I was barely a teenager when I was introduced to the Spartans and the Greeks and how they fought the world. It was then that I learned the phrase "O Tolmon Nika", which translated to english means Who Dares Wins. It became a bit of a catch phrase for me that I freely dropped at every opportunity I got in my early teenage days.
While growing up in Bahadurabad and playing cricket matches at the Cocun Ground whenever we'd run into a tough spot Id my tell my team "remember boys, O Tolmon Nika." I remember Farrukh, my teams front line bowler, asking me what it meant and I saw his eyes gleam with hope when I told him the meaning. Hence, O Tolmon Nika, sort of became our teams unofficial tag line.
The best thing about that age is the lack of inhibition in friendships. We never cared that Iftikhar, our teams wicket keeper and opening batsmen was an Afghan refugee whose family lived and worked at the neighbours house. To us Ifti was akin to Shahid Afridi, yet a bit more reliable. Anyone who has played Cocun knows that its not the easiest of parks to hit a ball out of. Yet Ifti would go up to bat with his red and blue woven afghani cap on his head, the shalwar raised up and tucked in at the waist and would slam ball after ball after ball out of Cocun. I never expected him to remember the phrase or the meaning of O Tolmon Nika. But one day after a critical match in the mohalla league I joked with Ifti about his sparkling innings that would put Aamir Sohail to shame (Sohail was my favuorite Pakistani opener) and Ifti turned around to me and said "O Tolmon Nikkay". I laughed real hard and I said "Ifti its Nika not Nikkay. Nikkay means young one in Punjabi" and he said "I am Younger than you so nikkay for me" and we went laughing and cracking jokes all the way home.
Roughly a year after that my family moved to another neighbourhood and its been about fifteen years since I met Ifti. A few years back I ran into the folks whose house his family used to live in. I inquired if they knew what Ifti was up to. They told me he had done his BComm (Bachelors of Commerce) in Karachi and the they had heard that he had recently gotten a clerical job at some factory.
I was very pleased to hear that, Iftis family was not very well to do. That added to the fact that they were in a country that wasnt their homeland would have certainly made it more difficult. A number of refugees from Afghanistan had chosen to join the labour force at an early age and skipped schooling altogether. But it seemed Ifti had fought the odds. When I saw todays blog word, I somehow got reminded of Ifti. He dared to make a life from him and I hope he did well. I wonder if he still remembers the team, our matches at Cocun or O Tolmon Nika.