Many years go I used to believe that I could Have, Do and Be, anything I wanted to. I trusted my heart and mind, legs and limbs, very much, then.
With this self-assurance, I wrote a few wishes on a piece of paper that I wanted to come true at different stages of my life. I began daydreaming about them to manifest them. Here are the top two in my wish list at the time. I wanted to become:
• An Army General
• Speaker National Assembly
During my school days I used to think that the most healthy and handsome men were found in the army barracks and country jails – and they attracted beautiful women. My friends often laughed at my view, but enjoyed the `women’ part. Uniforms, especially of the armed forces, are great pullers.
Likewise, big-time street urchins, never short of fun and food, often without health problems, are able to survive on substandard and insufficient food servings in jails. On completion of their jail terms, during the occasional rowdy rounds of their chosen areas most men and women were anxious to steel a glance at them. Sounds filmi but it is true!
Undoubtedly, both `professions’ – one secure, the other insecure – were thought to be a quick ways of becoming `Somebody’ from `Nobody’, especially by people from humble backgrounds.
I being the only son in the family was not spared for the armed forces. For many years, I would lie down on the sofa in the living room of my small house and watch the National Day celebrations and passing out parades. How much I wished to be part of the moving pictures on the tele.
“Look at me mother I am still alive”, I used to scream pointing at the marching men, and myself. “I would have made it!” “Not as far as you wished for,” was her instant reply. You would never have become an army General – maybe brigadier!” Her voice sank in the sounds of the parade ground; I pretended as if I didn’t hear the hurtful words.
(Noel Israel Khokhar retired in 2012 as major-general in the Pakistan Army). My mother was wrong!
I missed both opportunities – the lasting glory of an army officer and short-lived fun of a rogue.
My khaki wish got substituted with the media. Now there was no one to stop me (I thought so) …I did print, radio and television for several years… assisted many privileged “rankers” who have now risen to great media heights. They are today “four-star” journalists; I could not go further than the age-related `senior’ category. I am now considered qualified to teach and train others to fulfill their dreams.
However, I am sometime appreciated at private meetings for my foresight and insight into issues. Often my thoughts become topics of newspaper columns and TV discussions – without me, of course.
Speaker National Assembly
Don’t be surprised! I gave up the idea of becoming Speaker NA in the fear of being put down and trampled over after reading the sad story of Diwan Bahadar S.P. Singha who supported Quaid–e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the proposed creation of Pakistan.
Before partition of the subcontinent, there was a tie between the Muslim League for Pakistan and the Congress Party for Hindustan – with 88 votes each, in the United Punjab Assembly.
There were four Christian members including one representative of the Anglo Christians in the United Punjab. The future of West Punjab, as a part of Pakistan, was in the hands of all these legislators who were `not’ Muslims.
The Muslim League leader Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah and Nawab Iftikhar Hussain Khan Mamdut held a meeting with SP Singha at his personal residence at 3-Davis Road, Lahore. Singha agreed to vote for Pakistan.
Consequently, the Christian legislators started receiving pressure-cum-threats from various quarters, especially from the Sikh leader Master Tara Singh who announced in front of the Punjab Assembly building that he would kill anyone demanding, Pakistan. SP Singha instantly responded saying, “We are ready to die for Pakistan”.
He gave his decisive “caste vote” as Speaker in favour of West Punjab as a part of Pakistan before the Boundary Commission of East and West Punjab.
Unfortunately, within four months of the creation of Pakistan on August 14, 1947, the ruling Muslim League tabled a ‘No Confidence’ and removed SP Singha from speakership for being a non-Muslim.
Both my top wishes got washed away!
Tailpiece: In spite of SP Singha’s humiliating experience there were some non-Muslims who became high achievers in the early days of Pakistan, when there were no Muslim substitutes. Here is a random list: Air Vice Marshal (Eric Hall), Air Commodores B.K. Das and Nazir Latif, Chief Justice Supreme Court (AR Cornelius and Baghwan Das), representative at the United Nations (Samuel E. Burk), First Law Minister (Jogendra Nath Mandal), First Editor of “Dawn” (Pothan Joseph), writer of the first national anthem (Jaganath Azad), noble prize winner (Dr Abdus Salam), Cricketer (Wallis Mathias — cricket commentator Omar Kureshi termed him “the only gentleman cricketer from Pakistan”).
Singer (Saleem Raza – real name Noel Dias, S.B. John, A. Nayyer – real name Arthur Nayyer), Sound Recordist (C. Mandody), Music Director (Robin Gosh). These are some non-Muslim men who tasted fame in TV and film; generally they are cameramen, drivers and spot boys. As actors, minority men are a definite no no; women, however, are welcomed with open arms.