By Usra Shaukat
There are many people in the world, who serve the humanity and do believe that doing volunteer services not only help to move the society forward but also give self-satisfaction and admiration to oneself. Among those people Geoffrey Douglas Langland is one, who spent most of his life in Pakistan, despite being the citizen of United Kingdom. Since his childhood, he suffered when he lost his parents at the very young age. Geoffrey decided not to take this grief with the rest of his life. He thought that educating himself and setting his example for others can be the best way to get rid of this grief. At that time, he did not have any idea that he will inspire thousands of people in a country, which didn’t even belong to him. How this Englishman left United Kingdom and resided in Northern Area (Chitral) of Pakistan is a unique, inspiring and interesting story.
It was the year 1939, when Geoffrey joined British Army with the aim to serve and protect his homeland during the Second World War. He was sent to British India as an army volunteer in 1947, the year which brought a huge change in his life. When the last Viceroy of India, Mount Batten declared the independence of the subcontinent of India, he expected the British army officers to render their services for almost two years in the military of either Pakistan or India. At that time, Geoffrey chose to come to Pakistan, as he believed that Pakistan will face more challenges and he saw that as an opportunity to help the people out there. When his contract was over, he was asked to stay by the former President, Ayub Khan and help them to build up Pakistan. For him though it was difficult to live in such place where the people, the culture and even the language was new, but to our surprise he accepted this challenge as well and served the country in the field of Education. GD Langland served Aitcheson College for 25 years as an English teacher.
The most striking moment of his life was when he was being called by the education secretary of North Waziristan for the position of Principal at the newly established Cadet College Ramzak. North Waziristan is considered as one of the vulnerable areas of Pakistan in the sense of security. People warned him about the hardship of the place, but he was unable to stop the educationist in himself after receiving a letter from former student of Cadet College. He shared the letter in one of his interviews with The Express Tribune which says “Please leave your comfortable job at Aitcheson and come to a difficult job in the tribal area. “I simply couldn’t refuse a challenge,” he says. He led the school for ten years from April 1979 to September 1989.
Geoffrey’s life was full of challenges and for him the next challenge was to live in the serene mountain of Chitral where he was expected to lead a school. At that time this school was known as Syruj School, but later on this school was named as Langland school. Geoffrey tried his utmost efforts to lift up this school and to promote the English language among his students. He succeeded to educate thousands of young boys and girls and gave them a path towards their bright future. Students from this school are either alumnae’s or undergraduate students of top institutions of the country. Geoffrey really appreciates the efforts of the people of Chitral for the upliftment of the school. He says “The people loved the institution, they wanted education for their children and they worked to materialize their desire.”
Langland never married and the reason is he promised himself to serve the people for the rest of his life. He filled the vacuum of family in his life by loving people around him, wherever he went. Isn’t it surprising to see such people in today’s world who give their entire life to a community which is totally new for them and beautifully managing to live with those people? Not only this, but also to give something great to the community and in return not even asking for anything. At the age of 92, Geoffrey took retirement and now the school is being supervised by his successor, Miss Carey Schofields, but it is impossible to find any replacement of Langland, who not only devoted his whole life to Pakistan but also decided to choose it as his last residing place. Chitral will always be in debt for what he did for the people. No matter he is famous in his own country or not but for Pakistan and especially Chitral, he will always remain a legend.
Today is the 100th birthday of this great man. Let’s all pray that may he be able to see many more springs of his upcoming life.
By Usra Shaukat