“Finally, the school is off and it’s time for the Independence Day celebration!” eight-year-old Ahmed declared as he hopped in the living room joyfully.

“So are we ready for some house decoration and Independence Day shopping?” Mr Ali asked as he folded the newspaper he was reading and smiled at his ecstatic son. “Ready as ever! This is my most favourite time of the year!” Ahmed replied excitedly. “Isn’t it, Sara baji?”

“Yes, it is,” Sara, his 17-year-old sister, replied absently, her eyes still glued outside the window.

“There is so much garbage piled up near that pole. What are the municipal authorities even doing?” Sara’s voice broke the empty silence in the room.

Sara was sitting on the couch and intently looking outside the window at the street.

“So many children and girls remain uneducated just because their parents can’t afford basic primary education. Do you know what, we are lacking in basic skills as a nation. People go without food because of the menace of poverty. Yes, we are independent, but in real terms, we have not done anything that could have fulfilled the dream of our Quaid, of a prosperous Pakistan. We are simply taking everything for granted.

“It’s not just about putting up few flags in the house and wearing green clothes. It’s much more than that. We have to recognise that our forefathers shed their blood and sacrificed their lives for this country. What are we even celebrating?” Sara’s face was flushing now.

There was pin-drop silence in the room. Everyone was staring at Sara open-mouthed. Sara got up from the couch and left the room. That night, Sara lay in her bed, deep in thoughts. August 14 was just a few days away and she wanted to do something impactful and meaningful for it. She then had a brilliant idea. She smiled and closed her eyes and went to sleep.

The next day, she went to her friend’s house next door. Sara and her family lived in an underprivileged area so, just like her, her friends also belonged to lower-middle-class families. Sara took her friend and they went to another friend’s house. When all their neighbourhood friends had gathered, Sara ushered everyone to be silent.

“I have been thinking for days about how to make an impact in this area in honour of Independence Day. So I need your support in this regard, because together we can shine and lift each other up. Who’s with me?” Sara looked expectantly at her friends as she shared her idea. They smiled and agreed to support her.

Then Sara took out her notepad and started jotting down the points. “First of all, we have to name our group and for that, I would be needing your suggestions. There will be two tasks in our agenda: garbage-cleaning and providing free basic education. We can implement all of this if we have a proper place to work from.”

Everybody nodded their heads. “For the place, there is an empty small house at the end of the street. If we can talk to the owner to rent the house to us, it would be perfect. We can divide the cost between us so that it would not be a burden on a single person.”

After the meeting, they went to the owner of the house to discuss the rental. Luckily, he agreed to rent the house at an affordable cost. Next, they discussed the name. It was a difficult part but finally, they came up with a name, ‘Serving Squad’.

One of the friends in the group, Tayyaba took the responsibility of printing a small banner of their group name with the announcement of free education and food. When everything was settled, they all returned to their homes.

The next day, they hung the banners in different parts of the area. They were received with an amazing response as many families who couldn’t afford their children’s education, approached them and thanked for this social service.

Children of different ages gathered that day in the rented house, and some girls embarked on the task of teaching. Meanwhile, the rest of the girls, including Sara, wore plastic gloves, took large plastic bags, and went off on the street to collect the garbage. It was a difficult task as that area was messed up with lots of trash.

All in all, it was a triumphant day for the Serving Squad as they collected a large part of trash and moved it to a single spot where the municipality garbage truck periodically came to pick up the garbage.

On the third day, after their routine tasks, they collected donations and even approached the city administration of their area. He was very happy with the efforts of these young girls and promised to support them in any way possible. So, with the help of donations, the Serving Squad bought large dustbins and placed them in every street of that area. They also posted posters on the wall on the importance of cleanliness and urged them to dump the waste in those dustbins. Soon the Serving Squad became famous and it became the talk of the town.

Finally, it was 14th August. Everybody was in a festive mood that day. The residents of that area arranged a small event in the street in honour of the Serving Squad. A small stage was set up and chairs were kept. The mayor was invited as a chief guest. The parents of the Serving Squad were beaming with pride that day as they attended the event.

The event started with interesting skits and patriotic songs; then the mayor was invited on the stage to speak. He went up and took the microphone.

“Good morning ladies and gentlemen and a very happy Independence Day to you all! Today I feel very proud to see the youth of this nation standing up just as Quid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had envisioned. It is a proud moment for all of us, as parents, and as a society overall.

The Serving Squad started with nothing, but their passion and enthusiasm for social work and today they have succeeded in creating an impact in this society. I congratulate each one of them and promise to assist them in future too so that they can do wonders for this nation!”

Finally, the Serving Squad was invited on the stage. Sara was smiling as she spoke: “Hello everybody and a very happy Independence Day to you all! Few days back, I did not know that I would be able to help and create such an impact when I came up with the idea of Serving Squad. I thank Almighty Allah for everything. There was never any motive of receiving any benefit or fame when I started. It was all just out of love for this motherland. We take this independence for granted, however, it was not all that easy. This soil bears the blood of countless Muslims. It’s a blessing we got through the tireless efforts of our great forefathers and the founder of this nation, Quid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Still today, our brave soldiers give their lives in protecting this motherland.”

Everybody was listening intently to Sara.

“Pakistan is where hope comes to die and is reborn. Pakistan is the wind beneath my wings. Probably the most accurate way I could express my feelings for this place. I don’t blindly love Pakistan just because I was born here. It was a conscious decision, an eternal commitment.” With that the Serving Squad bowed and went off the stage.

The audience became emotional at her speech and stood up from their seats and applauded. Sara’s parents and Ahmed hugged her and patted her proudly. Today they had learned the real meaning of celebration!

Published in Dawn, Young World, August 14th, 2021

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