By Col (R) Qaisar Rashid Shaikh (2nd SSC)
Ayub was a very competent cycle mechanic whose charges were reasonable. For rectification of any fault he was the first choice of all the cyclists in our locality. He was deadly honest and was the only mechanic who would give a “guarantee” for his spares parts and labour. My three brothers and I, would take our bicycle, the only conveyance we four had, to Ayub for repairs. Since I was the youngest I was always blamed for the defects and was forced to get it repaired. Despite all his pluses, like punctuality, decency, respect for customers and repairing minor defects without charges, I used to hate going to him.
Ayub was a totally different person on Sundays. On every Sunday evening he would appear in one of our streets fully drunk, so drunk that he would not be able to even stand on his feet. I saw the children dragging him down the streets and into the fields. Surprisingly I had never seen elders of the area appearing to stop children from this mischief. Once I also joined the children and enjoyed pushing him around. That night when my father was checking my homework I narrated the episode to him without mentioning my part, “I hate him and don’t want to go to his shop”.
P’aajee (We called our father P’aajee) looked into my eyes and advised me: “Hate drugs and not the addicts”.
I didn’t understand anything.
Next day I took my bicycle to Ayub for checking the tyre pressure. As a matter of fact I wanted to see him after the previous day’s event. He, as usual, was freshly shaven and neatly dressed. He saw me inflating the tyre, left what he was doing, took the pump and started pumping. Over his right shoulder he looked towards me, avoiding looking into my eyes and said;
Without a word I extended my arm to hand him over the coins I was holding.
He pointed towards a Rehri standing across the road and said;
After a few months, on a Monday morning, his body was found in a well in the fields where children used to drag and push him.
Cricket matches on Sundays were a regular feature in our college life. We were playing against another college when I was bitten by a dog. Everyone suggested that I must have a course of 14 injections to avoid complications. My father was a railway employee and we were dependent on Cairns Railways Hospital on Allama Iqbal Road (probably old Circular Road).
On every visit to the hospital I longed for lunch from Garhi Shahu. That day, instead of eating at the spot, my father got it packed and we carried on towards the hospital. Close to hospital he stopped his bicycle, held my hand and walked to a man sitting on the roadside. This man was half asleep, wearing very dirty clothes, was bare foot, his unmanaged long hair was full of dirt and straws and it appeared he had never taken a bath.We sat next to him and my father started feeding him with ardour.
I heard him asking my father;
My father handed him over a pack of cigarettes and we left.
On our way back home my father told me: “He is Saghar Siddiqi a renowned poet, who was the publisher of his own magazine. He wrote the National Anthem which was not selected. He has also written songs for Pakistani films. Because of a series of tragedies he became a drug addict. He is homeless and begs for a living. He still writes but some crooks sell his work under their own names. He is mostly found close to the Shrines and hospitals so that he can find food and drugs for his daily use. I have seen very few people sympathizing or helping him. His poetry is worth reading.”
I read in the newspaper of 20 July 1974 that Saghar Siddiqi was found dead on a footpath on 19 July 1974.
After about fifty years or so, just recently I saw a young boy sniffing “Samad Bond” near Data Darbar. I snatched it from him and threw it away and walked off. I heard him shouting in Punjabi: “If you had seen what I had you would have been doing much more than this”.
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