The journey from Malala to the Malala is an audacious journey of an otherwise ordinary girl to world’s youngest-ever Nobel Laureate and far beyond that. From the making of her book “I am Malala” to the leadership programme of George Washington University to being global education activist to the making of a documentary “He named me Malala” on her life — to quote just a few of her exceptional achievements — Swati Malala has much to her credit. Much has been written and spoken both in her favour and against. What has escaped the attention of political pundits is “what led to Malala’s extraordinary achievements?”
Malala means different to different people. For the conservative right, she is the Lawrence of Pakistan. She was launched to realise the West’s allegedly many nefarious aims in the country, conservatives charge. Being the only Muslim nuclear power, Pakistan is also the ‘castle of Islam,’ they argue. Additionally, Malala is the agent of Yahu’d aur Nasara (Jews and Christians) tasked with dishonouring Pashtun traditions.
For people on the centre right, downplaying Malala is all about accumulating votes. They are the typical catch-all political parties, which strive to appeal to every strata of society. Unexpectedly, Malala is also a concern for a tiny fraction of the left. To their chagrin, why a teen-aged girl is a rising star to overwhelmingly overshadow all others?
Nevertheless, the UK-based Pakistani education activist is adored by millions of people back at home. They own what she symbolises: unflinching commitment to education, moderation and nonviolent change.
How did the journey to a noble laureate come about?
The apparently haphazard happenings with Malala have a discernable pattern. We can make a clear sense of it by piecing together the jigsaw of events from her ordeal to her projection to worldwide fame. For the likes of Swati Malala, William Wordsworth was this to say: “The child is the father of the nation.” Her childhood was her foreteller. “I just want every girl to go to school,” the merely 11-year-old child told the NYT back in 2009. While meeting Richard Holbrooke — then US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan — in the year, Malala pleaded: “I will request you all, and respected ambassador, I will request you that if you can help us in our education, so please help us.”
Writing for the BBC Urdu with her penname as Gul Makai, Malala wrote her first blog entitled “I am afraid” back on January 3, 2009. Definitely, Malala had her share of beginner’s luck as well. How could she have her indelible impact if it was not for her father’s unwavering support of her through thick and thin and Malala’s coverage through mass media?
From contributing to the BBC to interviews to various media outlets, the Swati heroine was in the spotlight for something that really resonated with people around the globe. Alarmed, the xenophobe and male supremacist Taliban moved from opposition to swift action. On her way back to home from school, Malala was fatally shot on October 9, 2012.
After all, many people have a childhood to foretell about their future and still many enjoy beginner’s luck.
Is there anything special about Malala?
The overarching role played in Malala’s episode was her undying commitment to her dream. She did not want to be remembered as “the girl who was shot by the Taliban” but “the girl who fought for education”. To Malala, “this is the cause to which I want to devote my life.” The iconic activist once seminally said, “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.” For people with dream and true commitment to realise it, Paulo Coelho prophetically said, “When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realise his dream.” Malala’s case only vindicates this!
Ironically enough, the journey from a modest background to the youngest Noble Laureate in history does not make sense without the ordeal she underwent. A blessing in disguise, obstacles mightier than her little shoulders, only helped Malala come closer to her mission. For Thomas Fuller, “The darkest hour of the night comes just before the dawn.”
If Malala did not speak for girls’ education in her native Swat valley, the Taliban would have not attempted to kill her. While she was flown to Combined Military Hospital Peshawar, her father was making arrangements for her funeral. Struggling for life, Malala was airlifted to the Rawalpindi-based Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology to be flown to Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham. Love, prayers and sympathies poured in millions. Who could have the prophecy that a new chapter of history was in the making!
Having slowly recovered, Malala embarked on the path to impressive achievements. Already honoured with a host of awards, she was nominated for the prestigious Nobel Prize in October 2014 before becoming the youngest ever Laureate to jointly receive the prize in December. In fact, Nobel Prize was never Malala’s mission. It was only an appreciation towards the realisation of her mission of universal child education.
Malala’s followers, admirers and fans get angry from the un-called for criticism of her. The essential point they miss is that Malala needs all these oppositions to realising her mission. When the universe conspires in your favour, the journey is never a bed of roses. An onerous task, here the tectonic plates of one’s life reshuffle only to accommodate the inevitable shift.
Would Malala have made an impact if she was not out from her homeland?
Educationists, such as Ken Robinson, persuasively believe that in order to realise one’s real potential one has to be in the right environment. Far away from fear infested surroundings, the atmosphere in the West especially UK proved conducive to Malala. In the end, the many adversities she faced only made her more resolute. “That which does not kill us makes us stronger”, stated Friedrich Nietzsche. Nevertheless, adversity either makes you or breaks you. It depends upon how you approach it.
For the courageous people like Malala, adversity is the essential push they could ever had it! Laced with unrivalled commitment to her very noble cause, the Pakistani Malala is the essential symbol of a nonviolent change: a better world through “books not bullets”.
Living in a world where soft image has more singular impact than the hard image of military prowess, owning Malala as a national heroine has more salutary effects than we may think.