By Wing Comd Shaharyar Shaukat (R), 60th GD (P) Course
Editor’s Note: Wing Comd Shaharyar Shaukat took early retirement in 1999. He has now settled in Vancouver, Canada. He has written this article about his friend Zaheer-ud-Din Khan, an EME officer (s/o Maj Bashir-ud-Din Khan, RVFC). Maj Zaheer also took early retirement a couple of years earlier than Wing Comd Shaharyar Shaukat. Unfortunately, Maj Zaheer was shot by unknown assailants in Lahore on 7 Sept 2006.
Back in 1976, I was a newly graduated Pilot Officer and Zaheer was then a defence nominee studying in UET Lahore. Someone very close to me had heard about a ‘Pir’ Sahib who lived in the outskirts of Lahore and I was thus tasked to get ‘dua‘ and ‘dum‘ done from the ‘saintly’ figure. Somehow or the other, Zaheer could not take me to the ‘Pir’ Sahib, may be he was too busy in his studied or he didn’t believe in Pirs.
On my great nudging, Zaheer finally relented. He agreed to accompany me to see the ‘Pir’ Sahib. Neither of us was so inclined but he understood my compulsion. So on a wintry afternoon of 1976, we both on a two-wheeler were trying to find the ‘Pir’ Sahib’s ‘Dera‘, in the outskirts of Lahore. With buffaloes sloshing in the ponds, cow’s dung plastered liberally outside the kutcha walls, hordes of mosquitoes on the loose : it was quite a change from our comfort zone.
We finally found the place and saw some folks filling water bottles from the hand pump outside the ‘Dera‘. This was a pre-requisite before entering the room and we joined the dozen or so folks awaiting their turn. The ‘Pir’ Sahib was in his thirties, seated on a raised platform, while others waited their turn on the floor mat. After getting ‘dua and dum‘ done they would exit with great reverence, making sure that they didn’t turn their back to him. An interesting observation: at a certain point, ‘Pir’ Sahib would deliberately look away and the ‘mureed‘ would quickly slip in a currency note of some denomination under his rug.
I placed a currency note in my palm and decided to do what the Romans do in Rome. Zaheer, saw my action and snatched it instantly. I protested meekly, as the prevailing ambience was of reverence and spirituality. He shushed me and asked me to keep quiet. Mercifully, we were at the end of the waiting otherwise we would have been declared ‘persona non grata’ by ‘Dera‘ administration.
On our turn, instead of the expected usual meek and subservient manner, Zaheer started a friendly and casual conversation. The ‘Pir’ Sahib was initially taken aback but soon enough was enjoying our conversation. He worked at a local bank and wasn’t as boring as we had thought. When the time came for ‘look away’, to my horror Zaheer put his hand under the rug and pulled out a few currency notes. Already feeling guilty of free ‘dum‘ I was shoving them back under the rug. This push-pull lasted a few seconds and am still not sure if we walked out of that place better than we had arrived. My currency note was certainly safe in Zaheer’s pocket; I guess that covered the gas expense.
On the way back, Zaheer explained his philosophy and it did carry weight. He said, “What can you expect from a person who even doesn’t know what’s happening below his rug?”
Rest in peace, my dear Zaheer. I am sure you must be pretty happy up there.
Pakistan Army Blog (Retired Officers)
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