First time I saw late Professor Hamida Ahmed was in an Orientation Course of the Academic Staff College of AMU. Not only the Orientation Course but even the Subject Refresher Courses are amongst most boring punishments that are inflicted upon us academicians when we are in the most youthful stage. This particular Orientation Course was no exception. But even these dark patches of life have their bright spots. In this case, amongst few others, the bright spot was Hamida Aapa.
I remember very clearly a few things that she talked in her lecture. One was the Ivan Pavlov's experiment on his dog. Today a dog salivating at the sound of a bell is not such a novelty but in its time it was and she showed the requisite confidence that such a finding deserved. She was a natural academician.
During several visits to her office and a solo visit to her home she shared some of her life experiences and her professional knowledge. Latter one becomes part of one's personality if you are an academician worth your salt. Hamida Aapa was.
She fondly talked about her father's upbringing of her, her initial education in Etawah and about her illness. And ill she was for nearly two decades. "After coming back from my therapy I was one day making Chapatis and when the Chapati puffed up the meaning and value of life just dawned on me", she said once. These must have been the experiences that gave her a very humane outlook towards people.
It was my teacher Professor Hashim Rizvi who showed utmost respect towards people like Hamida Aapa that gave me an idea about the value of not only good academicians but nice human beings. Hamida Aapa was one such person.
She was a content woman completely devoid of careerist and cut-throat tendencies so common in any university. Combined with her natural humanist and humanitarian disposition it made her a gem of a human being that she was. Amongst other things this meant that she did not covet administrative posts in the university. It also meant that so many of these posts naturally came her way and then she discharged her duties.
This was topped by the event when she became the acting Vice Chancellor of the university. One after another several professors came in the same capacity for there was no permanent VC and the university saw some machinations that were solely aimed at destabilizing the institution. At least two such acting VCs were threatened by sheer physical presence of though moderate numbers but ill-intent students. The male acting VC lost his nerve and it showed in his rapid but nervous walk. The news was captured by the vernacular press. Next acting VC was Hamida Aapa boys came physically close to her too for the express intention to make her nervous. She did not flinch at all. This too was captured by the vernacular press photograph.
Next episode I remember involving her is a small function in AMU Staff Club. AMU Teachers Association had called a meeting with Dr Syed Zafar Mehmood Sahab who had been in the Sachar Commission and commission had brought out its report. It was discussed in this meeting. The report had outlines the miserable social, economic and financial condition of Muslims in India. The information in the report was not a news to any one of us - we knew it for long from our daily experience. The only achievement of the commission from the Muslim point of view was that it was now official that Muslims of India have fallen into a condition that is worse than that of the Dalits. In the meeting none of the speakers could come out with any ideas about how to change the status quo. Yet I again remember clear words from Hamida Aapa at that moment too. "I am still optimistic", she said. Such people can only be the inspiration.
So today we say good buy to this understated hero and an excellent academician. May Allah SWT forgive her sins and grant her a high status in Jannah.