Sadullah Bayazit continues narrating the 22.5 years of Hizmet he lived in Pakistan. In this part, Bayazit wrote about his days in Peshawar and Quetta, mentioning his students and their parents and how he sincerely made friends with the people of Pakistan.
I and my wife lived in Peshawar for two years after our wedding. Since I had worked as betrothed for one year, my colleagues at the school were curious to know about our wedding when I returned from the summer vacation in Turkey. Our Pakistani colleagues were very happy to hear about my wedding but they were also sad for not having been to attend to the function. They told me a couple of times, “Let’s not let it pass this way; let’s hold another function here as well!” but we could not organize anything of that sort. They always considered us one of their own. It is not an exaggeration as all of my friends would remember it: All of our Pakistani colleagues at the school invited us to their homes, villages, and farms. They virtually queued for introducing us to their social circles. They asked us whenever they met us on the street or in the market and asked us many times, “Do you need anything? Can we help you with anything?” When we made the slightest request, they generously spared time and accompanied us to have our problems solved. If one of their relatives were getting married, we would immediately receive our invitations by name.
One of the things which I have never forgotten is the ‘wedding banquets’ in Peshawar. They were spicy but were always and aptly tasty. The Pashtuns, the locals of Pakistan’s northwest provinces where Peshawar is the largest city, are known as incredibly ‘hospitable’ and our local friends too would express this many times. We similarly witnessed their exquisite customs and traditions. Oh, the exquisite conduct of those exquisite people! How heartfelt they were! How warm-hearted and hospitable they were! How generous and altruistic they were! I believe it will be injustice if I dare to squeeze all those memories into a couple of sentences and paragraphs here and move on. Neither I nor my friend can forget their exquisite conduct for a lifetime.
I cannot move on without narrating an evergreen memory here. In 1998, we set out to live in Peshawar with two friends. We rented a house, but moving and arranging things in the house were a bit delayed when the power went out. We managed to finish things around 12 midnight. We went out to find an open restaurant or fast food joint near our house. They all said, “We’re closing!”. The personnel of a fast-food restaurant named “Iceberg” said to us, “Should we prepare your order as takeaway? You can eat at home.” We accepted their proposal. While the hamburgers were prepared, we met the gentlemanly owner of the restaurant. As we were leaving the restaurant with glee, he said, “Come again tomorrow in the morning and let me introduce you to a Turkish-speaking person.” We were on the cloud nine! We thought, “We found what we were looking for!” In the days that followed, we understood how irreplaceable a thing it was to have someone who could speak our language in that foreign place. Would we ever neglect revisiting such a place which was only 5 minutes away from our house?
The mention of ‘Brother Aziz’ opened all doors
When we visited the fast-food restaurant on the next day, we met “Aziz Abi”, a handsome, decent, kind gentleman. He was speaking Turkish very well. When he was in Germany during his youth and had to live with the Turks there, he had no other option than learning our language, because neither could he teach English nor Urdu to the Turkish! 😊 It was indeed Almighty Allah’s great favour upon us to introduce us to Aziz Abi on our very first day in Peshawar, when we were alone there. Aziz Abi lived very close to our house. The best wedding halls and the prime restaurant of the city belonged to his renowned family in Peshawar. Wherever we had any need or required a reference, it would be enough to utter the name of Aziz Shiraz Abi. When we met him later, he said to us “I pray for you by mentioning your names every day.”
Our school in Peshawar was teaching from early childhood education to Grade 12 in Hayatabad district. Even though we lived diverse lives and had financial difficulties, our friendship and closeness with both the local teachers and other staff at the school helped us to overcome everything. We visited all of our local teachers working at our school at their homes. We would simply tell them, “We’ll be at your place soon!” and they had become very familiar with our knock-and-enter form of visits within a short time. Our level of friendship with them was at that point. We loved Peshawar as a family with the avuncular approach of our school principal, Mr. Osman. We were very upset that when we learned we would leave Peshawar to continue teaching in a different city at the end of the past two years that had passed while lacking ample finances but extremely rich in spiritual rewards. Ms. Talat, our School Secretary, helped us a lot while we were getting prepared to leave for another city. Since she had also lived abroad, Ms. Talat handled the school’s outreach affairs very skilfully and interacted with parents. I apologize to these people for not being able to narrate about them longer in these lines.
‘Today, I have realized who you really are.’
It will be disloyal if I do not revisit the memory of the two brothers, Mr. Iftikhar and Mr. Akhtar, who worked with us at our school. Mr. Iftikhar worked so hard in the first days of our school and established order across the school. He also taught Physics for the high school classes. Mr. Akhtar taught Biology. We had received the news of their mother’s death (May God have mercy on her soul. May Allah bestow her with a place in Paradise). When we learned the exact time of the funeral, the high school students who attended to their classes also wanted to attend to the funeral. Hence, we attended to the funeral together with the students. The students and we fulfilled almost all the rites during the funeral as the dear departed was placed in her grave. Mr. Akhtar turned to us and said, “Today, I have realized who you really are.” Both brothers are very decent and exquisite people. May Allah help them.
It was 2005 and it was time for us to go to Quetta. Yet, it was as if we were being separated from our own families and relatives. At the end of seven unforgettable years, I was going to say “Farewell!” to Peshawar, the first apple of my eye. We said goodbye to our friends in tears and left. After moving to Quetta, we would immediately realize that the people of Quetta were also not lagging behind the people of Peshawar in humanity. Pashtuns, Balochis and Punjabis were woven into this city like colourful rug patterns. There was lesser than a speck difference among them in terms of universal human values.
The school where I was to work in Quetta was situated in Pashtunabad district, on the slope of a steep rocky mountain. It was an old government school building in one of the slums. We had two schools in Quetta at that time. The PakTurk School in Pashtunabad catered to students from kindergarten to Grade 5 in primary school, and the PakTurk School on Quarry Road catered to students from kindergarten to Grade 12. During the first days of our arrival in Quetta, parents and colleagues received us with welcome parties and lavish meals at the Serena Hotel; these helped to calm our longing for Peshawar even a bit.
We laid our daughter to rest in Quetta’s soil
Together with the teachers whose homes were far away, we had to go to the school by a shuttle service every day. We still did not have the means to buy a personal car. We stayed in Quetta for 4 years. Our first child was removed with surgical intervention when her skull was not fully formed at the age of five months. We were told that under normal circumstances, a child’s main organs including the brain, the heart, and others would be formed in the first three months and developed in the remaining six months. We were also told that if the skull bones did not form in time, they would never form in any way afterwards. As a result of our extensive research and having learned that our Islamic faith always consented with the medical opinion and placed the life of mother above everything in such a situation, we consented our five-month old unborn daughter to be removed by surgical intervention. Our dear daughter, who could not open her eyes to the world, took wings true to the attribute of her name-to-be ‘Melek’ which meant ‘Angel’. We laid our unborn daughter to rest in Quetta’s soil. On that searing hard day, our friends provided us immense support. A year later, our second daughter Betül Neşve was born.
We lived there in an arid desert climate amidst treeless rocky mountains. However, in Quetta, time passed with exquisite boon companions. As time passed, we became sincere friends with the teachers and staff the same as we had been in Peshawar. We had a shuttle car service driven by Mr. Fatih, one of my Turkish colleagues. Mr. Ebubekir, my friend with one child, stood by us morning to evening, on holidays and in parks… words fail me as I strive for expressing my emotions. Mr. Arif was my Central Credit Bank whenever I was short on money. Mr. Yavuz was devoted to Allah and His commandments, no different than a salient dervish… and many more friends whom I am unable to mention here due to limited space.
Working with those people kept us active
Local friends hosted us as families in their homes. Sometimes we hosted them in our own homes and served them Turkish food. We were together with our local friends in weddings, holidays and funerals. We used to set aside a special day to meet and greet with the local teachers at our school just to have the occasion of coming together and celebrating religious festivals and days of importance. The iftars and dinners in Ramadan were exquisitely unique. We lived in Quetta until 2009. I have many students with whom I still keep in touch since those days. They always express their warm feelings and their longing due to separation never seems to cease.
Our school activities in Quetta were vivacious and splendid. Once, on occasion of the April 23 National Sovereignty and Children’s Day, the wife of the Governor was scheduled to visit our school. Our daughter Betül was born on April 22. On that day, we also received the confirmation of the forthcoming visit by the wife of the Governor. A full and enthusiastic celebration function was ready on April 24, within just two days. Working with those smart, diligent and hardworking colleagues always kept us active. The wife of the Governor and those in her retinue liked our school and our students very much. Our students regularly achieved good results in the region and across the country.
To be continued…