Aisam: Not just another tennis player
In a society where women are rarely anybody’s ideals, Aisam ul Haq Qureshi was inspired by and chose to follow his mother – a national tennis player herself.
He did not just enter the hall-of-fame in the world’s sports history. He is not just a symbol of hope for a nation starved for a hero in a very long time. I also do not think that his biggest achievement is that he gave a country drenched in floods and smoldering in bomb blasts a reason to cheer and smile. For me, Aisam ul Haq Qureshi is bigger than Federer, Graf and all other celebrities that I have admired in the world of tennis, for a different reason. It’s his inspiring journey to success that a lot of people from my generation need to look up to. We, a generation of materialist sloths, who are always on the look-out for shortcuts to suit our needs; whose only way of showing concern for Pakistan is hurling abuse on politicians while throwing wrappers out of our cars, have much to learn from Aisam’s story.
The journey from Lahore
It’s a story of a sincere and responsible struggle towards realizing one’s dreams without compromising personal integrity. It’s a story of placing your country where we all conveniently forget to place it in our lives. On top of it, it’s a story of defying conventions for all the right reasons. In a society where women are rarely anybody’s ideals, Aisam got inspired by and chose to follow his mother – a national tennis player herself.
He decided to become a professional tennis player for a country whose own national game is starving for patronage. For more than ten years, a handful of sports followers in Pakistan recognized him; and that too only as an athlete who had been to a few international tournaments, struggling for a noteworthy title to come his way since ages. Any unfit and eternally out of form cricketer would have had a bigger fan following than him.
Despite every reason for him to not continue, he found it in himself to keep on trying. While we let issues such as financial prospects and social stigmas stand in our way when we decide what to do with our lives, Aisam’s sole determinant was his passion. And he never gave up on what he was passionate about.
A hero who says it all
Brought up in a system that teaches us how to be selfish individuals, Aisam chose to play doubles at the international level. Brought up in a country where mindless hatred against India flourishes, Aisam paired up with an Indian player and showed how absurd our biases are. After the final match, holding the US Open’s runners-up shield, when he could easily have been overwhelmed by his own achievement, he said to the world in the most humble manner what no celebrity or envoy has been able to convey:
Every time I come here, I feel that there's a very wrong perception about Pakistan being a terrorist country. We are very friendly, loving and caring people and we want peace in this world as much as you guys want and may Allah bless us all.
These words are more than a short and sweet speech of a player. The words are reflective of an individual who is conscious of his responsibility as a representative of a nation at a certain platform; an individual who remembered Pakistan during the biggest moment of his life; and an individual whose story should make us all question ourselves, “Where does Pakistan figure in my list of priorities?”
It’s a question we must ask ourselves today. We also better have an answer that we are not ashamed of admitting. Only then would, what we become tomorrow - be it a scientist or a tennis player – carry any meaning for the society we live in. Only then, would we stop being a mass of selfish individuals and actually be, a nation.