Edhi, the baba we all had

I started writing again about Baba a couple of months ago when we heard about his health. I had known him for over ten years, so I could fill a lot of pages. Until last week, my narrative about who he was to me had exceeded 37 pages. It only covered the first year and a half of me knowing him. Also included were a few moments about who he was to many of us who had spent time with him, shared a meal or slept at one of his Edhi Homes.


The stories I can tell you …


In the days to come, we will see countless tributes for the humanitarian Abdul Sattar Edhi around the world. He will be given names celebrating his life and work. And he will still be called an infidel by his detractors. These tributes will come in all forms, shapes, and sizes. Scholarships, foundations, buildings and projects named after him. More titles for him. Even perhaps a ridicule for his lack of ritualistic prayer. What is certain is that everyone will talk about him. Some would want to benefit from his name, others would just celebrate his spirit of benevolence.

I will let you be the judge of which side each of us remain.


My story, some of which i actually shared with him as well, is about who he was to me, and how we came together. He did give me permission to share the final narrative but was not too excited about it. I will respect his wishes.

As a news producer, every day I would meet a dozen new people. Met almost anyone who can call himself or herself an important person or a celebrity of any degree. Everyone from politicians to Bollywood & Hollywood celebrities, from musicians and filmmakers to so-called humanitarians. I detested the photo ops. I was not able to see the point of having a picture taken with someone I could not appreciate for their craft and contribution to the world. And the lack of humility was a turnoff.

This is where baba comes in. He did it effortlessly with humility for everyone, as you will learn from the countless articles and documentaries about him. I met him a decade ago through a very strange coincidence, and that day has managed to give me a lot of learnings to this life. I asked him If I could meet him again. He graciously accepted. So for many years to come, we would just meet up, have chai and both rant about how sick this world really is. And we laughed. And he was a very funny man. Wait till you get him rolling, and he would dissect Pakistani politics like a warm knife goes through butter.

I have some more pictures that I keep close to my heart. This is one of them. Baba was one of the few who fascinated me enough to ask him to have a picture taken with him. So whenever I fear venturing in a dark place in my heart and mind, I would glance at this picture and think to myself: it can only get better.

He saved my life. Edhi is not a man, Edhi is a state of mind. #LongLiveEdhi #RIPEdhi


Azfar Rizvi is the Executive Director of the Toronto non-profit Institute of Canadian Archives. You can email him at: contact@azfarrizvi.com