Reality checks and the spirit of volunteerism – Mohsin Tejani

Spelt retreat at Sarwars 2007

Spelt retreat at Sarwars 2007

May 31, 2009

Mohsin Tejani

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Since I am here to speak on behalf of SPELT, I would like to begin by highlighting an important trait of our organization which would help the audience understand the kind of relationship Dr. Sarwar and SPELT enjoyed together. The Society of Pakistan English Language Teachers is all about volunteerism; a characteristic that is difficult to achieve individually, and demands equally from people around you. Effective volunteerism has a bearing on other people’s time as well, their commitments, obligations, and their preferences. These other people are the ones who bear out with our spirit of volunteerism and support us in our various endeavours. SPELT never misses a chance to recognize the efforts of its volunteers.

Actually, at the end of all major events organized by SPELT, we formally acknowledge the contributions of family members of SPELTers, but somehow, today we feel that one silent but ardent supporter, advisor, and well-wisher of SPELT has left a vacuum that no one else can fill up. We all know that Zakia Sarwar and SPELT are synonymous to each other – but not many people know that behind the scenes, Dr. Sarwar had a peculiar way of supporting the organization. He not only allowed Zakia Apa to fully engage in SPELT activities, but always – and I say always with a capital A – he always went out of his way to make it possible for her to carry out various SPELT tasks and assignments. It is important to put on record that for more than 10 years, SPELT was housed in Dr. Sarwar’s house, and later when we had our own office, Dr. Saheb always made us feel that his house was second home to SPELTers. Every quarter we organize the SPELT retreat at Dr. Sarwar’s, and every year at our annual conference, Dr. Sarwar’s house turns into a guest house where our presenters enjoy home hospitality. He was the kind of host who never raised an eyebrow at his place being turned into an office – and that too several times in a year.

So much so that even during this phase of severe illness, we would sit in his bedroom and discuss SPELT matters. Instead of feeling irritated or bored, even in that uncomfortable condition he would participate in the conversations and give valuable advice: “Yaar, aap log fallaan idarey sey kyon baat nahin kartey?” (Why don’t you talk to this or that institution?) “Bhai mera khayaal hay kay aap logon ko yeh karna chahiyey; ya yeh nahin karna chahiyey.” (Look, I think you people should do this, not that…); “bhai iss sey SPELT ko kiya faida hoga? teachers ko kiya faida ho ga? Yaa bachoon ko kiya faida hoga?” (Look, how is this going to benefit SPELT, teachers, or students?) — a reality check, sort of, that he would always ask thought provoking questions and give pertinent remarks for all of us to reflect upon.

He would interact with all of us – senior or junior – at our level, whether any SPELT visitor talked about politics, problems with education in Pakistan, sports, leadership – any topic – Dr. Saheb always had valuable contributions to make to the discussion. And then at every meeting, get-to-gather, or any other occasion he showed his sincere concern about our well-being; “tum chai kaa kehdu us sey” (Ask them for tea), “yaar aap log kitna kaam kertey hein?” (Hey, how much work do you guys do?), “Aray Zakia ney kuch khilaya pilaya tum logon ko, yaa naheen?” (Hey, did Zakia give you something to eat and drink or not?).

These may sound small things but they’ve gone a long way in placing SPELT where it is now. Like I said earlier, junior or senior – SPELTers have very fond memories of interacting with Dr. Sarwar.

Ladies and Gentlemen: SPELT is in its 25th year and we strongly feel that a silent but passionate patron of SPELT is no more with us. We wish he was with us to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the organization. SPELTers will miss Dr. Sarwar for ever. May God bless him and shower His choicest blessings upon him. Ameen!

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