“Madam Farzana says you’re the one to talk to.”
Ghulam Abbas called twice on Saturday morning, while I was en route Teacher Helping Day. I called back during a free moment, when ZQ was encouraging the ECE staff to think creatively for the little ones’ “Circle Time”. When he answered, I could almost see him smile at the other end of the line; he really does have the sweetest voice.
“Madam Madeeha, I want to be a singer. Will you help me?”
Ghulam Abbas is 18 years old, with a heart of gold. This year, he obtained first position in Class One, Pehli Kiran School No. 2. There was no ramp, so he wheeled his customized cycle right next to the stage to receive his prize, beaming, beaming, beaming away.
Ghulam Abbas was born with polio. When he was about three years old, he fell ill with a terrible fever and lost the use of his legs. As a little boy, his family brought him to the Pehli Kiran School in Golra. He remembers Sir Munawar from those days, before circumstances forced him to leave in 1998. This was before he got his cycle, he said – it was difficult to get around.
What followed was more than a decade of Blank Years. His words were, “I did nothing.”
Things changed once the cycle entered his life in 2007. Now, he pedals on with dexterity, arms following a comfortable rhythm. In 2011, then, he came back to his old school.
“It was Sir’s meherbani”, he says, eyes shining with gratitude.
Out of six siblings, only his youngest sister goes to school. The others never did, some finding employment, one being “free” and unemployed. How, then, did Ghulam Abbas decide that he wanted to learn to read?
It was the same instinct, the same confidence in life and himself that drove him to pick up the phone on a Saturday morning and cheerfully inform me that he wanted to sing. Not just that, to “be a singer”.
What kind of singer? I asked. Did he want to go the classic route, perhaps, and learn to perform ghazals?
He thought for a moment.
“No,” he mused. “You know, a singer like Kumar Sanu.”
So, Ghulam Abbas wants to have his voice heard. He wants to entertain, to bring happiness to people through music that they can follow and songs that they can sing with him. He will do this without the slightest bit of self-consciousness, because he is far beyond the fear of embarrassment. Madam Farzana says it’s because he has this inner desire to be someone. I think he already is someone, special and brave and strong and tall.
If someone knows of a music instructor who would be willing to offer a few hours over the upcoming weeks, please do drop a line. The one thing I can do to try and live up to Ghulam Abbas’s faith is to figure out the logistics.
Update (May 2010): Due to the wonders of social media, Ghulam Abbas is now under the tutelage of Ustad Mahfouz Khokhar – a well-known instructor in the Islamabad/Pindi region. Special thanks to Tuba Mehmood (TCF), Taimur Khan (Sarangi) and Twitter.