Finding reason to live! ( Dilshad Rasheed )
Written By Khalid Irshad
Dr Dilshad Rasheed had been calling me for the past two weeks. He had recently got a job against lucrative package at a dairy farm. Seemingly flying high, Dr Rasheed was anxious in sharing with me tingles of his fresh excitement as he would often exchange with me during the entire course of his five-year DVM studies in a prestigious Lahore university.
Two months on since he got the job, the nature of his duties prevented him from leaving his workplace even for a while. It was against this backdrop that he had politely requested me to see him, but at my convenience.
I myself was also looking forward to meeting him. When Rasheed met me for the first time not less than six years ago, he appeared to be a dejected young man. Now, his voice had become vigorous with confidence and eyes filled with hope of tremendous future ahead of him.
Our lensman Niaz accompanied me during my journey to Eimenabad in the outskirts of Gujranwala where a state-of-the-art dairy farm had recently been built.
A security guard escorted us to a waiting lounge. Hardly ten minutes would have passed when I saw Rasheed coming to the lounge and embracing me enthusiastically. Blooming with all the happiness at this command, Rasheed was smartly attired in a veterinary doctor's uniform.
It genuinely appeared that God had blessed him beyond his imagination. He had traversed from abject vulnerability to sound self-reliance after five years of hardship and toil. His hard work had paid him dividends now. He had just been able to translate all his deprivations and desperations into immeasurable composure.
Recollecting Rasheed's heroic journey, I recalled a sunny afternoon in the winter of 2004 when a young man donning shabby clothes first entered the foundation's office. Tears welled up in his eyes when I asked the visibly shaken man some queries to find out about his antecedents.
I left Rashid alone so that he could recover his self-possession and proceeded to library. In fact, I was finding myself in a deep quagmire while facing a talented student who had bagged excellent grades in matriculation and intermediate in hostile circumstances and a lack of proper guidance and poor preparation for the Medical Entry Test in two consecutive attempts blocked all his avenues to become a doctor to serve the mankind. However, he grabbed a parallel opportunity to serve some other creatures of the God and hence got admission to DVM classes at the University of Animal and Veterinary Sciences in Lahore (UVAS) next year.
Dilshad Rasheed hails from Punjab's remote and backward Layyah district. Neither he had any relative or friend in Lahore nor did he have adequate resources to board at any hostel at the time of his admission.
Residing in Jamia Hajvery at Data Darbar Complex only gave him some space to embark on his studies after forgetting boarding woes initially.
Rasheed handed me a two-page tale about his sordid past in which he reduced to writing all his sturdy emotions, callousness of society and the pathetic state of affairs of education sector, particularly in far-flung districts, and the problems faced by the students of these backward areas. Every word of the tale depicted nothing but truth. It highlighted rampant inequalities in distribution of resources and opportunities between the subjects of society besides his personal pains.
It did demonstrate an individual's strong determination to go ahead with robust resilience and undying passion and climb an uphill task.
Alhamdulillah, the Foundation did not leave a hapless student in lurch. It did not let the flame of hope sputter and die quietly, and now that student has become able reap a harvest.
Dr Rasheed took us on a round to the dairy farm a Pakistani company has lately built with an aim to expanding its mercantile ventures.
The farm is being extended in phases under the able supervision of Dr Jhon de Whatt, who is handling livestock development projects in Pakistan for the past eight years. Dr Rasheed assists Dr Whatt in his pursuits at this farm.
We visited various sections of the farm for half of an hour and ended up near a makeshift mosque under a banyan tree.
I asked Dr Rasheed to sum up his voyage from despair to self-sufficiency. As I switched the tape recorder on, Niaz snapped the young man who had succeeded in turning the tide in his favour.
Dr Rasheed said that he belonged to a Baloch tribe, Natkani, settled in Karor tehsil of Layyah district. His father was a qualified electrician.
His two of seven brothers started working with their father after matriculation while two others joined army, and he was the only one who did F.Sc. He said that his father himself had seen many deprivations. His grandfather would neglect his father and uncle after marrying another woman. However, he said, his father did a diploma in electrical engineering and started service in Karachi. After getting married, he said, his father left the job and returned to hometown to start a business of selling electric fans on credit. The business developed in leaps and bounds and they started leading a prosperous life.
However, he said, the business started suffering loss as creditors would not pay their liabilities off on time. In a short span of time, the whole business collapsed and his father started cultivation and electrical maintenance against paltry wages.
Dr Rasheed said that he cleared his matriculation exam with 82% marks and stood first in his district. My father got inspired by the son of his friend and desired that I should also become a doctor.He said that he promised to fulfill his father's dreams.
He said that he got admission in Pakistan Institute of Commerce and Computer Sciences in Layyah 30 kilometres away from his hometown.
After a few months, he said, his family landed in more financial troubles and considering their hardship, Principal Muhammad Naveed waived half of his tuition fee. After few more months, he said, he was unable to travel to Layyah to take classes and this was for first time when he realised that financial crunch had started taking its toll on his studies. The family was down on its luck. Though the principal had waived the whole of the tuition fee, it did no wonders for the ill-fated student.
He said that with the permission of the principal, he and some of his class fellows who also belonged to middleclass families started living in a classroom for the rest of one and a half years of academic term.
The children of a lesser god would prepare food for themselves and they would observe fasting in case they had no money to buy groceries. Thus, they spent the golden period of their life in hassle.
He said that he obtained 76% marks in FSc and started preparing himself for the Medical Entry Test. I assumed a centre stage in my entire family and circle of well-wishers as every one expected me to become an MBBS doctor.
He said that owing to a lack of proper guidance and failure to prepare myself for the exam, he could not clear the Entry Test and landed in acute despondency.
Principal Naveed advised him to take F.Sc exam again to improve marks which he did. Though he again bagged good grades, but he could not once again prepare himself for the Entry Test according to required standard and the failure in getting through the test shattered all his dreams to become a doctor. This time around, I got completely frustrated and stopped hoping against the hope of any miracle in my life.
He said that one day he saw an advertisement for admissions to DVM classes and decided to try his luck in that field.
He said that though he got the admission, he had no money to pay for the enrolment charges. His family was already under huge debts. His elder brother's marriage was also planned in those days but fortune had stopped smiling on his family.
He said he was in a quandary now. His family, however, sold some of their valuables besides borrowing some more money from relatives to arrange for Rs14,500 which were Rs3,000 short of total admission fee.
He said that he travelled to Lahore with a pair of scruffy shalwar suits, a worn out sweater and a tattered pair of shoes. While the poor chap had to queue up for depositing admission fee, other aspirants stared at a strange creature standing among them.
After depositing admission fee minus hostel charges, he said, he had left with him only Rs500 to arrange for his boarding and lodging in a city of nearly 10 million souls.
He went to a prayer leader with whom he had some acquaintance and that man put him up in his mosque for some days. Later, the prayer leader gave me an introductory chit in the name of the head of a seminary near the university to allow me staying there for some more time but all in vain.
He said that then he went to Jamia Hajveria whose in charge offered me boarding and in return I agreed to teach the seminary students science subjects. He said that this arrangement solved the lodging problem, though temporarily.
He said that he informed some of his teachers about his financial hardships and the head of a department, Prof Dr Akram Munir, gave him Rs6,000 from his own pocket and asked him to get hostel accommodation allotted while another teacher also gave Rs500.
He said that though accommodation problem was likely to be solved in the coming days, still he had no adequate money to pay for food and daily expenses. He said that he wrote to different organizations for stipends but to no avail. By the time, he said, he had fallen prey to general anxiety disorder. He said he did not feel moved when a teacher told him about the Karvan-i-Ilm Foundation.
Since I had experienced the indifference of many such organizations in last couple of months, I could not muster up taking the pains to visit the Foundation's office for many days.
He said that he became penniless one day. Finding myself resigned to fate in a blind alley, my instinct to survive swung into action and finally took me to the office of the Foundation.
Dr Rasheed then took a pause, sipped some water before starting gazing into space. The bitter memories had brought tears to his cheerful eyes. He was no more in a jovial mood.
After a brief lull, Rasheed resumed with narrating the account of his first encounter with me at the Foundation's office.
Khalid Bhai, it was fine afternoon when I reached your office. I was asked to wait for sometime, and soon I was in a meeting with you. You asked me some questions the answers of which moved me to tears. You gave me a patient hearing and offered me a lunch. You asked about my favourite dish and I replied; Daal!
After some time, you threw a grand lunch on me after which you took me to Dr Ijaz Hassan Qureshi who consoled me and encouraged me. Dr Sahib promised to sponsor my educational pursuits provided I improved my grades.
I was handed over an application form, and only an hour spent at the Foundation's office injected spirit and energy into my body and soul. The Foundation indeed returned to me my lost confidence and hopes to launch a battle against all odds.
I was blooming with satisfaction when I returned to the seminary I was living in. The same evening, Foundation official Kaleem Chaudhry came to me and handed over me some bucks.
I went to bazaar, bought new clothing that helped me regain a mood of buoyancy and I started attending classes with immense poise. After some days, I also shifted to the hostel.
The Foundation initially started giving me Rs2,000 monthly stipend that covered my expenses to a larger extent. I told my parents, who in return prayed for the betterment of all those officials, who run the foundation, and philanthropists, who contribute to the Foundation's funds, and they continue to do so till to-date.
In the second year, the Foundation started giving me stipend that was enough to clear my university dues beside boarding and lodging expenses. I also started taking tuitions that helped my pocket money grow exuberantly.
In the final year, I discontinued taking tuitions as I was required to concentrate on my studies. Responding to my devotion and dedication to academic pursuits, the Foundation enhanced my stipend and that's how I graduated but only with the wholesome cooperation and all-out help of the Foundation.
After completing my studies, I got an internship in a milk manufacturing concern, Haleeb Foods, against Rs5,000 monthly stipend. There, I was imparted practical training for four months after which I got a job at a dairy farm in Chakwal district.
In those days, the UVAS offered admissions to M.Phill and I decided to move on to pastures new. I resigned from the job and returned to Lahore to take admission to the postgraduate degree.
The decision did not make my father happy enough. I asked him to arrange for just Rs30,000 admission fee and leave the rest to me. But, my father did not have that much money. I was back to square one.
I was worried as I had left the job and had no money to pay for the admission, so I decided to borrow some money from my friends to achieve my ambitions.
The UVAS, however, dropped the idea to launch M.Phill classes that further disappointed me as I had left the job solely for enhancing my academic qualification.
In those days, Dr Faisal, a friend of mine living in Okara, called me and informed me about Dr Whatt's venture and persuaded me to try my luck there.
Around Rs15,000 was my answer when Dr Faisal asked me about my expectations regarding pay package, he added.
However, my friend was kind enough to refer me to Dr Whatt with Rs45,000 salary recommendation which was really beyond my imagination.
I reached here the same evening. Dr Whatt interviewed me and offered me fifty thousands. Having less familiarity with foreigners colloquial accent, I comprehended the amount as fifteen thousand, but I felt contented on that much salary for I was jobless and badly needed any placement to make both ends meet. However, I started working relentlessly.
After a month, Dr Whatt asked me to prepare payroll of all employees. I was in morass of confusion and ambiguity about my own salary. Therefore, I left the salary's column against my name blank. After being asked by Dr Whatt about this, I requested my boss to insert my salary with his own pen. I was completely taken aback by Dr Whatt's writing down Rs50,000 in my salary's column. At that moment, I was in seventh heaven.
I kept Rs7,000 for my personal needs and sent the remaining money to my father. The receipt of this much money made him anxious about knowing the exact source of my income. However, I satisfied him and informed him that their prayers had borne fruit now.
After a few days, I came to know about a deserving student of the UVAS which swung my mind into recalling my own woeful days and sleepless nights. I started dispatching him Rs3,000 through a messenger, stipulating that my identity will not be revealed with a view that it may not hurt the recipient's self-respect, and also that virtue is its own reward.
I am grateful to Almighty Allah, who bestowed upon me the best reward of my hard work. Today, I am a taxpayer citizen of Pakistan and able to help out a needy and similarly placed student of my Alma Mater.
In the meantime, Jhon de Whatt approached us. He appreciated the capabilities and dedication with which Dr Rasheed was working at the farm. He also wished Dr Rasheed a great success in his future endeavors.
Dr Whatt also highlighted the potential and scope and of livestock farming sector in Pakistan.
With regard to his current job, Dr Rasheed said: By the grace of Allah, I have been assigned significant responsibilities here. I have come across vast opportunities to learn the employment of latest livestock farming tools and technologies that will boost my professional capabilities. On average, I work for 16 hours in a day to accomplish my tasks. I have decided to leave no stone unturned to get my professional capabilities polished. I have been working here for the past two months but I havn't availed any leave so far which shows my commitment to learn steadfastly and utilize each and every available moment in enhancing my expertise as I am tasked with looking after almost all affairs of this dairy farm.
Unluckily, a stroke of paralysis two months ago confined Dr Rasheed's mother to bed. This job will go a long way in getting her treated and shedding other social deprivations faced by his family.
Before leaving the dairy farm, I asked Dr Rasheed: What you might have done in case Karavan-i-Ilm Foundation had not helped you out?
Resolute Rasheed stewed for a while, stole a glance at his toes, and murmured: I would have committed suicide!
I hugged the man who exhibited that he has nerves of steel and told him emphatically: You could not have done so. God loves every talented youth of my Pakistan and that's why organizations like the Karavan-i-Ilm Foundations came into inception that are reaching out to the deserving youth of this country and honing their talent so that they could contribute to the prosperity and development of the country besides ensuring their personal aggrandizement.
Walking through lush green fields to conclude our visit, I asked myself as to who must have been held responsible had Rasheed committed suicide?
His family members or residents of his hometown or the entire nation? were the possible choices but before I could have arrived at any conclusion, I thought: With the Almighty Allah's grace, every deserving student of this nation will find reason to live. How rotten to core this nation could be, still there is a lot of philanthropists who are discharging the whole nation's liabilities and injecting life into living corpses of the likes of Dilshad Rasheed.