“Put us to sleep too. It is about to snow again. And it will cover everything. The spring will be a distant memory. Why has September returned? How has September returned?”
Farid wrote these lines for Mai Naziraan, the gardener’s wife in Islamabad, so many years ago. She was from Chakwal and her son, Mohammed Boota, was one of the unsung heroes of the 1965 war.
Farid was studying literature at a local college. Poetry was his passion. He often recited his poems at literary meetings at his and other colleges.
One day, Naziraan said to him: “I hear poets write about martyrs all the time. Why don’t you write about my son? He also died for this country.”
“What will you do with a poem?” Farid asked.
“I will frame it,” she said.
Farid promised to write a poem for her but forgot. She did not. And after two dozen reminders, he wrote a little poem for her. She made him read it to her again and again and then framed it.
Farid forgot all about her and the poem when he came to America. Soon he also forgot about the September 1965 war in which Naziraan’s son had died.
Living in America has its own pressures. Besides, his political views had also changed. There was a time when Farid, a Rajput from northern Punjab, was very proud of the Pakistan Army. He also hated India as much as he loved Pakistan and its army.
But two things forced him to change his views, visiting other countries and meeting Indians in America. His American passport, and the dollars he earned, allowed Farid to visit many countries in Europe and the Middle East.
During his travels, Farid noticed that all the countries that were politically, socially and economically stable had one common factor, democracy. While those that did not have democracies remained instable, and these included some oil-rich Middle East countries as well.
This forced him to reconsider his views about the Pakistani army as well. He still liked it but wished that it had not toppled so many elected governments. He also wanted the armed forces to stop interfering in the country’s political affairs.
Then the Indians he met in America also influenced his views. In a way, they made him value Pakistan even more when he saw how they loved India and always tried to promote it.
But he also realised that whatever he had learned about them in Pakistan was wrong. The Hindus did not wear dhotis and ran half-naked, as he was told. They did not worship everything they saw in the street and above all many among them did not hate Pakistan, although some did.
And whenever he needed help, the Indians were among the first to come forward, while his Muslim brothers from other nations always maintained a distance.
All this made him realise that he does not have to hate India to love Pakistan.
So when he got up on Sept. 6, he was not thinking about the 65 war or the Defence of Pakistan Day. But as he opened his Facebook account, he saw a message from an Indian friend, Samir Gupta.
“I sense that most Pakistanis on Facebook are perhaps hesitant and unsure about Sept. 6 because it is associated with the 1965 war with India,” Samir wrote.
“I have just one thing to say to you. Seeking peace with India does not mean that you cannot appreciate the bravery and supreme sacrifice of those who laid their lives for Pakistan. While wars are the worst thing that can happen to a country, it is not the fault of the soldiers who give it all up for the rest of us.
Let us join together in paying a tribute to all the soldiers who died in the various wars the two nations have fought and reinforce our commitment that the loss of lives does not happen ever again.
This little note reminded him of the ’65 war, Mai Naziraan and the poem he wrote for her.
“How has September returned? Why has September returned? There was a time when we had flowers in our courtyard in September. But no flowers now. And where are the gardeners? They too are buried under last year’s snow,” he recalled.
He posted this poem on Facebook, with a little note: “I wrote this poem many years ago, for a woman whose son was killed in the ’65 war and buried under a snow-covered hill in Kashmir. He was a simple soldier who might have become a non-commissioned officer had he lived. He could have never become a general and certainly would have had no role in toppling any government. So I do not see why I should not be proud of his sacrifice!”
Samir Gupta’s post, however, had started an interesting debate.
“Yes, let us pray for the soldiers of both the countries who lost their lives in the war. May they rest in peace and such an incident should never take place in future,” wrote Lavanya Joshi.
While remembering Naziraan’s son, Farid also posted Sahir Luadhianvi’s anti-war poem: “It is our blood or the enemy’s, the human race bleeds. Bombs hit homes or borders; they wound the urge to build.
Burned crops are ours or the enemy’s, the living starve on both sides. Tanks move forward or backward, they make the earth barren. Whether we are among the victors or losers, both have to cry over their dead. War itself is a huge problem, how can it lead to a resolution?”
“Wars have never achieved any good, ever,” wrote Waqar Uddin.
Priyanca Kaswan agreed, she wrote,
Anything that war can do, peace can do better.
Previous wars should “remind us not to allow such tragedies in future,” said Konchadi Vasanth Pai.
“Both our countries will always salute the courage of our armed forces. That does not negate friendship and neighbourly relations with the other country,” Anita Dixit responded. “Let's continue to be friends while also being proud citizens of our own countries.”
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