Love Letters To Icons: Bilquis Edhi

There are countless female icons that have coloured our history and left a lasting impression on us with their talent, charisma and presence. Every week, Ammaar – known on Instagram as ammaavocado – will be sharing his letter of love and admiration to some of these inspiring women. This week it’s to the selfless philanthropist – Bilquis Edhi.

Beloved Bilquis,

It’s one thing to wish a good world for someone who is in some wretched end of this one, but to build a world for them in whatever wretchedness has swallowed them is a completely different landscape for kindness.

There’s a difference, bilquis, in being empathetic and being kind; empathy only requires us to feel emotionally hooked to someone’s trauma, to try to feel what they feel in some way. Kindness is an entirely different landscape, kindness requires action. It requires us to give parts of ourselves we would not give otherwise.

I am not empathetic, so were not you and your husband. We are kind, we give ourselves to those in need and ask nothing in return. You are kind, as your husband once was. You give and never ask for anything in return. And I think in a world where if your not ignorant, you’re empathetic, your kindness is needed more than ever.

You spoke about how you started all this and how you met and married Edhi sahab in an interview back in 2003. Edhi sahab were alive back then of course. You said, “I was in school at the time and had recently sat for my 8th grade examinations. I wasn’t too fond of studying so I left school and joined the nurses training course at the Edhi Nurses Training Centre. Later, Edhi Sahib proposed to me, and we got married in April 1966.”

Edhi sahib’s sole possessions at that time were a broken old car and a small dispensary. There was a maternity home on the first floor with 6-7 beds, a small room – 6’ X 6’ on the ground floor which served as an office and a similar room on the first floor. There wasn’t much else but even in those days when people had very limited resources, people used to leave their kids with you and your husband. And you would look after them. You would give them a home when they had none.

For me, Bilquis, the most nerve-wracking story I’ve heard of you is after the 1965 war. They say during the 1965 war with India, the bombings resulted in a number of brutally mutilated bodies which you, Edhi sahab and a few workers had to wash for burials. At times only an arm, leg or head was recovered. 

There is very little that anyone can afford to give back to you and Edhi Sahab. We tried doing so, but always fell short. No one can ever compare themselves to what you did for society. You build a world with your own hands and heart.

And perhaps one day, in the world after this, when God asks ‘who loved you the most and whom you wished you loved back,’ and perhaps then, generations upon generations who you rescued and raised will rise from their graves chanting your name. And perhaps then the pearly gates of heaven will open and those you gave life to will carry you there. And perhaps you will reunite with your husband and perhaps then, you will be rewarded for everything.



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