Strings of past from Pilibhit: Fayyazi Begum

This seems to be a photograph from her early days of life. One can notice age & her aquiline typical Punjabi nose (a physiognomic feature of Arain females) in this portrait. It was small black & white photograph. In later years when Amma passed away, I got it converted by a studio in a colored portrait.

Urdu Columnist & Author, Shams Jilani memoirs connected with his mother, & moments from pre- Partitioned India.

Memories & moments spent with parents became an integral part of your life. When they left the material world, the same moments became a beacon for you. When the context is connected with special socio-political events such as Indian partition where hundred of human souls were uprooted from their hometowns, these moments became a bridge with bygone past. Noted Urdu columnist, & author, Shams Jilani shared memories of his mother with these precious portraits from his personal collection. During the days of lock down, he spoke with me from Richmond City, British Columbia that a place his residence from last three decades.

I asked, from paternal side you carried a great literary legacy from the days of your great-grandfather up to your late father. But today I am eager to know about your mother.

The conversation of past pushed eighty nine years old author back to his childhood days in India. Clearing the hoarseness of his voice & overcoming his emotions, he said, did you know that three females has a great role in my life. Today what I had achieved in my entire life from childhood days is due to their support, mentoring & guidance. First one was my maternal grandmother, Hamidun Nisa Begum, then my mother, Fayyazi Begum & then my better half, Quraisha Begum. All three of them has left for heavenly abode. Coincidentally, both my wife & my mother were from a small village, Khamaria.

An acknowledgement of Shams Jilani poetic account of Urdu, titled Urdu Sada Ba Sehra (published 2000 from Canada) to his nani, mother & wife. It read as ‘Dedicated to the daughters of eve those who had played a big role in constructing my life’. Then it continued with names of his nani, mother & wife.

Its a small village located 11 km south of district headquarters of Pilibhit. This district is tucked on Indo-Nepal border in Tarai plains of Himalayas. You know I had written a biographical account (Seerah) of Prophets, Ahlul Bait, & Rashidun Caliphs. This interest was inculcated by my mother & maternal grandmother (Nani). I still remember bed time Islamic stories interwoven with story telling style by my nani when we spends our vacations at village Khamaria. These childhood stories created a quest for exploring more on these subjects that later concluded as a books. The moral teachings embedded with this formative style learning always remained with me. My mother came from middle class orthodox family of Muslim zamindars. She was born in 1912 & received all her education in a traditional manner. In those days, it was rare from Muslim middle class from rural background to send the females for formal education. As you know my father, uncle, & their cousins were send to Aligarh University & one of them even to England but unfortunately this was not a case for females. She took the lesson of Quran, Arabic & Urdu from her mother. The grand village style haveli of Nana also hosted his Sufi master, Sayyad Meharban Ali Shah who belonged to far off land of Pashtuns & each year visited our district. He was affiliated with Nashbandi Mujaddidi order & his Sufi master was the famous Shahji Mian of Pilibhit who passed away in 1907. It was here in his company I received some most worthy spiritual lessons of my life as four years old kid. The learning from Nani & mother continued in all these days. In 1950 at the age of 19 years, I left for Kishore Ganj (East Pakistan) with my parents leaving behind my Nani. As our district witnessed riots so entire family decided to migrate. In those days, the passport was not required for traveling to East Pakistan. In 1952, I again visited hometown, I got married during this visit & parents stayed back in Pilibhit. My destiny took to me to Karachi in 1954 from East Pakistan. Now at age of twenty, I was away from my entire family. For reading more on this journey & story of his ancestors, please read this article.

Shams Jilani with his wife Quresha Begum (1935-05th March 2017), Pic source: Rehan Asad
A detailed interview of Shams Jilani on his ancestral connection & hometown Pilibhit located in Tarai Plains of Himalayas, Uttarpradesh, India.


Somehow during late 1954, the reunion started in phases. With one year old son, she traveled with her brother, Maqbool Ahmad. Then my mother & nani came in 1956. Finally, the last one was father who joined us in 1958. The village Khamaria of my childhood was divided in two quarters. The more spacious & well build quarter was occupied by middle class Arain Zamindars who were relatives as a member of an extended family of Sheikh Jaan Mohammad who migrated from Punjab in late 18th century. The Baithaks of their old homes in this quarter were place of intellectual discussions on diverse titles that varied from religion & poetry to politics. It was in this background my mother was raised by Hamidun Nisa Begum & her father, Sheikh Fida Hussain. The another quarter of the village was occupied by other communities who resided in the village as cultivators & peasants. This quarter was mainly mud homes lined by thatched roof but they maintained cordial bonds with the residents of another section.

A portrait of a ruined Baithak (Male Guest section) build in 1930s, Pic source: Rehan Asad
An old Baithak in Village Khamaria that dated 1930s, Pic source: Rehan Asad

Then he started to describe the portraits of his mother & intervened with a query, Can you find one similarity in all these three pictures. I gently replied, its your resemblance with face of your mother. He replied, yes off course but I am focusing of something else. Can you able to see a small nose pin. She always used to wear this nose pin as I remember from my childhood days to her departure from this world. This was a photograph pasted on her official traveling passport when she came from India in 1954. In second portrait where you can find me standing with mother & my eldest son, Shahid who left this world in 1959. As I could remember this was taken in 1958.

Fayyazi Begum, mother of Shams Jilani, 1954, Source: Personal collection of Shams Jilani
A portrait of Shams Jilani with his mother & eldest son, Shahid, Pic source: Shams Jilani, 1958

About third one I exactly don’t remember the year. It seems to be a photograph from her early days of life. One can notice age & her aquiline typical Punjabi nose (a physiognomic feature of Arain females) in this portrait. It was a small black & white photograph. In later years when Amma passed away, I got it converted in a colored portrait. You can notice the same simple nose pin adored her face as I told you before. By the time when we shifted to Canada from Pakistan, the original portrait was damaged by termites but fortunately a digital copy survived.

An old portrait of Fayyazi Begum that was later reconstructed with colors in 1960s, Source: Shams Jilani


In 1957, my Nani passed away & her grave is located in graveyard of PCS, Karachi. In year 159, my eldest son, Shahid met a fatal accident at the age of six while crossing a road to take a school van. After leaving his hometown in India, my father lived for three years, & in 1961, he left this world. A year later, in 1962, mother left us & was buried at Mirpur Khaas, Sindh, Pakistan, a place far away from her ancestral village Khamaria in Pilibhit, Uttarpradesh. I still remember that on the last night when she was unwell & I was sitting beside her, she said with gentle kindness by concealing her pain, my dear son, please go & take some rest. You will get tired if you will awake whole night by sitting beside me. She was survived by four daughters & three sons.

Mr. Kamaluddin, father of Shams Jilani born at Pilibhit in 1905 and passed away in 1961 at Karachi, Pakistan.
A short Urdu poetry written by Shams Jilani for his maternal grandmother & mother.

Now only memories had left in all these decades. We visited India ten times after Amma & Nani passed away. My last visit to India was with entire family in 2012. Every time we used to visit the home of Nani & Amma that was connected with my childhood days. Stories of Nani reverberated my ears whenever I visited those landscapes in Pilibhit. Last year I got the news that the house where my mother was born has been left abandoned by our cousins as their extended families has shifted to city. I was lucky enough to have a chance to visit my home land from Pakistan & then from Canada also. Unfortunately, Nani & Amma didn’t able to go back after they shifted to Pakistan. This is how time flies, & people who experienced multiple migrations cling their memories of bygone days. Adding two verse of short Urdu poetry written by Shams Jilani for mother.
Meri Maan Jannat Nashin Jannat Makan
Sabr ka paikar thin aur azmat ka nishan
Zindigi bhar wo rahin sab par shafeeq
Marte dam mamta hi thi rukh par ayyan

My mother sits in heaven & dwells in heaven
She was portrait of patience, & sign of greatness
For entire life she remained kind to everyone
Motherly reflection predominated her face during time of death

Reflective story of communal harmony: From Indian expats of the Gulf region

Though it’s a Hindu festival, for Hussian bhai, it’s an integral part of his culture. From the early days, he arranged a feast for his friends among Indian expatriates on the last day of the festival.

18th January Pongal feast of Hussain Bhai at Al Majmaah, Saudi Arabia

Hussain Bhai with friends.

Long before the arrival of the COVID-19 & social distancing happened outside China, this took place in the days when back home witnessed nationwide protest on the newly introduced act, Citizenship amendment act.

It was around twenty-five years before Sayed Hussian came to Saudi Arabia in search of Job as a mechanic. Finally, his destiny took him to Al-Majmmah, an oasis town located two hundred kilometers North-West of Saudi capital city, Riyadh.  Hailed from Pudukkottai, aka Pudhugai (coastal district of Tamil Nadu in India), he work here as a supervisor of the automobile service center.

In the early days, Hussian & his family members missed Tamil culture & festivities. Pongal, a three days harvest festival of Tamils is one of the foremost that has been celebrated all across the globe among the Tamil diaspora. The name itself is derived from the ritual sweet dish prepared on this day with boiled rice, milk & jaggery.

A view of dinner in a traditional style dastarkhwan
A view of the dinner with traditional south Indian dishes

Though it’s a Hindu festival, for Hussian bhai, it’s an integral part of his culture. From the early days, he arranged a feast for his friends among Indian expatriates on the last day of the festival. In the previous ten years, the working city of Hussain also witnessed substantial growth with the establishment of a University.  Many multi-ethnic professionals that included doctors, engineers, & doctorates from diverse specialties from different countries joined University. The representation of the South India community was also increased.  By the time, the size of Hussain Bhai home arranged Pongal feast also swelled. On 18th January, this year also a feast was arranged by him. The guest belonged to the diverse faith & regions of India. You can find a North Indian, & South Indian guests coming from the diverse regions & religions (Muslims & Hindus). This was the diverse mosaic sitting on the oriental dining sheet (Dastarkhwan) spread inside the Arabic style Khyma (tent).

Arabic Khyma (Tent)
Sambar & Rasam

In a traditional south Indian attire, the host was attired in a white shirt & white lungi. The Banana leaves were not available far away from their country, but thanks to the cosmetic Banana shaped leaves that were used for serving the food. The guests were served with Rasam, Sambar, & traditional dessert “Pongal.”  The Hussain’s story is the strength, solace, harmony that existed in the deep roots of Indian culture. It is the strength of this syncretic culture that always stood over the work done by the hate mongers to divide the social fabric on the lines of caste, creed, gender & religion.  

A smiling portrait of the host with his friends

Legacy of Mian Tufail Ahmad

A Karachiwalla’s connection with his ancestral hometown Pilibhit in Uttarpradesh.

Mian Tauseef Ahmad

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.

Left to Right Prof. Mian Shafeeq Ahmad with his elder brother late Mian Tufail Ahmad

 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.

Late Mian Tufail Ahmad with his wife Qayum Al Nisa Begum, 1993

 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.

Portrait of Mian Tufail Ahmad , 1986

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.

From left to right, the portrait of all four brothers, Mian Tauseef Ahmad, Mian Tauqeer Ahmad, Taufeeq Ahmad, & late Tanveer Ahmad, 2002

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.

Mian Tauseef in his uniform
Mian Tauseef Ahmad with his wife late Sarwat Tauseef visiting Sikh pilgrimage

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.

Obituary of Dr. Vinoth Kumar

A reflective story of solicitude amid hard times

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.

Dr. Vinoth Kumar along with other Indian embassy school managing committee member with Prime minister Narendra Modi at Riyadh, 2016 Picture source: Social media shares

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.

Dr. Vinoth with his kids at departure terminal of Riyadh International Airport during his summer vacations, June 2018 Picture source: Social Media shares

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.

India & the World: A history of nine stories

A walk with Neel Dogra organized by INTACH

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.

Two hammers, first one from India (50,000 BC), the second one from UK British Museum (500,000 BC).

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.

A statue of women from Mesopotamia dated from 2400 BC

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.

One of the oldest pot from Britain dated back to 4000 BC from Continental Europe. Brought from the British Museum

A portrait of Cemi (Taino God) from Jamaica dated back to 1451 AD. Source: British Museum

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.

A celestial globe made of brass from Paris, France dated back to 1659 AD. Source: British Museum

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 Dogra at National Museum canteen

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.

 

A visit to the hidden treasure of Pahari Imli, Choori Walan at Old Delhi: Shah Waliullah Library

Meeting with two founding members of Delhi Youth Welfare Association

Bilingual Bhagvat Gita in Urdu & Sanskrit published by Naval Kishore press Lucknow almost a century before.

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.

A copy of Bhagavat Gita in the English language

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.

Mirza Sikander Chengezi with Abu Sufiyan showing two priceless manuscripts, Diwane Ghalib and Kitab Baidul Mizan, 680 yrs old manuscript in Arabic from Iraq

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”.

Kitab Baidul Mizan on the Logic/Mantiq, a six hundred eighty years old handwritten treatise from Baghdad

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.

Persian copy of Ramayan printed from Iran dated: 1360 Hijri 

Royal seal of Nawab Oudh on the text Sharae Fataah

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).

Diwane Ghalib written by the great Poet and Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar. The year inscribed on cover page in 1855 in Gregorian.

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.

Mirza Sikander Changezi, Muhammad Naeem & Abu Sufiyan

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 legacy of Badayuni Halwa Paratha

The story of Haji Baqir Ali Badayuni, the Halwa Paratha seller who was acknowledged by the Late Prime minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi

Portraits of Haji Baqar Ali.

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.

The torn and faded portrait of Haji Baqar Ali receiving the shield from late Prime minister Indira Gandhi with the live portrait of man frying large size parathas.

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.

Grandson of Baqar Ali with his chef.

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.

Purani Dilli Walo ki Baatein: A journey of twenty seven years old technocrat

A great effort in a direction to preserve & document culture, history, dialect & cuisine of Shahjahanabad

Text by Rehan Asad

Picture source: Rehan Asad

hamīñ haiñ maujib-e-bāb-e-fasāhat hazrat-e-‘shā.ir’

zamāna sīkhtā hai ham se ham vo dillī vaale haiñ

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…

Gepostet von Purani Dilli Walo ki Baatein am Sonntag, 17. Juni 2018

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.

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.

Walk members having traditional breakfast of Bakarkhani & Kheer at haveli of Late Mirza Naseem Ahmad Changezi. One of the members looking for the calligraphy of Mr. Shamim Ahmad. Mirza Naseem Changezi, a freedom fighter & oldest resident of resting on a bed who died recently at age of 106.

Quran was handwritten by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, from the personal collection of Abdul Sattar Sahab, 74 ( Author and…

Gepostet von Purani Dilli Walo ki Baatein am Mittwoch, 27. Juni 2018

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.

Mizra Sikander Changezi & Abu Sufyan holding an archival collection at Shah Waliullah Library

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.

Deputy CM, Delhi Manish Sisodia looking a handwritten piece by a notable caligrapher Mr. Shamim Ahmad at the stall of Purani Dilli Walo ki Baatein

Abu Sufiyan, Taqi bhai, Mohammad Naeem,  Anas Faizi, Shamim Ahmad, Farhan Baig, and other team members at Stall Purani Dilli Walo ki Baatien

Portrait of Dr. Sagheer Akhtar. A guide & mentor for the team members of Purani Dilli Walo ki Baatein

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

Gepostet von Purani Dilli Walo ki Baatein am Samstag, 5. Mai 2018

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.

References:

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

 

 

Marking remnants of Karghaina Building at Pilibhit

The story of honorary magistrate Maulvi Shiekh Abdul Haqq

Text by Rehan Asad| Pictures by Tabish Akhyar

The main entrance to the building. Its located at the start of the western boundary. The passage on this entrance was wider than entrance on the southern boundary wall. The gate at the entrance was removed when some of the sections had been sold out in 1950.

The western boundary of the building that now had shops and few flats on the first floor.

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.

A family tree of Haji-Sheikh Qudrat Ali prepared by Tabish Akhyar in 2011. It traced most the descendants. Some of them relocated to Pakistan & USA and Canada.

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.

The entrance at the southern boundary of the building.  The entrance was bounded by the big gate that has been removed now. Here the road/passage is narrow. This was mainly used by family members. At the end on the right side, a small park was made for the female family members.

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.

Wrought iron was commonly found in early 20th century North Indian construction. It was introduced in the late 19th century.

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.

An element of local architecture of early 20th century. Taakh and a slab below used as a lack for placing items.

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.

This was the residential section of Sheikh Abdul Haqq. The constructed area was around fourteen hundred square yards. Sheikh Usman Hussain a zamindar of Village Udaipur took it on rent in 1945. Later on, it was divided into three separate houses. The main part was purchased by him. His son Mr. Irfan Hussain made some modification. Most of the descendants of Mr. Irfan Hussian relocated to the United States and Canada after attaining higher education from AMU in 1970.

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.

The arched facade supported by the thick pillars became the part of a middle-class urban dwelling in the early 20th century. It was imbibed in local architecture from the early days Colonial buildings.

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?

This section is located by the right of the southern entrance. Spread over an area of one thousand square yards, it has the garden with plantation of different varieties of trees. The part of it was also used a stable for horses and parking of carts and vehicles.

Literary Historian & Prolific author Rakhshanda Jalil connection with Pilibhit

Text and pictures by Rehan Asad

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.

This historic gate ( Bareilly Darwaza) was built by British Magistrate R. Drummond in the mid-nineteenth century. The home of Shiekh Abdul Lateef (Grandfather of Dr. Rakhshanda Jalil) is located approximately hundred meters west of this landmark.

The locality where the house is located was documented in District Gazette (1909) as Pakaria Mohalla and still identified with the same name.

The left flank of the house in length. The current resident made some modifications though the main structure was same.

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.

Dr. Abdul Jalil passed his matriculation in 1943 from Drummonds high school at Pilibhit.

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.

The front face of “Zenankhana/Main” section of the house. It was modified by current occupant. The half of the section was used as a Kindergarten school and in another half, he was residing. On visiting, I found the old construction was under the stage of demolishing and most of the inner constructions has been razed.

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.

Front facade of the “Baithak/Guest lodge”. This section still retained its old construction. Presently one of the Nephews of Dr. Jalil resides here.

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. 

References:

  1. Husain, Iqbal. The Ruhela Chieftaincies: The Rise and Fall of Ruhela Power in India in the Eighteenth Century. Oxford University Press, USA, 1994.
  2. 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/
  3. Nevill. H.R. (1909), PILIBHIT:  A Gazetteer, VolXVIII of the District Gazetteers of United Provinces of Agra and Oudh.