“15 die, several injure in car bomb blast in Peshawar.” My morning started with one more day of disappointment of hoping to not find any story of Pakistan in the NYtimes headlines. I swallowed the tears clogging up my throat after looking at all the pictures of buildings from my country blood-stained and ruined. I quickly hit the close button on the corner of the screen and brushed out all thoughts about the news so that I could follow through with the schedule for another day of research in the Chicago city.
We drove down to Devon Avenue, the hub of the Pakistani/South Asian community living in Chicago. Our host for the morning, Mr. Khattak, stopped the car and pointed his finger towards one of the most extraordinary images I had seen in this country – “The Muhammad Ali Jinnah Way.” I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the name of Pakistan’s founder on this Chicago crossing. His words echoed in my head as I stood next to Dr. Ahmed staring at those letters that equated freedom and justice for both of us.
I was so rapt in the sight that I failed to notice a black car pull up right in front of us. Little did I know, the sight was about to get even more surreal for me when Alderman Bernard Stone stepped out of the car. Alderman Stone, a practicing Jew, also the vice-mayor and the longest serving Alderman of Chicago city, was the man who proposed the idea of putting my hero’s name on American soil. He gave us an interview about how Jinnah’s belief in freedom, justice and democracy had inspired him personally so much so that he felt the need to commemorate his life. He described the scene of the event when he presented this street for the first time to the Pakistani community in Chicago. He said the entire block of the city was closed off for that event and Pakistanis from all over the state had come down to see their Quaid in America.
Reading news after news about bomb blasts in Pakistan every single day had left a young Pakistani student like me annoyed and frustrated with the world. However, seeing a Jewish Alderman honoring the life of one of the finest Muslim heroes left me with hope again.
As the sun shone through the crossing of Muhammad Ali Jinnah Way and Devon Ave, I dwelled in the sight of my three heroes, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Alderman Stone and Dr. Akbar Ahmed – all together right in front of my eyes in Chicago city. This morning symbolized the optimism of this journey I had embarked upon. I had faith again in the world.