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
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.
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).
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 Karachiwalla’s connection with his ancestral hometown Pilibhit in Uttarpradesh.
Pics & Memoir by Mian Tauseef Ahmad, compiled by Rehan Asad
Mian Tauseef, a seventy- two years old retired squadron leader of Pakistan Air force social media shares consisted of a larger chunk of Indian history, culture, poetry, & Bollywood. His profile introduced him ” Squadron leader (R) Mian Tauseef Ahmad, b 20 Oct 1947, Arain settled in Karachi came from Pilibhit, Rohilkhand, UP“. He was born two months five days after the 15 August 1947 when the Indian subcontinent gained independence from British rule. His birthplace Pilibhit was located on the fringes of Western Uttar Pradesh close to the Indo-Nepal border. His ancestors belonged to the “Arain tribe” of eastern Punjab who migrated to Rohilkhand in the late 18th century. It was famines & political unrest caused by Bhatti Rajputs that forced a small part of the tribe from Punjab to relocate in Terai plains of Himalayas. By the time of partition, this small Punjabi diaspora of approximately around ten thousand was distributed in eighty villages of Pilibhit, Bareilly & Nainital districts of United Provinces. As an agrarian tribe, they were stratified as cultivators (Kisans), middle-class landowners (Zamindars) & few of the elite landlords (Rich Zamindars). With Indian partition, almost half of the youngsters moved to the newly created Pakistan & mainly settled in Urdu speaking cities of Sindh with few families in Punjab & NWFP. His father Mian Muhammad Tauseef was born in July 1922 in village Dheram, District Pilibhit & mother Qayum Al Nisa Begum was born in village Karghaina, District Pilibhit in October 1928. A British army recruit Mian Tufail who also took part in WW II moved with his family members from Pilibhit to Lahore in December 1947.
In his reflective account he shares a biographical account of his late father Mian Tufail Ahmad, ancestral connections with Pilibhit in India, story of their migration to Pakistan, his struggle, education & upbringing among the diverse cultures of Punjab & North West frontier as an Urdu speaker with roots from small fringe town of United Provinces.
Mian Tauseef Ahmad wrote: My late father Mr. Tufail Ahmad was from a kissan (small farmers) family of Arain tribe in the Village Dheram, Amaria Block, Pilibhit located in Uttar Pradesh, India. Before the abolition of Zamindari in 1952, our small village was under the zamindari of one Hindu Zamindar. I am told that his representative would visit the village twice a year just to collect Malia (the government tax). After 15 August 1947, it came under All India Congress Government and by 1951 all Zamindaris were abolished and the land belonged to the farmers. The farming land in Uttar Pradesh was measured in Bighas. My grandfather late Mr. Barkat Ali owned a hundred bighas of land. Now the official record of farming is kept in Hectares and one Hectare is equal to 20 kanals. There are almost 80 villages of Arians in District Pilibhit, Bareilly & adjoining Nainital District. The majority of these Arains are called Sirsawal Arains because of their affiliation from Sirsa (Now in Haryana) from where they migrated in 1783 AD.
My late father was first in his small village to join the Primary School. It was located in Madhopur, a village that was 6 kms away from our ancestral home. He passed his class V in 1932. He completed his middle from Government School of a small town Jahanabad, District Pilibhit. It was due to an incident during a football match at Government High School Jahanabad of District Pilibhit where some students surely including my late father misbehaved with the referee. As a result, they were expelled from admission & barred to be admitted to any school of Bareilly division. So he joined Islamia High School Muzaffar Nagar & completed his matriculation from the same school. Coming from Urdu medium background & once expelled from middle school delayed his matriculation. He matriculated at the age of twenty in 1942. He also motivated his younger brother Shafique Ahamd for the studies who is now a retired Professor & settled in Florida USA. After completing Matriculation in 1942 AD from Islamia High School Muzaffar Nagar in First Division, he was misled by a recruiting agent and joined the British Army as a Havaldar Clerk. His Corp was ASC. Later he repented it because there was no release from the Army during WW II. He was one of the earliest recruits in Defence forces from his locality as there was no tradition of joining Defence Forces among Arains who was prospered by the landholdings. In 1942 when he was under training at Bareilly his marriage was arranged. He got a single day leave & his Sikh Company Commander gave him an optional leave on the birthday of Baba Gru Nanak Dev. Later on, I used to cut jokes with him by saying that this might be the reason we have certain habits resembling the Sikhs. He got four transfers for three and a half years. Trained at Bareilly, then first posting at Karachi Cantt, second at Ferozpur and fourth at Lucknow. On 6th August 1945, the USA detonated the first nuclear bomb on Hiroshima and second on Nagasaki on 9th August that ended WWII. Now the release from the Army became open. My late father immediately applied for release and it was granted. Based on his education, he was rehabilitated as Assistant Welfare Officer and placed at Lucknow.
For the first time, he took his family that includes my mother & my elder sister late Fatima who was born in January 1945 to Lucknow. I was yet not born. In the mid of 1947, the situation started to deteriorate particularly in the cities so my parents came back to their village. Before leaving Lucknow my late father bought edible Attar from Ms. Iqtida Khan Muqtada Khan so from August to December 1947 he sold it to the local sweetmeats marts. This was the time when I was born on 20th October 1947. My father waited till the mid of December and finally decided to migrate to Pakistan, a dreamland for the Indian Muslims. My parents with two children reached Lahore on 25 th December 1947. My father reported to his ex-unit at Jehlum. He was converted to Upper Division Clerck & send to serve the industries department at Lyallpur now Faisalabad. We were allotted temporarily a house in Mohalla Khalsa College. We remained at Lyallpur for five years. My father used to go to a place Mae Di Jhuggi to his office. Although I was a child of four years I still remember the road leading to Kohinoor Textiles Mills and the bullock carts carrying cotton. I also remember that the majority of residents in our Mohalla were Punjabi speakers and my father told me that they were Punjabi speaking Pathans from Amritsar. There was no mosque in the vicinity so all the people made efforts to make a masjid. My father occupied an Ahata, kept four buffaloes in it and with the help of a servant used to maintain them and also sold milk to the local Halwais.
I don’t remember personally but as I was told that in 1949 my late father picked up a quarrel with a Pesh Imam (Cleric who performs prayers in a mosque) who allegedly indulging in some unwanted activities and my late father stabbed and injured him seriously right in the masjid during Isha prayers. The local police arrived and arrested him. My late mother used to tell us that this was one of the toughest days of her life. It was the time when my younger sister was about to be born. It was after 15 days his release was arranged and the Punjabi friends helped him a lot. He had to approach the family of the injured person and offered him a reasonably good amount by selling the four buffalos. This was the time when my younger sister was born and she was named Masooda which means a person of good luck.
Now my late father was fed up petty local politics. He returned to the self-studies. He did Adeeb Fazil, then Bachelors in English language and went to Sialkot to got admission in MA (English) in Murray College Sialkot. During the evenings, he used to serve as Accountant in a surgical instruments firm. He completed his MA Previous from Murray’s College. I vividly remember first we used to live in Sialkot Saddar and then in Ghazipur/Talwara. Ghazipur was small village of Jutts (a sturdy & respectable caste in Punjabis). It was pretty difficult to pull on economically with the family of six members and he continued with his MA classes so in MA Final he moved to Rawalpindi where we had some well-established relatives from Pilibhit connection. One of them Mian Faheem ud Din was Deputy Military Accountant General & his brother In law Abdul Khaliq Jillani was Accounts & Audit Officer in Military Accounts. My father took admission in MA Final in Gordon College Rawalpindi. It was in January 1956 that my late father joined GHQ as Assistant Superintendent on basis of BA. Thus we started living in Tench Bhata a suburb of Rawalpindi. I remember the celebration of 23rd March 1956 when Pakistan was declared Republic. It was in May 1957 that my father took me for admission in class 6 he submitted an affidavit that I had not studied in a regular school so I was given a test in Urdu, Math and General Knowledge which I passed successfully. I studied in Cantonment Board High School Lalkurti Rawalpindi. The headmaster of the school, Mr. Ansari was very efficient gentleman. I studied in that school up to class eight. Some of the teachers I remember were science teacher Mr. Samiulla, Urdu teacher Mr. Sabir , English teacher. It is no more a village rather a suburb. As my father was serving in GH Q and we were allotted a JCO quarter in Victoria Barracks just opposite Convent School and very close to Lalkurti Rawalpindi. Then my father applied for the allotment of small property in exchange what was left in India and he was allotted five acres of fertile land and a house just in the beginnings of Bazar Garhi Daulat Zai part of big village Garhi Kapura Tehsil in District Mardan. The house was left by one Ram Singh but was occupied by some local family but it was the time when Martial Law was imposed by General Muhammad Ayoub Khan and things were moving very quickly. My father exerting the influence of GHQ got both his properties vacated. He himself got posted at Air Headquarters Peshawar and we started living in Garhi Kapura. It was in 1961 I was admitted in class eight in Government High School Garhi Kapura. I was the only Urdu Speaking student in the school and called “Panhguzeen” a Pashtun word meaning Refugee. I picked up Pashto very quickly. Our headmaster was Sir Fida Younas from the nearby village Galyara who was a towering personality in a small school. I studied in this school for two years and then my father decided to shift his family to Peshawar Saddar. A house was allotted right on the city saddar road near Green Hotel opposite General Post Office. The street was known as Donga Gali. I got admission to Government High School one of the best in Peshawar Cantonment. I passed my matriculation from there. Among our teachers, Mr. Husnain Naqvi was an outstanding personality. He was remembered as an iconic educator in Peshawar Saddar. I passed SSC in 1964 and my late father had a desire that I should become an agricultural scientist. I was taken to Agriculture College Peshawar for admission and after a short interview with the vice-principal Dr. Roghani I was admitted. The most interesting part of the interview, it was started in English and came to an end in Pashto. Dr. Roghani remarked that I spoke Pashto perfectly but Tauseef is not a common name among the Pashtuns. Dr. Shamsul Islam Ali Khan was the Principal of Agriculture College. United States government was kind to Pakistan & our Agriculture College of Peshawar was associated with Colorado State University. The majority of the faculty members hold Doctorates in various disciplines. Every student was given scholarship and the scholarship of the boarders was double than the day scholars. It was my hard luck or laziness that I did not succeed there. My late father said that if you had the talent you are likely to succeed in any field. I pray for his departed soul. It was August 1965 and Indo-Pak battle had yet not taken place. My father decided that I should go to India and meet my relatives as my paternal uncles; Nani (Grandmother), Khalu (Uncle) & Khala (Aunt) were alive then. Not hardcore but skirmishes were taking place in Dara Haji Pir in Kashmir. I raised my concern to my late father but he told it was common between India and Pakistan since 1947. So it was on 30 August 1965 that I departed for Bareilly by Hora Mail which used to depart from Platform No.4. I reached Bareilly the next morning and was received by my Khalu Haji Amir Ahmad. I was still staying with my Nani when one of our relatives who had a radio run with battery informed that the battle between India and Pakistan had commenced. It was on the evening of 6th September 1965 that a constable from Police Station Amaria came and informed that I was under house arrest. Two of my relatives gave guaranty that I would remain confined to the village Karghaina. It was just a formality otherwise I used to roam all the areas of Rayeenwara (a local term used for Arain villages in Pilibhit). So I remained with my ancestors up to February 1966 till the Tashkent Declaration took place. The other mishap happened in the land of ancestors; I lost my Pakistani passport for which FIR had to be lodged in the Police Station of Amaria, a small town of Pilibhit near my mother’s ancestral village. Finally, my Khalu Haji Amir Ahmad went to Pakistan Embassy Delhi and got a new passport issued for me. In February 1966 I returned by land route of Ganda Singh Hussaini Wala. Here during stay six months at the ancestral village of my mother in Pilibhit, UP, I also learned a little bit of Hindi Language.
I finished my Intermediate (FA examinations) in 1967 & took admission in Government College Peshawar. It was a great experience to stay for two years in this institution. Mr. Mosa Khan Kaleem was the principal. It was during the General Yahya Khan regime when I started my career as upper-division Clerk in Accountant General NWFP Office. I must mention here that I was already rejected twice Inter Services Selection Board aka ISSB. After serving AG Office for one year and four months one of my colleagues. A friend informed me he had listened on the radio that Pakistan Air Force was in need of Education Instructors directly to be inducted as Flight Sergeant. He also informed me the basic requirement was BA/BSc in Second Division. I immediately reported to PAF Information and selection center located on 3 The Mall Peshawar. Flag officer Nazir Mirza was Officer in Charge who reviewed my documents & passed to the wing commander who was Director of Education. I very well remember it on 28th April 1971. After basic Intelligence tests and primary medical examination I, Fazal Karim, Mosam Khan, and Ajab Khan were sent the School of Education for basic training of 6 weeks. I was transferred to the Central Technical Development Unit, PAF Base Faisal as Ian in charge of the Library. On 16 December 1971 when the Pakistan Defence Forces surrendered at Dhaka, there was an urgent need of Education Instructors at PAF Kohat because all the Bengali Education Instructors and Officers were demobilized. I was posted to recruits Training School Kohat now known as PTTS . From June1972I to June I974 Base Commanders Kohat were Grp Capt H MC Misra, Grp Capt Nazir A Mirza, Air Commodore M Afzal Khan. I taught English and Pakistan Studies there for two years and then I was transferred to Air Headquarters Peshawar in Central Library from November 1972 to September 1973. In September 1973 I was back in teaching at Kohat. Once again I was transferred to Central Library Air Headquarters Peshawar. I must mention that my late father was GSO III aka Gazetted Staff Officer at Air Headquarters Peshawar and I was unmarried so he got me twice transferred to Peshawar. I got married to Sarwat on 28th December. They were our relatives & connected with our small Pilibhit based Arain tribe in Pakistan. They lived from 1950 to 1974 in Kocha Hari Singh, Main Bazar Kohat. They later shifted to Lahore and lived in Gulberg III. I completed four years as Flight Sargent & four years as Warrant Officer. Then as an Education Instructor at Peshawar. Now I completed 8 years so I was eligible for Commission so applied for it & my good luck that most Education Instructors were on Deputation to Libya. I was selected easily and send to the College of Education Kohat for six months. It was the time when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged on 4th April 1979 and everybody felt it very badly. In this College Group Captain Kiyani later on, Air Commodore Kiyani and Group Captain Nizam and Flt Lt Masroor Ahmad Siddiqui were good teachers. I graduated as a Flying Officer and transferred to Directorate of Studies PAF Academy Risalpur but one of my ex comrades then Warrant Officer Rao Ayoub (now a big tycoon as a property dealer in Malir Cantt, Karachi) played dirty politics and I was posted to PAF Base Samungli. Now I realize that people were against me but Allah was very kind to me otherwise I would have never seen Balochistan and enjoyed my three years stay at Quetta. My first Base Commander was Air Commodore Aziz known as Aziz Tao and second Base Commander was then Air Commodore Akhtar Bukhari later on AVM Bukhari really a good commander. Begum Bukhari was a German lady of a cultivated taste. All students used to go to Quetta for studies. She asked me to establish a school up to class 5 so we were successful in establishing the school. My son Ehtisham Khan was born on 18th August 1981at PAF Base Samungli. I stayed at PAF Base Samungli (Quetta) for three years. In 1982 my father was retired from Peshawar. I served Air force for thirty years & got retirement in 2001. A year after my father left the world in 2002 at the age of ninety. I joined one private Air force training center & served there for the next ten years.
In the flashback, the memories of my six -month stay visit to India, the land of my ancestors are still fresh in my mind. The connection with the hometown where I was born seems to be inseparable. This is the memoir of the man who left India along with his parents at the age of three months. He was brought up & educated in Punjab, & Khyber Pakhtunwala. For six months, during his teenage, he stayed in India, his birthplace & land of his ancestors. In addition to Urdu as the first language, he fluently spoke Punjabi, Pashtu, English & Hindi. Where many of the smart city residents felt embarrassed to affiliate with the mofussil towns of UP & Bihar, Mian Tauseef proudly associates with the small town of Pilibhit on the other side of Radcliffe line. Where many of his relatives from Pilibhit Arain diaspora in Pakistan finds chauvinism with their ancestral roots of Colonial zamindari of United Provinces, he is proud of his roots from the Kisan(Farmer) grandfather.