Saturday, August 20, 2011

From Rashid Minhas, with love

P.A.F. Academy

Dear Ratti Jimmy,

I’ve been thinking for a long time about this letter for you. It’s finally today that I got down to writing it. By the way it’s your turn also by the merit system.

I’m doing fine out here. Maybe you’re interested in what I’m doing here. Life is fast but because of the routine, happy! Settled in a way that is. Studies are there mainly of all sorts of things about aircraft – the fuel systems, communications, navigation, aerodynamics, engines, and all sorts of other systems.

We also do a bit of procedures – what you do when you get lost without radio and such like things. Besides that we have GIT (ground combat training). We learn all about guns, fire them and so on (ground guns only: light weapons like rifles, light machine guns, sten, pistol, grenade). We’ve done the M-I and the Bren (LMG). It’s real fun at the range – real noisy too! The chatter of the automatics and the steady song of the rifles make it sound like doomsday! It’s just like the movies – the firing I mean; the sound is surely a lot more (usually we stuff our ears with cotton). Of course we’ve had our share of sore shoulders (the rifles kick!) The LMG of course does not kick, it just sort of vibrates.

Then there’s gliding – for sport. It’s fun though you hardly ever go up above 1000! I’ve done a take off and tried my hand at landing too but the thing just doesn’t go straight! (If there’s even a slight breeze it carries the thing with it!) So that’s all I’m doing here – next time insha Allah I’ll be learning to fly T-6G’s (Harvards to you). Maybe then you’ll hear more nice stories.

So much for that. Now let me know what you are doing? Studies, the usual bore? But cheer up! They’ll soon be over, honestly, I’m telling you – you won’t know it and the day will be there when you are free. You’ll be surprised by it, I can assure you.

At this stage maybe I should pore out my lecture to you as an elder brother – at least I’m supposed to, it’s only that I’ve no lecture for you but just a piece of advice more as a friend than as an elder brother.
I don’t ask you to do anything for me, for yourself or for anybody for that matter, for I can’t ask you – It’s your life, your wish, your will, your mind, your world. I am sure you know best and you do your best for the best for your aims. Believe me, when I say that I have the fullest confidence in you, I know you both better than anybody else – at least I can claim too! And I can also say with the fullest confidence that you are both, fortunately or unfortunately, bright characters. I know for certain that you are not kids for all your actions you have reasons – as all grown ups have. You like to play cricket because you want to become cricketers – that’s that! You don’t like to go to parties – You must be having your reasons (I had mine too!) but then I wasn’t confident as you and hardly ever refused. They seem stupid and meaningless, don’t they? People behave in a silly manner or so it seems. You feel out of place and stupid as well! They are simply suffocating! But now I like to go to parties. Why? You know as well as I do!

So as I was saying you must have a reason for everything – you do have, isn’t it? Nothing in this world is meaningless, if we just stop and think about it. I’m sure you know that already and I’m sure you never let things pass. Only fools do that. It follows from all this that everything, every person, belief, action has a reason, isn’t it? But then there are so many things we never think about – we never bother because we think we are too busy, don’t you think so? Have you ever thought of why you go to school? Why do we have education at all? Why do the astronauts go into space? Land on moon? Millions of dollars spent on a trip which at first sight seems to be just a good ride, isn’t it? Just think, millions of dollars! I still think it’s not a waste, there’s an excellent reason for it! Imagine people working, and working, for humanity to progress – why? Why can’t we be like animals? You must be knowing already that it is just because man wants to know the truth, the truth about himself, about the world, about everything. This is what they call the eternal quest for truth or truth through knowledge.

Of course religion gives it all to you in a concise form but it does not stop you from finding out for yourself and strengthening your belief. That is how it must be with you. You must find out the truth yourself. Satisfy your self. The books just give you the thing how it happens. People can just advise you. How? And Why? You must answer yourself. Think it out. It’s just like geometry, your reasoning, use it! Try to find for yourself what happens around you and why? Wake up! (That’s what the drill instructor says!) Whatever appeals to you, think over it and come to your own conclusions about it. You have every right to.

Similarly with other things. Do you know why the car runs? Or why the plane flies? How the astronaut reaches the moon? Find out! So many delicious secrets to be known by you, so many worlds to conquer – all yours! How does your body work? Why doesn’t the roof come down? Where does the picture come from in the TV? What makes a fast bowler’s ball “swing” and a spinner’s “turn”? Why is the ball red in cricket and white in hockey? Why do they have cinemascope screen on the oval? Why they call a cricket field an oval?

Then you must also ask questions about yourself to yourself. What will happen? What am I to do? What is “good,” what is “bad”? And then you’ll find so many strange things in this world – discover them. You’ll find more oddities than you can imagine. Standing on the earth you are traveling at 900 nautical miles an hour (even more rather much more than that! Why?)

I hope I’m not getting boring? It also follows from all that I’ve said that you also in this world enter with some purpose, some reason for being here – and now it is up to you to accomplish it. It is for you to decide where you fit in the giant machinery of our world. Soon, very soon, people will look up to you as the man – maybe the nation’s leader; do not let them down (You can be anything; it’s all up to you). You owe it to your family, to your country, to the world to be something and to prove as good for it. You owe it to yourself! Great men are not born; they make themselves great. Be a man so that the people are proud of you like Rafiqui, Maj. Aziz Bhatti, Dr. Barnard, Churchill, Gandhi, the Quaid. Wouldn’t you like them to be? I’m sure you would!

Never be mean, selfish, or tricky to accomplish your aims – I mean to say never lose the good quality you both have: straightforwardness. If you’ve done something wrong you’ve done it, what can anyone do about it? If you are sorry, say so. If you think it’s nothing to be sorry about, forget it!

3rd Nov 69. Continuing my lecture: Being straightforward on the other hand does not give you the passport to be careless – you must not have that in mind, for it will show that you know you are wrong and you don’t do anything correct yourself. Isn’t that so? As a mater of fact it should (being straightforward) help you realize your mistakes and limitations (you have these – no man is free of them.) But once you realize yourself your mistakes try to correct them, take pains to do it. Honestly, you’ll like the way you work on yourself. You’ll be a better person – No I don’t mean you’re bad; you are both good chaps and for good chaps the aim should be to become exceptional fellows.

Now you will ask what will I get by becoming good? Why should I be good at all! That is one question and statement which no one has been able to answer satisfactorily because you get very little, by doing good, naturally. Then the only plausible answer left is that you get the satisfaction and mental peace, you get rewarded in a later stage of your life. Personally I’d answer the question in a different manner altogether. You being unselfish never do anything for yourself – (I hope you take me seriously; it sounds silly, doesn’t it?) But you do it for others. Why? Because as I said you owe it to them – it is their right! How? It is their right because you are their son, their brother, uncle, cousin. As your parents they’ve brought you up for what? They’ve put up with all your wishes and whims, stayed up nights when you were ill, fed you, clothed you and what is more, they have never claimed what is their right on you. (“Why?” is another question I’d like you to think about). Even though they never told me that I owe them anything, I know that I do. I know too that I’ll never be able to return all that I’ve got from them (I’m not talking of material things). I am what they made me. You must understand this.

Besides this I’m sure you have great ambitions to become something really fantastic. You must prove to yourself these ambitions are not mere dreams (I can tell they are not if you just work hard enough). You want to be a hotrod army officer – commando chap? Go ahead plan your work that way, play that way so that you are fit for the job. You want to go to USA on scholarship to become a rocket and spaceship designer? Work for it. You want to rise like Napoleon (I wish you’d read his biography – by Emil Ludwig)? Think and plan in his style.

In short concentrate your energies in one direction do not waste them. I’m sorry I am not able to give all this advice emphatically for I myself suffer from a lot of drawbacks. Nevertheless you would learn from your and others’ mistakes and do well.

One more bit before I wind up: please do read. Read anything – comics, autobiographies, novels, anything but do read with a clear mind; never just for the heck of it; and then try to find out what is it that appeals to you. In this connection, Rukhsana and Farzana will be in a better position to advise you than I am but then I can tell you a few good books. Little Men by Luisa M. Alcott. In biographies, Churchill’s and Napoleon’s are the best. Of course you may come across some exceptional ones just by fluke. Personally I liked war books better Reach for the Sky (Paul Buckhill) and Dam Busters – then of course Alistair Maclean’s HMS Ulysses – are the ones I read the earliest. They are very absorbing. (The underlined books are in my shelf you can have them).

So then I hope you did not mind very much the long lecture. In any case I’ve spent five hours on it. It is all up to you how you take it. Do write to me. Anytime you want to know anything – anything – you let me know and I’ll send you a précis like this. Any time you feel stuck anywhere, let me know. Do let me know your views about the happenings around you as well. If there are any questions, do not hesitate – if you want confidential answers that too could be arranged! Anything that interests you, any book, anything you’d like to try your hands at and dad doesn’t approve of, let me know – maybe I’ll convince him. When I get a reply to this letter maybe by then I’ll have completed my second dose to you.

Khuda Hafiz

P.S. Vol. 2 will not be so general. I’ll talk of one topic, in science maybe.
P.S. Keep Vol. I so that I can read and laugh when I get to Karachi. Rashid.
P.S. Tell Ma, Pa, I’m fine

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful and thoughtful letter by our hero. I will share this with my sons, nephews and nieces.