Thanks to Naveed Riaz in Lahore for the email that formed the basis of my report on Qais Hussain’s condolence note to Farida Singh, daughter of the Indian pilot whose plane he shot down during the 1965 war. Here’s another note Mr Riaz just sent to his email list:
This profoundly humane episode continues to move ahead with Indian and Pakistani news channels and media bringing it increasingly to the fore today after Beena Sarwar in Karachi broke the story in Pakistan’s leading daily The News (Aman ki Asha).
Mrs Farida Singh, daughter of the deceased pilot of the Indian plane Jahangir “Jangoo” Engineer replied today to Qais’s letter of condolence four days earlier – see below (NDTV’s coverage this evening at this link). Beena’s article and Qais’s condolence letter here)
From: Farida Singh
10 August 2011 09:49
Subject: Re: Condolence
To: Qais Hussain
Dear Mr. Hussain,
Firstly, thank you for your condolences on the passing away of my brother Noshir.
I am somewhat overwhelmed at receiving this letter, even though I was expecting it as Jagan Pillarisetti had been in touch with me recently on this.
It took courage for you to write this. And for me, too, (I say this humbly) it takes the same to write back . But my father was Courage and Grace at their finest and I now speak on behalf of him, my extraordinary, gracious mother (who survived my father by just 16 years), my late brother Noshir and my elder sister in Canada who is unfortunately legally blind.
Yes, this was the one incident which defined our lives henceforth. But in all the struggles that followed, we never, not for one moment, bore bitterness or hatred for the person who actually pulled the trigger and caused my father’s death.The fact that this all happened in the confusion of a tragic war was never lost to us. We are all pawns in this terrible game of War and Peace.
A little more about my father. An ace pilot if ever there as one. A WWII veteran fighter pilot, a great leader of men, a willing team player, strong in body and spirit. This would have been just the view of an adoring daughter, had it not been reflected by all those fortunate enough to know him. Most of all was the generosity of spirit, and his intuitive understanding of the pain of others. Hence it is now easy for me to reach out my hand to receive your message. This incident is indeed a prime example of what damage strife and mindless battles can drive even good men to do.
Thank you again for your gesture. I know it was not an easy thing for you to do.
In closing, I would like to say that I have no idea as to how your email has made the front page in some prominent dailies here. (Jagan knows how publicity-shy I generally am). A friend told me about it and I then re-checked my inbox and opened your mail this morning, 4 days after you sent it.
However, I am glad that it is now public as it can do nothing but heal wounds, not just on a personal scale but in a much wider arena. And most of all, my father would have liked that it goes towards bringing a spark of forgiveness between our two peoples, who after all were one.