Manners – Dr. Ashfaq
Right in front of the house is a historic school that was built by the ruler of Swat with the help of the Irish-based organization, ‘the Presentation Sisters.’ My father was involved in the administration of this school since his retirement from the Air Force.
Nowadays, there are Sri Lankans. As long as my father and Irish were there, I often used to go to school. As soon as you enter the school, you feel as if you have entered a vast and lush school in a county in Europe.
These English people are very strange people. When I was close to them for a long time, I got to know many things. Whatever work they do, they would give importance to two things, manners and dedication. Their work is so subtle that one is amazed. Here, Irish women, from principals to lower-ranking officials, were called “sisters.” Once I called the principal ‘madam’, she rolled her spectacles to the tip of her nose and stared at me and said is there any problem in calling me sister? Later, I came to know from my father that calling them by any name other than sister is offensive to them. No matter what work is going on in the school, they will be busy with you in some work so that you do not feel that you are the only one working.
Once upon a time there was a school wall to be built. The services of a local mason were sought. A sister came and by looking at him she understood that mason was sick. When asked, it turned out to be a headache. She went in immediately, brought Panadol tablets and a glass of water in a plate. She gave a short lecture on the effects of Panadol, the gist of which was that it would begin its effect in half an hour.
Therefore, work is strictly prohibited in half an hour plus another half an hour. Then she went inside and brought a chair from there. Mason was shocked. Perhaps he was thinking that he hasn’t received such care even from his wife.
The stream of the village flows near the school. Once, unfortunately, a schoolboy drowned while bathing in it. For several days, I saw these sisters weeping bitterly and comforting each other. The older sister was so upset that my father had to bring her home. One day I asked my father about their salaries and I was surprised. They set their own salaries according to a set of rules, and their salaries were lower than the other half of the school’s local staff.
Their paperwork was excellent. They used to set details of each item. Once I was free, I went there to help them. They gave me some papers. We all sat on the carpet and they began to figure out the details first. I spoke hastily like a Pakistani, saying that ‘sister, the work is simple, no need to elaborate, we’ll deal with it now. They laughed. What the elder sister said at that time was recorded in my mind without writing it, saying, “Ashfaq it is not to do the work, it is to make the work beautiful.” I think we are far from such manners. Life will be easier if we learn manners.
Another thing is that often if the sisters had to talk, they would come by themselves. Anything they could have said from a distance by raising the volume of the voice a little, but they felt it necessary to approach just to avoid the fact that the volume was not high during the work. I also asked about it one day; they said that maintaining a calm atmosphere during work is as important as work.
What a beautiful thing manners are. Why don’t we know some of the potentials that nature has instilled in us, and at the same time, learn the “manners” to use them.