It was the summer of our junior year in high school. Khayyam, Sohail, Reza and I went to Mansera and beyond for a hiking trip. Our host in Mansera was Bilawal. His house was one of the many in lanes [galli] that dotted the mountain side. Thin strips of mountain rock led from the main road up to his house. Beneath the wide chasm. The jokes were that us fools will come out in the night and take a wrong step into the darkness below. We went fishing in the coolest, clearest river I had ever seen. And by fishing, I mean, we packed some gunpowder in a small bread ball with a long fuse and dropped it in the river. It was my first time alone in the mountains. I went many times after. Much further into the ranges with many, many fond memories. I keep remembering Bilawal's face. Not his face in person but his face in a picture that was taken and that I haven't seen since. Isn't that funny? This trick of memory. In the picture, all four of us are "striking a pose" with our jeans rolled tight at the cuff and our high-top Reeboks puffed high. I think my tshirt collar was up. I have no idea if Bilawal or his family are alive.
The human toll of this earthquake in Pakistan continues to rise. The Indo-Pakistani diaspora has taken the lead in relief efforts (though the Bush Administration has generously sent considerable money and material through official channels as well), and in the blogsphere, sepoy, emullah, and Haroon have been doing yeoman's work in compiling links to vetted and authentic charities that are already on the ground.
Of these, the Edhi Foundation is the most respected, experienced, and competent. While they prefer snail mail, you can donate online through this third party. Now there is also an American Red Cross Earthquake Relief fund. And the official airline of Pakistan, PIA, will airlift donated good and supplies for free to Pakistan if dropped off at any regional office, including Chicago, New York, Houston, San Francisco, and London. Here are contact numbers for PIA offices worldwide. Winter is coming and many hundreds of thousands are homeless, so the urgency is acute.
Please. Head over to your local PIA office and donate supplies. Or click over to Chapati Mystery, avari/nameh, or emullah and see what you can do to help. Let our sense of propriety and justice correct the otherwise natural inequality of our sentiments:
Let us suppose that the great empire of China, with all its myriads of inhabitants, was suddenly swallowed up by an earthquake, and let us consider how a man of humanity in Europe, who had no sort of connexion with that part of the world, would be affected upon receiving intelligence of this dreadful calamity. He would, I imagine, first of all, express very strongly his sorrow for the misfortune of that unhappy people, he would make many melancholy reflections upon the precariousness of human life, and the vanity of all the labours of man, which could thus be annihilated in a moment. He would too, perhaps, if he was a man of speculation, enter into many reasonings concerning the effects which this disaster might produce upon the commerce of Europe, and the trade and business of the world in general. And when all this fine philosophy was over, when all these humane sentiments had been once fairly expressed, he would pursue his business or his pleasure, take his repose or his diversion, with the same ease and tranquillity, as if no such accident had happened. The most frivolous disaster which could befal himself would occasion a more real disturbance. If he was to lose his little finger to-morrow, he would not sleep to-night; but, provided he never saw them, he will snore with the most profound security over the ruin of a hundred millions of his brethren, and the destruction of that immense multitude seems plainly an object less interesting to him, than this paltry misfortune of his own.
The Adam Smith quotation via Daniel Drezner, who is the epitome of facing adversity with grace.