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There's perhaps no other person in Pakistan who enjoyed the undivided adoration and respect that the great humanitarian Abdul Sattar Edhi did. His death, on July 8th last year, plunged the country into deep mourning. One year on, the sense of loss still lingers. Who was Edhi for you? Send us a few lines of your tribute at firstname.lastname@example.org
He once laughingly told Nariman Ansari and I a story about how he was held up by a notorious gang of bandits in Sindh while on a rescue mission. As they were robbing him, the ringleader recognised Edhi. He immediately fell at his feet and began to cry. He said: "I've done unspeakable things in my life and I am prepared to answer for my deeds, but if I harm one hair on your head I will never be able to face my creator."
The bandits returned the money and also insisted on donating zakat from their loot. Of course, Edhi refused and instead urged them to give it to the poor. Edhi found this story very amusing, but nothing describes better how his countrymen, even the worst of them, saw him.
The world may not know him, but for us all, in this bitterly divided society, he was a saint.
His death was the first time in my life that I wept for a national hero — that’s the love he deserves. I promise myself that I will do better for humanity and the needy, whenever I am granted a chance. If we change ourselves for the better, that in itself will be a tribute to our hero: Edhi.
His demise is a loss for all of the humanity. I am from India and deeply saddened. He was a hero for every Pakistani and for me too. Around 20 years back there was a cover story in India Today on this great man, and now I watch his dedication to serve humankind in the form of Suzuki vans driving here and there to help the needy. I am surprised as to why he was not conferred a Nobel Prize. Long live the Edhi Foundation!
I had the privilege of meeting him. He was so humble. We are blessed with two children whom we adopted from his centre. My nine-year-old said when Edhi passed away: "It is an emergency — Mr. Edhi died! Mama, if it were not for him, I would not be here with you today!"
May we all have a little bit of Edhi in our souls.
We mourn a messiah: a man that always wanted others to live with dignity, and wished for the dying to not worry for their burials. The mothers were not hesitant to leave their unwanted children in his cots. His love for their children, the mothers knew, was of purity. Those addicted to substances found a shelter at last, a place of refuge. Nobody can ever take Edhi's place.
I fervently appeal to the Indian government to rename Bantva in Gujarat, India, where Edhi was born, to Edhinagar, in honor of this great human being who stood above all the differences that assail us today. Let us all ponder his memory for a while, and feel the warmth in our hearts, and try to understand this great personality, and feel inspired to emulate even a fraction of his achievements. That is the only true tribute we can pay to Edhi.
Edhi was very quick with his wit and one-liners. I often saw him engaging in humorous conversation with the locals. Few may have witnessed his greatness up close and in person. I had the honour of not only meeting him casually in the neighbourhood, but also witnessing his charity when I was seven years old.
I grew up in the Aram Bagh, Karachi, where many homeless men slept on the benches, grass, and footpath. One cold morning, a homeless man died in his sleep. Many passed by, ignoring the dead body; many looked from their balconies (including my parents), only to pull their children inside and close the doors.
Around zuhr time a young bearded man arrived in a white kurta pajama with a chaddor in his hand. He simply covered the body with the chaddor, hailed a rickshaw, and requested the bystanders to help him lift the body onto his lap. He then sailed away in the rickshaw. Rest in heaven, Edhi.
Many years ago my father was driving down a lonely road in Islamabad and saw an elderly man walking in the hot summer sun. He stopped to give him a ride, only to find that the elderly man was Edhi, walking to the Edhi office. He could have used any one of the hundreds of ambulances, but his conscience did not allow him. Do you see such traits in any other public figure in Pakistan?
I was raised in Kharadar, Karachi, and first became aware of Edhi's humanitarian efforts in the mid-1960's, when I was a child. Monsoon rains used to cause damage and flooding in some areas in our neighbourhood, and the name Edhi came up as the one helping those affected.
At that time, he used to personally ask for donations on the streets of Kharadar. With his hard work and dedication, he converted that tiny operation into the network that we see today. I only have respect, lots of respect, for Edhi.