatsoever. That, perhaps is the greatest of all miracles! For there is really little or nothing I'd wish to change in my life, were I given the chance to live it again! I must, however, admit to an occasional tinge of a sense of underachievement, when I think of my so-so abilities sandwiched between a father - who was a political activist, a poet, a writer, a doctor, and one who could sing raags or snatches of arias with equal ease, speak and write impeccable Urdu and English - and a daughter who has accomplished a great deal at such a young age and, who will, I know, continue to accomplish more in time.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ohh Zak. This post almost made me cry.

And OH-MY-GOD!! You were at Woodstock????????? Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!!!!!! Excuse me while i collapse.
You SAW The Beatles performing while they were just a small band? Man!! I can't describe in words my feelings for Lennon and McCartney. (especially Lennon)


03 January, 2006 22:19

Anonymous Anonymous said...

And its not just that. The whole post is just sooo....beyootiful.

03 January, 2006 22:20

Anonymous Anonymous said...

And Bertrand Russell!!!

03 January, 2006 22:29


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