For months since my last blog, I have been thinking of writing about my past. Lot has been written on the subject, some say forget your past, live forwards. It is true because it is not there anymore, it is just a tense now. So many events so many people, they are not there anymore, everything is history. Where I left most of the people I knew then, so many events which happened then, and all ideas we thought off, they all transmuted themselves. But today, I will only exert myself to dwell on the future of my past as the stated subject of my blog represents. When we were kids the exposure to the world was restricted to books, music, radio and our ideals, which in my case was my father’s indomitable spirit, impregnable principles for which in his lifetime he suffered in many different ways but never compromised. Growing up in his shadow thus left lasting imprints on my life to come. As I grew up some became my lineaments with which I was distinguished. As I reflect back “TIME” and all its relevant areas on my bringing up have had a deep impact. All my achievements in one or the other way have been attached to this one word – very difficult to follow and absorbs its effects completely. It can make you impatient, irritable, frustrated, sad, dejected and not forgetting contended and happy. Growing up as eldest of eight siblings kept my father very worried about our future especially when at a critical time of his parental obligations he was jobless and we lived in extreme modesty. He kept his pride with unimaginable difficulty trying to remain obscure as to how especially the next day will unfold for him and to his responsibilities. His unpretentious nature despite being a man of taste and extreme mannerisms makes me now extremely despondent. The future of my past is beginning to unfurl as I write this post. As I pierce into the past the remembrances are beginning to upset me, but write I must.
My earliest memory is perhaps when I was 6 or 7 years old. My father loved dogs and the ones he kept as long as I remember was a pair of Bull-terriers, he had named them Whisky and Dash. Whiskey and Dash were very fond of me, followed me everywhere I went and protected me like if they were my bodyguards. The first future of my past was a complete un-fulfilment. I so much wanted to have a pet dog and I still do. I got married and then all doors were shut and so with it was buried my first past desire. My wife not interested in dogs and reasons are obvious. My African Grey shares my Study with me and right now perched on top of its cage constantly repeating “TANGO my son how are you” I smile only as he whistles now and then. I never had any ambition so to say while I was growing. I did not ever think what I would become or want to be in the future. The nature of that thought of the past postulates and has made me what I am. I loved to read and the world then was far different from what it is now. It was not what the young people like me today are confronted with the upheaval of information bordering from the maelstrom of diverse ideas; a madness of uncertainty for the people like me. From the present of that future of my past, I definitely like how it used to be; uncomplicated, plain and simple. What I do now, how I think now, how I approach situations now, put exactly that much effort as I think is required (most people still think I have and had the capacity to do more) it was exactly then as well. I lived each day without really knowing what tomorrow would bring for me. Whatever myself and friends did we had fun. My father’s expectation from each of his children was different for every child. He wanted me to become a doctor. I never had the courage to tell him that it was not going to happen. I wasn’t good at studies but it was not my educational abilities which dissuaded me from his vision of me but of my belief, that I was not a Doctor material, how hard I tried. It was a clear underestimation by me of my will and abilities, at least this is what I think of it now, notwithstanding my lack of interest more than the will to be what my Dad desired. To be truthful I never wanted to be a medic. As I think of it now I dare say I was definitely a healer of a sort in my heart. I would heal people in different ways; my future life from that past is satiated and well fed with short stories which I will pick up on in another post. I was and am still a staunch believer in destiny. Sometimes I feel my destiny has been connected with destinies of other people. I know there is a power far beyond our imaginations and it places us at every turn of our lives at a place where one should be. This thought fits my life perfectly. I never thought I will join the Army. A series of events further gave credence to my view. Applied for admission to Military College when I was in Class 8th and I was not selected after having been declared medically unfit. On our way to the college for tests, my father asked me a strange question, ” Why do you like to join the military college” the way he said it was not a question but he was telling me I do not want you to be away from me. I thought then he wasn’t happy because of the way he asked me, yet he accompanied me all the way from Quetta to Jehlum to keep up my spirits. Again when I applied for the first time for the Army I was permanently declared medically unfit for having a systolic heart murmur. The doctor told me I would not be able to sustain the tough academy training and routine. I appealed and was called to appear before a Medical Board and was declared Fit. During the process of this medical examination, I missed the chance to go through the rest of the tests of 46th PMA Long Course. I applied again for 47th PMA and fell through the final selection test at Kohat. That was it, and I decided the army was not for me. The future of my past was still to unravel itself. Then one day I got a letter from the Army Headquarters asking me if I was willing to join the 48th batch I should apply. I was not too excited but it appeared, the divine was at work. There was no system of actions, I thought, need to be followed or rehearsed to go through this final test at ISSB for I thought I knew it all. I got my test dates and would you believe that a day before my departure from Quetta to Kohat I met with a road accident, a truck tyre went over half of the left foot and I ended with a fractured foot. There went all my faint hopes of ever wearing the uniform. I would skip the technicalities of the cause of the accident suffice I appeared in the last batch and cleared it without displaying pain or limp as I would do so the same way during the training at the Academy. The age-old adage. “No pain, no gain” had chosen me which I guess now, I had heartily accepted. I did not have any choice. I cleared and was selected in the final test at Kohat. That was the last time I went to Kohat little I knew then that I will return to Kohat after 30 long years to Command my second Infantry Division from Bahawalpur to Kohat as a Major General. Little I knew then that I was to become an instrument for changing the destiny of a young lad Muhammad Arif. What a fine young man he has grown to be how well he has shaped. I am proud of him. He will read this with loads of sentimentality. What a blessing it is not to know your future in the past. The turning point at that stage I can recount many. My beliefs have been shaped far away in the distant ‘past’. The future had already charted its course at the lowest ebb of my despair and unhappiness when I had met with the accident. Many doors had closed but one had opened, who knew then, why should I turn the hands of time, I am at peace with future of that past.
I have been a sportsman all my life, may it be squash, cricket, swimming, hockey or school athletics. In the environment I was growing up I made the best use of all the facilities. From school days if I may, one wish I always carried with me for which I worked very hard was to play cricket at the highest level. My selection in the Army, however, only let me go up to the Province Level when I was selected to play for Balochistan. I am pleased with my performance, no regrets what so ever as the future of my past had different ideas.
Imran Nazir and I have studied together, we were class fellows. later he also joined the Army and in the academy, we were also Platoon mates. The association is almost 55 years old. Imran had beautiful handwriting for which not me but the whole class was envious of him. We both sat together in Mr Zahoor’s class who was our Drawing teacher. Drawing (Arts) was one of our subjects in the course in the school. I left pursuing it but not Imran. He continued painting and still does. I wanted to be a painter but then my self-imposed limitations never allowed my hidden talent to erupt into colours on the canvas. Now and then I did buy oil colours but never exploited my talent if there was any. My inspiration was my Grandfather who was a good painter slow and steady he would paint and I watched him. Five years after my retirement from the Army in 2008 I decided to start painting and learned the skill on my own, with Youtube to be my teacher through lessons of renowned contemporary painters. Fast drying paints were instrumental in my new found love to create and express. My friends often censure me for my restiveness and keenness to finish and sign my ‘masterpieces’. Something in the past which I always wanted to do has happened after five decades. Future of my past is alive and kicking.
I must confess I was not a dreamer or had ambitions to speak of at that point in my life. I remember a few of our friends had their own dreams. The kids of doctors wanted to become doctors, engineers, businessmen and so on those friends and class fellows wanted to pursue and carry on with their family business and the professions their parents pursued. Yes, one thing I was clear about that I did not want to be useless. There was a lot of haze looking forward. Ambitions did crystalize with age but I never managed to push hard to get them though. In hindsight, the main reason was the way, my father was struggling to make ends meet and he just wanted a support and a bread earner as soon as possible and Army was in his opinion the only way I and my younger brother who also later joined were to lessen his burden. That was not all he desired, like everyone else he wanted to feel a sense of achievement of raising us up through thick and thin to see the fruit of his struggle to have educated us and see us on our feet. One thing of which I am absolutely clear if he had the resources he would have equipped us with the best possible education. Past plays its own game, only in the future of past the mist clears.
After my training from the Academy, I went on to serve for 38 years or so in the Army with two foreign tours of five years combined in the United Nations Missions. For every rank, I progressed I went through bizarre to funny situations with me displaying outlandish behaviour at times and at other times take decisions with the courage to explore new horizons forgetting where the shore was. By nature, I was never afraid of failures and brought this with me to this day from past to the future. When I was a Captain I was produced before a Two Star Divisional Commander complaining against my own Commanding Officer who drove me to produce me a week before his retirement in front of the General. I was admonished and rebuked and was told to go and serve. We came out and I still remember my CO who only said one thing, “Young man if you continue to do and listen whatever your father tells you to do, you will never reach anywhere in life”. I did not tell him anything but I NEVER paid heed to what he said. My father was a man of principles and he was my constant therapist and a consultant. So many of his sermons still resonate in my mind and most of my siblings today. Positive “ZID” and satisfaction of heart tops the list and a constant reminder of the fact that “RIZQ” is in the hands of Almighty, he and he alone can give and he can take it away, he always said and wrote to us.
I will end this post and plan to continue on my Past more in another blog with my personal life fortunes and misfortunes.
Here are few excerpts from my late son’s poem which he titled – FATE
One that ruins us.
It has built us and we divided some.
Sometimes it did aspire us.
Saddens us by a happiness stolen from us.
It seeks something that eyes cannot see.
Blind us from what we have.
~ Moody ~