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Monday, October 31, 2005

C M Naim - mhk v

C. M. Naim wrote:

Well, it has happened. Muhammad Hifzul Kabir Qureshi, 'qureshi saab' to me and to most everyone who came to know him, is no more. He died after a long and painful illness but I'm sure he was laughing or making some amusing remark even in his last conscious hour. That's how he was almost all the time. I make that reservation for he was human, and human beings must be sad, angry, or generally wretched some time. He must have had his bad moments too -- in his life I'd have said 'his bad hair days' -- but I didn't see any.

We first met in Poona (now Pune) way back in 1956, at a summer linguistic school run by the Rockefeller Foundation at the Deccan College. Yes, he studied Linguistics too. (Beside Journalism, Urdu and English literatures and Islamic History.) Later we were together in Chicago, working in the same program at the Univ. of Chicago. That's where his wife Afroz -- an extraordinary woman by any measure-- and their first son joined him. He then moved to Canada and left the academic world, joining the Canadian civil service in Toronto. But his interest in Urdu language and literature remained strong as ever. I recall from those days a handwritten and reproduced Urdu magazine called 'Sahba', and frequent reports of literary events organized or conducted by him. (I think he had edited and published a magazine in India too, from Akola.) He wrote indifferent poetry and criticism and to his greatest credit he never claimed more merit in them than was due. We had many differences concerning certain poets and writers and this 'movement' or that, and that's when he showed his mettle and argued as strongly and as convincingly as anyone could. For those issues concerned not his person but other people, other poets and writers. He had his likes and dislike, of course, but was also able to argue out those likes and dislikes. (When he put together the first ever anthology of Urdu poetry written in North America, he was kind enough to include some of my equally indifferent verses. I can't recall the tile of the book now.)

I also recall a period when he took to reading religious texts and histories of Islamic people. Those who visited his home were amazed to see his collection of books and the range of it. He read regularly and I can say without hesitation that he must have read most of his books -- a claim that I certainly cannot make for myself. Now when we met we argued about interpretations of Islamic laws and values and about what Muslims were thinking and doing in the sub-continent. Heated arguments, that ended the moment Afroz announced a tea or dinner break and immediately became the same old routines of facetious remarks and leg-pulling.

I took liberties with my friend, and he never missed a chance to puncture some hot air out of me. Now I can only recall those moments, increasingly vaguely at my age. As the saying goes: rahe naam allaah kaa.



Naim Sahib:


at 3.10 pm he was lowered in his earthly resting place…and by 3.26 the earth was filled…His trust was returned to Him…inna lillah e.....

you may not recall meeting me...but as a qureshi sahib 'groupie' i have had the pleasure of meeting with you on a few occasions…most notably during your visit to TO around the time of the First and Second Canadian Conferences on Urdu in the 80s

ah! what a decent modest insaan…always smiling...always humble...

you know him for longer than i would be utterly out of place for me to say anything to you about him...but if you allow me i'll share this:

during the course of his illness...he was completely bed-ridden…unable to move...the drugs they administered in him must have taken their toll...he'd move in and out of lucid periods…on one visit when he was lucid i asked him how he felt...(i was seeing this almost inert body…with a mind sharp as ever)...he replied that he was thinking all the time...when asked him about what...'several things'...i suggested that he should use a dictaphone and dictate his thoughts...he warmed up to the idea...but alas!

the book you referred to Baazgusht was probably the first urdu book published anywhere in north America since those urdu pamphlets published by the Gadar Party on the west coast early in the first two decades of twentieth century...

with wishes for good health


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