Some people are born selfless; having little or no concern for their own self is an intrinsic part of their existence.
I have often wondered about this, committing to a life that only serves others, only giving and never taking; and I understand now how difficult it is to truly act in someone else's interest. With no worldly return, just the spirit to keep doing good and more importantly, to never stop.
Everyday on a pavement at the centre of a road under an old giant tree in Gulistan-e-Jauhar, Karachi, 66-year-old Mohammad Shaukat Niaz Siddiqui gathers children of ages 6-10 around him to teach them for free.
Now referred to as Ustaad jee by his disciples, the elderly fragile man has dedicated his life to the underprivileged for the past six years.
|Ustaad jee with his students.|
|The students force their parents to take them to Ustaad jee everyday.|
|Ustaad jee teaching mathematics.|
He teaches everyday from 3pm to 6pm, excluding Sundays. And he is loved. So much that many of his students who weren’t allowed to study, forced their parents to send them to Ustaad jee.
“Ustaad jee kay paas parhnay main buhat maaza ata hai, main zidd karti hoon toh Abu anay daitay hain,” said Ruksana.
Shaukat softly tells me how sad it makes him to think about the children in Pakistan who are incredibly talented, but sadly their talents, creativity and thirst for knowledge has been suppressed because they are forced to work; to be victims of child labour.
He teaches subjects like Urdu, English, Mathematics and Religion. Once an avid writer of drama scripts in his younger days, he now finds bliss in teaching the needy.
|He gives equal attention to every child.|
|He also teaches ethics.|
|A student takes leave after the lesson.|
Ustaad jee is now a cardiac patient, but he does not miss a single day of teaching.
“Due to my heart problem, I face a lot of trouble and unease when I walk on my own to get here everyday, so I take lifts from my friends here. But I cannot quit my mission just because of my health issues. I’ll teach to them as long as I physically can,” says Shaukat.
His journey as a teacher and as a human being is truly enlightening. His simple daily endeavour is a reminder of just how far simple goodwill can go towards healing a fractured society. In spite of the difficulties, his spirit has not once wavered.
|A student holds up a picture of Ustaad jee from his younger days.|
|Teaching the Quran.|
His soft voice spoke volumes about his character, while his firm conviction to serve others utterly restored my faith in humanity.
When asked whom he would credit for his selfless will to educate others, he replied,
“My mother, she always taught me to serve others even if there were no resources. She said that there was no greater pleasure other than serving someone who would not promise you anything in return.”
—Photos by author