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.
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.
Meeting with two founding members of Delhi Youth Welfare Association
Almost twenty-eight years ago few residents of the walled city started an organization “Delhi Youth Welfare Association”. It was Mr. Muhammad Naeem and his friends who initiated a social movement with an objective of promoting education & providing social remedies to the needy beneficiaries of Old Delhi. Their team also distributes the syllabus to the needy beneficiaries of the surrounding locality. Activities were also arranged to boost the motivation of the children towards the modern education. Scholarships were also distributed to fund the education of the meritorious students among the needy cohort. Each year special sessions were arranged for the career counseling of senior secondary students. On 21 March 1994, a small room of a size of thirty-five square yards located at Pahari Imli was chosen as the site for the community library. This room belonged to the personal property of the founding member & president of DYWA, Mr. Muhammad Naeem.
Sikander Mirza Changezi & other founding members rendered their support for the collection of the valuable manuscripts. It was named after the great Islamic scholar of 18th Century Shah Waliullah Dehalvi. Sikander Mirza Changezi, the librarian & one of the foremost founding members told me that library has a collection of diverse rare manuscripts in five languages i.e., English, Arabic, Sanskrit, Persian & Hindi.
Abu Sufiyan, a young member of the DYWA (an Engineer, history enthusiast & founder of Purani Dilli Walo Ki Baatein) took me to the tour of the wonderful library on 28th June 2018. We reached the place around 8.30 pm after ten minutes of the walk from the main gate of Jama Masjid by passing through the narrow lanes of Matia Mahal. Sikander Mirza Changezi Sahab greeted both of us. During the conversation, I came to know that he is the eldest son of late Naseem Mirza Changezi from his two sons & seven daughters. Born as a fourth child of Naseem Changezi Sahab in 1956, he imbibed the cultural values & love for history from his legendary father. With a fine & eloquent Urdu accent, he sounds like a perfect old Delhi Walla. His father, a great history enthusiast & freedom fighter passed away last year at age of one hundred six. From the family tree, the late Mirza Naseem Sahab was the twenty-third descendant of great Mongol warrior Chengez (Genghis) Khan. It was from this great patriarch, the family carries a surname of Changezi from centuries.
On my request, he gave an overview of all the rare manuscript of Shah Waliullah library. With more than twenty thousand books, the library has a rare collection of centuries-old manuscripts in Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, and Urdu. Almost two thousand books were brought here from the ancestral collection of Mirza Naseem Changezi. My pupils were dilated with the inflow of adrenaline as I passed through the treasure of Shah Waliullah library. Abu Sufiyan & Mirza Sikander Changezi Sahab was answering queries in a sequential manner. First came in more than six centuries old, a handwritten piece on the “Mantiq/logic” by an Arab scholar from Baghdad, Allama Najmuddin AlKatibi. The manuscript was titled as “Kitab Baidul Mizan”.
The second one was “Sharae Fattah“, a text in Arabic published from Awadh with original seal of Nawab Oudh. Then one of the rarest pieces was more than a century old “Ramayan” in the Persian language printed from Iran. An Urdu translation of “Bhagvat Gita” printed by Naval Kishore press was brought in by Changezi Sahab from one of the overloaded shelves. Qazi Syed Ali legendary manuscript titled “Sair Ul Akhtab” that was written in Persian more than two centuries before was also present in one of the corners of this library.
One of the rare copies of the “Diwan” written by the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar printed from the royal press in 1855 also add enrich this thirty-five square yards library managed by Mr. Mohammad Naeem, Sikander Mirza & other team members. It’s a four pages account of poetic verses with the front page depicting the name of the poet-king in a circle Badshah Abu Zafar Muhammad Siraj Uddin. A Gregorian & Hijri date has been inscribed on it. One of the Punjabi poetry of Ghalib was also included in it. The first page of his Diwan was started with “Bismillahirrahmanirrahim” and the poetry was written in the love of God & Prophet (Peace be upon him). In traditional terms, it is known as Hamd (Praise of God) & Naat (Praise of Prophet).
The last couplet of the first page of diwan is:
Kyun Naa Ho Alam pe Ahsan Ahmad E Mukhtar Ka
Wohi Malik Khaliq e Kaunen ki Sarkar ka
Why didn’t this universe owed favors of Prophet
He is the only owner/ruler of the dominion of the creator
Almost three decades later, one of the 19th century Islamic Scholar, Imam Ahmad Raza Khan who was also famous for writing Naat (Poetry) in Arabic, Urdu, Persian and Hindi wrote in the same line of Zafar showing respect to Prophet. His naat titled “Sarwar Kahoo ke Malik e Maula Kahoo Tujhe” ended with
Leykin Raza Nay Khatm-e-Sukhan Iss Pay Kar Dia
Khaaliq Ka Banda Khalq Ka Aaqa Kahoon Tujhay
But Raza has finished his poem on these lines
The beloved slave of the creator, the Master/Lord of the Universe
An interesting connection can be drawn from the verses of two poets coming from an entirely different context & background. This is the love for the Prophet & his family kindled in their hearts. In contemporary days the neo puritan’s ideologies within the fold of Islam falsely accused these verses as blasphemy. After a lengthy discussion on Diwan of Ghalib, Abu Sufiyan brought from one of the shelves, a rare dictionary compiled by the Begum of Bhopal in 1870. It’s titled as “Khazanatul Lughaat” means the treasure of Dictionaries. It includes five languages Urdu, Persian, Arabic, Sanskrit & Turkish.
For a few minutes, I got the chance to discuss regarding the ancestors of Mirza Sikander Sahab. He told his interesting connection with the family of legendary Poet Mirza Ghalib. The second marriage of Mirza Ghalib daughter in law Khursheed Begum (AKA Husn Jahan Begum) took place with his great-grandfather, Mirza Sohrab Changezi. I & Abu Sufiyan were relishing an interesting conversation of Naseem Sahab. By that time, Mr. Muhammad Naeem came in after closing his shop located in Old Delhi. He gave a detailed background of DWYA association and its efforts for promoting education among the needy. He also showed a complete section lodging the books written by first education minister of India, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. His great ancestors also belonged to the Shahjanabad & his resting place is also located close to Jama Masjid. In between, he ordered a cup of tea & asked someone one on phone to serve four ek bata do tea. Answering to the curiosity for “Ek Bata Do”, he told this is used for the half cup of tea in the walled city. The library is open for public in morning from 9.30 am to 11.30 am & in the night from 9.30 pm to 11.30 pm. One can come here for reading. Initially, they also lend the books for home reading but more than two hundred fifty books were lost.
The time was flying while listening to Mr. Naeem & Naseem Changezi Sahab. They told that many of the scholars came here to find the rare manuscripts. Recently an American researcher came here to find a rare work of “Shah Waliullah Dehalvi”. I received a valuable gift from Mr. Naeem, a more than two centuries old biographical account of Shah Waliullah Dehalvi that was republished by their trust without any changes. While I was leaving at 10.30 am, a research scholar steps in to search some rare manuscript.
The story of Haji Baqir Ali Badayuni, the Halwa Paratha seller who was acknowledged by the Late Prime minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi
Each year during the month of Dhul Qadah, the annual congregation (Urs) of 19th-century Sufi saint widely popular as Shah Ji Mohammad Sher Miyan took place in the small city of Uttar Pradesh, Pilibhit. The main congregational prayers were held on 03rd to 05th Dhul Qadah. As common with all Urs and traditional fairs, one can find makeshift stalls of Halwa Paratha erected on road leading to the dargah. Last year while passing down the crowded street near the dargah, it was two old portraits hanging on the stall of ” Badayuni Halwa Paratha” that caught my attention for exploration. The first one is the portrait captioned in Urdu and Hindi introducing him as Late Haji Baqar Ali Badayuni. In the first portrait, the late Baqar has nicely wrapped a traditional white turban with a vest jacket (Sadri). The pen clipped to the front pocket of the vest reflected an impressive dressing style more of a writer than a Halwa Paratha shop owner. The second portrait was torn from the lower edge and almost faded. In this portrait, the Baqir was receiving an award from late Prime minister, Indira Gandhi. I made a request to the man sitting on the cash counter to parcel one packet of his calories loaded large size Paratha, and Halwa made up of Suji (Semolina). During the conversation, he told that Haji Baqar Ali was his grandfather who started to sold Halwa Paratha during Colonial days. The Halwa Paratha stall was named after his birthplace, Badayun. Badayun is the small city of Uttarpradesh located one hundred twenty-eight kilometers south-west of Pilibhit. It was once the mighty capital of Katehar Province during the reign of Mamluks and also the birthplace of the famous 13th-century Sufi of Central Asian origin, Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya.
In the decade of the sixties and seventies, the Badayuni Halwa Paratha was a popular street food stall at Urs of Hazrat Nizamuddin and Hajj house near Turkman Gate at Delhi. In off times, he used to manage a hotel at Badayun named as Sultani Hotel. It was during this time, Haji Baqar Ali was also acknowledged by Late Prime minister, Indira Gandhi for serving his street food delicacy at syncretic Indian gatherings especially at Hazrat Nizamuddin Urs. For almost six decades, the man moved with his stall at the Urs (death anniversary) of Sufis like a wandering nomad. Haji Abdul Qadir passed away in mid-eighties at age of eighty-eight years. While recalling the old days, the grandson of Baqar Ali got melancholic.
In the present scenario, he is hardly able to manage expenses as the earnings are meager in comparison to the grandfather days. These two portraits and name of the stall “Badayun Halwa Parath” made his street food shop different from the several others. This seems to the prized possession of a grandson who is now taking care of Haji Baqar legacy.
Agha Shayar Qazalbash, a disciple of Daagh Dehalvi was one of the Urdu poets from twentieth-century Delhi. In the following verse, he said:
“we are the gateway to the eloquence of the respected Urdu verses. The world learns from us we are such residents of Delhi“. Shahjahanabad survived after many vicissitudes of time especially in eighteen century when it was invaded by Persian & Afghans. The 1857 mutiny was the final blow on the cultural capital of Hindustan. The partition of India and later on urban expansion also made major ethic & cultural changes in the city of Old Delhi. The noted & historian Swapna Liddle wrote in Chandni Chowk, the Mughal City of Delhi in a context of the vibrant culture present in the narrow bylanes of Shahjahanabad. “More recently, the attractions of Shahjahanabad has been recognized, the history that still lives in its narrow streets, and the way of life that is represented by its courtyard homes (Liddle, 2016)”.
“Purni Dilli Walo Ki Baatein” is a Non-Government organization that includes a wide range of activities on the vibrant culture of Shahjahanabad. It brings out the living culture from the narrow bylanes with the help of its walks, blog writing, videos & social media post. A blog unique in its kind that covers the history, culture, art, traditions & cuisine specifically of Shahjahanabad. It was started by Abu Sufiyan on 07th June 2013 as the Facebook page to document the vanishing dialect of the Old Delhi. He was born on 08 January 1991, the youngest one among the five children of Mr. Mukhtar Ahmad and Mrs. Farhat Jahan. His great-grandfather Ibrahim Sahab, a Mughal/Turk was resident of Kashmiri Gate, Shahjahanabad in the late nineteenth century. Mughlani Begum, the great-grandmother of Abu Sufiyan also belonged to old Turk/Mughal family whose ancestors from Central Asia made Shahjahanabad their home centuries ago when the city was built by great Mughal. The elder siblings still had memories of Mughlani dadi who passed away in year 1985 at age of ninty. The grandfather Nazar Mohammad shifted from the ancestral haveli near Kashmiri Gate to the Suiwalan during 1947. During partition, the area around Kashmiri gate faced more heat & violence in the backdrop of riots at Delhi. Abu Sufiyan told that his grandfather got a spacious twenty rooms haveli in fifty-eight Rupees during those days. Mr. Mukhtar Ahmad completed his graduation from Anglo Arabic College (Historic Madarsa Ghaziuddin Haider) in 1975 & then completed his diploma engineering in electronics from Karnal University. After teaching for some time at an electronic Institute to the retired army officers, he switched to the business in 1980. Presently he owns & manages two electronics shop at Tiraha Bairam Khan, Old Delhi. The mother, Farhat Jahan, a graduate in arts is a social worker from her background. His maternal great-grandfather & great-grandmother has roots from Agra. They worked as maintenance officers of Red Fort at Delhi during British days.
Brought up in a family having a long association with Shahjahanabad, he developed an escapism from the messy environment of the walled city during his senior secondary days. In 2011, he got an admission in Btech at Punjab Technical University. It was during the third year of his undergraduate engineering programme, he started to miss the essence of Shahjahanabad. Far away from home at boarding, he used to record the calls of his mother who spoke the Urdu dialect that is known as “Begmati Zaban/Langauge“. From here the idea crept in to share the fading dialect on the facebook. On 07th June 2013, the Facebook page of “Purni Dilli Walo ki Baatein” was created. Initially, Abu Sufiyan started to share the post with a character “Tumhari Baji”. Within the few months, the post got the substantial engagement as likings & feedback. By 2014, two more characters appeared as “Khala Khabti” & “Phupoo“. Sadia Sayed started to play the role of “Winky Phuppo”. She brings out the role of “Phuppo/ Father’s Sister” in the typical dialect of Old Delhi. Recently, a newspaper article cited the number of the followers were fifty-nine thousand for “Winky Phuppo”. By the time, it also appeared as a tool to depict the social issues of walled city integrated with humor.
Arey bhai umar mein kitti bhi badi ho #phuppo lekin insan apni harkaton se bada hota hai.. isliye mere ghar aa hi gayin…
From the lanes of Shahjahanabad, the vanishing traditions & dialect spread out to the external world through the help of social media. At the same time, he got engaged with Shah Waliullah library that was started by the efforts of Mohammad Naeem, Mirza Sikander Changezi & team members in the nineties. The journey from a simple Facebook page now broaden its horizons to the blog writing, social work, heritage walks, talking on food & culture.
Hindustani Dawakhana, a dispensary established under the patronage of great Unani Physician, Hakim Ajmal Khan.
In collaboration with “Marham“, an organization of Irtiza Qureshi, & Delhi Youth welfare association, he engaged with the social issues of the local community such as raising awareness for girl education, providing books to the needy & many other tasks. In February 2017 with the group of friends, the first historical walk was conducted at Feroz Shah Kotla. For more than a year, the team of Purani Dilli Walo ki Baatein is conducting heritage walk. Radio Jockey & Urdu Poet Anas Faizi, lead the literary walks, especially at Ghalib Ki Haveli. Farhan Baig, a history enthusiast & teacher at Government School lead the historical walks. Abu Sufiyan himself lead the walks for foreigners at Shahjahanabad. The walks of “Purani Dilli walo ki Baatien” usually started with Jama Masjid & then moving to the lesser known monuments, glimpses of vibrant culture, tradition such as Kabutar Bazi, arts like Naqqashi & Calligraphy. Dr. Sagheer Akhtar, an Urdu doctorate rendered his support by providing guidance for activities & research needed by the PDWKB team members.
Quran was handwritten by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, from the personal collection of Abdul Sattar Sahab, 74 ( Author and…
In between Shah Waliullah library & Late Mirza Naseem Changezi Sahab, archival collections were also shown to the participants at Pahari Imli. The most unique aspect of their walks is “Dastarkhwan” bringing the food specifically from the cuisine of Shahjahanabad such as Lal roti/Bakarkhani with Kheer served at the endpoint.
Recently in 2018, Purnai Dilli Walo ki Baatien started creating & managing cultural events. The first one was “Topi Ki Daastan”, a play based on Rahi Masoom Raza novel “Topi Shukla” was conducted at Anglo Arabic College on 25th March 2018. The ninety minute’s play was directed by Tarique Hameed.
They also provided online partnership to Delhi Gharana for the event “Ghalib Begum Umrao ki Nazar Se”& “ٌRudad e Shireen”, a composition of Hazrat Amir Khusro.
A stall was arranged by the team of “Purani Dilli Walon Ki Baatien” at five days Urdu Heritage Festival organized by Delhi Government at Central Park, Connaught Place. Its main objective was to bring the culture of Purani Dill with the help of archival pictures, calligraphy, books, dairies, badges & bags. It was a sort of awareness campaign.
Till now more than twelve thousand posts have been shared by the Purani Dilli Walo ki Baatein in the form of the article, videos, & pictures articulating on the microhistory & the culture of vibrant Shahjahanabad. Abu Sufyan also offers help to the media groups such as HT & Indian express for collecting information & raw data for the videos on the monuments, culture, food & bygone days tradition.
In the video: Somya lakhani & Abu SufiyanStory by : Indian Express
Now Abu Sufiyan & his team members are looking forward to finding the ways for digitalizing the history of Shahjahanabad. Hopefully, when commence, it will be one of the grand projects in a direction to preserve the history & the culture of Old Delhi. The journey of a young technocrat is an example of teamwork, & engaging local community members to preserve the living history of the walled city. With his hectic working schedule at Google as an IT expert, he dedicated all his spare time to preserving & promoting the culture of Shahjahanabad. As a friend & history enthusiast, I wish all the best for his endeavor in the direction of preserving the rich heritage of the Mughal city. This is how a voice notes of a mother appeared as a stimulus for a twenty-two-year-old engineering hostel student to walk on the mission for preserving the heritage of “Shahjahanabad”.
Acknowledgments: Many thanks to Abu Sufiyan to provide me chance to write & for the valuable inputs.
Swapna Liddle (2017), Chandni Chowk, the Mughal City of Old Delhi, Speaking Tiger Publishing private limited.
Embedded Tweets & Facebook links are taken from “Purani Dilli Walo ki Baatein” page
The story of honorary magistrate Maulvi Shiekh Abdul Haqq
Text by Rehan Asad| Pictures by Tabish Akhyar
Close to the western part of the city, Karghaina building is located in Muneer Khan locality of Pilibhit having around twenty houses, and roadside shops. From its destructured appearance, it’s difficult to visualize, that a century before it was one building. It came into existence in 1902. Built by an Arain landlord, Sheikh Abdul Haqq of village Karghaina whose father held a zamindari estate of three whole villages and shares in many other villages in Pargana Jahanabad. An old grove with an area of approximately four acres existed here that was purchased by Shiekh Abdul Haqq from a Pashtun named Natthu Khan. Born on 27 Dhulqaida 1281 Hijri (1860), he was the eldest son of Haji-Sheikh Qudrat Ali. Shiekh Haji Qudrat Ali stayed at Hijaz for more than three years when he left for the Hajj in 1880. He also stared a Madrassa at Village Karghaina that continued to be managed by his middle son after his death. The eldest son, Sheikh Abdul Haqq was sent to Pilibhit for studying Darse Nizami under the tutelage of great Islamic scholar of the nineteenth century, Maulana Wasi Ahmad who was also known as Muhaddith Surti. A famous Islamic scholar from Rampur Maulvi Salamatullah was appointed for homeschooling of other two sons at village Karghaina. After the death of his father, the villages were divided among three brothers.
Leaving behind his ancestral haveli at Village Karghaina, Shiekh Abdul Haqq relocated to the city. It was due to ancestral association with the village, the building was named as Karghaina Building. As an Islamic Scholar, Zamindar and businessman he was quite active in sociopolitical life. He was also nominated by the Imperial government as an honorary magistrate.
The building was constructed as seven separate apartments connected with each other. The entrance to the building was through two paved streets fenced by the gates at the entrance on the western and southern side. The apartments were divided into main residential section (Zenan Khana), baithaks (Guest lodges), and servant quarters. It also had areas in shape of the park for female members, gardens, and section with planted trees of different varieties.
In the center of the building, an apartment of around two hundred square yards was Baithak/ Drawing room of Shiekh Abdul Haqq. This apartment can be accessed from both sides. A separate section served as the guest lodge of his only son, Maulvi Anwar Ul Haqq. At the end of the street of southern entrance, a park of six hundred square yards was made close to the female apartments of the building. This was specifically allocated for the females of the household so they could enjoy the walk and relaxed in open air within the building. It has cement benches, fountains and paved galleries. Each of the apartments had the same design. Hall rooms with high ceiling supported with timber and iron grids as a beam.
The verandah (dallan) having similar in design with its front facade supported by the pillars connected by the arches. Then one extended verandah covered by the shade of wrought iron and supported by thin iron rods.
Outside a brick-lined courtyard with a raised platform (Chabutra) at one corner. Every apartment has a small area in the courtyard for the plantation of the trees such as pomegranate, guava, mango, and flowers commonly rose.
One of the small units lying on the left flank of the Western entrance was given to the mason who supervised the construction.
The present occupant purchased it from the custodian properties when he moved to Pakistan in 1947. During the lifetime of Shiekh Abdul Haqq, the building was the center of socio-political activities. The notable Islamic scholar of twentieth-century Imam Ahmad Raza Khan visited Pilibhit eleven times in his life and stayed at Karghaina building as an honored guest of Sheikh Abdul Haqq. My late grandmother who was a small child during those days had faint memories of his stay. After Friday prayers, the scholars, Urdu poets, and other influential people used to have a leisure time at the residence of Sheikh Abdul Haqq. The first annual convocation of the community meeting was held at the same place on 17 February 1917 that was also attended by the envoys sent by Sir Mian Muhammad Shafi from Punjab. During Muharram and Rabiul Awwal feast and congregations were organized at the building. He passed away in 1936 and the funeral prayer was performed by Maulana Hamid Raza Khan, the eldest son of Ahmad Raza Khan. He was survived by one son, Maulvi Anwar Ul Haqq and four daughters. On his death, he left behind a flourishing business, one whole zamindari village, and Karghaina building. Unfortunately, the son was more like a mendicant and low aptitude for managing worldly matters. As a result, he was deceived by many of his close friends. Many time people from close circle asked for the loans in name of performing charity, going for Hajj pilgrimage or joint ventures for new business and losses were suffered on his pocket. Many of the apartments were sold by Maulvi Anwar Ul Haqq after the abolition of zamindari in 1945 to 1950. Most of them were purchased by the zamindars of his community who relocated to the city after the abolition of zamindari system. Maulvi Anwar Ul Haqq passed away in 1963.
Most of the descendants of second owners had migrated to major cities of India and in western countries after attaining higher education. Some of them also moved to Pakistan in the decade of the 50s & 60s. All of the units had been reconstructed except the two of them that still retained one hundred ten years old construction. One is owned by the descendants of Shiekh Nazeer Ahmad, a wealthy landlord of the district who once owned a Daang estate having more than ten villages. The second one is under the occupation of the great-grandson of Sheikh Abdul Haqq who provided these pictures. This section was taken on rent by the Municipal board to run a female junior high school during the lifetime of Sheikh Abdul Haqq.
I also had two connections with this place. First I was born and brought up in a house that was once a cultural center of this building, the guest lodge/baithak of Karghaina building. I still remember its thick walls, high ceilings, Taakhs and other elements of old construction. It was bought by my father in 1975 from one of his grandsons. Second, one of the daughters of Shiekh Abdul Haqq was my maternal great-grandmother. The stories of its heydays were passed by my Nani (maternal grandmother) who was the oldest among all third generation descendants of Sheikh Abdul Haqq. As born in 1908, she saw the days of Maulvi Sheikh Abdul Haqq when Karghaina building was one of the vibrant and lively addresses of the town. Maulana Anwar Ul Haqq was survived by four sons and two daughters. The eldest son and both of the daughters moved to Pakistan. From all children’s of Maulvi Anwar Ul Haqq, only two sons are alive and rest of them took a journey to next world. May Allah bless all of them?
Dr. Rakhshanda Jalil, the Delhi based author, and literary historian is a well-known face among the literary circles for her academic contributions towards Urdu literature and history. Her columns touched on feminism, syncretic North Indian culture and other major social issues of Muslim society. With more than fifty research articles and twenty books, she has been acknowledged with many national and international literary and academic awards. On her illustrious ancestors, the blogger and an acclaimed author Mayank Austen Soofi wrote on her mother ancestral legacy from Maulvi Sattar Buksh Qadri, one of the noble resident of the historic city of United Provinces, 19th-century Badayun. Maulvi Sattar Buksh belonged to the family of first Caliph widely known as Siddiqui who were the forebearers of oriental scholarship from the time of early Muslim rulers in India. The small city, Pilibhit is located one hundred two kilometers North East of Badayun in Western Uttar Pradesh has the dual connection with the literary historian. Her late maternal grandfather, Ale Ahmad Suroor, a great Urdu poet and literary authority spends his childhood years at Pilibhit when his father Maulvi Karam Ahmad was deputed as the Postmaster in British India. Around hundred meters west of the southern historic gate (Bareilly Darwaza) of the city build by British Magistrate R. Drummond located a house that once belonged to Shiekh Abdul Lateef, a Punjabi Muslim.
The locality where the house is located was documented in District Gazette (1909) as Pakaria Mohalla and still identified with the same name.
According to the Late Prof. Iqbal Hussain, an expert of Ruhela history, this locality was established in the mid-eighteenth century when the city was built by Afghan ruler, Hafiz Rahmat Khan. During its heydays when the trade was flourished in this Afghan principality, the quarters of the city, Pakaria, and adjoining Punjabian were inhabited by Punjabi Musalmans ( Shamsi/Muslim Khatri) who were considered as traders of repute all over North Indian even in 18th century Shahjahanabad. The name of the locality was probably derived from the presence of Pakar (Ficus Venosa) trees. Shiekh Abdul Lateef owned zamindari rights of the Village Tondalpur that is located around twenty-five kilometers east of the city in Terai plains of Sharda river. The village remained in his possession up to 1952 till the abolition of zamindari rights in the district. In addition, he also owned many shops in the commercial square of the city near the clock tower. Mr. Shahabuddin who is the grandson of Sheikh Abdul Lateef sister told that he had four sons and two daughters. The eldest among them was Mr. Abdul Jalil, the father of Dr. Rakhshanda. Sheikh Abdul Lateef, a traditional businessman, and zamindar was keen for the modern education of children. A small city of United Provinces with limited educational opportunities had two schools up to the level of matriculation in those days. The eldest son Mr. Abdul Jalil completed his matriculation from Drummonds high school in 1943 and send to Christian College, Lucknow for higher education.
After qualifying premedical exam, he secured admission at the prestigious medical center of United Provinces, King George Medical College in 1945. Mr. Abdul Jalil was the third one from the small city to study medicine after Dr. Sharma and Dr. Abdul Ghafoor who attained bachelors of medicine in 1921. Notable medical educationist & Ex-Head of the department, Anatomy, KGMC, Dr. A. Halim was one his early day’s friend and batchmate at Medical school. After completion of MD from KGMC, he also attained Masters from McGill. One of the earliest Indian who got training in Acupuncture as an alternative therapy from China & Japan. A small city boy with global exposure in the days of closed economy, Dr. Abdul Jalil was a secular and liberal face of Muslim community in Delhi. Two of his younger brothers pursued Engineering as a career and the youngest one Abdul Shakoor studied Medicine. Both of his sisters also completed Masters in Arts from prestigious Aligarh Muslim University.
Mr. Shahab got emotive while explaining the heydays of this home when it was constructed by Shiekh Abdul Lateef during colonial days. With thick walls, high ceilings supported by timber and iron beams, arched verandas and extended wrought iron shades, the home has the total area of four thousand square feet. It was divided into two sections, Zenankhana and Baithak. The “Baithak” was a separate unit and most of the male guest lodged here for the overnight stay. He recalled the days when many high profile friends of Dr. Jalil stayed here. Most of the time, the visits were arranged for exploring the adventures and hunting expeditions in Terai forest.
During the lifetime of his parents, Dr. Abdul Jalil and his brothers frequently visited the ancestral home. Shiekh Abdul Lateef passed away in 1977 and buried in the closeby graveyard. Dr. Rakhshanda visited fathers hometown in 1986 on the sad demise of her grandmother. She told that her brother Jamil Urfi recent release titled as “Biswin Sadi Memoirs: Growing Up in Delhi During the 1960’s and 70’s” has many accounts from the memories of the third generation of Mr. Abdul Lateef visiting ancestral home during Eid and summer vacations. I am looking forward to reading Jamil Urfi memoirs. Among the four sons and two daughters of Shiekh Abdul Lateef, only Dr. Abdul Shakoor is alive and resides at Aligarh.
Acknowledgments: Many thanks to Dr. Rakhshanda Jalil and Mr. Shahab for providing me valuable inputs.
Husain, Iqbal. The Ruhela Chieftaincies: The Rise and Fall of Ruhela Power in India in the Eighteenth Century. Oxford University Press, USA, 1994.
The Delhi Walla. City Library, Rakhshanda Jalil’s Urdu books and her forthcoming festival, Central Delhi. Retrieved from: http://www.thedelhiwalla.com/2017/01/17/city-library-rakhshanda-jalils-urdu-books-her-forthcoming-urdu-festival-central-delhi/
Nevill. H.R. (1909), PILIBHIT: A Gazetteer, VolXVIII of the District Gazetteers of United Provinces of Agra and Oudh.
The story of the Colonial Zamindar, and a Philanthropist from early 20th century, Pilibhit, United Provinces
Text by Rehan Asad| family Pics & Portraits by Mr. Mohammad Aslam
On 18th February 1917, a zamindar from a nearby village Daang, Pargana Jahanabad addressed a convocational gathering at Karghaina Building, Pilibhit, United Provinces as President of the Anjuman. I translated excerpts of his speech published in the Rawaid (minutes/proceedings of the convocation) from Bareilly in the same year. It reflected the profound insight of the man towards the role & the importance of modern education. “Modern education is the only tool to remove ignorance among communities. Muslims like other communities in subcontinent don’t have an inclination for modern education and this is the reason of the lagging of Muslims in all walks of life. Especially for our community in Rohilkhand, we are deliberately parting away from modern education. It is the lack of the modern education which is responsible for our heavy losses to the zamindari estates, and it will remain same in future. It would be a sense of grief for all of us that in the time of British governance that blessed us with a lot of favors, facilities, and freedom and still if our community would be isolated from the jewel of modern education. It should be our duty and efforts that we should accept the importance of modern education from our hearts. By the grace of God, you all are quite capable of resources to provide higher education to our young generation and also to those orphans of the community those are in utmost need. Therefore it is necessary to donate hefty amounts related to the scholarships for higher education.”– Speech Sheikh Ahmad Nazeer, 1917AD .
Family Background and Introduction: Sheikh Taj Mohammad was the founder of the household in Rohillkhand region and sixth in the generation of Sheikh Taj Mohammad was born Sheikh Nazeer Ahmad in the family Sheikh Mohammad Buksh . According to Tarrekh Arain his ancestors originally belonged to Salarpur, District Jalandhar, Punjab, who migrated to Mangala, District Sirsa (presently in Haryana) and then moved to Rohilkhand in the late 18th century . Nevill in the District Gazette of Pilibhit (1909) cited the family of Sheikh Nazeer Ahmad as one of the notable and leading zamindars of Pargana Jahanabad, District Pilibhit . His father Haji Sheikh Mohammad Buksh was a pious landlord who donated a considerable property from his zamindari shares in Pargana Richaa, District Bareilly to the waqf of the historic Jama Masjid, Pilibhit. In the late 19th century, a Madarsa was also stared by his father at Village Daang, the headquarter of his zamindari estate. As the trend of the time among prosperous cultured families in those days, he was groomed by his father & private tutors. He had a good understanding of Arabic, Persian, and Urdu.
Description of his estate: The District Gazette of Pilibhit cited the revenue of his estate “Sheikh Nazeer Ahmad son of Sheikh Mohammad Buksh, an Arain hold seven villages and fifteen shares in District Pilibhit and pay revenue of ten thousand four hundred thirty-eight INR (Drake, 1934AD) ”. He also held three whole villages in District Bareilly. Eighteen years later when the assessment report was prepared for the abolition of zamindari system based on the revenue in United Provinces, the total number of the zamindars in the highest strata i.e., ten thousand Indian Rupees were only three hundred ninety . On reviewing District Gazetteer, I found that it was the highest revenue paid to the Government in Pargana Jahanabad and third highest in the District. As a foresighted man, he understood the outcomes of the upcoming reforms of United Provinces. It was during his time, the Daang estate also created a huge agrarian farm under the category of “Sir/Khudkasht” land with newly introduced machines and tractor. All these records showed that he belonged to one of the richest families in the district and among the top strata of United Province’s zamindar aristocracy. In 1952 after the abolition of Zamindari his descendants were able to hold an agrarian farmland spread over an area of more than two hundred acres of the land. He also had an honorary exemption from British Government arm acts .
Services & Charities: Whether it was the organization of feast on special occasions of Muharram, Rabi Ul Awwal or the expense of the “Urs” of the revered saint who was resting in the premises of Jahanabad Police Station, Sheikh Nazeer Ahmad continued the traditional charities of his forefathers. Aged locals still recalled him and his father as “Chote Miyan” and “Bade Miyan” who always treated their ancestors with generosity irrespective of their caste, creed, religion & social status. A trait that was rare to be found among the zamindars in the stratified rural settings of Colonial India. In 1915, he was one from Rohilkhand Arain community along with Shiekh Tajuddin, his brother Shiekh Wisluddin and Sheikh Abdul Haqq who attended the Arain convocation held at Lahore under the leadership of Sir Mian Mohammad Shafi. The main goal was to spread the awareness of the modern education. On 16 March 1916, Anjuman Arain, Rohilkhand & Kumaon was formed with its main goal to push the community towards modern education. Shiekh Nazeer Ahmad was appointed as the President of this society. During the span of a year handsome amount of three thousand three hundred twenty was collected with a donation of more than two hundred Indian Rupees by him. Almost a century before, two hundred Indian Rupees was the monthly salary of Class one officer. Among the many beneficiaries of this Anjuman, the foremost was Dr. Abdul Ghafor who got Indian Rupees Four/Month scholarship for his studies at Agra Medical School. He was also one of the contributors in established of first Islamia School at the district in 1932. The madrasa established by his father at the headquarter of the estate, Village Daang was also upgraded by him. It continued to serve as the junior high school till 1980s long after his death.His hospitality was still recalled by the locals. His ninety-year-old daughter informed that kitchen of his father offered food on daily basis to rich, poor, needy and passing by strangers. The ladies of the family personally supervised the daily preparations on the larger scale with the assistance of maids and trail of helpers.
Legacy: During his life, he was highly influenced by the educational moves and reforms of Sir Mian Mohammad Shafi (a Punjabi leader of Muslim league, educationist, Politician and Vice President of Viceroy Executive council) but maintained his stance to remained away from the political ideology of Muslim league. From his children, no one moved to Pakistan at the time of the partition. Later one daughter and youngest son relocated to Pakistan in last decade of the fifties due to matrimonial ties. He left behind a handwritten diary that he used to document relevant pieces of his life. Few pages had been shared by his grandson, Mr. Mohammad Aslam that showed the date, year, time of the birth of all his children.
Sheikh Nazeer Ahmad took his last breath in 1947 at the age of seventy and buried at family graveyard at Village Daang, the seat of his ancestors. He was survived by three sons, eldest Mr. Mohammad Ahmad, second, Mr. Mohammad Tahir and youngest Mr. Mohammad Athar and six daughters. Mr. Mohammad Athar moved to Italy after completing his Masters in Geology from Aligarh Muslim University in 1958. He got married to Miss. Anjum Ara Naeemi, the daughter of Mr. Abdul Hafeez Naeemi in 1960. Her wife was also 1957 graduate of Aligarh Muslim University. After his return from Italy, he joined as a geologist at ONGC India, Limited at Dehradun. In 1967, the couple relocated to Pakistan where he joined as Assistant Director in Ministry of Petroleum and Natural resources. Working at different positions, he retired as the Additional Secretary of Ministry of Finance, Pakistan in the year 1999. Among the daughters, only Mrs. Hajra Begum moved to Pakistan. She was born on 28th October 1920 and married to the Mr. Abdul Khaliq Jilani, S/O Hafiz Abdul Rasheed of Village Karghaina, Pilibhit. Mr. Abdul Khaliq Jilani relocated to Pakistan and retired as Deputy Controller, Military Accounts.
The eldest son, Mr. Mohammad Ahmad continued maintained his estate for short span before its abolition. Shortly after the death of his father, the zamindari abolition act was passed and villages came under the direct control of the government. The family retained the possession of agrarian lands, haveli, and other assets till the seventies. Seventy years had passed and now all his children also passed away except his one daughter, Mrs. Asiya. Born on 04th April 1926, she is currently residing with his son at Aligarh.
She still recollected her memories of childhood days that witnessed the heydays of Daang estate under his father, Sheikh Nazeer Ahmad.
Acknowledgments: Thanks to Mr. Mohammad Aslam for sharing the rare family portraits and diary pages. He is the grandson of Sheikh Nazeer Ahmad living in the Houston, Texas, United States from last thirty years. A doctorate in organic chemistry, he is an alumnus of Aligarh Muslim University, India & University of West Ontario, Canada. He passed his Masters in Organic Chemistry from Aligarh Muslim University in 1975 and completed his Ph.D. from University of Western Ontario, London, Canada in 1981. Formerly, he had been Vice President, Research, and Development at Lonza Group, a global organization for providing solutions for pharma and healthcare.
Note: In changing 21st-century, the members of small Punjabi Diasporic community (Arain/Rain) having roots from the villages of Rohilkhand & Kumaon (Bareilly, Pilibhit & District Nainital) can be found in Pakistan, Middle Eastern countries, Canda, United States, & other western countries. Its the efforts of their elders who made great efforts more than a century ago to push the community towards modern education.
Glossary of terms:
Anjuman: An Urdu term used for the societies/organizations.
Raees: The literal meaning is “Rich”. It was common practice to be used as an honorary appellation with the landlords of Urdu speaking United Provinces in Colonial India.
Rawaid: The literal meaning of “Rawaid” is to perform or officiate. Here it is used in a context to document or officiate the proceedings of the Anjuman meet.
Sir/Khudkasht: A category of the land that is cultivated by the zamindars by their own efforts. When zamindari reforms were passed, they were allowed to hold “Khudkasht/ self-cultivated” lands.
Zamindar: A medieval Urdu term used for the landlord in Colonial India.
Ahmad, N. (1917), Rawaid Ajlas Awwal, Anjuman Arain, Rohilkhand and Kumaon, conducted on 18th February 1917 AD at the house of Sheikh Maulvi Abdul Haqq, Joint secretary, and Raees Pilibhit. From Sheikh Nazeer Ahmad Raees e Azam Daang and President, and Shiekh Tajuddin Sahib, Raees Hulkari Dhakia, Secretary. Printed and designed at Kohadapeer, Bareilly.
Ishaaq, M., and Naseem, M. (2001), In Chapter thirteen, Arain, Sangam offset and press, pp.36.
 Chaudhry, Asgahr A. (1963), chapter three, Tarrekh Arain, 5th Ed., Asghar Ali Chaudhry, Ilmi Kutubkhana, Urdu Bazar, Lahore, pp.148.
 Nevill, H.R. (1909), PILIBHIT: A Gazetteer of the District Gazetteers of United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, VolXVIII.
 Rudade Ajlas Awwal, Anjumane Arain, Rohilkhand and Kumaon, conducted on 18th February 1917 AD at the house of Sheikh Maulvi Abdul Haqq, Joint secretary, and Raees Pilibhit. From Sheikh Nazeer Ahmad Raeese Azam Daang and President, and Shiekh Tajuddin Sahib, Raees Hulkari Dhakia, Joint Secretary. Printed and designed at Kohadapeer, Bareilly.
Chaudhry, Asgahr A. (1963), chapter three, Tarrekh Arain, 5th Ed., Asghar Ali Chaudhry, Ilmi Kutubkhana, Urdu Bazaar, Lahore, pp.141.
Drake-Brockman, D.L. (1934), District Gazeeter of United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, Supplement D: Pilibhit District.
Text by Rehan Asad & pic provided by Shams Jilani| Glimpses of Dr. Shams Jilani Life from his birthplace Pilibhit in United Provinces of Colonial India up to his Migration to Pakistan
Shams Jilani, a Canadian from Pakistani origin had been general secretary for Hindi Literary Society and President for Canadian Urdu Society in the days that he made the history of holding both positions among South Asian diaspora in Canada. From last twenty-eight years, Shams Jilani is enriching the mainstream of Canada and another part of the world by his columns on current affairs, Islamic history, and humanities. The man from Richmond City, British Columbia is a well-recognized face who received the countless number of awards and recognition for contribution toward community services and for writings in Urdu language. His affiliations that cover a broader horizon from the founding member and chair for Richmond Multicultural senior society up to the President of Canadian Urdu Association reflected his efforts to strengthen the cultural harmony among the South Asian community.
With more than twenty books in Urdu language and one in Hindi (Uttam hay Insan). The Urdu collection covers the diverse titles such as biographies of early Islamic personalities (the Prophet Mohammed (Peace be upon him), all righteous Caliphs , Hazrat Fatima, Hazrat Hasan, Hazrat Hussain, and Sahabiyat (May Allah be please with them), Islam & Haqooq Ul Ibad, Buniyadyat of Diabetes (translation of medical text from English to Urdu) that was written by Dr. A.R Minhas (M.D & F.R.C.S and Director for Diabetes Education). Also, he has two poetic collections, Urdu Sada Ba sehra & Gumane Moatabbar. For his book “ Islam Aur Huqqoq Ul Ibad, he received the best writer award from Honorable Christy Clark (Deputy Premier of British Columbia) in the literary event organized by Miracle newspaper.
At the age of eighty-seven, he wrote biweekly columns in Miracle, The community Times Vancouver, Pakistan Times weekly from (the U.S.A and Canada). He is also the editor of the “ Aalami Akhabar, UK” run by prominent Urdu Journalist, Ex- Broadcaster of B.B.C, London, Mr. Safdar Hamdani. He had been chairman of “Mustafa Hamadani Academy” and was granted first “Mustafa Hamadni Award” in 2008 other than his sociocultural activities and participation in various multicultural organizations in Canada. From last twenty-four years, he has been the member of the various advisory Committees of Richmond City, British Columbia.
Few of his followers/readers and friends were aware of his birthplace, family background, and glimpses from his early days of life. For a long time, I intended to explore the early days of his life especially in context with his background from Urdu speaking belt of United Provinces. I was blessed to have scholarly guidance received from him for the compilation of the work titled “The Arain Diaspora in the Rohilkhand region of India: A Historical Perspective,” and he was also co-author of the manuscript.
In the last five years, I got the chance to interact with a literary figure numerous times having hours of discussion on the different aspect of his life but we never talked about his early days. It was around 9.30 PM on 23/12/2017 in Al Majmaah, Saudi Arabia and I have an appointment with him on Skype. On the other side in Richmond City, British Columbia, he was going to start his routine activities of the day. It was usually a routine from last five years that I got at least a chance in a month to spoke with him. After initial greetings, when I made a request and explained my intent for calling him today, there was a momentary pause. With the hoarse voice, Shams Jilani spoke in his eloquent Urdu accent “Kya karoge un dino ko Jaan Kar, us me utar hai chadhao hai, inqilabi din thay woh”. Curbing my disappointment that prevailed over the curiosity, I made a second request. I further added your life is divided into three phases, first one in India, then Pakistan and now in Canada from last twenty-eight years. I want to write on the place and days that carries a special social context with early days of a prolific writer. After a moment of pause, there was a gentle consent and silence was broken. Mixed with apprehension, he said, “Kya Poonchna hai, Kya sawal hain tumhare, batao.” I broke the silence with my first question after delivering my thanks for providing his kind consent.
I know some superficial aspects of your family and background. Can we discuss in detail about the place of your birth, family, ancestors background?
I was born in a well-known family at Pilibhit in 1931 at Dhakia house. My forefathers came from Tehsil Fatehbad, District Hisar from Colonial Punjab in the late 18th century where our tribe i.e., Punjabi Arains who were widely populated in those days both in East Punjab. One of my ancestors named Haji Peer Buksh created a big zamindari estate at Bahdar Gunj, District Pilibhit. After his death, his estate was divided among his eleven sons. My great grandfather named Shiekh Maulana Jalal Uddin got Hulkari Dhakia and five other villages that prospered with time. Among these villages, the Hulkari Dhakia in Pilibhit became a center of his estate. After his death when Grandfather Shiekh Wisaluddin and his brother Shiekh Tajuddin took charge of the estate, they worked hard and purchased few more villages. When the Haveli was built in the early 20th century in Pakaria Mohalla (Quarter) of Pilibhit City, it was named as Dhakia house due to this ancestral affiliation. By the side of Haveli, I remember there was a big mosque and one of its gates opened inside our Haveli. My grandfather Shiekh Wisaluddin was active in socio-political activities of the district. He was elected as Chairman of District Board, Pilibhit and also played a key role in establishing a big Madarsa Manzur Ul Uloom at Village Dhundri. In 1912, it was built on his personal resources and the income of waqf properties worth approximately two hundred thousand Indian Rupees donated by his aunt Mohtarma Rahim Bibi and her son Sheikh Manzur Ahmad. The madrasa has many shining alumni, one of them was Mian Faheem Uddin who did his post-graduation from AMU in 1935 and commissioned in Indian Financial services in 1939. Still, it is running as a senior secondary school in the same village at Pilibhit, UP, India. Later he retired as Military Accountant General of Pakistan army. My father Shiekh Kamaluddin along with his brothers and cousins were sent to Minto Circle at Aligarh Muslim University in 1924. Then Sheikh Riazuddin son of Shiekh Tajuddin, the cousin brother of the father was sent to pursue Bachelors in agricultural sciences from Edinburgh University, UK. In those days, the bachelor’s programme for agricultural sciences in India was not so well structured.
My father came back to Pilibhit after completing his senior secondary from AMU. He was engaged in agrarian affairs and managed the zamindari possessions. In 1938, he was also elected as Vice Chairman of the District board. In the same year, he had established weekly Urdu newspaper with the name “Alkamal”. It was the very first newspaper of Muslim League in the district.
Can you please provide few glimpses your early childhood days? How your early education was started. You remember any friendship from your childhood days.
I remember those days, the time was divided between my paternal village, village Khamaria (maternal grandfather home) and Pilibhit city. I could remember the village home at Hulkari Dhakia was spread over an area of more than two acres. Separate quarters for every family member, rooms for servant and baithak for lodging male guests. It was massive home approximately had fifty rooms. When I was five years old, the permanent land tenancy act was passed in 1936. Although a great social movement, it appeared to be a torment for zamindars. My family also faced the brunt of this act. Mr. Haque, a District Forest officer from Lyallpur (Faisalabad) was the good friend of my grandfather. He suggested grandfather to converting our whole zamindari villages in Sir (Khudkasht/self-cultivated land) to be exempted from the new act. At that time there was very difficult to manage such a big project without machinery which is not available in India. Grandfather started a megaproject to convert all the villages in the category of Sir. For example, one of our villages Banskhera has an area of more than eight hundred eighty acres of land. I will reflect you the scenario from one of the villages that has more than 880acres of cultivable land to transform into a self-cultivable megafarm. More than ninety thousand Indian Rupees was invested in procuring around three hundred metal ploughs, cattle’s for drawing plough, pavement construction, small bridges and other infrastructure requirements that was a considerable amount in those days. Unfortunately, it was failed as many tenants who were supposed to hire for work joined some old tenants filed legal suit for their claims on the lands as a permanent tenant. As a result, the income was stopped and project exhausted family resources. When grandfather passed away in 1941, my father gave consent to all tenants as we had more than two hundred fifty cases filed by tenants on our zamindari lands. My father was maximally affected by the aftermath of these disturbances. His extensive engagement with legal suits related to properties affected my structured formal education. Although two separate tutors were arranged for teaching me Arabic, English and other subjects. Mr. Sabir Ali came to teach Arabic and Mr. Ismail teaches me English and other subjects. I was blessed to receive the early lesson of Urdu and Persian from my father.
I had two close friends; the first one was Mohamed Ahmad who was also a relative from mother side. The second one was Mohammed Hanif who belonged to Muslim Khatri community widely popular as Punjabi Muslims/Saudagrans. His father runs a shoe shop adjacent to the Simons parks at Pilibhit city. The shop is still present with his family and whenever I visited Pilibhit, I used to visit my childhood friend. Mohammad Ahmed is also alive and around 90 year’s old living at village Khamaria.
What was the circumstance in your city in 1947? When exactly you left for Pakistan and what was the reason for your migration?
My entire district and city appeared to be calm during the event of partition. Although some of my relatives were associated with Muslim League. Khan Bahadur Imtiyaz Ahmed was M.L.A (Independent & affiliated with Nawab Chatari) and relative of my wife. Pilibhit city faced a devastating riot in 1950 when the group of mob rousers forced Muslims to leave for Pakistan. I left my city in 1950. I went to Kishoreganj in East Pakistan (Now present Bangladesh). I left my homeland for personal reasons. Due to family circumstances, I was not able to pursue higher education at that time it was the trend in my extended family. My cousin and youngest Uncle were studying at Aligarh Muslim University at that time. I was titled by the relatives with the name of “Shahzada Ali Khan” as the mark of sarcasm as they perceived I was living a comfortable life on riches of forefathers. Shahzada Ali Khan was the son of Agha Khan. This created a burnt desire to stand independently on my own feet. I have tried up to my best and achieved everything later to match the expectation from my parents and family members. At that tender age, I saw many people from my surrounding left for Pakistan. My uncle ( Khalu) and Aunt (Khala) were already living in East Pakistan and second up to that time passport for not required for Indian nationals in East Pakistan. Therefore, I took a big step and said Alvida (goodbye) to my homeland and family members. I joined diploma engineering in electrical in 1951 and also initiated part-time business ventures in Kishoreganj, East Pakistan (Bangladesh). In 1952 destiny brought me back home for few weeks, and during this trip, marriage was arranged. My wife Quresha belonged to the same village Khamaria that was the birthplace of my mother and the place for me was like my second home. Four years younger to me born in 1935. She belonged to middle-class landowner family of my tribe. She was educated at home and only took primary education from the vernacular school that existed there. Khan Bahadur Muhammad Imtiaz Ahmad, a prominent face in politics from our tribe belonged to the same village and was among her relatives. She reflected all Punjabi features in her looks as physiognomy of Arain females. Her good height, fair complexion, generous behavior, god fearing personality, soft spoken and always keen on learning are few of her attributes that I perceived in early days of marriage. She continued her journey with me as the companion of all sorrows and happiness. She was always a motivational source of all my achievements in last sixty-five years of married life. On 05th March/2017 she left me alone with her memories and started her first step to the journey that we all have to meet.
Sorry for the deviation, I went back again to East Pakistan after celebrating my happy marriage. I was living with my Khala (Aunt) and Khalu (Uncle). Actually, my Uncle Mr. Tajuddin (Uncle) who was Station Master at Railways in Kishoreganj got the transfer to West Pakistan in 1954. He was a Railways employee in British India and opted for Pakistan Railways after independence in 1947. Kishoreganj (East Pakistan) was his first posting in the newly created state. He was looking for the transfer as most of the acquaintances and relatives from United Provinces were stationed in Karachi. In 1954, we reached Karachi (West Pakistan) by a sea route. I think it was the month of March and we boarded the ship from Chittagong. It was around seventeen days journey with few hours halt at Sri Lanka. My wife accompanied his elder brother Mr. Maqbool Ahmad who has recently finished his Bachelors in agricultural sciences from Kanpur University in UP, India to join me at Karachi in the same year. My parents and siblings joined us in 1958. In 1954, I started to serve Military engineering services but left my job after some time. Meanwhile, I also took high proficiency in Urdu Language and literature from Punjab University in 1956. Later I switched many fields venturing from varied business to regional and provincial politics. My stations were switched in all these years between Karachi and Mirpur Khas, (third biggest city of Sindh). Thirty years of the later life was passed in earning bread and making the better life for my wife and kids.
Anything you missed from your birthplace Pilibhit in India where you passed twenty years of your life. Did you ever visit India after 1952?
Definitely, there are memories that I could recollect from my early life at Pilibhit. When I was a child I used to enjoy tasty “Alu Kachodi” quite popular in the city made by Mr. Prasadilal. He used to run street food stall nearby our home. I would never forget when I and the son of my neighbors, Hamid Jilani used to go together. Hamid was our distant relative whose father was President of District Muslim league at that time. In 1948, he joined BSc (Engineering) at AMU along with my cousin Mr. Riaz Faruqi. I could remember both of them were among the few earliest technocrats in my district. Hamid moved to Pakistan with his family in 1952 and after few years to Zurich, Switzerland for higher studies. Later on, he took Swiss nationality. When I reached India from Canada, then I tried to locate Prasadilal but unfortunately, he was not alive. Although his street stall was changed in a small restaurant at the nearby site and his grandsons were running the business. From 1952, I had made more than ten visits to India. After shifting to Canada, I was fortunate to have more frequent visits as visa process from here was easier. My last visit to homeland Pilibhit and off course other parts of North India was in 2012. My son Mr. Masroor Jilani also accompanied me during this visit along with his mother Mrs. Quresha Jilani. Connecting with Pilibhit so frequently in all these years never gave me feeling that I was away from my birthplace.
How the literary interest cultivated in your childhood days. Does anyone else in your family who was also associated with literary activities?
I was born in a family where there was a big room for honing literary hobbies. Love for Urdu was coming from ancestors. My great-grandfather, Maulana Shiekh Jalaluddin was a scholar of Arabic, Persian and Urdu. The District Gazette of the Pilibhit showed his name as one the Urdu poets in the title of literary personalities. He wrote his own collections of poetry with the Nom de Plume of “Jalal”.
It was first published as “Kulliyat Jalal” from Agra after his death in 1904. Its second edition was published by the efforts of Grandfather younger brother with the addition of his own collections in 1947. He wrote his poetry with Nom de Plume of “Taj”.
The youngest brother of my father, Mr. Zakauddin was enrolled in Bachelors programme of Urdu in 1950 at AMU, Aligarh. During his doctorate in Urdu, the notable poet of India, Shahryar was among his contemporaries and good friends. Uncle used to write with the pen name of “Shayan”. He passed away at Pilibhit in 2003. My father after coming from Aligarh started his newspaper with the name of “Al Kamal”. Started in 1938, it was first of the newspaper covering the activities of Muslim league paper. It covers sociopolitical news, columns and regional perspectives and poet too. I was around thirteen when my first article was published in Naseem Anhonvi Urdu digest” Hareem” published from Lucknow in 1944. Then few of my write-ups were published in Nayi Duniya. I remember that I read my verses in Mushaira held in Dhaka at 1953. At that time Akhtar Lukhnawi was secretary general of Anjuman- Taraqqi- e -Urdu in East Pakistan.
Can you recall anyone from your family who had a larger influence on your ideologies and personality?
My grandfather was a role model for me. He was the man who had a vision for his family and community. He has the courage to withstand difficult situations. He maintained acquaintance with great social leader and educationist of his time Sir. Ziauddin Ahmad. All my uncles and father were kept under his noble supervision at Aligarh. After his death, the family found a couple of letters, which were exchanged between him and great educationist, Sir Ziauddin Ahmad. As a Chairman of District Board, Pilibhit he proved himself as an effective leader and administrator. He passed in 1941 when I was ten years old. His grave is located in the graveyard of Feel khana Mohalla (Quarter) at Pilibhit.
The following verses were engraved on the gravestone by his younger brother Shiekh Tajuddin Taj:
Farsh gul bistar tha apna Khaak par sote hain ab!
Khast zer e sar nahi ya takia tha zanua e dost!
Once floor made of flowers was my bed but now I am sleeping on dust
Once we have pillows even for supporting my thighs but now even brick is not available for the support of my head.
The second one was my Nani Hamidun Nisa Begum who taught me beautiful lessons of kindness, and humanity. The third one who had a larger influence on my life was a Sufi scholar, Hazrat Meharban Ali Shah. My maternal grandfather Shiekh Fida Hussain was one of his murid (disciple). He was Sayyad (descendant from the house of Prophet (Peace be upon him) and belonged to Akora Khattak (Small town of Nowshera District in North West Provinces, now in Pakistan). I remembered that he used to visit my nana home in Pilibhit (United Province) and stayed for a long duration as an honored guest. In fact, my name Mohammad Shams Uddin Ahmad was given by him. Initially, it was Mohammad Shams Uddin but some argued that the person with this name exhibit Jalali behavior. So he added Ahmad at the end and said he will become Jamali. This was the man who introduced me with “Tasawwuf” at an early age of my life. He has affiliated with “Qadiriyya” tariqa (Sufi order). At the tender age of five years, I was blessed to receive his kind company and love from this noble saint. He loved me like his own son. For the rest of my life, I found this spiritual connection as nourishment and enlighten for my soul. It was later in 1974 I found Hazrat Maulana Waqaruddin as a murshid Kamil (Perfect Spiritual guide) and I took the bait (pledge) in “Qadiriyya” tariqa (Sufi order). He was one of the leading scholars of his time, titled as Mufi E Azam, Pakistan and has ijaza (permission) to give bait (pledge) in four tariqas (orders) of Tasawwuf. He was originally from village Khamaria, Pilibhit, and brother of my Khalu (Uncle). Later on, we also became relatives as his son Jameel Waqar was married to my daughter Uzama Waqar. They were currently living in Houston.
Now at the age of eighty-seven more than three thousands of your columns have been published in Aalami Akhbar and different other newspapers. More than twenty books and poetic collections were also published. What are your goal and mission?
Writing is now part and parcel of my life. It’s a way to express my feelings whether joy or grief. I tried to reflect on the current affairs, humanities, and Islamic history. Ibn Kathir is my role model in writing on Islamic history. The day when my beloved wife Quresha passed away, I expressed my agony by writing a column that was published in many Urdu newspapers. It was titled as “Hum safar ka safare Aakhirat”. I thought she would be happy from her resting place to saw the commitment towards my mission for which she has supported me in her lifetime in a best possible manner. I believe the life is a larger learning context believing that learning is from cradle to grave. May Almighty Allah give me the courage to stand with truth? I reserved my life for last 25 years to serve the humanity and Islam in the entire world.
Thank you very much for providing a great time and opportunity to explore the valuable moments of your life. Any message you want to add on after providing me such a great narration and context of your life.
Shams Jilani ended one and half hour talk in such simple words. I would like to write it up in Roman Urdu.“Main ek mamuli sa Insan hun. Urdu meri madri zuban hai. Bus apne buzurgun se jo kuch thoda bahut hasil kar paya hun us ko apne qalam ke zarye app logon tak pahunchane ki koshih karta hun. Aap nay bahut israr kia tu maine ne appko apne haalat ki sachaion sey ru shanaskar Karwaya hay, Warna main apne Khandan aur apne bare me bhi zyada logon ko nahi batata hun”. After receiving a lot of blessing from his side, the wonderful talk was ended. I found myself lost in the early life of the great literary person at Pilibhit. May Almighty bless him healthy and long life.