Salam, Everybody,

Murree has two advantages which outweigh the disadvantages like high prices and low quality of goods, scarcity of suitable accommodation and uncooperative attitude of the people in general. Another ordeal these days is access to GPO Chowk from any part of the town. The Mall being closed to all kinds of traffic, the only available entry is via Bank Road. A kilometer long queue of vehicles is a constant sight on that road, the vehicles dribbling into the Chowk one by one after pretty long intervals like drops of liquid from a patient’s bedside drip.

Still, one loves to go and linger amidst the lush green valleys in a cool, sometimes even cold atmosphere. Our second day in Murree started with a heavy shower followed by a freezing breeze. Hence the blue sweater that you see me wearing in my profile picture.

What a sweet dream it seems looking just two days back, and seeing oneself shivering at midnight under a thick fluffy blanket in JULY !!!!

NOTE : I’ll resume the story of our singing competition tomorrow, InshaALLAH.- 1 August 2016

Back to the story of our picnic and singing competition at Queen Noor Jehan’s Mazaar in Shahdara (Lahore).

Half a dozen buses unloaded us in the lawn on the western side of the Queen’s Mazaar. We were around 200 students, 35 professors and a team of cooks and attendants headed by the hostel head cook, Chacha Chaudhri Mehr Din. Our luggage included Michael’s harmonium, George’s tabla and the college loudspeaker, besides 6 degs of chicken, crockery and some rolls of durries to sit on.

First we visited the Emperor Jehangir’s tomb, a glorious edifice with richly decorated walls and ceiling . We offered Fateha for the Emperor’s departed soul, and came back to the Queen’s Mazaar.- 2 August 2016

Queen Noor Jehan had got her Mazar built in her lifetime. Perhaps she feared that her step-son, King Shah Jehan would not care to give her a respectable burial. In a Persian couplet (she’r) she aptly alludes to this misfortune, saying
بر مزار ماغریباں نے چراغے نے گلے
نے پرپروانہ سوزد نے صدائے بلبلے
(I am so poor that nobody cares to light a candle or strew flowers on my grave. So no moth (پروانہ) comes here to burn at the candle, nor any nightingale (بلبل) to sing).

Her fears were true. The tomb that she herself got built is an impressive building . But the Queen’s grave is too simple, without any kind of decoration.

A few years back I visited the Mazar with my family. We found some kids playing around the Queen’s grave, and two goats nosing around for something to eat.The place was dark, desolate and gloomy.

It was a moving experience to see the shabby condition of the poor Queen’s grave. For 15 years she had ruled over the sub-continent as well as King Jehangir’s heart. The King just signed the royal orders and proclamations beautifully drafted by the Queen.-3 August 2016

When we came back to the Queen’s Mazaar, lunch was ready. Today’s lunch was a masterstroke of the head cook, Chacha Mehr Din. He was a chicken specialist of the first rank.

After the lunch, the loudspeaker was switched on. Prof Lodhi read out the rules an regulations for the competition. There was a panel of three judges headed by Prof Shamshad Muhammad Khan Lodhi. Prof Lodhi, though a professor of Mathematics, was a connoisseur of classical, light and folk music.The other two judges were Prof Mukhtar Ahmed Qureshi of History Department, and Qazi Ahmed Yar, the college DPE.

The competing singers were our classmates, Michael of Sialkot, Raja Mani of Rawalpindi, Qazi Ghulam Murtaza of Chakwal. four others and me.

The western side of the platform around the Mazaar was used as stage for the singers.-4 August 2016

Michael opened the competition with a beautiful rendition of Muhammad Rafi’s soulful song :
اس بھری دنیا میں کوئی بھی ھمارا نہ ھؤا

Qazi Ghulam Murtaza sang the sweetly melodious Punjabi song :
پیار دے بھلیکے کنے سوھنڑیں سوھنڑیں کھا گئے

Raja Mani sang our favourite song
جیئیں گے مگر مسکرا نہ سکیں گے

The other four singers ( Can’t recall their names because they were not hostel residents) also did very well with hit songs of Malika e Tarannum (Noor Jehan), Saleem Raza. Kishore and Inayat Hussain Bhatti.

I was the sixth. Before taking the mike I requested my friends at harmonium and tabla (Michael and George) not to give me any surprises, because I was not used to singing with accompaniment ( ساز ) of any sort. Mercifully they were very helpful.- 5 August 2016

Prof Mukhtar Qureshi announced the name of the sixth singer, and handed the mike to me.
The song, Muhammad Rafi’s passionate pleading,

یہ وادیاں یہ فضائیں بلا رھی ھیں تمہیں

was quite familiar for me. It was one of the songs that Bhai made me sing every night before going to bed. But when I came to the lines
تمہاری زلفوں سے خوشبو کی بھیک لینے کو
جھکی جھکی سی گھٹائیں بلا رھی ھیں تمہیں

the sad contrast between the description of beauty in these lines and the shabbiness of the beautiful Queen’s grave went through my heart like a sharp knife. Moved to pity for the poor Queen, I felt my voice choking, but pushed ahead for fear of being hooted down by the audience.

The song was followed by the demand ” One more, one more” from the audience.

Prof Lodhi took the mike and said, ” No. the competition rules don’t allow a second song. “

But as the clamour persisted, he handed the mike back to me, saying , ” Well, give them another, but remember that this second song won’t count in the competition.”–6 August 2016

Knowing that my second song won’t count in the competition, I chose an easy song of Tala’at Mahmood, and sang it just to meet the demand of the audience.

At the end of the competition, the chief judge, Prof Lodhi, announced the result of the competition in his superb dramatic style. He said,
” It was a tough competition, indeed, because all the singers did very well. However, according to our honest judgement, the best singer of our college is —————————–
Mr ——— Munawar ———- Ali ————- MALIK ! ! ! “

” MIANWALI ZINDABAD ! ! ! ” shouted someone among the audience on top of the thunderous clapping.

” Mr Malik,” continued Prof Lodhi, ” did a very good job by putting his heart and soul into that song
یہ وادیاں یہ فضائیں بلا رھی ھیں تمہیں”

Miachael was declared the second best singer of the college, and Raja Mani the third.

Bhai came running up the stage, embraced me, repeated the action of a proud mother caressing her brilliant son, and whispered , ” You see I was right, kameenay !’

I just touched his feet to express my gratitude. Tears didn’t allow me to speak.

(Me and Bhai)–  7 August 2016

My prize as Best Singer was a glittering trophy (cup), George Eliot’s superb novel,”The Mill on the Floss” and a beautiful certificate.While giving me the prize, the Principal, Prof AG Butt said,
” Well done, Mr Malik ! You’ve got the prize for your first song
یہ وادیاں ، یہ فضائیں بلا رھی ھیں تمہیں

but personally I liked your second song more than the first. I mean the song
پتھر دل ھو گیا دنیا کا نہ کوئی تیری سنے نہ کوئی میری سنے
Could you oblige us once more?

It was an honour for me to please our great Principal. So I sang that song again.
Actually the song was a duet sung by Tal’at Mehmood and Aasha. But since our college couldn’t afford an Aasha (being a college only for boys) a solo rendition was all I could do. Anyway, it was loudly appreciated by the audience.

To celebrate the happy occasion, Khan Chacha arranged a special edition of his Urs that night.

I think I have already introduced Khan Chacha in one of my earlier posts. Anyway, I’ll refresh your memory with another introduction to this amusing character tomorrow, InshaALLAH.-8 August 2016

Khan Chacha was our classmate, Abdur Rahman Khan of Peshawar. He was the jolliest fellow among us. Never saw him in a gloomy mood. He loved to laugh and make others laugh. We called him Chacha because he was age-wise oldest resident of our hostel. And he loved it.
The weekly musical night in his room was his brilliant contribution to the pleasures of hostel life. The singers were our hostel-mates, Michael, Raja Mani of Rawalpindi and Qazi Murtaza of Chakwal. Khan Chacha arranged refreshment, tea, biscuits, pastries etc. We offered to share the expenses of refreshment, but he said, ” No, It’s against our Peshawari rules of hospitality. In my room I am the host, mind you”

When I named Khan Chacha’s musical night چاچا کا عرس, Chacha laughed heartily and said, ” Done ! Let it be that.”

And so, at the end of our singing competition, he announced a special edition of his Urs to be held that night. 9 August 2016

The special edition of Khan Chacha’s عرس was a grand affair. Chacha had brought three garlands and a basket of ‘luddoos’ from Anarkali along with the usual fare, biscuits, pastries etc.The Chief Proctor ( Mumtaz Bhai ) was the chief guest of the event.
Khan Chacha stood up and addressed the audience.

” Yara,” said he,” I’m no end happy. Proud and happy, because all the three toppers in the singing competition belong to my URS. Well done, my friends. Let’s celebrate this occasion with every form of joy.Thank you all.”

First I was asked to sing the prize winner song
یہ وادیاں یہ فضائیں بلارھی ھیں تمہیں

When I had finished, Khan Chacha said, ” Malik, yara, your song is a sad song. How could anybody dance to such a song ? But tonight I want to dance until I’m too tired to stand up. So, please give us a happy song for that purpose”

Now that was a sort of challenge , because I’m not fond of happy songs. I couldn’t recall even a single happy song that I could sing. All I could remember was Shamshad Begum’s super-hit
لٹھے دی چادر اتے سلیٹی رنگ ماھیا

Though not exactly a happy song, it is one of the most popular songs for dancing jhummar. With Michael at the harmonium and George at tabla, I started singing the song.

” Loshaaaaaay !!!” cried Khan Chacha, and started dancing ecstatically. Soon everybody else joined him.10 August 2016

After 15 minutes of لٹھے دی چادر we had a break for refreshment. Then the Second Best Singer, Michael, made a beautiful job with Lata Mangeshkar’s lovely song
پنچھی بنوں اڑتی پھروں مست گگن میں
آج میں آزاد ھوں دنیا کے چمن میں

The faster rhythm of this song resulted in frantic dancing and repeated “Loshaaaaaaaaay” s by Khan Chacha and the whole assemblage,

Another break followed with more tea and eatables. Then Qazi Murataza, the Third Best Singer of the college, sparked off another spell of dancing by singing Shamshad Begum’s evergreen
پتی بال کے بنھیرے اتے رکھنی آں

The “hulla gulla” continued till 1 am, when Khan Chacha stopped dancing and said, ” Yara, I can hardly breathe.”

It was an unforgettable night, indeed.

When we came back to our room, Bhai said , ” So now you know your worth, kameenay, don’t you ?”

” What worth ?” said I.

” Yaar, I was just kidding, ” I cried hastily, as I saw Bhai reaching for one of the shoes under his bed. ” By the way,” I added ” much of the credit for my Best Singer title goes to you. It was you who pushed me into the arena.”

” No,” said Bhai , ” I don’t buy second-hand credit. My own talent is enough to get me my own credit.”

He was absolutely right, as you will see tomorrow, InshaALLAH.–11August 2016

Bhai was a born speaker. ALLAH had blessed him with all the qualities of a good speaker ; a resonant manly voice, a refined accent, infinite variation of tone, appropriate gesture, and an impressive personality.

These assets had got him elected president of the students union when he was a student at Islamia College, Gujranwala. He had won a number of Best Speaker awards during his four years at that college.

Here in Central Training College he had easily got himself elected Chief Proctor of the hostel. He knew how to move the audience to smiles or tears.He was also a smashing debater.

My next post will, InshaALLAH, tell you an amazing incident of his skill as a speaker.–12August 2016

One day, during our afternoon ramble, we saw a huge banner at the gate of Islamia College, Civil Lines. It was about an All-Pakistan intercollegiate debate. According to the date and time given on the banner the debate was in progress at the moment.

” Let’s go in,” said Bhai. We didn’t know what he had on his mind. Just followed him into the hall.

When we had taken our seats, Bhai suddenly got up, took his college identity card out of his pocket, walked to the stage, whispered to the stage secretary, got his name noted as one of the speakers, and came back.

The debate was a huge affair. Justice Anwaar ul Haq of Lahore High Court, and Khwaja Muhammad Safdar, a towering political figure of that age were the judges of the debate. ( By the way, Khwaja Muhammad Safdar was the father of Khwaja Asif ).

Bhai was one of the last speakers. I have no words to describe the way he caused a thrill across the hall. The audience were spellbound with the force of his arguments and the manner of his delivery. The hall resounded with clapping at every pause in his speech.

According to the judgment delivered by Justice Anwaar, the best speaker of the event was Mr Mumtaz Hussain Malik.

And so, we came out of the hall, singing and dancing, led by Bhai carrying the huge silver trophy of his prize, and a large white envelop, containing a certificate and some cash.–13 August 2016

After the examination we were no longer students of the college. We had to vacate the hostel and go back to our homes. Some of us were so eager to go back that they left the hostel immediately. We Mianwalians and some others decided to linger around a day or two.

On the day of our departure we were packing up when Khan Chacha entered our room to bid us goodbye. He was on his way out.
” Achha Maliks,” he said in a choking voice, ” Thanks for your love and cooperation. I shall —— never——-forget—-” he burst into sobs.
We were already on the verge of tears, so we embraced him and we all had a good cry for a minute or two. Then Khan Chacha picked up his luggage, and left the room, sobbing.

A few minutes later we too came out, walked to the Bhaati Gate tonga stand, and took a tonga for Lorry Adda.

15August 2016

Shyness, laziness and carelessness were the fatal flaws in my character that might have stunted all the talents ALLAH had blessed me with, But ALLAH made Bhai Mumtaz the guardian of my talents. He discovered, uncovered, promoted and projected the writer, poet and singer in me.

In the previous posts you have seen how he first introduced me as a writer, then as a singer despite all my reluctance. It was not an easy job. He had to plead, argue and even quarrel with me to bring out the best in me. Had he not been there to do all that, I might have lived and died unknown, without putting my pen to paper or singing outside the bathroom.

So the world wouldn’t have got things like
“درد کا سفیر” ,and سچی ڈس وے ڈھولا کل کیوں نئیں آیا
and about a dozen books in English that I went on to write after leaving Central Training College Lahore. And you wouldn’t have got the daily English and Urdu posts that you love to read.

You see what Bhai did for me. That is why I love to remember him, and talk about him. In the next few posts you will learn some more interesting things about our relationship.-16 August 2016

From Lorry Adda, Bhai and I caught a bus for Gujranwala. I wanted to go straight back home, but Bhai insisted I stay with him a few days in Gujranwala.
So we came to Gujranwala. During the few days I stayed there, Bhai refined and polished my taste for Urdu poetry by reciting the best poetry of that age ; Sahir Ludhiyanvi, Faiz, Ahmad Nadeem Qasimi, Qateel Shifai etc. Personally we both loved Sahir. We respected the others, but loved Sahir because his poetry is predominantly emotional. It speaks direct to the reader’s heart.
Let this be our post for tonight.
As for that keyboard problem, I thankfully agree with Mr Faheem Akram that actually it was due to strange behaviour of the facebook these days.18 August 2016

At the end of the week I told Bhai I must leave for home.
Bhai said, ” Since you must go, let it be tomorrow. I’ll accompany you to Lahore to see you off.”
As no direct train or bus for Daudkhel / Mianwali was available from Gujranwala, I had to catch the Mari Indus train which left Lahore railway station around 5 pm.

The next morning Bhai and I came to Lahore. First we went to the college, and met our teachers. Then we came to the hostel. All the boys had left about a week ago. We ran up the stairs. The first room on the right was our 101. It was here that we had shared some of the happiest moments in our life during the past year. We tearfully kissed the door goodbye, and passed on, stopped at the door of 113, the room that had belonged to our friend Karamullah Paracha of Kalabagh, at 114, the room I had named Chakwal Khana because it was the room of our Chakwalian friends, Malik Nazir, Qazi Murtaza and Rashid Bhai. Turning left, a few doors ahead, we came to the locked door of Khan Chacha’s room, the venue of our weekly musical night known as Khan Chacha’s Urs. Here too we could not repress our tears. We kissed the door, and left the hostel.-19 August 2016

We had farewell tea at the canteen, walked across the Lower Mall, entered Urdu Bazar, and came out at the Circular Road end of the Bazar.

Then we walked across the Circular Road and had lunch at Nemat Kadah, a celebrated eatery of that age. After lunch we walked back across the Circular Road and entered Anarkali. From the Mall Road end of Anarkali we retraced our way to Circular Road. From Circular Road we caught a tonga and reached the railway station. The train was to leave from Platform No 2.

We arrived at the platform about 10 minutes before the departure of the train, well in time for a parting cup of tea at the railway tea stall. The train was already there.

When the train started moving, we bade each other a tearful goodbye, and I got on the train. From the window of the moving train I tried to see if Bhai had gone back. Tears blurred my vision.-20 August 2016

After passing BEd, Bhai joined Cantonment Public School Rawalpindi as Senior English Teacher. I got a temporary job in the same capacity at Mines Welfare School, Makarwal (District Mianwali). In January, 1965 I got permanent appointment as Headmaster at Government Middle School, Thathi, a village near my hometown, Daudkhel.

Bhabhi Beena, Mumtaz Bhai’s Mrs and Bhai’s kids tell me a day hardly went by when Bhai did not speak about me in one context or another. Bhai himself told me that as Principal of Cantonment Schools at various places he always told his teaching staff to be like me.

Before I launch a series of posts about my career as a poet and writer, I would like to talk some more about Bhai to give you a clearer idea of our relationship. Will start that tomorrow, InshaALLAH.
(Picture : Mumtaz Bhai as Principal, Cantt Public School)-22August 2016

Mumtaz Bhai was the youngest son of my maternal uncle (Mamu) Malik Manzoor Hussain, Manzoor. We both had three brothers each, but we were closer to each other than to our brothers. Although Bhai was the older of us two, we were so frank with each other, that I never admitted his seniority.
Whenever he tried to assert his seniority, I would say, ” Bhai Sahib, I already have too many elders. If I admit you too as an elder, my status in the family becomes zero. So pleeeeeease don’t shout at me. It hurts my feeling of importance.”

” All right, kameenay,” Bhai would say with an indulgent smile.” But you ought to obey me when I seriously ask you to do or not to do something. “

” Obey YOU,” I would say, laughing, ” forget that”.24 August 2016

In our early childhood Mamu Jan ( Bhai’s father ) was Headmaster at District Board High School, Bhagtanwala near Sargodha. He and his family used to spend the summer vacation in Daudkhel.

Those three months of sizzling heat were the most pleasant season of the year for me and Bhai Mumtaz, because they were an opportunity for us to get together. Except for the few hours of sleep at night, we were always together, sitting in some corner of the house sharing stories of jins and beasts.

I was not much of a talker, but Bhai was great at telling stories. And he did so in a bewitchingly dramatic manner with apt variation of tone and gesture. I just listened spellbound.

In return for those stories Bhai made me sing some of the most popular film songs of that age like
آواز دے کہاں ھے ——— سریندر، ملکہ ترنم نور جہان
یہاں بدلہ وفا کا بے وفائی کے سوا کیاھے ———- محمد رفیع، ملکہ ترنم نور جہان
and many others which I knew by heart and could sing very well.

Neither of us was interested in sports. We were the intellectual sort, more fond of gossiping than doing anything.–25August 2016

Our mothers would often share their concerns about Bhai and me.

” I wonder what would become of these two idiots, ” one would say.

The other would sigh and say, ” Yes, they are good for nothing. Quite abnormal, I should say. They never go out and play like the kids of their age. Always sticking together, talking about God knows what”

” Quite hopeless. That’s what they are,” the first would lament with a sigh.

Alas, neither of the two sweet mothers lived long enough to see what the two idiots became ; one a Principal, the other a Professor.- 26 August 2016

Our Dads too were not very hopeful about me and Bhai. Mine was posted as Assistant Inspector of Schools at Talagang, and rarely found time to be at home. Mamu Jan ( Bhai’s father ) stayed at home through the summer vacation. Whenever he caught sight of us, he would roundly snub us for being careless about our studies.

” Hey,” he shouted one morning , ” Never see you with your books, may I ask why? Didn’t the teachers give you any homework for the summer vacation ? Let me find you doing that from morning till noon everyday. If I see you sitting idle during those hours, I’ll slap your dirty faces out of shape.”

From the next morning we started keeping our books around us, opening them the moment we saw Mamu Jan approaching. Luckily he never questioned us about what we had studied so far.    27August 2016

My Sundays are busier than my weekdays, because every Sunday is our day of a family get together, Our family is a widely scattered family, ranging from Daudkhel to Mianwali to Islamabad to Pindi, Jhelum, Lahore and Khanewal. But some of the members living in Daudkhel and Mianwali come together every Sunday, So, by the evening I get too tired to dig up memories of the past. Hence another day off for you. Will be back with you tomorrow, InshaALLAH.-28 August 2016

When we were around 10 years old, Bhai and I adopted quail-keeping ( بٹیر بازی ) as our hobby. Quail-keeping was the most popular pursuit of Daudkhelvis at that time. Senior quail keepers made or lost quite big sums of money in bets on quail-fights. The kids had no money to win or lose, so we held our quail-fights just for the thrill of it,

We bought our quails from the sale points managed by the sons of Chacha Gheba goldsmith and Chacha Saleh Muhammad carpenter. The price was 4 quails to a rupee. The she-quails were sold at 8 for a rupee. The poor things were bought only for roasting, while the males were used for fighting. A defeated male also suffered the same fate as a she-quail. Normally, the she-quails were not interested in fighting. But once Mumtaz Bhai and I bought one which was a tremendous fighter like our Baji Anjuman, the celebrated film heroine of Sultan Rahi films. .29 August 2016

We named our fighter she-quail Rani. She was taller than an average male, very beautiful and somewhat wild ( like Katrina?). As the rules of quail-fighting didn’t allow entry to a she-quail, we couldn’t introduce her at senior level. At kids level she defeated every male quail in our Mohallah.

Then one night a cat got her. When Bhai and I got up next morning we saw only some bones and feathers near her cage. We cried our eyes out at this sad loss. The elders had to beat us silent.- 30 August 2016

Quails too have self-respect. A defeated quail never fights again. But there are some shameless quails who never care for traditions, and keep coming back only to be defeated again and again. Senior quail-keepers never keep a quail of this type. But kids love to have one because they don’t have to purchase another for the next fight.
And so, Bhai and I were proud of the one that we once bought from a friend at 50% discount, We named it Sheroo ( tiger cub ).-31 August 2016

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