THE WAY IT WAS: Even freedom fries will do —Mian Ijaz Ul Hassan

The president has told us in clear words what needs to be done and also assured us of his great hopes for sunnier days. Today’s weather forecast for tomorrow however is not very good. Heavily overcast with intermittent showers of rain

I hardly ever speculate about resurrection or salvation. These are divine matters beyond human management. A person should live a sanitary, simple life and try to do his best. I am aware that life is not that simple but what else can a man do?

I wish dying was simpler. Some people are lucky to die in a passing moment, cease breathing on a cool summer morning, next to their mate. Death can be such an inconvenience for others. I wish the moment the spirit escaped the body; the flesh and bones could have equally easily vaporised into an intangible form. Become part of passing breeze, a blue sky, or a shade of green — the fragrance of a wild herb or even a weed. Transmuted into silence of a starry night, a reflection in water, or a dewdrop skidding down a glistening leaf. There are so many other possibilities.

God could have considered plenty of other options but he in his wisdom did not. I wonder why a body devoid of consciousness has to be buried into a greedy grave with such elaborate rituals. Perhaps the purpose is to return it to the womb of the true mother from which it was formed — dust unto dust — lest we forget.

Actually even otherwise the human body is a nuisance. There are old bodies with young souls and old souls in young bodies, not counting of course the bodies of persons that lack souls altogether. Quite often the body can make startling demands, which are not commensurate with the heart or the head. The soul actually is a prisoner of the body. It is not fair that the soul should be urged to suffer the wanton needs and reckless fantasies of the body. Why fall in love? Why be fascinated by a pair of eyes that squint or a big nose? Why be moved by a fleeting glance, a flimsy gait, small feet with shy toes? Why let the soul be infected with sour and sweet sights, smells, sounds and profane sensations, which have no room in the Heaven with its milk, honey and pliant hoories?

What would the heavens be like without infatuations, unholy passions and other infirmities? Imagine a place devoid of earthly odours and wicked longings. God, You know what is best. But at the end do let both the body and soul be peacefully dispersed into Nothingness.

Dreary days put you in dreary moods. If you have spent two days trying to catch a flight from Islamabad to Lahore, grim skies do not help lighten the spirit. On the second day I was checked on to a superannuated Fokker, scheduled to leave Islamabad at mid-morning. It took off after some delay but almost half way to Lahore it developed aches and pains and was gently guided back to its nursing staff. We were off-loaded and driven to the lounge. The passengers were told that they would be able to leave within one hour but there were further delays every hour. Finally in the afternoon the flight was cancelled. I considered myself lucky as I was put on a subsequent flight. Fortunately I was not travelling to Dera Ghazi Khan and Bahawalpur or some other forsaken moffussal town. I wonder what happened to the natives travelling there?

At Islamabad while I waited in the lounge, the fifth one-day cricket match between Pakistan and New Zealand provided a pleasant diversion as I was in an ugly mood. Imagine being roughly stopped while rushing to the Islamabad International Airport and rudely shooed off the road towards nowhere, without any explanation. When a cavalcade of slick black limousines appeared and slithered down the road towards zero point, everyone realised that the eagle had landed and was now on its way to the parliament.

In the meantime the passengers proceeding to Karachi, having enjoyed the privilege of seeing the presidential cavalcade, had missed their flight. I believe the PIA staff, taking advantage of the empty plane, organised a game of softball cricket match with the few passengers on board, in the Boeing aisle. As always the PIA won and the passengers lost. But let me add, all said and done, except for the rumpus with passengers, who had missed their flight to Karachi because of the president, the PIA staff at the Islamabad airport remained cool.

Cricketers and orators cannot be birds of the same feather. It must be said that while cricket, in spite of untimely injuries to our exuberant stars, has sustained itself well; the orators are fast becoming a vanishing species. The president spoke well, in his usual style, which is demeaning of others, before an unappreciative audience. I must say that like the PIA staff at the airport, he also kept his cool. The Opposition was mouthing rude incantations. The MMA walk-out was on an issue central to their interests, which they had overlooked while settling with the presidential emissaries, putting their eager big thumbs on the dotted line.

The treasury benchers would, every now and than, solemnly start rapping their desks, sounding more like a dirge than a cheer. No wonder at the conclusion of his speech the president had to clench his two fists against his chest as a gesture of defiance expressing, “I have done it, Jo karna ay kar lo.” Thank God he didn’t resort to the more graphic pumping action employed by bowlers when they glare into the eyes of the batsman they get particular satisfaction from demolishing.

But truly, Razzaq without doubt performed better of the two that day. We were 80 odd runs for four wickets. The required run rate was eleven point something an over, which had to be sustained for more than twenty overs. It seemed impossible but Razzaq was not impressed. He smashed countless fours and sixes across and over the ground. Finally as you know he was caught at the boundary; a little more lift to the ball would have sent it over the fielder for another six. We were just four runs short when our last batsman was run out. What a match! What a speech?

The president has told us in clear words what needs to be done and also assured us of his great hopes for sunnier days. Today’s weather forecast for tomorrow however is not very good. Heavily overcast with intermittent showers of rain and cold north winds. But let us not brood, making our mood dull and dreary. Aloo aur mooley waley parathey or our own pancakes called mithay pooray should keep everyone happy and cheerful. If this cannot be managed, even a plateful of freedom Fries will do.

Prof Ijaz-ul-Hassan is a painter, author and a political activist