As we are celebrating the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of Gandhi Ji, this small square has an interesting connection with him.
Story of the neglected Ram Swarup park
Pic & Text |Rehan Asad
Located in the middle of the city, an old park without any plaques has an interesting story of its past. The gateway of a historic Ramswarup park got a recent facelift by a compromised municipal budget in a small city of Western Uttarpradesh (Pilibhit). With few of the old remnants visible on the flank, almost the major portion of it has vanished with time. You will find traditional ear cleaners with red turbans wrapped on their imitating nineteenth-century occupational paintings left by the company painters. A small stall for exchanging torn currency & a man sitting for the repair of bygone days watch. This is the sight one can find in the front of Ram Swarup park located close to the ruined 19th-century colonial gateways build by British magistrate Drummond. Little is known about the exact date when this park was built. However it’s crumbled left kiosk with a cupola, the only left lakhori bricks structure in the historic square seems to be at least more than a century old. One could imagine its beauty when the nineteenth-century commercial enclave was adored by four beautiful gateways, & the square was nicely planned in the proximity of Northern & eastern gateways of Drummondganj.
It seems to be an extension of Drummondsganj. As we are celebrating the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of Gandhi Ji, this small square has an interesting connection with him. With a launch of famous non- cooperation movement Gandhi Ji took a tour to the small cities of United Provinces. On 31st December 1921, he visited Pilibhit after completing his tour to Shahjahanpur. He made several meetings with both Hindu & Muslim revolutionaries. The congress committees were formed even in the remotest corners of the district. It was here at this park, the father of the nation gave a speech to the audiences. From here he moved to neighboring district Lakhimpur. According to the district Gazette (1960), the visit made a huge impact & large number of British goods & clothes were boycotted. Along with the town, the village Sardarnagar (Amaria) & village Khamaria (Bisalpur) tahsil also witnessed active participation. Many of the youngsters from the district were arrested & jailed. Among them, my great grandfather, Sheikh Aminuddin & his cousin Sheikh Zakiuddin from village Khamaria were also arrested & put in district jail. Later on, they were shifted to District Jail of Lakhimpur for the next six months. The square of the historic park was surrounded by narrow lanes on its southern & eastern boundaries with old shops. Eighty eight-year-old Urdu writer & social worker Mr. Shams Jilani, a resident of Richmond City, Canada who was born (1931) at Pilibhit recalled that the square was known as Simons park in those days. Most of the shops were owned by the Punjabi Muslaman community. Still, the alley is filled with roadside hand-dyeing outlets, printing press & few old cloth stores running from generations.
Another elderly resident of the city Ali Nazar Khan alias Abba Ji told: “I was seventeen years old when we were blessed with the gift of independence on eve of 15th 1947. I was among one of those who were engaged by municipal board to write on the gateway of the park “Yaume Azadi, with its date & year in Urdu script. The park was renamed after one revolutionary who laid his life in independence struggle as Ram Swarup Park”.
Slowly with the time, the boundary wall & gateway of the park crumbled. The enclosure left strayed for a long time. Till the last year, it was filled by the filthy waste material even though the new boundary walls & gateway has been erected. Fortunately this year some clearing of the waste took place even though the ground appears deserted. All the old plaques, construction dates have been lost in the ruins of the old buildings. Close to it, even the remnants of the Drumondsganj Northern gateway seem to be disappeared with time. The rest vanishes in history except the few heritage lovers & aged chroniclers were aware of the stories of its lost time.
Do you know when Mahatma Gandhi first visited Delhi? How many visits did, he made in all those years & how long he stayed there? On his first visit, he reached the Kashmiri gate by Tonga. His friend Hakim Ajmal Khan’s Sharif Manzil offered generous hospitality. For all these answers & narratives do read Gandhi’s Delhi. An account that narrates all the lesser know connections of Gandhi Ji with Delhi from his first visit made on April 12, 1915, till January 30, 1948, when he was shot down at Birla House by Godse. Research & compilation by veteran Journalist Vivek Shukla & published by Anuuyga books in 2018. The book started from the first visit of Gandhiji & continued sequentially covering fine details, narratives & rare events of his seven hundred twenty days of stay in all those years. In between, he cited the interviews & narratives of the resource persons whom he explores & interviewed for this research. The first four chapters of the book provide in-depth insights into Bapu’s connection with Hakim Ajmal Khan, role in the building of Jamia & Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce. A succinct chapter articulates on Dr. Ansari as a champion of Hindu Muslim unity & one of the great admirers of Gandhi Ji in Delhi.
The book covered in detail event happened during his last 144 days stay in Delhi. It was during these days his presence played an important when the city was burning with communal riots. The tactics of Bapu’s always worked as one-man army. In the cold days of Delhi’s winter, the emissary of peace paid a visit to the shrine of Qutub Sahab that was surrounded by the small villages in those days. This was with an intent to console the Muslim families who were harassed due to recent demographic shifts following the partition. Viveks account talk in detail of his last fast, & visit to All India Radio, an attempt to quell the wave of Delhi’s communal heat. Heart-wrenching last hours & journey to the next world was discussed in detail by the author’s journalistic style of writing. A moment when the apostle of peace was laid down by the forebearers of hatred. The concluding chapters provide a description of Gandhi Museum & dotting his murals in India’s capital. A glossary at the end gave a brief description of all personalities that came up in the book “Gandhi’s Delhi”
Background: Masjid Sheikh Kabir is one of the foremost among the undocumented remnants of 18th-century Ruhela monuments at Pilibhit, Uttar Pradesh. It seems to be one of the earliest constructed mosques of Ruhela settlement at Pilibhit. Prof. Iqbal Hussian cited Kabirpur in district Bareilly as the settlement named after the prominent Ruhela officer of Nawab Ali Muhammad Khan, Sheikh Kabir who rose to higher ranks in time of Hafiz Rahmat Khan. Syed Altaf Ali Barelivi, a 1931 history graduate from Aligarh Muslim University wrote in a Biographical account of Hafiz Rahmat Khan titled “Hayate Hafiz” that Sheikh Kabir was among the earliest friend of Hafiz Rahmat Khan and accompanied with him from Tor Shahmatpur to Rohilkhand on the invitation of Ali Muhammad Khan in 1739. The Pashtun history expert https://twitter.com/Pashz7 told me that Tor Shahmatpur is now the part of Mardan District in North West Frontier of Pakistan. A small locality in Pilibhit city Kabir Ganj was also named after Sheikh Kabir.
Description of Mosque: In Pilibhit as common with other Pashtun settlements in North India, each of the chief ( Sardar) has a mosque after his own. I was not able to find the exact date of its construction but it was constructed somewhere in between 1740 to 1750 as it predates from the construction of the Grand Jama Masjid in 1769. This mosque was built by Sheikh Kabir who was among one of the leading Ruhela Sardar during the time of Hafiz Rahmat Khan. Its located approximately one kilometer east of the Jama Masjid with its main gate located on the court road. The current name of the mosque derives due to the presence of the Bel (Wood Apple) trees present in the orchard of old graveyard lying on the eastern and southern flank of the mosque. With few modifications added in the later days, the main body of the mosque retained its old structure. Located on the plinth, the main section of the mosque is accessed by the ten steps from the northern gate. The old vaulted roof of the verandah seems to replaced during modern renovation. Five arched facades leads to the inner section of the mosque. The inner section still retains its vaulted roof, the arched facade for the entrance, mihrab & taakhs on the wall. Traditional lime mortar (Surkhi Chuna) has been used as the cementing substance for connecting Lakhori/Kakiya (small) bricks.
All the three ends were surrounded by the gardens that have been replaced by thick human settlements by the centuries except the eastern end. The main entrance that might be added later on is now located on the Northern side of the structure. Built on the pattern of the late 18th century mosque on first floor, the Northern wall gave space to the couple of shops. The verandah open in the courtyard and this section has been replaced by the later stage renovations. It was in 1871, one of the notable students of Mufti Muhammad Masood Muhadith Dehalvi of Fatehpuri Masjid, Sheikh Maulana Wasi Ahmad alias Muhadith Surati opened a school of Hadith in the premises and extensions of Sheikh Kabir mosque. Sheikh Wasi Ahmad was buried outside the prayer section in the premises of the mosque in 1913 after his death. It was from here the second name of the mosque derived as Muhadith Sahab Ki Masjid. Interestingly while I was exploring for the mosque, I came to know that great Urdu legend Ale Ahmad Suroor offered his Friday prayers during his childhood days with his father Maulvi Karam Ahmad in this mosque when he was deputed at Pilibhit during Colonial days as a postmaster. During 1974, this was narrated by the legendary poet to my father when he got a chance to meet him at the home of Prof. Ansarullah Nazar Sahab at Aligarh. The crossroad near the mosque also derived the name Belon Wala Chauraha from the nearby Bel (Wood Apple) trees standing in the graveyard of Sheikh Kabir Mosque.
The local community is not aware of more than two and half centuries old mosque carries many layers of the historical timeline with it. The cupola shaped merlons sandwiched in between the parapet shaped design on the walls of the mosque are some of the remnants from its old construction. More popular as Belon Wali Masjid, except the old generation, hardly people could recall it as Masjid Sheikh Kabir.
Biswin Sadi Memoirs, growing up in Delhi during the 1960s & 70s, authored by Jamil Urfi & published by Cinnamon teal. A must-read account for all those who want to recollect the lost time of Indian capital along with a few small cities of Uttarpradesh. The author, Abdul Jamil Urfi was born in 1960 at Aligarh as the eldest child of Dr. Abdul Jalil & Mrs. Mehajabeen Jalil. When he reached the age of seven, his family was relocated to Delhi (1967) in the upper-middle-class township of East Nizamuddin. In those days the locality was widely inhabited by the immigrant Punjabi community who came from Pakistan following the partition.
From the founder of the famous Urdu magazine “Biswin Sadi” Khustar Girami up to Andrews family, he provides a detailed description of the sociocultural dynamics of his diverse neighborhood. The narratives give insights on communal harmony , tolerance & cultural vibrancy of Nizamuddin East. A full chapter recollects authors nostalgia of the festivities celebrations, nikah ceremony of his sisters toy dolls, bhole bisre geet & ever popular BBC Urdu broadcasting.
The Urdu speakers are still sensitive with the Sheen Qaaf of language. The author has explained the feelings of Sheen Qaaf with hilarious real-life examples. While working in middle eastern country, I observed antipathy among Pakistani Punjabi colleagues against Urdu speaking community. One of the reasons might be linguistic chauvinism asserted by elite Urdu speaking bureaucrats during founding years.
The part of the book discussed the ancestral accounts of his family focusing on fine biographical details of late Prof. Ale Ahmad Suroor, a literary Urdu legend of modern ages & his late father Dr. Abdul Jalil. The chapter convented education reflects an upper-middle-class educational stratification that still echoes in our North Indian social fabric. In the early nineties, I would recall, the Minto- Circle (AMU) was filled by students from diverse North Indian schools in a race for availing internal quota of University. The big cities Anglo-Indian students tried to assert superiority over the public school while the poor chaps like me coming from small towns & cities convents filled the bottom of strata. While in the west, a major transformation happened in educational models in the last half-century. The educated middle-class mindset still affiliates success with certain so-called esteemed professions measuring it with yards of ranks & quantification of marks. The author gave a clear articulation of this mindset connecting it with his real-life accounts, precisely the notion of imposing career selection by father.
One of my ex Canadian colleague who was born as the son of Canadian minister had chosen physiotherapy as a profession in the early seventies. His British wife who was working as a nurse in Riyadh from the last twenty years was the daughter of Medical Professor & consultant of Pathology. Even forty years later, no one from a family of privilege medical fraternity in our stratified society would able to accept their children in these roles. Such discriminative mindset has evolved with our robust colonial education system & layered social orders. From the last two years, I saw twitter handle with name “90s kid” catching nostalgia by sharing of past ads, popular desi comics, Ghulam Ali Ghazals, & Jaspal Bhatti shows. Sometimes it catches lost days of Doordarshan.
Born at the end of the seventies, I could say that not much has changed then in eighties & nineties except the vanishing landscape of Urdu world. In the early 90s, two of my friends were disqualified in mintocircle entrance exam at AMU, Aligarh as they were not able to pass in elementary Urdu. The small cities convent school in those days don’t have Urdu as the third language. In early childhood, I saw old Madhoramji (The owner of city’s oldest Kirana shop at Pilibhit ) attired in Nehru topi, kurta & dhoti writing his customer’s orders in perfect Urdu. It was the biggest surprise for me at that tender age when in school, it was considered a Quranic language. Madhoram Ji passed in 2001 at the age of ninety-four & now his grandson sits on the same mat writing memos in Devanagari script.
Like other places, the author’s description of Pilibhit as one of the Mufassil towns has also been changed with time. The beautiful gateways of Drummond Ganj became ruins in the last forty years. The ornamental beauty of Bareilly Darwaza that existed much closer to his ancestors home has lost long ago. The naked lakhori bricks of Darwaza devoid of plaster are waiting for their sad demise. The much-revered Shahji Miyan was pir of my mother’s grandfather, Sheikh Haji Nisar Ahmad. A boorish middle-class village zamindar who paid a humble visit on every Thursday to his pir in the late 19th century when carts & horses covered countryside distances. Almost 125 yrs later many of his fourth & fifth generation descendants are in Karachi, Toronto, & other South Asian hubs of USA & Canada. During childhood Ammi proudly told us, it was a blessing of saint who once said, Nisar Ahamd “teri naslen puri duniya me phailengi”. Then I used to asked her : “what about those descendants who were struggling with poverty in village life after the abolition of zamindari”.
So Aligarh was Alma mater of mine & my father both. I stayed their for seventeen year & also listened stories from Abbu during childhood days. Just yesterday Abbu told me that in those days Shibli road was also residence of Prof. Mukhtar Uddin Arzu (Arabic), Rashid Ahmad Siddiqui & his provost Prof. Aulad Ahamd Siddiqui in addition to Prof. Ale Ahmad Suroor. The authors eloquently written passages of by gone days connecting it with global political changes, usage of verbatim Urdu words, sandwiching of Bollywood accounts & poetic verses added a rigor to manuscript. A nicely written memoir touching multiple dimensions of a upper middle class Muslim boy who was privileged to be a grandson of literary parents & grandparents. In many ways, the account will fill you with nostalgia of by gone days that most of my generation had heard from our parents. As an educator himself he gave a critical & valuable insights that can be seen in many sections such as convented education & rites of passage.
The passages of bygone days connected with global political changes, usage of verbatim Urdu words, sandwiching of Bollywood accounts & poetic verses added rigor to the memoir. A nicely written memoir of an upper-middle-class Muslim boy who was privileged to be a grandson of literary parents & grandparents. In many ways, the account will fill you with the nostalgia of bygone days that most of my generation had heard from our parents. As an educator himself, he gave a critical & valuable insight that can be seen in many sections such as convented education & rites of passage.
The last Mughal emperor of India, Bahadur Shah Zafar was a gentle soul and a great poet, he was a nominal emperor and his rule was limited only to the city of Delhi (Shahjahanabad). He was a noted Urdu poet and his ghazals were compiled into “Kulliyat-e-Zafar“. He failed to champion the cause of revolt of 1857, but this cannot deny the fact that he had an undying spirit of patriotism within him. He adored India as a nation and his motherland which is quite evident from his poetry. This write-up of mine is an attempt to look at Zafar from a different vantage point especially through the eyes of a common Indian and not from the Victor’s frame of reference.
History is almost always written by the victors and conquerors and gives their view.
Zafar and his contemporaries were quite different from East India Company (EIC) with respect to their values, ideals, institutions and methods. While they lived for honor, were generous, believed in poetic mannerisms and patrons of beauty; the EIC on the other hand had not come to India to adore these art forms and ideals but believed in imperialism.
The imperialist war was the striving of the capitalists for profits and the exploitation of others and to partition the world and enslave weaker nations
They had the sole aim of exploiting India and find a market for their finished goods and raw materials for their industries back in Britain.
Why is there war today, if it is not for the satisfaction of the desire to share the spoils? These large holdings cannot be sustained except by violence, veiled if not open. Western democracy as it functions today is diluted Nazism or Fascism. At best, it is merely a cloak to hide the Nazi and Fascist tendencies of imperialism.
In the nutshell there was a complete contrast in approach of the two forces. The aged Zafar was not good at arms, but that doesn’t take away a bit of his patriotism, infact he was one of the first champions of idea of nationhood.
The logical question which readily comes to my mind is, How these Mughals were different from the EIC? The answer lies in the question itself i.e. Why the Company did not clinch the Emperorship of India from Mughals after their victory in Battle of Plassey in 1757? The reason was that despite the heterogeneity of the Indian society, dissimilarity in culture, different religious faiths, languages and all the anomalies of a divided nation, the general masses had faith in Mughals; even the Maratha’s who rose to the power in those times never attempted to dethrone Mughals. So the paramount powers of those times found it pertinent to maintain the status quo and continue with the Symbolic figure of Mughal Emperor with real powers in their hands, to avoid antagonizing the masses. Second question, Why the masses had such faith in the Mughals? The masses in general believed that and rightly so, that Mughals never raped India like the Company and always considered India as their own country, that is they earned in India and spent in India which was quite unlike the Company which took away the Indian riches and fed their industrial engines in Manchester and Lancashire. The Industrial Revolution never came to India; in fact it destroyed the Cottage industries and the businesses of Indians. The Indians were economically battered.
It was the British intruder who broke up the Indian hand-loom and destroyed the spinning-wheel. England began with driving the Indian cottons from the European market; it then introduced twist into Hindostan, and in the end inundated the very mother country of cotton with cottons
Karl Marx in “The British Rule in India” (1853)
On the onset of the revolt in 1857, the rebellious soldiers of the 3rd Bengal Light Cavalry stationed at Meerut proclaimed the aged and powerless Bahadur Shah the Emperor of India. This spontaneous raising of Mughal king to the leadership of the country was recognition of the fact that the long reign of Mughal dynasty had made it the traditional symbol of India’s political unity. Much of the strength of the revolt lay in Hindu-Muslim unity. For e.g. wherever the revolt was successful, orders were immediately issued banning cow-slaughter out of respect for Hindu sentiments.
Battle of Plassey was the start of Economic Drain of India and Drain Theory became the focal point of economic critique.
Dadabhai Naoroji popularized the Drain Theory in his book “Poverty and Unbritish Rule in India“, to quote Dadabhai “Materially British rule caused only impoverishment, it was like the knife of sugar“. He argued that large part of Indian capital goes into salaries and pensions of British officers, for maintaining army, funding war etc. Later British Government was forced to appoint the Welby Commission to enquire into the matter.
R C Dutt retired ICS officer, in “TheEconomic History of India” meticulously examined the entire economic impact of colonial rule from 1757.
The times after 1857 revolt were dreadful, Company did the reprisal killings, systematically massacred the masses; the Royals, Kings, Nawabs etc. in order to safeguard their selfish gains turned pro British.
Scindias of Gwalior; Holkars of Indore; Nizams of Hyderabad; Raja of Jodhpur; Nawab of Bhopal, Rulers of Patiala; Maharaja of Kashmir gave active help to British in suppressing the revolt. Governor General Canning remarked that these rulers and chiefs “Acted as the break-waters to the storm which would have otherwise swept us in one great wave“.
Bahadur Shah was taken prisoner; the royal princess were captured and butchered on the spot. He was tried and exiled to Rangoon where he died in 1862, lamenting bitterly the fate which had buried him far away from the city of his birth: Kitnā hai bad-nasīb ‘zafar’ dafn ke liye Do gaz zamīn bhī na milī kū-e-yār meiñ
During the course Zafar was mocked about the frailty of Indian might: Dumdamein Mein Dum Nahin, Khair Maango Jaan Ki, (Your fort is crumbling down, pray for your life) Aey Zafar Thandi Hui Shamsheer Hindustan Ki (The Indian sword, O Zafar, has lost its sheen and might)
But Zafar had an undaunted faith in Indian nationalism and its spirit of perseverance: Ghaziyon mein Boo Rahegi Jab Tak Imaan Ki, (So long as the soldiers retain their faith and pride), Takht London Tak Chalegi Tegh Hindustan Ki (The Indian sword will not relent till it humbles London’s might.)
On British atrocities against Indians he once said: Ye riyaya-e-Hind tabah hui, Kahun kya jo in par jafa hui, (The Indian people were brought to ruin by the ruling lords) Jise Dekha Hakiye Waqt Ne, Kaha Ye To Kabile Dar Hui (They thought him fit for the gallows, anyone they came across.)
Patriotism is not only the expression of valor displayed in the battlefield but it can be expressed with other means and methods also. While writing this post in my soliloquy, I was questioning; Am I sounding like a practical idealist and an irrepressible optimist?; but my subconscious quickly took me out of my dilemma that it doesn’t matter even if I sound like that because these two are the main elements of Gandhi’s concept of Satyagraha which I try adhere to .
The unity displayed by Hindus and Muslims during the revolt of 1857 had disturbed the foreign rulers. They adopted the policy of Divide & Rule to break this unity so as to weaken the rising nationalist movement. Immediately after the revolt they repressed Muslims, confiscated their lands & property on a large scale, and declared Hindus to be their favorites. After 1870 this policy was reversed and an attempt was made to turn upper class and middle class Muslims against the nationalist movement.
We are all deeply moved and affected by the acrimony, feeling of hatred and buzz of extreme Chauvinism and Jingoism in the present Indian context. The seed of hatred between Hindus and Muslims were actually sown by British and I must acknowledge that they have been quite successful so far in their endeavors. Sometimes in my pensive mournfulness of the prevalent political and social milieu, I feel that although we have won our freedom from the foreign captors but there is still a larger freedom we need to attain from the clutches of our stereotypes, diffidence, prejudices and proclivities. I am quoting the great visionaries who have witnessed this expression from different viewpoints:
Save democracy from becoming mobocracy and make it people friendly and finally transform it into swaraj. A mobocracy sometimes becomes more dangerous than dictatorship. They who are in a mob have no mind and no premeditation. They act in frenzy.
To imbue the minds of people with an abnormal vanity of its own superiority, to teach it to take pride in its moral callousness and ill-begotten wealth, to perpetuate humiliation of defeated nations by exhibiting trophies won from war, and using these schools in order to breed in children’s minds contempt for others, is imitating the West.
Let us not allow our insecurities to hijack our minds & spirits and exile into the darkness of ignorance and hatred. Let us muster courage to pursue fraternity and be perceptive enough to show the light of truth, faith, fraternity to our next generation. We need to start enlightening our self & be pragmatically prudent and stop rationalizing our misdeeds, misconceptions, prejudices and stereotypes. Our strength lies in the composite culture of our country; and I firmly believe that we are all Hindus by culture, a term coined by Achaemenids for the people living across the river Sindhu; they called them Hindus as they pronounced ‘s’ as ‘h’. Hinduism to me is a way of life and not specifically a religion but a faith which we Indians believe in i.e of tolerance, openness and compassion. Let us celebrate our diversity! This is just not a moral plea but one of our Fundamental Duties also, as mentioned in Article 51 A of the Indian Constitution.
Promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic, and regional or sectional diversities and to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women.
Article 51 A, Fundamental Duty ‘e’, Indian Constitution
Value and preserve the rich hertage of the country’s composite culture.
Article 51 A, Fundamental Duty ‘f’, Indian Constitution
To sum up, we the Indians irrespective of caste, creed or religion have more to rejoice and enjoy are diversity than to fight over our dissimilarities. Indian culture which is an amalgamation of Vedic, Dravidian, Buddhist, Jain, Persian, Turkish and English cultures, is nothing but the Hindu culture in totality. This Hindu identity of ours which emanates from so many different colors make us more colorful, bright, vibrant, scintillating and vivacious. And the vital cog in the wheel of this Indian philosophy is the tolerance, acceptance and accommodation; we never force ourselves on others instead we believe in the credo of Agree to Disagree. Let me quote Nehru on his vivid account on India which resonates with mine as well!
India is a geographical and economic entity, a cultural unity amidst diversity, a bundle of contradictions held together by strong but invisible threads. Overwhelmed again and again her spirit was never conquered, and today when she appears to be a plaything of a proud conqueror, she remains unsubdued and unconquered. About her there is the elusive quality of a legend of long ago; some enchantment seems to have held her mind. She is a myth and an idea, a dream and a vision, and yet very real and present and pervasive.
Authors information: Khalid Siddiqui is currently working as a Senior Director Software Applications Development at Imaging Endpoints a company based out of Arizona. A history buff, he has a penchant for writing, reading, food etc.
A Karachiwalla’s connection with his ancestral hometown Pilibhit in Uttarpradesh.
Pics & Memoir by Mian Tauseef Ahmad, compiled by Rehan Asad
Mian Tauseef, a seventy- two years old retired squadron leader of Pakistan Air force social media shares consisted of a larger chunk of Indian history, culture, poetry, & Bollywood. His profile introduced him ” Squadron leader (R) Mian Tauseef Ahmad, b 20 Oct 1947, Arain settled in Karachi came from Pilibhit, Rohilkhand, UP“. He was born two months five days after the 15 August 1947 when the Indian subcontinent gained independence from British rule. His birthplace Pilibhit was located on the fringes of Western Uttar Pradesh close to the Indo-Nepal border. His ancestors belonged to the “Arain tribe” of eastern Punjab who migrated to Rohilkhand in the late 18th century. It was famines & political unrest caused by Bhatti Rajputs that forced a small part of the tribe from Punjab to relocate in Terai plains of Himalayas. By the time of partition, this small Punjabi diaspora of approximately around ten thousand was distributed in eighty villages of Pilibhit, Bareilly & Nainital districts of United Provinces. As an agrarian tribe, they were stratified as cultivators (Kisans), middle-class landowners (Zamindars) & few of the elite landlords (Rich Zamindars). With Indian partition, almost half of the youngsters moved to the newly created Pakistan & mainly settled in Urdu speaking cities of Sindh with few families in Punjab & NWFP. His father Mian Muhammad Tauseef was born in July 1922 in village Dheram, District Pilibhit & mother Qayum Al Nisa Begum was born in village Karghaina, District Pilibhit in October 1928. A British army recruit Mian Tufail who also took part in WW II moved with his family members from Pilibhit to Lahore in December 1947.
In his reflective account he shares a biographical account of his late father Mian Tufail Ahmad, ancestral connections with Pilibhit in India, story of their migration to Pakistan, his struggle, education & upbringing among the diverse cultures of Punjab & North West frontier as an Urdu speaker with roots from small fringe town of United Provinces.
Mian Tauseef Ahmad wrote: My late father Mr. Tufail Ahmad was from a kissan (small farmers) family of Arain tribe in the Village Dheram, Amaria Block, Pilibhit located in Uttar Pradesh, India. Before the abolition of Zamindari in 1952, our small village was under the zamindari of one Hindu Zamindar. I am told that his representative would visit the village twice a year just to collect Malia (the government tax). After 15 August 1947, it came under All India Congress Government and by 1951 all Zamindaris were abolished and the land belonged to the farmers. The farming land in Uttar Pradesh was measured in Bighas. My grandfather late Mr. Barkat Ali owned a hundred bighas of land. Now the official record of farming is kept in Hectares and one Hectare is equal to 20 kanals. There are almost 80 villages of Arians in District Pilibhit, Bareilly & adjoining Nainital District. The majority of these Arains are called Sirsawal Arains because of their affiliation from Sirsa (Now in Haryana) from where they migrated in 1783 AD.
My late father was first in his small village to join the Primary School. It was located in Madhopur, a village that was 6 kms away from our ancestral home. He passed his class V in 1932. He completed his middle from Government School of a small town Jahanabad, District Pilibhit. It was due to an incident during a football match at Government High School Jahanabad of District Pilibhit where some students surely including my late father misbehaved with the referee. As a result, they were expelled from admission & barred to be admitted to any school of Bareilly division. So he joined Islamia High School Muzaffar Nagar & completed his matriculation from the same school. Coming from Urdu medium background & once expelled from middle school delayed his matriculation. He matriculated at the age of twenty in 1942. He also motivated his younger brother Shafique Ahamd for the studies who is now a retired Professor & settled in Florida USA. After completing Matriculation in 1942 AD from Islamia High School Muzaffar Nagar in First Division, he was misled by a recruiting agent and joined the British Army as a Havaldar Clerk. His Corp was ASC. Later he repented it because there was no release from the Army during WW II. He was one of the earliest recruits in Defence forces from his locality as there was no tradition of joining Defence Forces among Arains who was prospered by the landholdings. In 1942 when he was under training at Bareilly his marriage was arranged. He got a single day leave & his Sikh Company Commander gave him an optional leave on the birthday of Baba Gru Nanak Dev. Later on, I used to cut jokes with him by saying that this might be the reason we have certain habits resembling the Sikhs. He got four transfers for three and a half years. Trained at Bareilly, then first posting at Karachi Cantt, second at Ferozpur and fourth at Lucknow. On 6th August 1945, the USA detonated the first nuclear bomb on Hiroshima and second on Nagasaki on 9th August that ended WWII. Now the release from the Army became open. My late father immediately applied for release and it was granted. Based on his education, he was rehabilitated as Assistant Welfare Officer and placed at Lucknow.
For the first time, he took his family that includes my mother & my elder sister late Fatima who was born in January 1945 to Lucknow. I was yet not born. In the mid of 1947, the situation started to deteriorate particularly in the cities so my parents came back to their village. Before leaving Lucknow my late father bought edible Attar from Ms. Iqtida Khan Muqtada Khan so from August to December 1947 he sold it to the local sweetmeats marts. This was the time when I was born on 20th October 1947. My father waited till the mid of December and finally decided to migrate to Pakistan, a dreamland for the Indian Muslims. My parents with two children reached Lahore on 25 th December 1947. My father reported to his ex-unit at Jehlum. He was converted to Upper Division Clerck & send to serve the industries department at Lyallpur now Faisalabad. We were allotted temporarily a house in Mohalla Khalsa College. We remained at Lyallpur for five years. My father used to go to a place Mae Di Jhuggi to his office. Although I was a child of four years I still remember the road leading to Kohinoor Textiles Mills and the bullock carts carrying cotton. I also remember that the majority of residents in our Mohalla were Punjabi speakers and my father told me that they were Punjabi speaking Pathans from Amritsar. There was no mosque in the vicinity so all the people made efforts to make a masjid. My father occupied an Ahata, kept four buffaloes in it and with the help of a servant used to maintain them and also sold milk to the local Halwais.
I don’t remember personally but as I was told that in 1949 my late father picked up a quarrel with a Pesh Imam (Cleric who performs prayers in a mosque) who allegedly indulging in some unwanted activities and my late father stabbed and injured him seriously right in the masjid during Isha prayers. The local police arrived and arrested him. My late mother used to tell us that this was one of the toughest days of her life. It was the time when my younger sister was about to be born. It was after 15 days his release was arranged and the Punjabi friends helped him a lot. He had to approach the family of the injured person and offered him a reasonably good amount by selling the four buffalos. This was the time when my younger sister was born and she was named Masooda which means a person of good luck.
Now my late father was fed up petty local politics. He returned to the self-studies. He did Adeeb Fazil, then Bachelors in English language and went to Sialkot to got admission in MA (English) in Murray College Sialkot. During the evenings, he used to serve as Accountant in a surgical instruments firm. He completed his MA Previous from Murray’s College. I vividly remember first we used to live in Sialkot Saddar and then in Ghazipur/Talwara. Ghazipur was small village of Jutts (a sturdy & respectable caste in Punjabis). It was pretty difficult to pull on economically with the family of six members and he continued with his MA classes so in MA Final he moved to Rawalpindi where we had some well-established relatives from Pilibhit connection. One of them Mian Faheem ud Din was Deputy Military Accountant General & his brother In law Abdul Khaliq Jillani was Accounts & Audit Officer in Military Accounts. My father took admission in MA Final in Gordon College Rawalpindi. It was in January 1956 that my late father joined GHQ as Assistant Superintendent on basis of BA. Thus we started living in Tench Bhata a suburb of Rawalpindi. I remember the celebration of 23rd March 1956 when Pakistan was declared Republic. It was in May 1957 that my father took me for admission in class 6 he submitted an affidavit that I had not studied in a regular school so I was given a test in Urdu, Math and General Knowledge which I passed successfully. I studied in Cantonment Board High School Lalkurti Rawalpindi. The headmaster of the school, Mr. Ansari was very efficient gentleman. I studied in that school up to class eight. Some of the teachers I remember were science teacher Mr. Samiulla, Urdu teacher Mr. Sabir , English teacher. It is no more a village rather a suburb. As my father was serving in GH Q and we were allotted a JCO quarter in Victoria Barracks just opposite Convent School and very close to Lalkurti Rawalpindi. Then my father applied for the allotment of small property in exchange what was left in India and he was allotted five acres of fertile land and a house just in the beginnings of Bazar Garhi Daulat Zai part of big village Garhi Kapura Tehsil in District Mardan. The house was left by one Ram Singh but was occupied by some local family but it was the time when Martial Law was imposed by General Muhammad Ayoub Khan and things were moving very quickly. My father exerting the influence of GHQ got both his properties vacated. He himself got posted at Air Headquarters Peshawar and we started living in Garhi Kapura. It was in 1961 I was admitted in class eight in Government High School Garhi Kapura. I was the only Urdu Speaking student in the school and called “Panhguzeen” a Pashtun word meaning Refugee. I picked up Pashto very quickly. Our headmaster was Sir Fida Younas from the nearby village Galyara who was a towering personality in a small school. I studied in this school for two years and then my father decided to shift his family to Peshawar Saddar. A house was allotted right on the city saddar road near Green Hotel opposite General Post Office. The street was known as Donga Gali. I got admission to Government High School one of the best in Peshawar Cantonment. I passed my matriculation from there. Among our teachers, Mr. Husnain Naqvi was an outstanding personality. He was remembered as an iconic educator in Peshawar Saddar. I passed SSC in 1964 and my late father had a desire that I should become an agricultural scientist. I was taken to Agriculture College Peshawar for admission and after a short interview with the vice-principal Dr. Roghani I was admitted. The most interesting part of the interview, it was started in English and came to an end in Pashto. Dr. Roghani remarked that I spoke Pashto perfectly but Tauseef is not a common name among the Pashtuns. Dr. Shamsul Islam Ali Khan was the Principal of Agriculture College. United States government was kind to Pakistan & our Agriculture College of Peshawar was associated with Colorado State University. The majority of the faculty members hold Doctorates in various disciplines. Every student was given scholarship and the scholarship of the boarders was double than the day scholars. It was my hard luck or laziness that I did not succeed there. My late father said that if you had the talent you are likely to succeed in any field. I pray for his departed soul. It was August 1965 and Indo-Pak battle had yet not taken place. My father decided that I should go to India and meet my relatives as my paternal uncles; Nani (Grandmother), Khalu (Uncle) & Khala (Aunt) were alive then. Not hardcore but skirmishes were taking place in Dara Haji Pir in Kashmir. I raised my concern to my late father but he told it was common between India and Pakistan since 1947. So it was on 30 August 1965 that I departed for Bareilly by Hora Mail which used to depart from Platform No.4. I reached Bareilly the next morning and was received by my Khalu Haji Amir Ahmad. I was still staying with my Nani when one of our relatives who had a radio run with battery informed that the battle between India and Pakistan had commenced. It was on the evening of 6th September 1965 that a constable from Police Station Amaria came and informed that I was under house arrest. Two of my relatives gave guaranty that I would remain confined to the village Karghaina. It was just a formality otherwise I used to roam all the areas of Rayeenwara (a local term used for Arain villages in Pilibhit). So I remained with my ancestors up to February 1966 till the Tashkent Declaration took place. The other mishap happened in the land of ancestors; I lost my Pakistani passport for which FIR had to be lodged in the Police Station of Amaria, a small town of Pilibhit near my mother’s ancestral village. Finally, my Khalu Haji Amir Ahmad went to Pakistan Embassy Delhi and got a new passport issued for me. In February 1966 I returned by land route of Ganda Singh Hussaini Wala. Here during stay six months at the ancestral village of my mother in Pilibhit, UP, I also learned a little bit of Hindi Language.
I finished my Intermediate (FA examinations) in 1967 & took admission in Government College Peshawar. It was a great experience to stay for two years in this institution. Mr. Mosa Khan Kaleem was the principal. It was during the General Yahya Khan regime when I started my career as upper-division Clerk in Accountant General NWFP Office. I must mention here that I was already rejected twice Inter Services Selection Board aka ISSB. After serving AG Office for one year and four months one of my colleagues. A friend informed me he had listened on the radio that Pakistan Air Force was in need of Education Instructors directly to be inducted as Flight Sergeant. He also informed me the basic requirement was BA/BSc in Second Division. I immediately reported to PAF Information and selection center located on 3 The Mall Peshawar. Flag officer Nazir Mirza was Officer in Charge who reviewed my documents & passed to the wing commander who was Director of Education. I very well remember it on 28th April 1971. After basic Intelligence tests and primary medical examination I, Fazal Karim, Mosam Khan, and Ajab Khan were sent the School of Education for basic training of 6 weeks. I was transferred to the Central Technical Development Unit, PAF Base Faisal as Ian in charge of the Library. On 16 December 1971 when the Pakistan Defence Forces surrendered at Dhaka, there was an urgent need of Education Instructors at PAF Kohat because all the Bengali Education Instructors and Officers were demobilized. I was posted to recruits Training School Kohat now known as PTTS . From June1972I to June I974 Base Commanders Kohat were Grp Capt H MC Misra, Grp Capt Nazir A Mirza, Air Commodore M Afzal Khan. I taught English and Pakistan Studies there for two years and then I was transferred to Air Headquarters Peshawar in Central Library from November 1972 to September 1973. In September 1973 I was back in teaching at Kohat. Once again I was transferred to Central Library Air Headquarters Peshawar. I must mention that my late father was GSO III aka Gazetted Staff Officer at Air Headquarters Peshawar and I was unmarried so he got me twice transferred to Peshawar. I got married to Sarwat on 28th December. They were our relatives & connected with our small Pilibhit based Arain tribe in Pakistan. They lived from 1950 to 1974 in Kocha Hari Singh, Main Bazar Kohat. They later shifted to Lahore and lived in Gulberg III. I completed four years as Flight Sargent & four years as Warrant Officer. Then as an Education Instructor at Peshawar. Now I completed 8 years so I was eligible for Commission so applied for it & my good luck that most Education Instructors were on Deputation to Libya. I was selected easily and send to the College of Education Kohat for six months. It was the time when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged on 4th April 1979 and everybody felt it very badly. In this College Group Captain Kiyani later on, Air Commodore Kiyani and Group Captain Nizam and Flt Lt Masroor Ahmad Siddiqui were good teachers. I graduated as a Flying Officer and transferred to Directorate of Studies PAF Academy Risalpur but one of my ex comrades then Warrant Officer Rao Ayoub (now a big tycoon as a property dealer in Malir Cantt, Karachi) played dirty politics and I was posted to PAF Base Samungli. Now I realize that people were against me but Allah was very kind to me otherwise I would have never seen Balochistan and enjoyed my three years stay at Quetta. My first Base Commander was Air Commodore Aziz known as Aziz Tao and second Base Commander was then Air Commodore Akhtar Bukhari later on AVM Bukhari really a good commander. Begum Bukhari was a German lady of a cultivated taste. All students used to go to Quetta for studies. She asked me to establish a school up to class 5 so we were successful in establishing the school. My son Ehtisham Khan was born on 18th August 1981at PAF Base Samungli. I stayed at PAF Base Samungli (Quetta) for three years. In 1982 my father was retired from Peshawar. I served Air force for thirty years & got retirement in 2001. A year after my father left the world in 2002 at the age of ninety. I joined one private Air force training center & served there for the next ten years.
In the flashback, the memories of my six -month stay visit to India, the land of my ancestors are still fresh in my mind. The connection with the hometown where I was born seems to be inseparable. This is the memoir of the man who left India along with his parents at the age of three months. He was brought up & educated in Punjab, & Khyber Pakhtunwala. For six months, during his teenage, he stayed in India, his birthplace & land of his ancestors. In addition to Urdu as the first language, he fluently spoke Punjabi, Pashtu, English & Hindi. Where many of the smart city residents felt embarrassed to affiliate with the mofussil towns of UP & Bihar, Mian Tauseef proudly associates with the small town of Pilibhit on the other side of Radcliffe line. Where many of his relatives from Pilibhit Arain diaspora in Pakistan finds chauvinism with their ancestral roots of Colonial zamindari of United Provinces, he is proud of his roots from the Kisan(Farmer) grandfather.
The year 2018 has been passed with amalgamate of positive & negative feelings that includes happiness, joy, compassion, serenity, sadness, & disgust. Here is a reflection from our social microsystem where we work as an Indian expatriates academicians in one of the Saudi University. Such feeling of sadness clings for the long time with our memories especially when one of the members from our cohort passes away in an unexpected manner. Ours is a multi-ethnic work setting where employees came from diverse ethnic, linguistic & national background. It was around 8.30 pm on Saturday of 27th October 2018 when Dr. Prashant called me to inform that Dr. Vinoth Kumar suffered with a massive heart attack. An hour back, he was completely fine sharing his moments with family at his apartment& in morning of same day went to his kids school for parents meeting. It was close to 8.00 pm that he felt breathless at his home & on the way to the hospital, he started to gasp. By the time he reached the emergency, there was a delay of more than twenty-five minutes. Though resuscitated but unfortunately, his brain suffered massive injuries. From this moment he was not able to regain his consciousness till his sad demise that took place almost a week later. On 29 October, he was shifted to an apex hospital located in capital city of Saudi Arabia. After seven days on ventilator, he was declared dead on 04th November/2018. At the age of twenty four he was diagnosed as diabetic. Unfortunately, he was suffering from a denial of chronic disease & it appeared fatal for him.
A doctorate in computer sciences, he was working as lecturer in the Computer Sciences department at Majmaah University for the last nine years. He came from a Tamil speaking family of Village Govathanagiri (Avadi) located in close vicinity of Chennai. Other than his professional affiliation, he was also nominated as the member of Management committee of Indian International School, Al Majmaah from 2015-18. His appreciation certificate was received by a colleague Dr. Radhakrishnan from Principal & new committee members on the republic day celebration of 2019.
From the day of his cardiac attack up to the moment when his mortal remains were shifted back home to India, we witnessed the compassion, empathy, care & assistance build on the ramparts of human virtues. Dr. Muhammad (Arab speaking Palestinian physician) of family health services himself drove the ambulance. A voluntary effort in an anticipation to save the crucial time as hospital ambulance took the time to reach the distantly located venue, the university staff member’s accommodation. A Muslim car mechanic (Hussain bhai) who belonged to his hometown offered support to the family members of Vinoth like an elder brother. The wife of Dr. Vinoth was waiting for miraculous news with hope in her heart for the recovery of her husband from ventilatory support. Their centrally air-conditioned lavish apartment became a trigger of traumatic memories for her in absence of Vinoth. It was Hussain’s bhai small apartment that gave a soothing relief to the broken heart of Vinoth’s wife in all these days. Our Indian colleague’s relentless efforts were much stronger than the support that received back home by extended family members. Each day & night was like an endless wait for the Vinoth’s wife when she was expecting for a divine miracle to happen. Her husband was lying on ventilatory support at apex hospital in Riyadh around two hundred kilometers away from her residential town. It was again many known & unknown families that appeared as a counselor & helper for the sustenance of poor lady when doom fell on her. Then one day she received a call from a hospital to show up at the apex center. Her mind was weaving positive thoughts regarding the recovery of her husband but the reality was equally worst & devastating. She was a Pakistani Doctor, a fellow colleague who drove Vinoth’s wife two hundred kilometers for a visit to the Intensive care Unit of treating hospital. The doctors called her to provide the consent for the weaning the ventilator support as all signs of brain death were explicit. Receiving devastating news, she made herself resilient to face the outcomes of the doom that came up on her family. The time came multiple administrative clearances were required from the hospital, University authorities, Indian embassy & Saudi authorities for shifting the mortal remains to his hometown back in India.
Our colleague Dr. Radhakrishnan along with two volunteers (Mr. Sidhikh Ibrahim & Mr. Rafeeque Mecheri) of Kerala Muslim culture center, Riyadh branch did relentless job for the timely completion of official formalities needed for shifting of Vinoth’s mortal remains from Saudi Arabia to his hometown in Tamil Nadu, India. His wife & kids reached India on 14th November. The mortal remains of Vinoth were taken India on 15th November, & the next day, it reached his home village in Chennai. The last rites took place at his home village on 16th November at 6.00 PM Indian time. All the expenses such as family travel, body transfer charges, embalming charges and coffin charges were completely borne by the university.
The event centered on the sad demise of Vinoth’s reflected the lessons of love, compassion, empathy & tolerance. The prominent lines of caste, creed, language, religion, region & nationalities were erased in this microsystem. Indian, Pakistani, & Arabs were praying for his recovery. The loss for Vinoth’s wife & his kids was immense but the collective support seems to alleviate her pain during most traumatic days of her life. May his soul rest in peace. At the age of forty-two, his departure was early but death is an inevitable truth of our mortal life. In the days when divided lines of caste, creed, region & religion tarnishing the virtues of human values. Back home lynchings & mass killings by Islamist extremist in neighboring Middle Eastern countries are the worst example of these hate crimes. These small unsung stories of hope & solidarity needs loud articulation in such testing times. Such events do give a ray of hope. A thirteenth-century poet & dervish Rumi’s quote seems to be contextual here “Do good to the people for the sake of God or for the peace of your own soul that you may always see what is pure and save your heart from the darkness of hate”.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Dr. Radhakrishnan & Dr. Prashant Kashyap for providing Dr. Vinoth Kumar hometown details along with photographs of 26th January/2019 award reception at Indian International School, Al Majmaah.
A reader’s review for “Jasmine & Jinns: Memories & Recipes of my Delhi” by Sadia Dehalvi, Harper Collins India publication, 2017
A two hundred eleven pages account on the culture of bygone days Shahjahanabad, author memoirs, & an encyclopedic collection of diverse recipes. The title “Jasmine & Jinns” came up from author’s childhood memories of her ancestral “Shama Kothi” at Sardar Patel Marg where both Jasmine Shrubs & Jinns shared the space in the capacious villa. The rich illustrations from food to monuments add the visual aura to the text. Starting with the first portrait of the author by blogger & columnist Mayank Austen Soofi, the manuscript adds a visual journey by photographs of Delhi’s Monuments, street food, culinary dishes & portraits of her family. The book commenced with the evolution of Delhi’s cuisine tracing its history from Turks, Mughals, British & finally the arrival of Punjabis after 1947. Then it discussed the sociocultural history of the Muslim Khatri tribe (Saudagran) who made Shahjahanabad as their home during the days of Mughal emperor, Shahjahan. During childhood, I had heard a legendary story of Hazrat Shamsuddin Sabswari who brought Ganga for the Khatri caravan on the way to Haridwar from one of the father’s Punjabi (Shamsi) friend at hometown, Pilibhit. Majority of the Muslim Punjabi (Shamsi) community in small towns of western Uttarpradesh traced their origin from Punjabi Saudagran tribe of Shahjahanabad. Then in 2003, I read an article that came up in Hindu by columnist Vivek Shukla providing the glimpses of the history & the culture of Saudagran community. Sadia Dehalvi as a member of Old Delhi Punjabi gharana provided an in-depth narrative on culture & history of Punjabi Saudagran community. Back in Punjab, Pakistan, the Saraiki & Punjabi speaking Muslim Khatri’s were popular as Chinioti’s due to their ancestral affiliation with Chiniot. The chapter mystique of Shahjahanabad portrayed the vibrant culture & rich cuisine of the walled city starting with bygone days Urdu proverbs called out by street vendors like “ Lakad Hazam, Pathar Hazam/digest wood & stone” recited by traditional digestive tablet sellers. Hafiz Yusuf Dehalvi, the patriarch & founder of “Shama Magazine” brought the culture & cuisine of walled city from Haveli Habsh Khan to 11, Sardar Patel Marg. The traditional kitchen lined by Pindol in the lavish modern villa was designed by Sadia’s grandfather, Hafiz Yusuf Dehalvi to accommodate his generous hospitality. His values were drawn on his belief of “Fi Sabilillah/For the sake of God” & Prophetic saying “The best among you are those who feed other”.
#Shama Magazine started by Hafiz Yusuf Dehalvi who belonged to Muslim Punjabi community of Old Delhi, Phatak Habsh Khan…
A lady from Baghpat who wore a tent-shaped veil (Afghani Abaya) became a foster mother for author & her siblings. From storytelling to food cooking, she is the one who has a significant role in nurturing the hobbies of Sadia Dehalvi. With expanding urban sprawls & disappearing of traditional Taaqs, the Jinns of Delhi & their stories absconded from the homes of Delhi. Reading the chapters “Halal World” & “early lesson” is a nostalgic recall of the lost time & values from traditional Muslim upbringing. The term “ Niaz/ Food offering” reverberate the eardrums as it has been lost somewhere in the changing face of Islam. The lost values of Niaz were connected with Islamic roots by an introductory picture from Hazrat Nizamuddin dargah Iftar & a Hadith of Prophet ( Peace be Upon him) on feeding.
From real herbs & spices, the culinary section of the book moved from all-time favourites to the seasonal dishes & finally concluded at Ramzan & Eid. The gustatory delights presented by the author supplemented with the portraits of her home cooked dishes will give a pleasurable journey to the readers. “Some of all time favourites” discussed a wide variety of traditional dishes. From a Yakhani Pulao with Arqe Nana chutney to Shab Deg ( made up of Carrots, mutton pieces & Kofta), the chapter brought a diverse variety of traditional dishes. As mentioned by Author, the Nargisi Kofta enriched the dastarkhwan (tablecloth) on special occasions, a tradition common with Delhi Wallas was also prevalent in small towns of Western Uttar Pradesh. The traditional medicine (Unani) classifications of the food in taseers (effects/efficacy) like garam (hot) & dhandi (cold) divided the cuisine in alignment with seasons. The winter’s cuisine was introduced with Nihari, the pride of Delhiwallas. Once in Saudi, I received a parcel of Nihari cooked by the colleague mother in Karachi. The Nihari has an odour & taste specific of Shahjahanabad. On the food, I came to know that his ancestors belonged to Punjabi saudagran community of walled who migrated to Karachi during 1947. The delicacies of walled city & Punajbis was well preserved by his mother as the first generation of Delhi wallas in Karachi.
The summers in the book were greeted by a bygone days beverages (Sherbet) of Bel (Woodapple), Falsa, Sandal, Unab (Jujube), Gauzaban & fruits of the walled city (Shahtoot, Khirni, & Kaseru). This section discussed the amalgamation of diverse veggies with mutton. The recipes from flower buds (Kachnar) to bitter gourd stuffed with minced mutton (Qeema bhare Karele) with traditional desserts aam pulao (Mango rice) to Aannaas Pulao (Pineapple rice) will amaze the readers. The open spaces of the Mehrauli made it a favourite destination of forgotten Mughals especially the last one Zafar adored it during monsoon. The tradition continued in the walled city & author’s recalled her father visit using camel carriages from Lahori gate to Mehrauli. Pakoras with tea, pre-partition old Delhi wagons, & trams & story of a mango that travelled from “Rataul, United Province” to Punjab, Pakistan captivated the lost time of Delhi. Now after seven decades, the Ratual became the pride of the orchards of Punjab, Pakistan. The India, & Pakistan both are debating on the origin of the famous mango.
Kachalo (Fruit Chaat) was an essential of Ramzan Iftar what I recalled from the childhood days from my mofussil hometown located in the Terai plains of Himalayas. A variety of dishes prepared by vegetables & Gosht (Mutton) has been introduced here. In old days, this was the traditional Muslim style of adding veggies to their diet. The substitute of Haleem is the grainy version of lentils with meat pieces identified as Khicda in UP. Across the border on another side, the Haleem of both Lahore & Karachi is closer to Delhi walla style. The Eid celebrations didn’t change much with time except “Eid Al Azha” has transited to “Eid Al Adha” with Arabization of Urdu in the present context. Even in these days, the long list of the feast preparation started with “Kalegi/Liver“. The usage of the verbatim traditional Urdu terms such as Ghotni (wooden Laddle), Salan (curries), tukhme rehan (basil seeds), tabaruk ( blessed), & baadi (difficult to digest) enriches the context for the local readers. The Jasmine & Jinns is not only about the recipes of the diverse cuisine, but it’s also about the context, traditional utensils, season & occasions that were reflected in depth by Sadia’s preparations. A must-read account for all those who are in love with food & culture of Delhi especially Shahjahanabad.
Vivek Shukla, Death no leveller in Capital cemetery, The Hindu, 06th March 2003. Retrieved from: https://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/mp/2003/03/06/stories/2003030600560300.htm?
A readers review : “Song of Dervish: Nizamuddin Auliya, the saint of hope and tolerance”
Background: In contemporary Islamic world, the mystic dimension of Islam was largely misinterpreted both by the followers & opponents. Core values of mystic Islam lies in Ihsan (favors, helping others),Ikhlas (Sincerity/purification), & adherence to the human values that stood above all the rituals, practices & institutions created in mystic world of Islam during last twelve centuries. From early figures such Owais Al Qarni up to the founding figures of Qadriya, Chishtia & Suharwadi orders down the centuries, they ruled the hearts of the masses inhabited in vast dominion of the Almighty God. It was due to high level of Ikhlas & Ihsan that was embedded as an innate trait in their souls. All these virtues were passed from one generation to other through the golden chain of spiritual successors like a beads in a string connecting them finally with Prophet ( Peace be Upon Him). During the eight & ninth centuries, the far off central Asian territories lying beyond the river Oxus up to the North African Berber provinces, the foot prints of mystic Dervishes can be found everywhere in vast dominion of Abbasid empire & also in remote Iberian peninsula ruled by Ummayads. It was from Trans-Oxonian branch of Prophet (Peace be Upon Him) family members, the blessed ancestors of Nizamuddin were born at Bukhara. Nizamuddin is the fourth generation successor of Chishti Tariqa (Path) in Indian Subcontinent. The benevolent Nizamuddin made traits of Ihasan & Ikhlas as a part & parcel of his life that gave him a title of “Mehboob Ilahi/beloved of God“.
Book review: The “Song of Dervish: Nizamuddin Auliya, the saint of hope and tolerance” is a book authored by Meher Murshed & published by Bloomsbury, India in 2017. A preface is written by Dr. Bruce Lawrence, a professor of Islamic Studies, & scholar on Sufism who had translated a worthy account of Nizamuddin from Persian in English. His account gave vivid portrait of Mehboob Ilahi by connecting real stories of twentieth century centered around the living saint with the historical accounts of thirteenth & fourteenth centuries. The book started with a contemporary narratives of Nizamuddin followers who love & revere the saint as he was followed by his disciples during his life time. Sanjiv Malhotra, Kamwal Nain Sharma, Bauji ( Om Prakash Arora) & Dr Bruce Lawrence belonged to different faiths, background & enthicities. An explorative accounts of Murshed draws one common trait in all these human souls, the love & faith in Mehboob Ilahi.
“Devote your life to God, serve the poor & the needy to realize the Maker” the life long learning of Nizamuddin from his master Baba Farid. Murshed’s account draws two contrast pictures from fourteenth century Delhi. At one end, the Palaces of Sultans showered extravagance on skank nobles who lauded the temperamental monarchs for their vices & virtues. On the other hand, the humble court of Nizamuddin at Ghyaspur offered robes to the disciples who offered food, love, service & devotion to the poor souls of Maker. The integration of Nizamuddin biography with the contemporary accounts of his lover assimilates the belief “The saint never die”. The book presents an alluring amalgamate of the rare accounts on the predecessors & immediate successors of Nizamuddin. The stories from the life of the early jewels of Chishti order were revisited. How the prayers of Nizamuddin & sugar from his bowl made his beloved disciple Khusro, a celebrated poet. Murshed’s account sketched the bipolar world of Khusro & his friend Amir Hasan Sijzi. Both of them finally submerged their souls in love of divine leaving behind rubies, & Gold. They find solace with Nizamuddin instead of worldly gifts from treasures of maniac sultans. The Dervish took the message of Prophet (Peace be Upon him): Divine mercy is for one & all. Lyons, Lawrence, Gita, & Rahman finds a common bond between them, the love for Nizamuddin. At the point of time when hatred & intolerance is on its height, the “Song Of Dervish” iterate the stories of love & compassion centered around Nizamuddin, a saint whose blessings crossed the lines of caste, creed, gender & religion. Poetic translations, simple language, citations of “Fawaid Al Fuad” & extensive research on real life narratives spoke of its rigour. The enchants of “Man Kunto Muala‘ that echoed on the ears of Murshed during childhood days became a prime stimuli to start a journey of “Song of Dervish“. A distinctive account on Nizamuddin, it will be a soul enriching experience for the readers who carried an interest in Mystical Islam & medieval history of Delhi. I would like to thanks Meher Murshed who blessed the lovers of Nizamuddin & motivated readers by offering “Song of Dervish“.
On 24th June 2018, I got an opportunity to attend the walk at National Museum with the walk leader Neel Kamal Dogra. It was a tour of the exhibition displayed at National Museum for a month with a title “India & the World: A History in Nine Stories”. Its a joint effort of National museum, Chatrpati Shivaji Museum, and British museum to display the rare artifacts from different parts of the globe with pieces of Indian history to find the evolving connection of human races from diverse civilization down in the timeline from ancient to the modern age. Other than these three museums, artifacts were also provided by many other museum & private collections.
The National Museum, New Delhi was chosen as a tribute to seventy years of Indian Independence with an aim of showing audiences, how the human civilizations exchanged culture, art, and sprtituality in a journey of the historical timeline. It was a two-month exhibition that ended on 30th June 2018. Neel was leading the seventh walk when I joined the tour on 24th June.
The walk started with the first theme “Shared beginning” that displayed the handmade axes of Quartzite, one from India & other from Tanzania dated (1.7 thousand to 1.7 Million years). Moving from pottery, then portraits of monarchs, tablets showing the evolution of written languages, religion (Picturing the divine), maritime trade and finally ending at struggle against colonial occupation & independence.
It also includes the rare Mughal paintings, totemic statues of Tanio God from the Carribean, Astrolabe & seventeenth-century Celestial sphere made by Ziauddin Mohammad in Mughal era.
Within one & half hour, Neel gave a contextual orientation to the walk members of artifacts (1.7 Million years old up to Modern era) passing through every theme. Though the space at some themes was cramped and the group size was large but he managed to walk the talk as an experienced walk leader. Walking through the unique gallery that displayed around two hundred rare artifacts of history showed the collaborative growth of different civilizations around the globe. It also provided a clear picture that none of them is superior over other. More or less, in the same chronological stage, the similar developments took place in different parts of the world with some unique advancement in each of them from the formation of handmade axes up to the freedom from Colonial occupation.
After the walk, Neel offered a tea at the canteen located in the basement of National Museum. Designed in the old style with the paper tokens at the counter, it gave a nostalgic reminder of my bygone student days at Aligarh Muslim University where many canteens had the almost similar style of arrangement & coupons on cash counter.
Neel, an art and culture enthusiast who was previously a bank manager by profession. His love for theatre, art & culture compelled him to leave the job. Now he dedicated himself to conducting theatre plays and leading heritage walks. His webpage and facebook “Herithart” documented many events and play conducted under his supervision.