Nawab Salimullah had three sisters – Bilquis Bano, Badshah Bano and Amina Bano; and from different mothers, a brother, Nawabzada Khwaja Atiqullah and three sisters – Pari Bano, Meher Bano amd Akhtar Bano.
Our father, Khwaja Shahabuddin, was the son of Bilquis Bano (sister of Nawab Salimullah) and Khwaja Nizamuddin. He had an elder brother, Khwaja Nazimuddin, whom we called Chachajan, and a sister Almasi Begum, our Phuppi, who died before I was born.
Our mother, Farhat Bano Begum, was the daughter of Nawabzada Khwaja Atiqullah and Begum Asghari Khanum, and had a brother K. M. Azad who married aunty Hur Bano, whom we lovingly called Dulhan Mamani. They had three children – Aijaz, Qamar Bano and Salma. All of them have passed away.
After the death of Dulhan Mamani, at a very young age, uncle Azad married Dolly Mamani who had four childten – Ashfaque, Azra, Aliya and Atique. In October 2010 Aliya passed away after prolonged illness. Our grandfather married several times so mother also had, half brothers – Khwaja Moinuddin, Khwaja Bahauddin, Khwaja Latifullah, Khwaja Mashooqullah, a sister, Zeenat Bano, and a step brother, Nawabzada Khwaja Ahsanullah..
Chachajan, Khwaja Nazimuddin, (who had the distinct honour of succeeding the Quaid-e-Azam as the Governor General of Pakistan, and after the assassination of Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan, he accepted the decision of the Pakistani cabinet to step down to take over as the second Prime Minister of Pakistan) was married to Shah Bano Begum, from Lucknow. They had a daughter, Zafar Bano and two sons, Khwaja Mohiuddin and Khwaja Saifuddin.
Almasi Begum, our Phuppi (paternal aunt) was married to Mustafa Ali from Lucknow, had four children – Shaukat, Sikander, Shaikh Muhammad Ali (whom we called Piare Bhaiia) and Hushmatara (Nanni Baji).
Ayesha, my wife, and I are very closely related. Her grandfather (Dada) Khwaja Badruddin and my grandmother (Nani), Asghari Khanum, were brother and sister, along with K. M. Ismail and Kashmiri Begum. Khwaja Badruddin married Nawabzadi Pari Bano Begum, a sister of my grandmother (Dadi) Bilquis Bano.
Asghari Begum’s brother, K.M. Ismail married Obaida Begum from Benaras, and they had four children – Najma, Anwar, Hamid and Ibrahim – who were very, very close to us.
Specially, Najma, about whom there will be more to follow. Being my mother’s first cousin, she was my aunty (Khala), even though she graced this world by her presence ten days after me. We had been friends since we were in St. Francis X’avier’s Convent, and, to this day we are the closest of friends. She lives in Irvine, California, with her husband Khwaja Rahman Quader, (Rahman Bhaijan ) and tells me that I am more like her fourth brother than a nephew.
Of their three sons, the one in the middle, Shabbir, passed away some years ago, and, the other two, Tanveer and Shaheer live in California, not far away from them.
Our parents had many children seven of whom reached adulthood. The eldest was Khwaja Zakiuddin, followed by Khwaja Wasiuddin, Tahera Bano, K. M. Sayeed, Bilquiss Bano, K.M. Shahed and Hushmat Bano.
In the year 1918, soon after our eldest brother, Khwaja Zakiuddin, was born, father decided to move out of Ahsan Manzil, in the old town, on the banks of river Buriganga. It was the palace of the Nawabs where they lived with their families and close relations.
All other members of the Dhaka Nawab Family lived in houses/apartments spread all over acres and acres of land, and around a big pond. It had its own Mosque and a ‘Maktab’, a primary school, two playing fields, one for seniors and the other for the juniors.
The main gate, on Islampur road, was manned by guards who made sure no outsider ever entered the premises without permission, not even the police. Similarly there was a gate at the entrance on the East side, also manned by guards. There were guards, on duty, at the entrance to the main building, who sounded a loud gong on the hour, every hour to announce the time of day or night. This area was known as “Ghanta Pahra” and there was a telephone that could be used by family members. The number was 65.
Bait-ul-Amn – 1929 to 1937
Father bought a house a great distance away from Ahsan Manzil. It was on what was then known as Mymensingh Road, (now Kazi Nazrul Islam road) leading to Tejgaon airport, which was built many years later. He named it Bait-ul-Amn, the “House of Peace”. It was a two-storied house with a terrace and plenty of ground on all sides.
Looking in front of the house to the south, towards the main gate, there was a large lawn on the left side with flower beds all round it. On the right was a large playing field bordered along the drive way with flower beds. The house was set well away from the main road, which was reached by a drive-way which entered into a porch, above which was the terrace. C
oming into the house from the porch there was a small verandah which led to a fairly large dining room, on either side of which were two rooms. One on the right was for the boys, with an attached bathroom and toilet, where we also did our studies and had private tuition. On the other side was the drawing room attached to which was a very small room, also for studies.
On the first floor, on either side of a large hall (above the dining room) were two bedrooms. One was used by the girls which also had the toilet and the bathroom, while the other was our parents’ bedroom. To this was attched a small room, right above the small room on the ground floor. This room was for the exclusive use of Bhaijan.
The boys slept on spring beds in the large hall, which led on to the terrace from where, looking beyond the main gate and across the main road, were paddy fields for miles and miles with many small huts where, among others, our malies (gardeners) lived. Later, father built an annexe with a Drawing Room and a Dining Room, and a study in the corner. We used to call it Naya Ghar (New House) where father met his political colleagues and had formal dinners to entertain his European guests.
Back to the main building, behind the dining room was a small verandah where, on a shelf rested our old fashioned telephone, number 13. Beyond the verandah there were steps leading to the kitchen, pantry and quarters for the domestic staff. In front of it was mother’s vegetable garden, a cage with three pet deer and a badminton court.
There was plenty of land to the north up to the railway lines which father had acquired. Similarly, to the north was a very large orchard and shed for cows and goats that mother used to keep. There were various fruit trees in the orchard. Many years later, father sold this entire area to the Joint Steamer Companies and the company built a house for the head of the company and called it “Fairlie House.”
Going back towards the south, bordering the playing field the land extended all the way up to Paribagh Road. In this massive plot, father had a pond dug where all of us learnt to swim and many members of the family – both male and female -from Ahsan Manzil and Dilkusha used to join us for a swim on Sundays during the summer.
Our great grandmother, Khodeija Begum, had a single-story house built on this plot, named it Farhat Manzil and gifted it to my mother. I do not remember why we lived in this house for a while. It is quite possible that Bait-ul-Amn was undergoing renovation or some major repair work. After we returned to Bait-ul-Amn, it was rented to uncle Nawabzada Khwaja Nasarullah, who moved out of Ahsan Manzil.
Because of his vision and far-sightedness, father spent his money acquiring land and for the education of his children. The only item of luxury that we had in those days, apart from a car, was a Frigidaire which was a necessity. We did not even have a radio.
We used to go across to Farhat Manzil, to listen to running commentary on football matches from Calcutta on uncle Nasar’s radio. Father spent his money wisely and became the owner of acres of land – I have no idea how much – and, sometime in the year 1956 he had documents prepared to distribute plots of substantial area to each of his children, except Bilquis who was, for reasons I do not remember, given a plot of land in P.E.C.H.S., Karachi.
Thank God, by His grace and mercy we had a very happy and comfortable childhood. There were other children of our respective ages to play with. Our nearest neighbours, uncle and aunty Salim (he was the son of our Dadi’s sister, Amina Bano) who lived in Paribagh across the road from our southern most boundary. Their eldest daughter Shahenshah was our age group. She used to walk across from her house and join us to play hockey, football and cricket.
Najma, my mother’s first cousin and of the same age as myself, used to spend a lot of time in Bait-ul-Amn as, she and Baji (Tahera) took private tuition together while preparing for their matriculation examination. Her brothers Anwar and Hamid, when they were on holiday from Aligarh University School, came over every afternoon from their house “River View” which was situated just outside the eastern gate of Ahsan Manzil Palace.
There were two teams playing against each other under the names of well known sporting clubs of Calcutta. One team consisted of Tahera (captain), Shahenshah, Anwar and Shahed, while the other team was captained by Sayeed, with Najma, Bilquis and Hamid. Sometimes our cousin Shafique Nasarullah, who lived in Farhat Manzil, and Khwaja Mashooqullah, my mother’s half brother, though younger than me in age, used to join us. In loving memory of those days, I had composed a poem, as follows:
In Bait-ul-Amn, as teenagers, in the thirties
Tahera, Anwar, Shahed and Shahensha,
Sayeed, Bilquis, Hamid and Najma,
Made up the two teams for hockey, football and cricket,
They played every day, from afternoon till sunset.
The winning team won cups for their deed,
Which, from silver paper, were made by Sayeed.
On occasions we also had Mashooque and Shafique,
Both of them played well with good technique.
Those of our loved ones who so dearly we miss,
Are now resting peacefully in eternal heavenly bliss.
And Bait-ul-Amn, our lovely home, where, one October I was born,
Was raised to the ground, leaving no signs, with everything in it gone.
Father had been elected Chairman, Dacca District Board, and attended office every day, and, occasionally went touring to various parts of Dacca District. He was one of a handful members of the family who were accepted as a member of the Dacca Club, which was, at the time, meant only for the European community.
He played tennis once in a while, and went to the Club almost every evening to play Bridge. I remember so vividly that the driver of his car, Samad Bhai, would blow the car horn while approaching our gate to warn mother to get the dinner ready to be served. We held him in awe and had very little interaction with him in those days. All of us dined together using knives and forks and the menu for dinner consisted of European food
It was mother, the late Farhat Bano Begum, who took care of us. It was compulsory for us to be out on the playing field after tea until “Maghrib” (the evening prayer at sunset). Very often she would teach us various Duas (prayers) and Urdu poems from Iqbal’s “Bang-e-Dara”. She would also play the harmonium and make us sing Urdu and English songs. This was the routine on evenings we did not have private tuition.
However, so far as disciplining was concerned, she left it to Bhaijan, our eldest brother, the late Khwaja Zakiuddin, who was Zaki Bhai for all relations who loved and respected him. He was the eldest of seven children – four brothers and three sisters – and while still in his teens, he was given the responsibility of taking care of and disciplining all of us. By this time Majla Bhaiia (the late Khwaja Wasiuddin), at eleven years of age, had already gone to the Prince of Wales Royal Indian Military College (R.I.M.C.), Dehra Dun, and Tahera Baji was a grown up girl, and I was weak and fairly obedient not to cause him much worry.
Hushmat was a baby and did not need any disciplining, which left the two siblngs, Bilquis and Shahed, who are no more and, I am missing them the most as they would have loved to share all this with me.
There was hardly a day when they would not play pranks, teasing teachers who came to Bait-ul-Amn, our house, to give us private tuition, or doing something which annoyed mother, who would complain to Bhaijan. They were invariably punished by Bhaijan.
This consisted of depriving them of dessert after dinner, being made to stand facing the corner of a room for various lengths of time, or, something which Bilquis dreaded the most, to walk up to and back from the main gate, which was some distance away, in the darkness of the night. In those days Bait-ul-Amn was in the wilderness and the thought of going out of the house at night was quite frightening.
Of us all, brothers and sisters, I have been the closest to Bhaijan, and spent a lot of time with him, and owe him a great debt of gratitude for what he did for me, and the lessons I learnt from him. He was a friend and a guide for me, and memory takes me back to the time when, as a six-year old, Mumtaz Phuppa and Nani, who had brought me up with loving care from the time I was born and spoilt me thoroughly, had returned me to my parents.
I was a weakling, had a chronic stammer and suffered from ‘hernia’ due to which I could not run properly. For some reason, after every few steps my right leg used to go up and I had no rhythm.
I have such a vivid recollection of Bhaijan, holding me by the hand and forcing me to run slowly, day after day, round and round, in our playing field until I learned to run properly. Then, in order to get me rid me of my fear of a hockey ball, he used to make me stand and push the ball with a hockey stick on to my bare feet. It seemed so cruel to me at that time and I would cry constantly, but, because of what he did, twelve years or so later, in May 1941, I did the 100 yards sprint in 10.3 seconds, came first in 220 yards and 440 yards and won the Victor Ludorum (individual championship) at the Annual Sports of the Training Ship “Dufferin” in Bombay.
Earlier, in my very first year, I was selected to run for the Athletic team of St. Paul’s School, Darjeeling, in 1937, and was selected to play football for the Under 15 team of the school. Later, I played hockey and football for the Training Ship Dufferin and was the Vice-Captain of the hockey team in my final year.
Bhaijan was himself a very keen sportsman. He was a very good hockey player and captained his college team to win several tournaments. A prominent member of his team was Yusuf Jan. Bhaijan also played in the Beighton Cup, the blue riband of Indian hockey, in Calcutta, where, on one occasion he had the unique honour of playing against the world hockey wizard, Dhyan Chand.
It is quite another matter that his team from Dhaka lost by 12 goals to nil. He also represented the London University in London during the war years when he was studying at the University College. While in Dhaka, I used to accompany him to the Paltan Maidan sitting on the carrier of his bicycle, to play hockey. He was also a very good cyclist and won many trophies. How excited I used to be seeing him leading the pack and finishing first. If I am not mistaken he was the champion cyclist in Dhaka in his time.
There were numerous occasions when our parents went to Calcutta taking with them Baji, Bilquis, Shahed and Hushmat, and leaving Bhaijan and me in Dhaka. Arrangements were made for us to stay elsewhere. Once we stayed at Paribagh with Majla Chacha and Chachi (Mr. & Mrs. S. A. Salim), once with Bari Nano (Khodeija Begum, our great grandmother), and in the boarding of St. Gregory’s High School, where, I remember, there was a small room with two beds and no fan, being served food we were not accustomed to. It was summer and very hot.
One night Mirza Chacha (Mirza Faqir Mohammad Sahib) came and seeing our sorry plight insisted that we move in with him. Thus, Bhaijan and I stayed with Mirza Chacha. His house was near the big pond (gol talab) in Ahsan Manzil. As soon as my exams were over I went over to Calcutta. Bhaijan stayed on with him until he did his matriculation examination.
On his return from England in 1943, Bhaijan joined the Grindlay’s Bank in Bombay, (now Mumbai) and the same year he married Binoo Bhabi, who was the daughter of Khan Bahadur Hafizur Rahman Chaudhury of Satani House, Bogra, and had been brought up in Kazi Bari, Dhaka. He later joined the State Bank of Pakistan and remained with them until his retirement. Bhaijan and Binoo Bhabi had three children – Yasmeen, Almas and Zahid.
It is sad that the last couple of years of his life on this earth he kept indifferent health, and had a set back with a stroke he had a year ago. Even then, whenever we met him he would talk about old times and I always felt happy that there was someone, one could look up to for information about the family. It is amazing what an excellent memory he had, and Ayesha and I are so glad that we spent more than an hour with him on 9th January 2003, on his 85th birthday.
He was in such great form that day and looked so well, relatively, that one could not imagine that, a week later, on Thursday 16th January, he would leave us to return to his eternal heavenly home to rest therein, in peace, in the company of those Allah loves most.
How can I explain my feelings seeing the body of my brother being bathed and then covered with the shroud (kaffan), and all this done with such care and delicacy? In addition to the two professionals, Zahid, Aziz and Idrees were helping, and finally I too had the honour of pouring water over his body. He looked so serene and peaceful as he lay covered by the shroud, in a deep eternal sleep, ready to meet his Maker.
He and the late Safdar Usmani were given a grand send off, as a very large congregation at the Sultan Masjid took part in the funeral service, Namaz-e-Janaz, after the Friday prayers. He was laid to rest in the Defence Housing Authority graveyard in Gizri. May his soul rest in eternal heavenly peace, in the company of those Allah loves most!
The next in line, Khwaja Wasiuddin (Majla Bhaiia), was sent to the Royal Indian Military College (R.I.M.C.) in Dehra Dun, at the age of eleven. It was the year 1931. Among his fellow students at the R.I.M.C. were: Asghar Khan and Nur Khan (later Air Marshalls in Pakistan Air Force). When he completed his course at the college, he was too young to be admitted to the Indian Military Academy (I.M.A.), so he stayed on at the College until he was 18 in 1938 when he joined the I. M. A. At the I.M.A. one of his close friends was D.K. Palit (called Monty, who was, later, a General in the Indian Army). He was the brother of my friend, Rene Palit, and was a Prefect in St.
Paul’s school during my time.
We saw very little of him except when he came home for his summer and winter holidays. We used to listen with admiration and interest to his stories about the life in R.I.M.C., and later, at the Military Academy. Like most members of our extended family, he was a keen sportsman and a good swimmer.
Later in life he took up Golf and I have heard from well known golfers who considered him to be the father of Golfing in Pakistan. He was commissioned in 1940 in the Artillery Branch of the Indian Army. I learnt from the late Col. Mohatarem, who was a colleague of mine when I was doing voluntary service with the Pakistan Institute of Maritime Affairs (P. I. M. A) since 2003, that, special mention was made by the Newspapers in India, that Khwaja Wasiuddin was the first Muslim officer to join the Artillery department of the Indian Army.
He saw action in Burma during WWII and, at one point, he and his colleagues had to swim across Sitang river with soldiers of the Japanese army sniping from the shore. At the time of partition he opted to serve with the Pakistan Army and rose to the rank of a Lieutenant General and had postings as the Director of Artillery and Corps Commander, Multan. In 1971 he opted to serve in Bangladesh, and later, he was sent as Ambassador to Kuwait, then France and finally represented Bangladesh at the United Nations, in New York.
Majla Bhaiia married his first cousin, Zafar Bano, daughter of Khwaja Nazimuddin (Chachajan and Chachijan) in 1945, and they had two children, Safi and Umbereen. Unfortunately, this marriage did not last very long and they parted company. Zafar did not marry again and passed away, in Karachi, on 23rd August 2005. However, Majla Bhaiia, married Waheeda Bhabi, who came from Peshawar. They had four children – Adnan, Leena, Shahab and Omer. He passed away in Dhaka on 22nd September 1992.
Tahera Bano, whom we called Baji, was the eldest of three girls and was loved by everyone in the family, specially our grandmother (Nani), Asghari Khanum. So far as she was concerned, Baji could do no wrong. She was very fond of reading and sweets – chocolates in particular- and in spite of father getting after her to keep a check on her weight, she was over weight as a grown up woman.
It was quite obvious that she also liked food and was a very good cook herself. No one that I know in the entire Nawab family, could make Ice cream as well as she did. She, along with Najma, Shahenshah and Bilquis played hockey, football and cricket with us and captained her team, as mentioned above. She had her early schooling at St. Francis X’aviers Convent in Dhaka, and later at the Convent on Middleton Row, in Calcutta. She was a keen Girl Guide and held some of the highest positions in the organization.
While she was preparing for her matriculation in Dhaka, Najma used to come over every morning and join her for private tuition under the supervision of a teacher, Mr. Das Gupta. On certain days, they went to the house of Dr. Mahmood Hasan (whom we called Uncle Hasan) for tuition in English literature. His son, Samee-ul-Hassan lives in Karachi.
At the age of sixteen she was married to Mr. A. M. A. Kabir in October 1938 and went to live in Kharagpur, a big and prominent Railway Junction where Kabir Dulhabhai, as we called him, had his first posting as Sub-Divisional Police Officer (S. D. P. O.). Much against his will, father was persuaded by Pari Bano Nano, to write to the Rector of St. Paul’s School, Darjeeling, to grant leave to Shahed and me to attend her wedding. Unfortunately for us, the Rector did not grant us leave.
Later that year, however, I went to Kharagpur and, for the first time, met this wonderful person, Kabir Dulhabhai, and came to like him immensely. I had already passed the examination for entry into the Training Ship Dufferin, in Bombay, and was due to go for the interview and medical examination. One day the newspaper Statesman carried the photographs of Inder Singh and S.A. Sampson, the winner and runner-up of the Viceroy’s Gold Medal respectively, when Kabir Dulhabhai said that he hoped he would have to spend nine annas three years later to send me a telegram. Those were prophetic words as, three years later, in November 1941, I won the Viceroy’s Gold Medal, the one and only Muslim to get this award in the history of the Dufferin (1927 – 1967).
Right in the middle, with two brothers and a sister before, and two sisters and a brother after, was K. M. Sayeed, yours truly, about whose early life with Mumtaz Phuppa and Farhadi Nani you have already read. I was admitted to the St. Francis X’aviers Girls Convent where I went with Tahera Baji and was in the same class as Najma. In fact, at one of the school’s variety performances we were partners in a group of twelve boys and girls, singing: “London bridge has broken down …”
The Convent and the St. Gregory Boys High school were separated by a wall. One day, Brother Basil, a teacher at St. Gregory’s, came over to the Convent and gave some of us American chocolates. I became greedy, and soon thereafter, coming to school in the morning, I used to leave my books on my desk and quietly slip through the gate and join the Infant Class at the boys school where Brother Basil used to teach. Anwar and Hafizullah were in the same class.
After a while, the Mother Superior of the Convent, Mother Amy, told my father that he might as well have me enrolled as a student of St. Gregory’s High School. I thus became a full fledged student there. It was here that I had my first meeting with Rahman Bhaijan (Rahman Quader) and his brother, Sobhan Quader, who were senior students.
After four years or so, while I was in class III, father had me transferred to Armanitola Government High School in Dhaka. I do not remember, and he is not around for me to check, whether Shahed was also at St. Gregory’s, because I remember him at Armanitola, where Mashooq had also been admitted.
It was at the Armanitola Government High school that I became an active Boy Scout and went to two annual camps – one at Kamalapur, near Dhaka, and the other at Agartala. Mashooq was also at the Kamalapur camp where, one day, his father, my Nana, Nawabzada Khwaja Atiqullah paid us a visit in his car.
Then, in February 1937, I accompanied a small group of Scouts and Scout masters to attend the All India Scout’s Jamboree in New Delhi. We were a part of 400 Boy Scouts forming the Bengal contingent traveling by a special train. We stopped in Lucknow for a whole day for sight-seeing, and did the same in Agra on the return trip, when we visited the Taj Mahal.
About 8000 Boy Scouts from all over India were camped on the Polo Ground in Old Delhi, and each Province had its own camp. The gate to the Bengal Scouts Camp had the crest of a Bengal Tiger. While we had various activities and “Camp Fire’ every night, the most interesting part of the day was a break for a couple of hours after tea when we could visit other camps. I went to almost every camp and made friends with scouts from other parts of India and exchanged addresses.
We were fortunate to meet Lord and Lady Baden Powell the founders of the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides movements. At the last “Camp Fire’, at the end of the week-long programme, 8000 of us were given the words of “Jana gana mana odhinayaka joyo hei” (by Rabindra Nath Tagore) in “Roman” English, and we sang it together. It must have been the first time that this song, which later became the National Anthem of the Republic of India, was sung in public. It was with a heavy heart that we said goodbye to each other with whom we had spent a whole week together.
Of all the addresses that I had exchanged, it was only Ikramul Huq, from Peshawar, who wrote and we kept up correspondence until the end of the year 1941, interrupted by the four years of World War II. Later, he retired from service with the Pakistan Navy as Commodore I. H. Malik, and passed away in Vancouver, Canada, on 24th October 2011. May his soul rest in eternal heavenly peace.
In March 1937, my nine-year old brother, K. M. Shahed and I, then thirteen, were sent to St. Paul’s School, Darjeeling, as boarders. We left our home, Bait-ul-Amn, not knowing that we would never again live in that house we loved so much. We traveled to Calcutta, as was the route in those days, by steamer from Narayanganj to Goalundo.
It was an eight-hour journey via river Padma, and ever since our childhood, traveling on these steamers, we loved the chicken curry served for lunch along with Smoked Hilsa and other dishes, followed by tea in the afternoon and an excellent dinner. I cannot imagine having food of such high standard and nostalgically remember names of some of the steamers we traveled in, such as, Kiwi, Ostrich, Mahsud, Emu, Mohmand, Gurkha etc. These steamers belonged to the I.G.N. & R.S.N. Company Ltd., known popularly as the Joint Steamer Companies, with which I was associated many years later.
At Goalundo, around 10 p.m., we boarded the Calcutta Mail in reserved compartments and reached Sealdah Station around 6 a.m. We were met by Uncle Sudderuddin (little did I know that I would one day have the honour to be his son-in-law), and taken to their house “Peri Manzil” on 36. Theatre Road, Calcutta, where we met Kalkatta ki Nano,as we used to call Nawabzadi Peri Bano Begum Sahiba, since she lived in Calcutta. She was my father’s Khala (mother’s sister), and my mother’s Phuppi (father’s sister).
Later in life, I called her Dadi (Grandmother) having married her granddaughter, Ayesha. I have no recollection of what we did the whole day, but, remember vividly that uncle Sudderuddin took us to the Sealdah station where the platform was full of parents, brothers and sisters of boys of St. Paul’s School, waiting to board the special train which was to take us to Siliguri where we arrived early next morning. Shahed and I were in a compartment with three other boys.
At Siliguri we boarded the “Toy Train” of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways (D.H.R.), which went zig zagging, climbing up to 6000 feet above sea level to reach Darjeeling. From the station we walked up hill along narrow roads to reach our school, and search the Notice Board to find our respective dormitories. Shahed had already been taken to the Junior school. It took me sometime to find my name as it was not K. M. Sayeed, but, K. M. S. Shahabuddin. I was, thus, Shahabuddin major, and Shahed was Shahabuddin minor. How I am missing my little brother, as I write about those times, and also my sister, Bilquis, who was between Shahed and myself. May their souls rest in eternal heavenly peace.
Bilquis Sabera Bano, lovingly called Nanni, was the fifth in line, after me, born on 12th December 1925. She was very intelligent and a fine sportswoman. While many ladies in our extended family, including our elders, swam and played Badminton, Tahera Baji, Najma, Shahenshah and Bilquis were the only ones who played Hockey, Football and Cricket with us regularly. Of them, Bilquis was the most outstanding player, and I was lucky to have her in my team along with Najma.
In his article “Bilky and I” (DNF Newsletter April 2000) Shahed wrote about Bilquis: “She was Nannj Baji to me, then I called her Bilquiss Baji, then ‘Bilky’, and recently, more intimately ‘Bil’. Ever since I can remember Bilky and I developed a special bond between us – a mischevious partnership!
Our parents were too busy with their official and social duties and delegated the responsibility of looking after us to their eldest son – Bhaijan, who was himself, then, only a teen-ager. We gave him a tough time, and kept him on his toes in devising punishment for the mischief we created. We would get up to pranks just for the ‘heck’ of it.
Usually our targets were those ‘master-sahibs’ who came in the evenings to help with our school work. Safiruddin Sir must have long remembered us – many was the time when he prepared to go home only to find his cycle tyres deflated, or, while sitting in his chair, feel the sharp prick of a pin I had installed there.
Then there was the time when, to cure us of our scare of stray dogs that roamed the Ramna area, Bhaijan ordered us to walk to the top of Minto road, walk down again and count the light poles. Of course he had done the exercise himself on his bike. In our naivety we tried to be clever, take our time and give him an answer – we were wrong.
“There was an amusing incident also – Bilky and I used to compete to see who could get dressed first in the morning. I decided to be ‘one up’ on her and one night kept my day clothes on and wore my sleeping suit over it. That very night Azad Mumma, Dulhan Mummani and Latif Mumma came over for an after-dinner session with the parents. Ammi was then knitting sweaters for us, mine was in her hand and she decided she needed some measurements. I was called in and asked to strip – the top came off to reveal a soiled khaki shirt.
They couldn’t wait, and I was ordered to strip further, only to reveal an even dirtier pair of khaki shorts. The game was up for me. I can still ‘hear’ the laughter, feel my embarrassment and await the punishment that followed. …. Yes, the inevitable sazaa (by Bhaijan) followed. We were never beaten or thrashed. The sazaa (punishment) took different forms – banished into the darkness of Bait-ul-Amn’s grounds, she at one end, I at the other, standing knees half-bent arms outstretched, for about ten minutes; daal-bhaat (rice and lentil) for dinner. We took these punishments in our stride; we never ‘told’ on each other.”
When I returned home in November 1945, at the end of WW II, Bilquis had been married to Abu Musa Sharfuddin Ahmad, an officer of the Indian Police Service, then posted as Subdivisional Police Officer (S..D.P.O.), Narayanganj, a river port about ten miles from Dhaka city.
Bilquiss had already acquired a family as Musa took on the responsibility of taking care of his younger brothers and sisters – Mahi, Belu, Runu, Phool and Masi. She embraced them as her own, gave them all the love and care she could muster, helped them to ‘grow up’ and in the fitness of time she helped Musa to settle them in life. They also had two daughters of their own. Naheed and Nuzhat.
Musa had a distinguished career as a Police Officer and held responsible positions, including, Secretary to the Government of Pakistan, and spent the last ten years of his working life with the World Bank in Washington D.C.
In his unpublished book: My Life – an autobiography of a public servant”, Musa writes: “I cannot help but take my mind back to December 1989, when, my love for my wife, BILQUIS, and how I needed her, came to sharp focus. She had a very serious heart attack and hovered between life and death in the Intensive Care Unit of the Suburban hospital, in Maryland, for over a month and a half.
Right from the start the doctors told me that chances of her recovery were very slim, and within a short time her kidney failed and her lungs got flooded. Other complications like blood infection, bladder infection, intestinal infection and ulcer developed.
Dr. Tariq Mahmood who used to look after us generally, an excellent cardio-vascular specialist, was away on holiday and came back three days after Bilquis was admitted to the hospital. He told me that the situation is not as grim as the other doctors feared, and that Bilquis did have a chance for recovery. But then all other complications set in and even Dr. Mahmood could not give me any hope, but, asked me to pray to Allah.
He, however, left no stone unturned to give Bilquis a chance. He put about eight other specialists to take care of the varied complications. All of them worked very hard, and the nurses became very fond of her and did an excellent job of complying with the directions given by the doctors. It is impossible to describe the period of tension and anxiety that I went through along with Naheed, her husband Sami, Nuzhat and my grandson Daanish, all of whom were with us at the time.”
“The Lord Almighty listened to our prayers, and by His grace and infinite mercy granted Bilquis a miraculous recovery. She came home after a two-month stay at the hospital. I shall not, with every breath of my life be able to express my deep sense of gratitude to Allah Ta’ala for showering His grace and merciful blessings on Biquis, our children and me. “Then which of the favours of thy Lord will ye deny?” During the next eleven years, in spite of poor health, Bilquis tried to lead as normal a life as she could, and made several trips to Pakistan.
In early 2000, she was not too well but forced herself to come to Pakistan. She even went to Dhaka to meet her relations. Then it was time for them to return to the United States. Bilquis was not feeling too well but was determined to travel and that too via Islamabad as she wanted to meet her sister Hushmat in Rawalpindi. The night before their departure from Rawalpindi for America she fell ill and had to be hospitalized.
The Lord Almighty, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful granted one of His most beloved creatures, Bilquis Ahmad, the opportunity to say farewell to all her near and dear relations and friends before calling her to return to her eternal heavenly home in the early hours of Friday 10th March 2000, to rest there in peace.
The editorial of the DNF Newsletter of April 2000 was head-lined:
In Allah’s care rest in peace, dear Bilquis,
By His grace and mercy, in heavenly bliss.
And, Shahed ended “Bilky and I” with the following words: “No, I’m not going to mourn for her nor grieve for her – I am going to cherish the beautiful memories she has left behind, not only for me, but for Dulha Bhai (Musa), Naheed, Sami and their children, Nuzhat, her brothers and sister and so many of her loved ones.
“Wait for me Up There, Bilky. We’ll meet again and make merry. Till then may Allah, the Almighty, grant you peace and tranquility in His Eternal Paradise.” Just over two years later, on 22nd October 2002, Shahed joined her to live in eternal peace in their heavenly home.
I keep thinking of SHAHED all the time, and find it hard to believe that he is no more. He was only nine years old, and I thirteen, when we were sent as boarders to St. Paul’s School, Darjeeling, in March 1937.
We had so much in common, specially our love for sports, and the values inculcated in us by our parents and everything we learnt at school. He was at St. Paul’s from 1937 to 1943, became a School Prefect and captain of the school’s Hockey team. He also did very well in Boxing.
After doing his Senior Cambridge he spent a year or so at the Muslim University School, Aligarh, and then did his B.Com from the Presidency College in Calcutta, attending ‘night’ classes as he had already found employment with Bird & Company in their paper department. His expertise on paper lead him to a Senior position with Karnaphuli Paper Mills in Chandragona, not far from Chittagong, and later with the Khulna Newsprint Mill.
In the year 1965 he went to Vancouver, Canada with his family to work for Sandwells & Company. On his return in 1968 he moved to Karachi and joined PICIC. In 1977, he found employment in the U. A. E. but, his stay there was very short.
He moved to Bangladesh where he worked for the Bangladesh Oxygen Company and, on his retirement, moved to London to stay with his daughter, Sarwat and Amir at Haddenham. His hobby was ‘writing’ for which he had great talent, of which he made good use as the correspondent of the DNF Newsletter in Dhaka, when it came out in July 1991. Shahed played a very important part, as long as he was in Dhaka, and later, from London, with his regular contributions. I am grateful to him for his help and support in more ways than one.
Shahed had married Meher Bano, known lovingly as Begum, daughter of uncle K. M. Adel and Ahmadi Mamani. She passed away in London. They had an only child Sarwat, who, after marrying Amir Haq, moved to London.
Little did I know that our meeting in London on 7th October 2002 would be the last, and I would never see him again. Arriving from Toronto around 9 p.m., on 6th October, we checked into the “Comfort Inn” near Heathrow. According to previous arrangement, Shahed had gone over to Hamid and Lucy’s that evening, to spend the night there and accompany them to Heathrow to meet with us in the morning. We had breakfast together, spent some time chatting in the Hotel lounge, and drove to the airport.
The Hamids dropped us and left, Shahed staying on as he was to take a bus to Haddenham via Oxford. He kept us company while we collected our baggage from the “left luggage” section, checked in, and as there was plenty of time in hand, we went to a restaurant for coffee and cokes and chatted until it was time for us to leave. He did have the breathing problem, which he had for sometime, and was under medication, but, he looked quite alright. There was nothing to indicate that his time to go was so near. Our last memory of him is waving us farewell as we joined the queue to proceed for security check en route to the departure lounge.
It was Tuesday 22nd October 2002, a few of our very close relatives, as they usually do, came over, at different times during the day, to wish me for my Birthday, but, in my heart of hearts, I was waiting for the call from London, specially after 2 p. m. which was 9 .a.m. in London. As evening drew to a close I kept wondering why Shahed had not called yet. Ayesha and I went over to call on our neighbours to condole with them for a death in their family.
On returning home the telephone “answering machine” indicated that 4 calls had come during our absence. I was sure one of them must be from Shahed !!! As I pressed the button, I heard Sarwat’s voice excitedly wishing me a Happy Birthday and then breaking down with the news that her Abbu had a heart attack, was taken to the hospital and had passed away. For a moment I was in deep mental shock uttering: Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajeoon. To Allah we belong; and to Him will be our return!
The babe of our family, HUSHMAT BANO, was born on 26th July 1930, and was seven years old when Abba and Ammi moved to Calcutta some time in 1937 when both of them were elected as Members of the Bengal Legislative Assembly.
Soon after the partition of the sub-continent, sometime in 1948, Abba was sent to Delhi as Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India, to hold fort until the arrival of Mr. Zahid Husain, the High Commissioner designate, who had been taken ill. Hushmat accompanied them and spent some time in Delhi. Later, she had a brief stay at Kinnaird College, Lahore, followed by another short stay at D.J. Sindh Science College where she did not complete her course.
On 26th March 1950 she was married to Brigadier Noor Ahmad Husain, then a Captain and A.D.C to the Governor General of Pakistan, and moved to Bannu. Thereafter, she moved with her husband on postings at various Army stations including the Pakistan High Commission in London. During that time Noor was appointed Equerry to Queen Elizabeth II.
Noor retired from service in 1986 as Chief Instructor, Defence College, and was recalled later to be the Director General , Pakistan Strategic Studies for a brief period. Hushmats fondness for food lead her to start baking and cooking classes.which she conducted in Rawalpindi for many years. She had also been a social worker with Behbood and is presently associated with Rah-e-Amal charitable school for poor children, who are taught to become good citizens.
Hushmat and Noor had three children, two boys, Tariq and Shahid and a girl, Shazieh. Tariq was a Captain in the Pakistan Army and was sent to East Pakistan during the 1971 war with India. He became a P.O.W. and in trying to escape, he was shot at and wounded.
He was never the same person on returning to Pakistan and spent a lot of time in and out of hospital and passed away in Rawalpindi a few years ago. Hushmat, in Rawalpindi and myself, in Karachi, are at present, the only survivors of the seven children of our parents.
Unfortunately for Hushmat, her husband, Brigadier Noor Ahmad Husain passed away in Rawalpindi on Tuesday 9th August 2011, after proponged illness. One of the Pakistani TV channels, Express 24/7, had this sad news displayed on their news strip throughout the day on 10th August, announcing: “Quaid’s A.D.C. Noor Ahmad Husain passed away in Rawalpindi. Funeral will be held tomorrow in the Army graveyard.”