Code One Nine

Code One Nine

by Dr. Ghayur Ayub

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781490770307
Publisher: Trafford Publishing
Publication date: 03/21/2016
Pages: 348
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.78(d)

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Code One Nine


By Ghayur Ayub

Trafford Publishing

Copyright © 2016 Dr. Ghayur Ayub
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4907-7030-7


CHAPTER 1

1985

I came into the picture at a late stage by coincidence. And what a coincidence! It changed everything. I was working in a prestigious government hospital and at the same time heading a private hospital. Life was leisurely and comfortable; I attended the hospital in the mornings, went home in the afternoons, had a nap, and off to the private practice. In the evenings I enjoyed the company of family and friends. It was an uncomplicated and restful existence with minimum worries. I liked it, my family liked it and my friends liked it. That is until one day, when a telephone call changed it all.

"JR how are you?" A male voice, strange to my ears called me. There was a frankness in his tone. I tried to place him. Only close friends called me by my initials, but the voice wasn't one of them.

"Do you know who I am?"

I hated it when someone asked me this question.

"I am trying to remember."

"Eight years ago you treated by wife, Farzana. She had breast cancer."

He stopped, giving me time to guess. I had no clue. In my profession I treated hundreds of patients with breast cancer. After all it was my speciality.

"I am sorry it must be my age." That was the only polite excuse I could come up with. I was 36 years old.

"Never mind." He must have felt embarrassed, because his tone changed. "You see patients in the hundreds and talk to their relatives in the thousands. How could you remember all of them?" He cleared his throat. "My name is Nadim Gerdezy. I am the brother-in-law of Kalim."

Suddenly the penny dropped and I knew who he was.

"Oh, I am so sorry, of course I remember you."

I remembered that eight years earlier, one day, my close friend Kalim rang me frantically and asked me to see his sister who had discovered a lump in her breast. The lump turned out to be malignant needing urgent surgery. Nadim Gerdezi was her husband. When he came to my office to discuss her prognosis, he brought his five years old son with him. The innocence on boy's face hit me. I couldn't say a word in his presence. So, I decided to invite Nadim to my house that evening. He came alone. After loosening him up with couple of whiskeys, I tried to explain the disease and its consequences. He understood the nature of the illness and thanked me for explaining it in the most humane way.

A week later, I operated on her and followed her up for two years until they moved to Lahore. There, she was followed up by a local specialist. Meanwhile, Nadim joined provincial politics and we lost contact. He was always appreciative of the way I handled the situation in a personal manner. It was him on the phone.

"How is Farzana?" I asked.

"She is fine, thanks to you." His initial embarrassment faded away. "I rang to tell you that I have been elected to the National Assembly from my constituency and will soon be moving to Islamabad."

"That's very good; it will give me a chance to examine Farzana."

"Yes, of course." He cleared his throat again. "It looks like the prime minister is going to offer me the portfolio of health."

"Oh, congratulation, that's great news."

"Yes it is, but I will need friends like you to achieve my targets."

"I am honoured."

It was that brief chat, which was going to change my whole life. Nadim became the health minister and I became his eyes and ears on health issues. After a year, I realized that I had become more of a politician than a surgeon. His personal secretary played an important role in that transformation. He convinced me that I could achieve more at a national level if I got involved in administrative job.

"You are a good surgeon and you have reached the top of the ladder at a very young age. Where do you go from here?"

"Carry on treating patients"

"Yes, but remember you are helping patients at an individual level. It's based on a one-on-one link. I see your frustration, when you find some good drugs are not available in the market just because the Drug Registration Board does not register them for silly reasons. You see; no matter how good a surgeon you are; you are at the receiving end just like your patients. The only difference is that the patients look up to you with hope. What about you? Who do you look up to? Those, incompetent and good-for-nothing bureaucrats? So if you become part of the policy-making team you can help millions with one correct decision."

He made his argument pretty convincing.

"So what do you suggest?"

"As a first step, work for the position of Executive Director (ED) of Institute of Medical Sciences (IMS). That would be a good beginning."

IMS was the most prestigious medical institute of the country and I was a mid-level government employee. In bureaucratic language it was a grade 19 post, while the ED position was grade 22. Jumping from 19 to 22 was a foolish idea. Even my friend, the health minister couldn't do anything about it. Only the prime minister, using his discretionary powers, could post me to that position. But then, why would he do it?

One day, when the health minister called me to his office to seek advice on a health matter, I suggested the proposition in a diplomatic manner. He looked at me with a smile and asked one question.

"Isn't that a senior grade post?"

I nodded my head. The discussion ended there. He politely rejected the idea. I never brought it up again, though it became a wishful thought in my mind.

It was in those days that another friend heard of my new curiosity. He rang me.

"JR what's this I am hearing?"

"Believe me Amir, I am not guilty of whatever you heard." He laughed.

"I am coming your way"

"I'll be waiting."

Amir was a good friend of mine. He was personal secretary to the principal secretary of the prime minister. In that capacity, he had a lot of influence in various ministries including the health ministry.

He was also close to the health secretary. Half an hour later, we were sitting in my lounge drinking tea. I explained to him my increasing desire to become involved in administration. He tried to convince me against the idea. But it seemed the private secretary to the health minister had done a good job on me. I was fully convinced to go for it.

"So how can I help you?" In the end, he reluctantly asked. "The health secretary is your friend. Talk to him. See what he says. After all, he is the government."

"Yes; but would the minister support you?"

"I think so."

"You are not sure."

"No."

"Charming." He smiled. "Anyway, let me give it a try."

The discussion changed from my political aspirations to Islamabad's social scene and it carried on for another three hours.

* * *

A week later, he rang asking me to get ready as we were going to see the health secretary at his office. I didn't need much preparation. When he came half an hour later, I was ready. We met the secretary. He received us with all the bureaucratic courtesy. He apparently knew of me because of my links with the health minister. Amir put the suggestion to him. Initially he supported me but when he found out the difference in grades, his enthusiasm faded. Shaking his head, he showed his inability to help. After having a cup of tea, we left his office pretty dispirited.

"JR, to hell with these people. I am going to take you to a place where things work differently."

He took out his mobile and dialled a number.

Sir," He spoke politely. "Can I come to see you? I have a friend with me."

The answer must have been affirmative as a smile appeared on his face. He listened for a second and replied, "In ten or fifteen minutes, sir."

He looked at me.

"Let's go."

"Go where?"

He didn't answer and turned around the car with a screech.

* * *

Fifteen minutes later we were entering a gate just opposite the mausoleum of Bari Imam — a 17th century saint. On one side of the gate, I noticed 'Raja's Residence' engraved in a bold red colour.

A bearded man opened the gate. Amir drove in as the gatekeeper saluted. He turned left and and parked the car. As I stepped out, I found myself, in a huge courtyard with trimmed out lawns at the base of a hill. I glanced around and noticed a few single story buildings connected by brick pathways. Amir headed towards one of them and I quietly followed him.

It turned out to be the reception room. It was darkly lit. There were a few chairs and a table near the only window. A slim elderly receptionist was sitting on a chair across the table near the window. I noted a plateful of red rose petals on the table. The receptionists greeted Amir and asked us to take seats. Then he picked up the phone and informed someone that we were here.

Half an hour later, the door opened and a man entered the room. Amir stood up looking at me to do the same. I did. He was in his mid-fifties, clean shaved and dressed in Shalwar Kameez. His grey hair was parted in the middle. There was nothing special about him except his eyes. He had an amazing shine in his gaze.

"Asalamu Alaikum, Amir Sahib" He smiled, which could only be described as sweet and friendly. "What can I do for you?"

Amir stepped forward, leaned and kissed his hand.

"Sir, I brought my friend for advice and guidance."

"Oh, have you?" The man turned to me. We shook hands. "My name is Raja Aslam but people call me Raja Sahib." He kept on smiling. "Any friend of Amir is a friend of mine."

He moved slowly and took a chair. Silence followed. From the corner of my eyes, I glanced at him not knowing why Amir wanted me to meet him.

"Is everything alright?"

"Yes sir, everything is fine, I brought my friend Dr. Jamil Reza. He is a surgeon in Institute of Medical Sciences."

"I see" He looked at me. "Thank you for coming"

"It's my pleasure, sir."

"Have you been to Bari Imam before?"

"No sir."

"I suggest you do in future."

I looked into his eyes. They were sparkling. I couldn't make eye contact. Then he turned to his right and picked up a few rose petals from the plate and offered them to me. I looked at Amir, not knowing what to do. He motioned to take them.

"These are for you, as a symbol of friendship." Raja Sahib was saying.

I leaned forward and picked them up from his hand. His hand was warm and the petals smelled fresh.

"Thank you, sir."

"Red roses are the symbol of change." He smiled. "You are in search of a change. Aren't you?"

I nodded my head.

"Keep these petals as a mark of change."

He did not speak much after that and half an hour later, Amir sought permission to leave. Permission was granted and I, like a robot, got up and followed him.

You are lucky" Amir told me in the car. "This is a very good omen." He pointed at the rose petals in my hand. "He gives those to special people on special occasions" Then he thumped me softly on my back. "Congratulation, Mr Executive Director of IMS. No one can stop it now."

I didn't know what to say. I just smiled.

* * *

Three days later, the health secretary rang me at three in the afternoon.

"Hello doctor sahib, I hope I haven't disturbed you." He sounded courteous. "You know what's going on in Sheikh Obaid Hospital, Lahore?"

"No, I don't."

"Well, the doctors have gone on strike and there has been a shoot-out. The hospital is closed and everything is in chaos. We've decided to send you as a trouble shooter. The Minister thinks you can control the situation."

I didn't know what to say. It was a total surprise.

"Are you there?" The secretary asked.

"Yes sir."

"So, what do you say?"

I decided to accept the challenge.

"When do you want me to leave, sir?"

"Take the evening flight at seven, everything has been arranged. You will be staying in the guest house of the hospital."

The discussion ended. I was flabbergasted. I rang Amir. He laughed and reminded me of the rose petals. Luckily, I had kept them in a cupboard. I went and looked at them, they were withered. I went back to the phone and rang Raja Sahib.

"Sir, can I come to see you?"

"Yes" His reply was short.

I went straight to Raja's Residence. He was waiting. He took me to his private quarters and let me sit next to him. When I told him about the telephone call, he smiled.

"This is just the beginning. Be ready for more, both good and bad."

"Bad sir?"

"Remember, life is not a bed of roses." Then he put his hand on my shoulder and pressed it gently "Don't worry heavy weights need strong shoulders. You have strong shoulders."

CHAPTER 2

1971

At the junction of North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Punjab, in northern Pakistan, the shining blue dome of a shrine stood high in the middle of green fields. On one side of the mausoleum, a mile away, was the winding Sindh River, and on the other side, was the main Grand Trunk Road that connected Islamabad with Peshawar. This was the resting place of a Kashmiri Sufi saint known to his disciples as Kalu Baba.

He was a 'Majzoob' in spiritual terms and physically handicapped in temporal understanding. His favourite disciple, Pir Anwar Ali Shah carried him around on his shoulders until 1949, when he decided to settle where his shrine stands today.

His disciples built a mosque in the locality and a room where he took rest. Shah remained loyal to Kalu Baba until his passing in 1960. In line with Sufi customs, Kalu Baba nominated Anwar Ali Shah as his spiritual heir. After his passing, Kalu Baba was buried there. Anwar Ali Shah converted the burial place into a shrine and built a small room for himself separated by a corridor. He left a window facing the shrine and put a bed and a chair next to it. The rest of the room was covered with a plain rug for the visitors. As there was limited space, most of them waited outside on the veranda.


Anwar Ali Shah preferred to be called Pir Sahib and from thereon he became known with that name. He was famous for his quietness. No one was allowed to talk unless granted permission by him. Many times people would come, sit quietly, and quietly leave hours later. They wanted him to say something as each word coming from him was a pearl of wisdom. His day would start with a visit to the grave of Kalu Baba, well before the morning prayers. Sitting in a squatting position at the foot-end of the grave, he would put the palm of his right hand on the marble slab and meditate. Sometimes he would remain in that position for hours without moving an inch. His disciples believed that's how he made contact with his master and sought guidance from him.

One day, as he was walking through the corridor for his meditative ritual, he saw a young man of 30, sitting by the pillar. He stopped and looked at him. The man was half asleep. Pir Sahib put his hand on his head. He kept on dozing. That morning Pir Sahib shortened his meditation and found the stranger was still there, only this time he was awake. He got up quickly and bowed his head in a sign of respect. Pir Sahib held his hand and quietly took him to his room. There, he asked his name.

"Raja Aslam, sir"

"When did you come?"

"One o'clock this morning."

"Is this your first visit?"

"No sir, I came with my brother-in-law last week. He is a major in Pakistan Army stationed at the nearby Mansar Camp."

"Why did you come back?"

"I had a dream sir." Raja Aslam spoke softly. "In that dream, Imam Ali told me to come here."

"Do you believe in dreams?"

"Yes sir, I do."

"Have you seen Imam Ali in your dreams before?"

"Yes sir." Raja Aslam felt a bit uneasy. He looked at him. Pir Sahib was smiling now. "When I was in class ten at school."

"I am not going to ask you what happened in that dream." Raja Aslam didn't respond. Silence followed.

"What do you do?"

"I am in the army."

"Are you married?"

"No sir, engaged to be married."

Silence followed again. Then, Pir Sahib got up and held him by the arm and took him to the grave of Kalu Baba. He put his cloak over him and in no time his eyes felt heavy making him unaware of time. When he opened his eyes, he saw Pir Sahib was standing next to him. He held him from his hand and took him back to his room.

"Would you like to stay here?"

"For how long?"

Pir Sahib just stared at him. Raja Aslam replied quickly.

"Yes sir, I would."

"Good, from today I'll call you Raja Sahib."

Thus Raja Aslam became known as Raja Sahib. He never went back to his village. He sent a message to his brother- in-law that he was quitting the army. A few months later, his engagement was broken as he dedicated his life to Pir Sahib and Kalu Baba. Thus he became the closest disciple of a living and a dead saint — a distinction not many seekers could achieve in the field of Sufism. He was the only one allowed to enter Pir Sahib's room without permission and ask questions when all others stayed silent. He also became in- charge of 'Langar'- the free meal provided to visitors.

In one of his question and answer sessions, Raja Sahib asked his guide about the levels of spirituality.

"Before answering your question, let me clarify one point about Sufism." They were sitting on the veranda. "Sufism has streams; just like a river has tributaries, or medical profession has specialities. A cardiologist has different kind of knowledge than a neurologist. A Sufi of one stream may not be aware of the total flow of stream of another Sufi. Do you understand what I am saying?"


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Code One Nine by Ghayur Ayub. Copyright © 2016 Dr. Ghayur Ayub. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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