‘My birthplace is Germany but my heart beats for Pakistan’

Source: Dawn

When I first saw Dr Ruth Pfau sitting under an old banyan tree in Manghopir, it reminded me of a childhood story told by my great grandmother, Babi. Babi in her youth was the prettiest girl in her hometown of Banaras, and so was taken away by djins. She was saved by an old woman who sat under a banyan tree along the Ganges, surrounded by the outcast widows, young and old.“She was Devi Maa, her world revolved around these bald women in white saris, otherwise despised by everyone in town. She was their psychiatrist, their spiritual leader and, above all, their only hope,” Babi would narrate. That image came to mind when I saw Dr Pfau sitting and knitting under a banyan tree in the hilly area of Manghopir, a poor neighborhood of Karachi.In full-sleeved shalwar kameez with a shawl wrapped around her, she was surrounded by women leprosy patients as outcast as the widows in Banaras.The clawed hands and feet, the wounds, the deformities didn’t faze Dr Pfau. She shared meals with them, shared jokes with them in her broken Urdu, and they called her Amma. This was my first field assignment as a trainee reporter. I had just entered the world of journalism, though the newspaper I was with, The News, had not yet launched. This was some 26 years ago.

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Categories: Asia, Germany, Pakistan

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