Voyagers to the Horizon
By Ziad Ahsan
We have all had moments of sudden illumination when it occurred to us that we had ideation of doing great things in an extraordinary manner, and it was so easy for us that we wondered why we had not done it before. In most of the cases we forget to meditate further due to the chains of self-incarceration including professions, needs and wants. Human nature is super complex with greatest degree of variation. Man, the super creature of Almighty, have tremendous inner and given the choice between just and unjust and between right and wrong. Well operative hands, complex mind and imaginative power are the real human assets which are backed up by the intuition of curiosity and escapade. Results are obvious; mastery over the planet, countless discoveries, abundant inventions and trespassing to the universe.
Beyond miraculous and charismatic approach, the social and economic change in human history was the result of the individuals who practiced their dreams with mindful moves while sacrificing their selves through exercising endurance, patience and serenity. Realizing their venture larger than life, they tackled the obstacles with a warrior spirit. The curiosity towards learning about such strange men, leads to observe lives of few of them.
I am too junior to write everything about Akhtar Hameed Khan (AHK), one of few strange men in connection to my own society. His epic pursuit of eradication of poverty through communities own potential and participation worked wonders in the areas of his interventions. Komilla Cooperative Pilot Project and Orangi Pilot Project were the best to demonstrate his approach of participatory development. Replicas with modification and further innovations were made and a broad based rural support programme (RSP) movement started in Pakistan through establishment of Agha Khan Rural Support Programme.
Realists can’t solve problems but idealists can. AHK was an idealist, a theme designer and an untiring implementer. Here lies a book where many facets of his personality are revealed from his letters to his disciple and appreciator, Mr. Shoaib Sultan Khan (SSK). He was a big man who chose a tough path for himself, pushed aside personal comforts, desired to do what is right, intellectual experimenter, an extrovert and compassionate. He made real efforts with real spirit of work. Consideration of minute details of strategy and implementation, expression of his will and confidence, demonstration of patience and persistence, appreciation and admonishing, enviable demonstration of personal values of honesty and integrity are some of the effects he leaves on anyone around. Marvelous is his self evaluations and candor to highlight his failures. He is mindful of the negative and positive attributes of self and in a magical expression, inspires others to ponder over personal values.
These people who wake at night, enjoying solitude
Creating images out of their madness
May appear bedraggled
But their critics are forced to praise them.
How such valor comes in personality? Joseph Glanvil‘s “The Vanity of Dogmatizing” gives Mathew Arnold a poetic inspiration about an Oxford student who joins the gypsies and roams the world along with this wild brotherhood to seek the secret of their lives. This inspiration results in his famous poem “The Scholar Gipsy” where he imagines the life of the gipsy scholar in a strange world and in strange circumstances. Akhtar Hameed Khan’s choice of struggle is the coincidence with that of the choice of the Oxford scholar; both dared to value their lives.
Here literature ends and a real story comes before us when Dr. Livingstone, an explorer to Africa is met by Henry Mortan Stanley who was on mission to find him. That was an awkward moment when Stanley, after all his hardship in his search for Dr. Livingstone, at last found the Doctor by a lake in Central Africa. Stanley held out his hand and said stiffly, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” Stanley had heroically plunged through the equatorial forests to find Livingstone and to bring him back to civilization. But Livingstone was not particularly anxious to be found and had a decided objection to being brought back to civilization. What, he wanted was a new adventure. Stanley did not find the real Livingstone till he discovered that the old man was as young at heart as himself. The two men became acquainted only when they began to plan a new expedition to find the source of the Nile. This too has much resemblance with the story of Akhtar Hameed Khan and Shoaib Sultan Khan who joined hands to set and achieve their missions without stepping back. Shoaib Sultan Khan continued on the path of his teacher with same spirit and enthusiasm with deepest acknowledgement of the legacy he got.
Strangeness of their art is strangely simple i.e. Clarity of objective, belief in strategy, simplicity of the procedure, candid communication and extremism in integrity with the whole process. They narrow their attention in the interest of efficiency. Besides their intellect, literary thoughts and excellent expression they possess the quality of being without mask. They are now the inspiration for millions of community members who got direct interaction with them or who got their philosophy.
Like any society and culture, humans always needed heroes within or around them. We as a human race must believe in something we are always striving to find the best so that we might mirror ourselves after them. Our natural desire to be somebody else urges us to develop some of their attributes, if we feel we are on the same mission of these extraordinary teacher and disciple. Akhtar Hameed Khan, with real darvesh in himself, rightly described in a verse of Iqbal.
(Do not ask of these Devotees, if you have faith, you should look at them
They have the illuminated palm up their sleeves)
To realize their objectives from their own eyes and to feel the spirit of their work, it should be mandatory for the professionals of RSPs to go through the literature produced by these two men in addition to the regular orientation. Their literature in the forms of books, correspondence and notes gives us an insight into their mind and working. This is the only way to make their efforts and values keep going within the people travelling on the same path.
The author is a development consultant and a free lance writer.