Sab … again!
Sabeen was a fearless spirit - perhaps the bravest woman I have met in my life. If there was a cause that deserved a champion, if there was a group that needed a hero, if there was a person with a story that needed a voice - Sabeen would not just raise her hand but also stand in the sun, walk a dangerous mile and push the cause or group or person beyond what they ever imagined.
But she was not ordinary in her approach. She was defiant, original and artistic - she would protest with taste and eloquence. With passion and perseverance. With commitment and focus.
So one wonders, with such originality and passion and commitment and unconditional service - how is it that instead of hundreds of thousands of people coming together to celebrate her as she leaves us, why were we just a few hundred? Instead of every TV channel running stories on her life, why do we see a negligible mention of her in the news?
She deserved a million people to see her off, she deserved front page stories in every newspaper, she deserved 24 hour coverage on every channel - but it didn't happen. It didn't happen because we as a nation don't deserve people like Sabeen. Because she was too good for us.
While you might look at her art exhibit - Dil Phaink - or at her Valentines Day campaign - Fasla na rakhein, pyaar honey dein - or the discussions she would host about Salman Taseer and the Blasphemy Law, or her interest in Science and Qawwali, or her struggle against discrimination of all sorts - whether against Christians or Ahmedis or Baluchis - or her belief in protesting instead of sitting at home; or her love of art and music and culture and freedom - you might conclude that all this is unfocused chaos of an artistic mind; a renaissance woman maybe, but definitely confused.
I see something different. I see an uncelebrated saviour of a nation - a spark in a sea of darkness. She pinpointed every wrong, every mistake, every injustice that we continue to perpetrate in this country. She did what she could to fix things - and when she couldn't change something, she made it a point to take a stand. She might have felt alone at times, she might have felt scared - but she believed what she believed and she was willing to die for it.
Pakistan is a mess, and everyone has their take on the situation. From the Army to the politicians, from wise old generals to patriotic journalists - but Sabeen is someone who instinctively got it right.
We need more science, more music, more poetry and more art in our life. We need to take a stand when anyone - especially the weakest among us - are persecuted and oppressed. We must give our voice to every just cause, every fair demand and every true story. And we must do it consistently, repeatedly, passionately. Failure is when we give up. Success is when we keep trying.
Sabeen was my friend - she would get passionately angry at a 'wrong' being committed against anyone anywhere. But in the last 1 or 2 years, her anger became more gentle. She was still as passionate about her causes, but her anger did not perturb her as much. She had found a new inner strength that allowed her to smile while fighting for what she believed in. She had come to accept things as they were, while struggling to make them better.
As a friend said, she must be laughing her heart out while watching us. After all, she left us with a bang and not a whimper. The artist in me appreciates her final act: its defiance, its timing, its beauty. But what can I do, I am also her friend so I can't but have tears in my eyes as I write this.
She also left a lot undone. I can imagine myself looking back thirty years from now and wondering what else she would have done. I am already missing all of that.
So if you want to keep her legacy alive, if you want to experience the spirit of Sabeen here and now, and if you love her - be more like her. Be defiant, artistic, original, authentic, crazy, funny, kind, brave and honest - and take up her causes.
She is my hero and I hope yours too. In a different Pakistan, in a better and more beautiful nation - she would be our national hero and a giant inspiration for future generations.
I wish Sabeen a beautiful journey home.