Written By: Lt Col Danish Javed
The airport lounge was full of people waiting for flights to their destinations. Three friends busy in chatting arrived at the busy lounge and started looking for a place to sit. Finally, they found seats near the escalator. These men seemed well-educated and were appropriately dressed, but at times, our perception is contrary to the reality.
“Look towards him; what is the need to wear sun glasses inside the lounge?” said one of the three young men with a cynical smile. The other two colleagues had yet not identified the person being commented upon. “What a fool to be even wearing hand gloves in this weather!” he said again, this time in a more insolent tone. “Who you are talking about?” asked the other two. He winked his eyes and pointed at a man in uniform, coming down the escalator. “What do they think of themselves in uniform?” He made a few more comments on the officer’s demeanour.
This man was an army officer named Lieutenant Colonel Kashif. He radiated pride in a starched khaki uniform with shinning stars on the shoulders and a chest decorated with medals. The officer started walking in the direction of the three colleagues and approached one of them named Ahsan. The other two looked on as Ahsan got up and hugged the officer he hadn’t met for years.
Ahsan held his old friend affectionately by the shoulders and said, “What a surprise! It is good to see you so many years after school”.
Kashif responded with equal affection, “Same here, dear friend”.
Hesitantly, Ahsan enquired, “Why are you wearing glasses? Hope everything is fine with the eyes?”
The colonel replied, “Yes, everything is fine, just lost one eye while fighting terrorists when they attacked a university in our city”.
There was pin-drop silence for a moment. Ahsan stared at him with shock and disbelief but recovered quickly and said, “I feel sorry for this loss, but dear friend you made us all proud. You and your soldiers took no time to kill those barbarians, saving us from a great human loss”.
When the truth is revealed to us and it is contrary to our perception, it jolts us from within like an earthquake. We might desire to stop the truth from unveiling itself and leaving us baffled, but when it begins to unravel it does so completely, without giving us time to gather our thoughts and composure. The same was happening with Ahsan’s colleague who had mocked the officer out of ignorance but now felt embarrassed and ashamed.
Ahsan looked at Lt. Colonel Kashif with compassion and held his right hand. But Kashif’s hand felt unusual and disturbingly unfamiliar. Ahsan looked at the hand more closely and asked the reason for wearing gloves and why his hand felt so different.
The officer smiled and said, “I lost my hand in the same battle as well”. Silence prevailed again. The officer’s replies had left Ahsan and his friends completely perplexed and dumb founded.
A few moments later, Ahsan asked Kashif where he was headed to.
“I am going back to my place of duty. My regiment is busy fighting the enemies of Pakistan and I do not want to be left out. I do not want to miss the chance of fighting the enemies of Pakistan,” the officer replied in a firm tone about his destination.
Ahsan was stunned again, “You have a big heart dear friend but I don’t understand how someone can go to the war zone again after losing an eye and a hand?”
“When your purpose is great, even life doesn’t matter; what to talk of an eye and a hand? I am ready to sacrifice everthing for the peaceful future of Pakistan,” Kashif replied with a smile on his face.
Ahsan could not believe his calmness, satisfaction, pride and conviction of purpose and felt lost for words. “I have no words to thank you sir, no expression of gratitude can do justice to your sacrifices. That was our university where the terrorists had attacked and you saved our lives”.
Now that the reality had unfolded, they felt guilty of their wrong perceptions. They very silently but firmly vowed to fight against the wrong perceptions spread around by the enemies of their motherland.