Friday, December 31, 2010

The JNU Type of Intellectual

In the last decades of twentieth century leftist and socialist intellectuals held sway on the Indian intellectual scene. The trade mark was a khadi bag on shoulders and kurta on pants. An Alig who grew up among such an environment but who was free of the burden to carry an image once asked another person who was a rather specimen type of example, "Are you a JNU type of intellectual?" This person was taken aback. But soon they stuck a long-lasting friendship.

One Alig writes, as we have quoted earlier too,  "I noticed him during my student's days from1969-77 that a sherwani wearing person without cap, a khadi bag on his shoulder.This was his trademark."

Now this must be Miyan. The question is whether he too was a JNU type of intellectual. The answer is, of course, in negative. Miyan has gone through various phases. He was aware of the quote, "A young man who is not socialist in his youth has no heart. A young man who remains so has no brains."

But Miyan had undiluted appreciation of the contributions of many leftists. He was very appreciative of many actions of late Professor Rais Ahmed of Physics Department who became Vice Chairman of UGC, Director of NCERT and an adviser to a foreign government. Similarly he used to quote at least three contribution of late Professor Nurul Hasan during his tenure as a union minister. One was making high quality Swiss paper for Urdu text books. One can still get Masnawi of Maulana Rum published, by Sabrang, on paper that is just like Bible paper. The second thing was sorting out a matter related to he Mosque near ISBT (Kashmiri Gate ). The third was nationalization of five libraries so that funds became available for their maintenance.

And one should not forget that it was Professor Abdul Alim, a Marxist,  who gave Miyan his first job.

Mushtaq Ahmed Yusufi

Miyan: "Have you read Mushtaq Ahmed Yusufi?"

Answer : I tried Aab-e-Gum but could not read beyond few pages. The style is very humorous but very soon you realize that in the background a thousand tragedies have passed within a short span. It was heart breaking and thus reading could not be continued.

Miyan: Same is true of some later writings of Qurrat-ul-ain Hyder-you see the family scattered and people getting left all alone in various parts of the world. (Miyan was reading Shah Rah-e-Harir (The Silk Route) in those days.)

This was Miyan's style. He was deeply compassionate but did not know how to approach the reality of life face to face and say a few words of consolation. He was appreciative of the young men  taking on the high and mighty but tragedies of past rested heavy in his mind. "Those who have not seen  the past can not imagine it", he said at least twice.

My Friend Salahuddin

Miyan used to speak with fondness, regards and appreciation about a friend called Salahuddin Sahab. Latter had migrated to Karachi. Then there were stories of discovering old friend in Pakistan during his visit to Pakistan. Aligarh Old Boys in Pakistan were trying to establish a university there, Sir Syed University, and Miyan was very pleased with their efforts and was appreciative of that. A bound and printed book on that proposal also ended up on Miyan's table. On its back is a photograph of Brigadier Iqbal M. Shafi Sahab Alig engrossed in Supplications at Aligarh-purity of intent and concern personified. Lord Most High has His own plans and one day Miyan told that the project to establish that university has failed.

Verily the Lord has power over all things.

Knowledge in Tidbits

Miyan's style of discussion was to present the things in the form of anecdotes and tidbits. A sort of Reader's Digest in action. Here is one example.

There is a person who is famous in Urdu literature just because of few articles. You know whom we are talking about. He was not an Alig but fits the description, "All English Professors write poetry/stories/article in Urdu." He was ashamed that, during his foreign stay, he discussed a book with his girl friend without reading it. He confided it to her. She was very understanding. "You discussed it rather well. I shall lend you my copy, read it now, " she added. On getting her copy of the book he found that the joint pages in the beginning of the book were still joint.

This should be called higher academics.

Life Has Unpleasant Things Too

After the experience during the maneuvering to transfer Miyan from stretcher to the ventilator Waseem Babu did not want to take any chance and booked a utility vehicle of Electricity Department for carrying the Janaza.

What you do with your dead is a measure of  level of your civilization.  Society seems to be slipping in the wrong direction in this regard. There is an industrialist and innovator from Marris Road Mr Laxman Prasad (not an Alig in all probability). The idea of printing the time, in the punching era, on tickets goes to him. When APJ Abdul Kalam came for AMU convocation he visited Mr Prasad at him home. When APJ Abdul Kalam came for convocation of Manglayatan University, Aligarh he visited a school run for and in a village by Mr Prasad. When Mr Prasad's father died people said very nice things in condolence and then they silently left. Nearly all of them. Carrying the dead body to the cremation ground was an experience that unsettled Mr Prasad. An innovator is an innovator. Mr Prasad used the usual push cart of the vegetable sellers and converted it in to a cart for carrying dead body with just few simple but essential and useful improvisations. He termed it the Arthi Rath.

Our Christian brothers have solved the problem a little bit earlier. Very recently we said good bye to the CMO of University Health Service (Medical Attendance Scheme) Dr Jacob Kurien. The coffin was put a wheel cart that has handles and can be pulled by two people very easily.

In case of Miyan Allah Most High had willed a different thing. At the time of lifting the Janaza it was realized that the vehicle that was called can not accommodate it. "Carry it on shoulders", said somebody. Death is an occasion of high delicacy but reality should not be ignored. There are people who will not leave any opportunity to utilize a delicate situation. Sometimes it could be simply lack of wisdom rather then lack of care or lack of sensitivity or lack of decency. Some people think that Aligarh is a great place to die at. So many people gather for the burial. Indeed once carrying a Janaza it was heard from a passerby woman, "What a heavenly (Jannati) man he must be, there are so many people in his Janaza!". If the Janaza passes through the market the passers by stop on the road side, leave their vehicles and either walk with the body or many times carry the Janaza forward for few steps. So do the shop keepers, leaving their shops. So do our hearty young men, the students. But this still may not cover the whole route. And the diligence of some young men to focus on recording the funeral procession on their mobile phones can not be left approved.

Verily we are for our Lord and unto him is our return.

Finally reaching the cemetery a scene became unforgettable. Owais Jamal Shamsi was on call with Miyan's brother from Pakistan. "Now I have come to the feet side of the Janaza", said he while the caller had broken into crying on the other side, as Owais Jamal later told. A reminder of the fact that worldly relations get severed at the time of death, however close they might be.

Verily we are for our Lord and unto him is our return.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dispatching the Reward

Mufti Muhammed Usama (ZM) was waiting for the call about Miyan's health at Madarsa Arabia Tamir-Millat. The news that was conveyed was of the sad demise. "Inna Lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajeeoon", Mufti Sahab burst out. But recovered soon enough. I am in the class (these madarsas have classes after Maghrib Prayers also) and I shall make a Supplication for Forgiveness (dua-e-maghfirat) and we shall do some Transfer of Reward (eesal-e-sawab) too. "Insha Allah, we shall be the first one to do that," added Mufi Sahab.

Next day some people gathered at Old Boys Lodge to do the same. Owais Jamal Shamsi's son is standing out side to guide the people to the place of Recitation. The boy was accompanying his father most the time to help him during Miyan's illness. Learning early lessons of life.

The father admonishes his son, "Dear son first of all learn Qur'an Recitation so that you do not have to stand outside like now. Then learn to lead the Funeral Prayer (namaz-e-janaza) and thirdly learn to give bath to a dead body. When I die you should not feel so ashamed as I felt when it was the time to give a final bath to Miyan  yesterday."

Hafiz Fahimuddin comes out of the mosque after Isha Prayers. He is the Imam at a Mosque. "A muhsin has expired Hafiz Sahab. You are requested to do some Transfer of Reward." "Yes, yes, Lord willing." A stander by says that tell him the name of the departed.

In the court of Allah your intentions are the thing that counts. He knows who is requesting, for whom he is requesting and who is implementing.

Have You Seen My Tomb

In the confusion ensuing as a result of Miyan's demise the news was not conveyed to Miyan's namesake who has retired from Community Medicine Department. So the other Muhammed Ahmed complained that he missed the funeral because of us.

"At least tell me the location of the tomb."
"Have you seen my tomb,"  Belal was already laughing at this line of answer, "the tomb that has my name?"
"Have you seen my tomb?", demanded the other Muhammed Ahmed Sahab. "It has been there since 1977AC", continued the namesake. "There were two Muhammed Ahmeds in Theology department", he said. So now we have three of them.

Muhammed Ahmed Number 1: That is Miyan
Muhammed Ahmed Number 2: Who is alive and kicking, Masha Allah.
Muhammed Ahmed Number 3: Who expired in 1977AC.

When famous Tafseer Scholar, who was earlier in Theology Department of AMU, Professor Fazl-ur-Rehman Sahab Ginnori, came to India and saw number 2 he demanded as to why was he alive and kicking, "I got the news that you are no more."

As you enter the Cemetery at Minto E, coming from Post Office side, then walk a few meters. After that there a cobbled footpath to the right. Take that turn. after a few toms the fresh tomb of the left is Miyan's.

Now talking of you tomb in your life is not so strange. Miyan used to tell this tradition among the nobility of old. People will reserve a tomb for themselves. Not a space but completely prepared tomb that was left covered properly-filled with grain. At the end of the year the grain stock was donated and fresh grain was filled in it.

Miyan and Mathematics

Miyan was not a mathematician. Headline out of the way.

There is a namesake of Miyan. His name is Muhammed Ahmed. He has retired from the office of the Department of Community Medicine. Earlier he worked in the office of the Department of Mathematics. When he came to know about Miyan's hospitalization he said that Miyan is his teacher.

A teacher? Miyan a teacher?
"He taught me mathematics", Mr Muhammed Ahmed Number Two added.
Problem compounded. Are we talking about the same person? Miyan was a journalist, dabbled in politics, in Bombay but mathematics? Can not be.

But Waseem Babu clarified that too. Yes before coming to service, which he did very late, Miyan also did private teaching. Good Lord. So Ghalib and Dagh had a competitors for Miyan's time and so may other disciplines.

Miyan used to visit late Professor Kazim Rizwi Sahab, the former head of Mathematics Department, in whose time the present Mathematics Department building was designed. Those who are familiar with his personality will tell us that Miyan had picked up, or naturally had, may characteristics of late Professor. For example a penchant for mentoring, grooming, shaping and bringing up people. It is different story to document the stories of the people who were polished in the Khanwadah of Professor Rizwi.

Miyan had a story about Professor Kazim Rizwi sahab. Once a student failed by a very short margin and was on the verge of losing a year because of the paper whose answer books were checked by Professor Rizwi. Professor Rizwi was firm that there is no margin for passing the student, it not possible, it can not be done. The person recommending the case must have been a Friend of Allah. He said get me just a minute with Professor Rizwi. He was given time. He said to Professor Rizwi, "Sir, we shall enter Jannah on the basis of recommendation and intercession and you any way shall go there on the basis of your deeds. We shall be together, Lord willing." Hearing this Professor Rizwi exclaimed and immediately asked for the answer books to be brought and made the poor student among the once who had passed the paper.

May Lord have Mercy on these people of pure habits.

A Gathering in His Own Right

As we have remarked earlier Miyan's passing away is a time when, at least for the close circle people, all the cliches can be exhausted. Here is another one. "Miyan was a gathering in his own right", remarked Miyan's namesake (and there are more namesakes) Mr Muhammed Ahmed Shewan, manager (mutwalli) of City Jama Masjid. Mr Shewan was the one who contacted all the inner circle people after Miyan's hospitalization. Miyan had not married and though he shared all the family information with the people around him the presence of close family members was rather minimal in his circle. His maternal uncle used to visit him at the Old Boys Lodge. He did that a few months back too. After Miyan's hospitalization he was the first one to come to Aligarh. People joked whether Miyan was the senior or the maternal uncle.

From the Other Side

The initial posts about Miyan were done at another blog. Its name and link appears above the Blog Archive on the right hand side panel. Those of you who have spiritual inclination are welcome there.

The posts there on Miyan are (please read in reverse order) :


There was flamboyance and informality in Miyan's personality. But he knew the stature of the people and had consideration for that. When a senior retired professor visited him he made great efforts to get up for him-an effort that was indeed difficult for him but he knew what he was doing. A close friend Shams Zaheer Sahab was similarly treated with immaculate dignity. Unprintable words were completely banished in such companies. Managing contradictions of life is not an easy task and only few are endowed with that facility. Miyan's company consisted of very diverse type of people.

Janab Amir Sajjad Sahab, Raja of Mehmoodabad was another person who was treated with complete dignity. Raja Sahab once visited Anona House to consult Hakim Kalimullah Sahab (DB) for consultation. "He is physical patient of the same Hakim whose spiritual patient you are," Miyan remarked to a spiritual associate of of Hakim Sahab (DB). Miyan was pleased with his own ingenuity. This was his forte.

Once one of the members of the gheebat club said something that could heart another person. The speaker did not know that. Miyan said, "The tongue must be firmly under control".

Weakness in part of human nature. Managing that increases man's stature. Miyan had got some share of that managing skill. No wonder a thousand threads got severed with his departure.

A Childhood Protegee

Owais Jamal Shamsi did most of the running during Miyan's hospitalization. Others too were present nearly all he time but the major tasks were managed by Bi Tameezan and Owais Sahab. A hospital is a grinding place for the care takers and these people bore the burnt of that. Owais Jamal Shamsi is a poet too and works with PR Office. He has the felicity of being Miyan's protegee from childhood.

"Nothing should happen to Miyan. I shall be rendered orphan. I have become nearly old under his protection." He said when Miyan was hospitalized. Allah Most High had his way. He has power over everything. Miyan was taken away. He also took care of the post demise affairs with complete devotion.

The Voracious Reader

(1) Woh Jo Sh'ayri Ka Sabab Hua by Kalim Aajiz
(2) Jahan-e-Deedah by Mufti Taqi Usmani (DB)
(3) Naseem-e-Hiyadat Ke Jhhonke (Three Volumes)  Compiled by Mufti Roshan Shah
(4) The Last Mughal by William Dalrymple
(5) Lahore Se Ta Khaq-e-Samarqand o Bukhara by Pir Zulfiqar Ahmed Naqshbandi (DB)

A single person fed these books to Miyan last year.
Others must have done their own feeding.
Not to forget the books borrowed from library on the cards of so many people.
And his own books.
And the constant supply of periodicals, for Miyan was strategically located-he was in touch of PR Office people because it is full of his protegees.

How many people are doing that in the 74th year of their life? Not many. One might say that he had nothing else to do. That is travesty of truth. It discounts Miyan's backbiting (gheebat ) club. In the day there will be several sessions of different kinds of delegates descending like migratory birds. In fact it was like a constant flow of visitors.

But then it can be said that these gatherings served the purpose of venting out the things that he read. Just sometime back he read an article about a courtesan in a glossy magazine from a place that has noticeable presence. "I did not know that place is famous for such out put also", remarked Miyan.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tea of Number Three

The PR Office covers university functions. In one such function tea was served after the inauguration talks in the form of tea bags in paper cups. Zeeshan Ahmed Sahab, one of the successors of Miyan-so to say, remarked:
"Dr Sahab it looks like tea of Number Three."
Dr Sahab completely missed the import.
"Miyan", added Zeeshan Sahab.
"Oh, yes!"
It clicked then.
Miyan was parked in room number three of Old Boys Lodge and will treat his guests and visitors with pouch tea.

"O Boy! Recognize this person thoroughly. Whenever he comes take a tea bag from here, do not bring your tea", Miyan said once to the boy Waseem who brings tea from his father Shafi's canteen in the Lodge. Of course this could have been said in privacy but Miyan was no diplomat for sure. And this is the boy whom Miyan wanted educated. That was Miyan's specialty but the boy failed Miyan. Miyan had the philosophy that whoever came to Aligarh did not leave without education. And for Miyan it was never disproved in spite of any number of contrary examples. Miyan was an Aligarian.

Then there are other tea stories too. He'll many times tell about a shop in the Parliament complex where you'll get even that variety of tea that will cost you a thousand bucks for a mere hundred grams.

And when K.Kuriakose's daughter went to Darjeeling on tour of Abdullah College girls then she did not forget Miyan there too. He received his tea packet soon after her arrival.

Miyan did not marry but he for sure lived among loving people.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Dr Rahat Abrar

The night between 24 and 25 December, 2010AC was a rather difficult one for Miyan and the care takers. After midnight it was felt that Miyan must be shifted to ventilator. Passing him from ICU bed in the Medicine Ward number 14 to the stretcher was painful and passing from stretcher to ventilator was more so. Five or six people present tried but could not do the transfer. That was it. A feeling of helplessness. Surely man has limitations. Doctor will give just a few seconds, "I soon as I remove the instruments you shift him." Finally Miyan somehow was transferred to the ventilator. Apart from very close people like Waseem Babu and Owais Jamal Shamsi the present PRO Dr Rahat Abrar was among those felicitous people who helped Miyan in that difficult time.

Miyan's exit was not quick. But then it was not prolonged too much. A little more than a week. And now he is no more.

"I am thinking that I should start praying", said Miyan to various people in last few weeks.

And then the intentions of a believer are better than his actions. May Lord Most High accept his intentions.

Verily the Promise of Lord is true.

Bi Tameezan

In the whole episode of Miyan's final journey Bi Tameezan came out as the most tragic figure.

This is the felicity that Lord Most High reserved for her. She was the maid in Miyan's khanqah (monastary, translation of adda=den). Cooking for Miyan and maintaining his room. And taking care of Miyan. Not a job for the finicky ones. She will make her journey to Old Boys Lodge from Old City daily.

Bi Tameezan came with tuberculosis. Miyan got her treated with great care. Miyan was a caring man but thus care was noticed by others. "I am doing this all so that I do not catch her ailment".

During Miyan's hospitalization she did not go home. Who can make such sacrifices? And for whom? It was very tough in the hospital. She went through it more courage than many others.

And then on Saturday evening she was just sitting on a bad that was is Miyan's room. She had nothing to do now. No tea making,  no cooking.

So many years of company of a great man had made her great too. Salute Bi Tameezan.

End of an Era

"An era has ended (eh ahad khatam ho gaya)", said Nawab Muhammed Ali (of Shaukat Manzil) during the funeral procession.

Nawab Sahab stole those words. Any one would have liked to say them. Cliches be damned.

"You are a Shia that is why you are saying that", remarked Miyan once to Nawab Muhammed Ali Sahab during a discussion.

Miyan was a man of free words, with many of the people but such things were not the order of the day. He was utmost careful about sensitivities. Nawab Muhammed Ali Sahab among the people where frankness reached its zenith (or may be the nadir).

Khuda rehmat kunad.

Happy Christman, Or Not

It was at Magrib Prayers time on December 25, 2010AC that the doctors declared Miyan dead. Body was taken to Old Boys Lodge. A few moments later K.Kuriakose reached there. The routine for the week before that was to visit Miyan in the hospital. Death had havoc on the right side of Miyan's face. In turning Miyan's face towards qiblah, as it was done, the left side was the visible one. From this side it looked as if Miyan was giving his characteristic smile. As if he will not give up his contradictions even in death.

K.Kuriakose saw the face. Was thoughtful for few moments. Then he was called to sit down on one of the three beds in the room. And that is when he cried.

Yes real man do cry. Only real man are capable of that.

"A man who loved me deeply has left", said K.Kuriakose.

Miyan broke a thousand threads while taking his final journey. Not many can join so many threads. These threads can not be shrunk. This was a special Grace for Miyan from his Lord Most High. They cannot be described. Except in silence.

Nami gardeed kotah rishta-e-mani riha kardum,
Hikayat bood bepayan, bakhamoshi ada kardum.

The Saqi

Some months back there was a severe storm in the campus. Power supply got disrupted in many parts (of campus as well as the city.) The Old Boys Lodge was the last place in the sequence of power restoration. Miyan was the only person who held fort at the Lodge for more than a week. How did he survive without power, water and all?  No charisma (karamat) here. Or may be there were. We know that every time there were two bottles of one and half a liter capacity each on his table. As if they had just come out of the refrigerator. Who was this muhsin (benfactor) of muhsin (that is Miyan)?

"I have named him Korea Khan", said Miyan once about K. Kuriakose. It is he who meticulously took care of drinking water problem in that tough time.

In normal times the whole Old Boys Lodge continuously invaded Miyan's refrigerator for chilled drinking water. Wasn't he the Saqi?

No Parking Area

Miyan was a man of connections. After retirement it posed a problem. The people from the circle were mostly from Civil Lines and will find it difficult to make regular forays to the Old City. Solution? Well Miyan parked himself in the Old Boys Lodge. That is where his body was taken when he breathed his last on the ventilator at JNMC, AMU, Aligarh. He lived and died amidst the people who were his lifeline. The dust returned where it belonged to. (pahoonchi wahein pe khaq hajan ka khameer tha.)

Miyan, the Hijacker

At least two of the close circle (halqah) people had important travel plans on Sunday, December 26, 2010AC. Miyan has an ace up his sleeve. He left for his heavenly abode on the evening of Christmas.

Then there is the present blog. It was created in 2008AC. But the first post was the passing away notice of Miyan. This is called shadowing (chha jana).

Alig Dictionary

Every place has its own local vocabulary. So as AMU. We have already used the word diarrhea. English dictionary is of no use here. In this post we shall try to collect those idiosyncrasies of  Aligarian life. Terms will be added as and when they come to the fore, Lord willing.

(1) diarrhea=craze
(2) When an AMU student says typical  he means really the opposite. Something that is not typical at all and is peculiar or odd (or special).

Kahlil Jibran

And then tell us Miyan about the book The Prophet by Kahlil Jibran.

"Some time back Arabs, including Lebanon, had this diarrhea of eloquence (fasahat) and rhetoric (balaghat). It is a product those times."

Monday, December 27, 2010

Another Rickshaw Puller

"Why are you clinching that samosa in your grip? Why don't you eat it?", Miyan asked the rickshaw puller.
"I am fasting and it is not iftar (time to break the fast ) time yet," he said.

Miyan got down from the rickshaw.

One Rickshaw Puller

"Miyan you have not recognized me," said the rickshaw puller.
"Am I supposed to know you?," asked Miyan.
"Actually I am the only one who takes you to the city from Civil Lines. Others get busted", he added.

Miyan was a hefty person.

Road to PR Office

Once upon a time, long long ago Miyan realized that politics has failed him.
And journalism has failed him. (Miyan brought out a publication called Jaras).
Bombay (that is what it was then) has failed him.
So Miyan wrote to Professor Abdul Alim Sahab, the then Vice Chancellor, for a job.

"So you want a job?"
"What will you do?"
"Same as others."

Two question were enough for him to decide about Miyan.

"Alright, alright go and join in my office."

That is how Miyan joined in VC's office, to begin with.

Those were the people and those were the times.

Later on Miyan was shifted to Theology Department office and finally to Public Relations Office.

Listen Maulvi Sahab

Mufti Taqi Amini Sahab was with Department of Theology at AMU. Once he saw Miyan down stairs at Victoria Gate. PR Office, where Miyan worked at that time,  was on the first floor.

"Miyan you did not go to your office?", asked the religious scholar.
"Listen Maulvi Sahab! I have the same attachment to my office that you have with religion," said Miyan.
It means that both connections were weak. Maulana gave a smile and went on his way.

You too can do that if you have a big heart.

(The reporter, Dr Abdul Matin Sahab, formerly of English Department, AMU, is determined to write this anecdote in future. Till then do not tell anybody.)

A Foody

This is a part of a series of posts on Miyan Dr Syed Muhammed Ahmed Sahab.

He was a foody-fond of good food.

Sheermal (roughly milk goody, for those who are Urdu challenged) would not be eaten before getting refried in pure ghee (clarified butter).

Or, bring 32 partridges. Cook them in cashew, almond and pistachio-no common condiments and spices.

And then the stories about Parliament Canteen, journalist's canteen in Delhi, delicacies in the lanes of old Delhi, Aligarh, Mathura, Mumbai (then Bombay) or in Karachi.

But what of it? Did anybody say that life was not a constant celebration around Miyan? Worries of life and the celebration of life needs a balance. Miyan managed that to a large extent. People came to him for relaxing. To so many he offered his shoulder to cry upon.

Hi! Hi! Hi!

The title is not an enthusiastic salutation. This was a common incantation of Miyan Dr Syed Muhammed Ahmed Sahab. A wailing on the conditions of Ummat-e-Muslima.

How many of us do that?  Can do that? Go try.

It, the condition of the Complete Generation, was never far away from his mind. That fact he enjoyed very diverse company notwithstanding. He had very diverse colours to his personality but there was a dominant colour. And the constant worry about the Complete Generation was that colour. Its expression, the expression of that worry, was in the form of Aligarh Movement by being a part of it.

Some will concur that he was an insignificant part of this movement.

We hope so. That will push the headline out of the way. Wasn't he a mere brick in the lowest part of the edifice? Miyan was aware of such things. When a bitter dispute was waging around another institution belonging to the same complete generation he remarked that there were two people who had completely spent their life in building. Vagaries of being a genuine person. Who will tell us of those things now. History is merely an impression. It does not record everything. There is a school of thought, which perhaps is the dominant school, that history should not be written too close to the period that is being written about. To get the real historical perspective.

And who told about this theory to his friends? Miyan.

"His main work is on Urdu journalism," said Miyan when the talk turned to Dr Nadir Ali Khan Sahab. Who can tell that? Only a man who knew that. Not impressed? Good take a paper and pencil and tell about the specializations of the people in the next department. That is if you are an academician. It takes effort to become a living encyclopedia. By the demise of Miyan we Aligs are left a lot poorer.

A senior Alig writes that :
(1) he noticed Miyan in late sixties to mid seventies of twentieth century.

That is long back from the point of view of human life span.

(2) Miyan was a sherwani wearing person without cap,a khadi bag on his shoulder. This was his trademark.

So Miyan had a trade mark that long back!

(3) He was fond of good food.

Yes that was his weakness. Even when doctors were decidedly after him, that is, after his food. More about that later, Lord willing.

(4) he never used any kind of transportation except walking.

 True. Miyan's cousin, who is a rather young man, told that whenever he visited them in Delhi Miyan will make this young man walk through the lanes of old Delhi. "You shall never know these places if you are on a transport," Miyan said to him. Does it remind us of Aasar-us-Sanadeed? Who will tell us of following the foot steps of Sir Syed in old Delhi, now that Miyan has made it to the other side.
You were of a kind Miyan! (Miyan tum sa nahin dekha!)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ah Miyan!

"Is she around or has she tumbled away?", asked Miyan.

Miyan was in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Medicine Ward of the Jawahar Lal Nehru Medical College Hospital of AMU, Aligarh. The question was about another patient in the same ICU. This was not a callous statement but quintessential humour of Miyan. Miyan was one of the most caring and sensitive people one would encounter in life. A megalith of compassion. A man of deep sensitivity. In the context of passing away of Hazrat Ammi Jaan, wife of Hazrat Muhi-us-Sunnah Maulana Shah Abrar-ul-Haq Sahab Haqqi (RA) Hazrat Maulana Syed Muhammed Rabe'a Hasani Nadawi(DB) said that for seekers of Allah's pleasure matter of life and death is not a big one. The purity on intent that Miyan had had raised him to that stature that he could joke about death. A joke he did about death. Every living being has to taste the taste of death. So did Miyan. But it was like going through a routine. Even during the most painful phase he traversed his time like going through the formality. "I am not well", he added in a matter of fact tone a few days back before hospitalization.

"Help your brother", said Miyan to one of the regular visitors. That was the day before his speech became slur. In excruciating pain Miyan was thinking about a man whom he had never met. Mighty people have mighty wills. That is also the simplicity of the genius. And a big heart. Beautiful and big enough to contain a Taj Mahal. Nay, the whole world. No wonder Lord Most High planned a Jannah ten times bigger than this world for the smallest of the forgiven. Miyan was a giant. A gentle giant. A man who saw success in giving, not in receiving.

"Would have been so nice if he would have taken studies seriously", said Miyan about the son of a poor helper. Earlier Miyan has rallied his friends circle to help this boy. Miyan was feeling the pain more then the person concerned.  Plaintiff lax, witness alert (muddai sust, gavah chust). Miyan was, as if, out of this world.

And when his request to help in the operation of an acquaintance was accepted then Miyan was overwhelmingly thankful. Praising the help to the skies. As if Miyan has been himself helped. There are very few people who bear the burden of others in this world. Miyan was one of them.

And who had a better perspective on Aligarh Movement than Miyan, including the on-roll experts? It was indeed strange to see that people will consult him and present the facts to the world as their own.

Once one of the close people remarked that Miyan you did not achieve that much success as another person. The remark was guileless but unfair. People have strange criterion for success. "I have big house in Greater Noida, two flats in CP, my daughter is a doctor, married to another doctor in France, my son is an engineer in the US". That is what is success, as is well known. Not much wrong in that, except a minor point. These are all a Grace from Lord Most High and no guarantee of ultimate success. Miyan was in a different league. Separated by a boundary from successful people. He was a give. Giant of a giver. And did he give? Yes. He gave and gave. And to Aligarh Movement he gave a life time.

"A man of rare knowledge and an encyclopedia of MAO College and AMU, he was a living history of our time", wrote Qurban Ali a younger fellow journalist in an early obituary notice. Latter is a worthy son of a friend of Miyan Captain Abbas Ali Khan of the Indian National Army of Subhash Chandra Bose. There is a deep connection and a case in point. Miyan was a gateway to the old world. Value-wise and history-wise. Miyan had a regular circle, the halqah. He knew it and he was humble about it. One reason for the regularity and endurance of the circle, and not the only reason, was that there you could live in Mughal times, or the times of 1857, or the early days of Aligarh Movement, the freedom struggle, the independence, the partition and all that. A connection gently severed by Lord Most High.

May Lord have Mercy on such pious souls (Khuda rehmat kunad een aashiqan-e-pak teenat ra).

And this is another case in point. You could address your queries regarding Persian to him. Though not an expert of Persian but he was very much connected with it. And available. And unassuming. Partition of India was a gigantic tragedy for Muslims of India. Part of the tragedy is that their story is not fully told yet. To put the story in perspective the Persian sources have to be utilized and if we believe William Dalrymple then it has not yet taken place to the full extent. And what can you expect for Persian when survival of a current language, Urdu, is hanging in a precarious position? With passing away of Miyan a window into the past has closed.

And this, passing away of Miyan Dr Syed Muhammed Ahmed Sahab, time is the time when many non-family members too will expect that some body should make condolences to them.

And this is also the time when many of the cliche's can be used honestly to vent your feelings.

Knowing me as the most special of the drinkers in the tavern,
For eons the goblet and the wine shall cry for me!

(Jan kar minjumla khasan-e-maikhana mujhe
Muddaton roya kareinge jam-o-paimana mujhe.)

Et tu Miyan? Where shall find a man like you? You know you were a reminder of the fact that in past there was a Sir Syed too? Who shall remind us of that? Tell us Miyan!

Miyan was accessible and remarkable to the limits of surprise and his passing only increases that feeling.(Magar ye chasm-e-hairan hai ke iski hairani nahin jati.)

But first and foremost it is a reminder from Lord Most High. A sign of Lord Most High. Involved in the world we forget death. Most definite of realities. In controvertible sign of the unseen. Faith is all about believing the unseen as heralded by the Prophets (AS). Death is perhaps only seen part of that-the faith.

Miyan was staunch (rasikh-ul-mijaz) Muslim. But he was neither a bigot nor a fanatic. A follower of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan can not be. And thus when Miyan will not agree for hospitalization the poet Owais Jamal Shamsi arranged and old friend Mr Hargovind to be with him. It was known that Miyan will not say no to Mr Hargovind and that is how Miyan made it to the hospital. To take up his final journey in this world. In the times when people shamelessly promote themselves as,  "extraordinary people, extra ordinary living", Miyan was a man of simple living. His Raja Mahendra Pratap was a peasant Hargovind.

And then who shall tell us now about Raja Mahendra Pratap? Miyan completed a thesis on Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi. Thus he knew Rajaji's Aligarh connection as well as freedom movement part inside out. Miyan's thesis was submitted after his retirement from the services of the Aligarh Muslim University as its Assistant Public Relations Officer.

What will you do with a Ph.D. so late in your life?", asked friends.

"I'll get it fixed on my tomb", Miyan said. And in one of the convocations people saw the awesome scene  of an old man walking with a stick to receive his Ph.D. degree from the faculty of Theology of AMU, Aligarh. This was no honaris causa degree. This was all real. He could use the prefix Dr with his name in official communication.

Talking about convocation one fact should be put on record. The list of various convocation, regular or special, of AMU has been prepared by Miyan. This is a painstaking task and on the official document you do not get any credit. And this was not the only such document which requires hard work and you cannot use it. How does it sound if you say that make me a professor of history because I have prepared so many official lists that are regularly under use but my name is not there? There is a booklet prepared by him that contains quotes related to Sir Syed. There is another one that contains excerpts from various convocation speeches by various Chief Guests of convocations-speeches that are historical. There is a list of famous alumni of AMU in various aspects of life. Its back cover has a collage of autographs of many of the famous personalities associated with AMU-some thin that can be accomplished only by decades of autograph hunting. Lord Most High made him a man of many colours and Aligarh was the dominant colour.

His thesis was published as an issue of an  Islamic studies journal called Islam Aur Asr-e-Jadid published by Jamia Millia Islamia.

Collection of material for this thesis was not a target in itself at all. Collection of material was a way of life for him. Somebody said that he was a living encyclopedia. He had done scavenging of many libraries in his life time in India and Pakistan, including the Parliament Library.

For last two years his pet project was to write the history of Aligarh Movement using just some meaningful statements by different people. This is again Miyan in his originality. This is a rather expansive style to work-from the point of view of return-the ration of gain with respect to the effort required. But Miyan did it. We hope to see that document in near future. Lord Most High willing.

Miyan (Dr Syed Muhammed Ahmed) Passed away

Miyan, Dr Syed Muhammed Ahmed, passed away yesterday evening at 5:40PM, here at Aligarh. He was 74 and retired in 1996 as Assistant Public Relations Officer (APRO) of AMU, Aligarh. Burial is scheduled to take place, Lord Most High willing, today, on Sunday December 26, 2010, immediately after Zuhar Prayers at Minto E.

May Lord Most High grant him forgiveness, ignore his shortcomings and failings and grant him a high place in Jannah.

Verily we are for our Lord and unto Him is our return.

Rest Later, Lord Most High willing.