I wonder what we call haqeer in English. This is a haqeer attempt at fulfilling a promise. A promise at once fleeting and at once significant as the flap of a butterfly’s wing. This is a promise of our collective history, our identity, our lasting devotion to love, the promise every Pakistani has sung. This is the promise of lighting the fifth lamp at Qalandar’s mazaar. In the voice of Nusrat and Abida and Sabri. Chaar “charagh tere balan hamesha, panjawan mein balan”. Here I am, broken but not unmoved to gather some strength to write about our promise, to light the fifth lamp. Never going to let go of the oath, of the grace that was granted to us so we could witness the otherworldliness of being at Lal Shahbaz’s Mazaar.
Before undertaking this trembling honor, I want to confess that it is not me capable or articulate enough to write, but the subject itself that stirs words to come together. Like a tree that becomes home to a nest because the bird willed it and not the tree itself.
When you meet a stranger while traveling and their beauty strikes you, you want to remain in touch. I have contact numbers of people from Cholistan to Chitral, beautiful people who have taught me immensely. But there are some people who you meet and you know you’ll meet them again without the presence of any such visible communication links because with them it is a matter of bulawa. “Jab bulawa ho tabhi mulakat hoti hai”. Abdullah Fakeer was one of them. Met him for the first time in 2014 in Sehwan and his smile swept me away. Carrying the Alam of Maula Abbas in his hand, Abdullah fakeer, he was always there in his selfless majesty. He was the kind who would meet you and bless you with countless prayers. His generosity was unparalleled. I met him again last year when I was at Sehwan and this photograph is from the last time we met. When I was going to Sehwan after a gap of over a year I was wondering and worried if the people I met back in 2014 would recognize me. And the moment they did recognize me was the moment I really understood the mystic ethos of Bulawa. With them you don’t need a phone number, with them you just need your unhindered love. When you travel North and visit the mountains you don’t know if the friends you met before will be there or not – they could be hidden and manifest sometimes in valleys, sometimes in hills. But here at Sehwan, the fakeers are no less than mountains themselves. You will find them there smiling and blessing always, whenever you go. No force can move them – except for the spirit that brought them to the shrine to begin with. That timeless spirit of Love.
As I write this I have no idea whether Abdullah jee lives or not. But the way my heart breaks when thinking of Sehwan, I doubt he is still around. This incident disrupted something that was transcendantal, something primordial. Something that was vast enough to be calling followers since over 700 years. And it will not be the same again.