I always wanted to meet Pakistan’s most revered social entrepreneur, Abdul Sattar Edhi. This man has worked wonders in Pakistan – yet he remains as humble and down to earth as anyone you’d ever meet. Who wouldn’t want to meet him? His attempts to bring a revolutionary change in one of the poorest urban areas of the world have only seen progress, so far. Therefore, I was excited beyond words when I got the chance to finally meet him for an interview.
As I came to Methadar, the place where Edhi lived, the first question that came to my mind was, how could a prominent individual live in such a congested area? But then, the answer hit me: he was a people’s person, so why won’t he live amongst them? I was amazed to see how anybody could simply stroll in his office and offer their regards to him, without any prior appointments.
The simplicity of this man seemed unparalleled.
As I made my way towards his office, the slender streets became narrower and narrower and filled with more traffic and clamor.
My first meeting with him lacked glitter or glam; I did not feel like I was meeting the most popular personality in Pakistan. He came across as congenial, easy-going and approachable. His demeanor did not have the usual pomp that we see in normal celebrities.
Since I was still in awe of the area he lived in, my first question was an inquiry, as to why was he still living there. To this, Edhi replied that he just did not like leaving his place and his people.
“I do not need a big house or a BMW. My happiness lies in the happiness of my people. I am born to help”.
His small room was accessed directly off a back street in a Karachi ghetto and had space for just around three tables for the modest bunch of individuals who dealt with a sprawling, countrywide philanthropy domain of more than 1,200 ambulances, several medical centers, grave yards and an adoption service for lost or abandoned kids.
Edhi sat in the midst of it, on his brown sofa, which was recently replaced with his decades-old wooden chair. Edhi claims that he is still trying to get used to this new sofa.
“I didn’t want this sofa. I still feel my hard wooden chair was more comfortable. My daughter gave this to me. I like simplicity but she gave it with so much love that I couldn’t refuse it”, the philanthropist commented.
Sitting with this man, I got to know the struggles that he had faced while growing up.
As a child, he had to take care of his mother, who suffered paralysis and diabetes. Things were never easy for him. But his mother taught him a valuable lesson; everyday, she would give him two paisas, one to spend on himself, and one on somebody less lucky, to develop in him the instinct of giving that he so vehemently acts upon. This basic lesson formed him into the immense man that he is today.
But he remains ever modest.
“I am Allah’s beggar, I only ask him for whatever I need. I do not ask the government to help me or give me anything. I am a giver, I give out (mai denay waloon mai se hoon, lenay waloon mai se nahi).”
Situated in a grimy three-story building in a busy narrow lane, the Edhi Foundation now commands an armada of 550 ambulances, including two planes and a helicopter. They handle blood donation centers, shelters, family-planning facilities, a tuberculosis clinic, an eye-healing facility and a kidney dialysis center. Edhi provides shelter for battered women, runaway boys and mishandled animals.
His organization also provides maternity services, treats drug addicts, sustains the needy and buries the dead. Currently, he is building a system of roadside medical aid centers, each with an emergency vehicle, every 35 miles along Pakistan’s highways, from Khyber to Karachi.
Edhi Foundation receives billions of donations from abroad. Edhi’s aim is to have enough money in the bank to make the foundation self-supporting after he dies. Edhi smiles and says:
“I’m no longer retail, I’m wholesale now.”
These days, news about Edhi not feeling well and visiting SUIT for his dialysis have started spreading greatly, and many are worried to this gem-of-a-person’s health. I just pray that he has a long life ahead, because Pakistan still needs him. Without him, there will be no one left to help the needy and the destitute.
The extremely humble Edhi Sahib is certainly doing what the government is supposed to do. May Allah give him health and help him achieve all his dreams.