Sir Syed Day Banquet
& Mushaira in Northern California
By Ras H. Siddiqui
to right: Abidullah Ghazi, Amtul Suhail, Abdul Qayyum,
Hamida Banu and Jazib Qureishi
The Aligarh Muslim University
Alumni Association of Northern California held its Annual
Sir Syed Day Banquet and Mushiara (poetry recital) at the
Mehran Restaurant in Newark, California on December 16.
While keeping this tradition alive, the people who have
had the privilege of having graduated from this prestigious
university located in Northern India, paid rich tributes
to a great Muslim educator of the 19th century, Sir Syed
Ahmad Khan, along with a Tehzeeb (culture) which has become
associated with the center of learning that he founded.
And once again, the San Francisco Bay Area Pakistani-Indian
“Aligarians” (as they are called) along with
those from the Central Valley region, gathered in an environment
of fine food, poetic Urdu and an unmistakable philosophical
discourse on the role of Urdu and Muslims in the world today.
The evening started with Mughlai Cuisine in the form of
a buffet dinner. The formal program as always in the Aligarh
tradition started off with a recitation from the Holy Qur’an
which was presented by Afzal Saeed Khan. AMU Alumni activist
Ms. Shahla Khan was emcee for the program. She stressed
the need to keep the Aligarh tradition alive and spoke about
what needs to be done to achieve AMU Alumni goals. She also
invited local AMU President Ms. Amtul Suhail to speak.
to right: Manzar Bhopali, Popular Meeruthi, Khushbir
Singh, Rehana Roohi and Parvin Shere
Ms. Amtul Suhail has made
many speeches at AMU Alumni events over the years, but the
one delivered at this gathering had to be her most touching
and emotional one to date.
Amtul’s father was also an Aligarh graduate and his
loss earlier this year was one focal point of her speech.
She said that her father gave her a message before their
parting that was not just for her but the entire Aligarh
community. Tearfully sharing her father’s hopes for
the community, Amtul said that we need to continue to strive
to keep AMU and Sir Syed’s vision alive. She also
stressed the need to promote the AMU Alumni scholarship
program to help disadvantaged kids to get an education (please
visit www.amualumni.com for more details).
to right: George Gohar, Aifra Ahmed, Afzal Khan, Hitten
Verma and Kiran Rizvi
Ms. Hamida Banu who is an
icon of the Urdu language in the San Francisco Bay Area
and very active in promoting the language via the local
ICC, next presented a delightful speech on the language.
Her presentation was enhanced by the presence of two young
people who learned or improved the language via her encouragement.
Young Mr. Hitten Verma and Ms. Kiran Rizwi delighted us
all with a fine presentation each in chaste Urdu. Hamida
herself took us through on a carefully crafted journey of
two sister languages, “Hindi” and “Urdu,”
who shared a tehzeeb or culture together. She said that
Urdu went as a bride to Pakistan but the common genetic
origins of the two cannot be separated. Each has to be appreciated
left: Shahla Khan and Mahnaz Naqvi
The keynote address of Dr.
Abidullah Ghazi was equally inspiring. He wore many hats
during the evening. He was emcee of the Mushaira, keynote
speaker and poetry presenter, all roles that he performed
extremely well during which he included rare wit and wisdom
that just had to be appreciated. Especially interesting
was his emphasis on the blurring of boundaries between the
roles of men and women today.
Shahla Khan next thanked the event sponsors, Mr. and Mrs
Abdus Salam Qureshi, Drs. Kamil and Talat Hasan, Dr. Karim
M. Hussain, Drs. Waheed and Munazza Qureshi and Mr. and
Mrs Zain Jeewanjee for their generosity and support.
No AMU Alumni program is complete
without the singing of the Aligarh “Tarana”
which was enhanced this year by a DVD/Video cinematic tour
of the campus on screen with many in attendance singing
The second part of the evening was the International Mushaira.
The Urdu language is known for bringing people together
via its rich poetry and it certainly brings people of Indian
and Pakistani origin together, as it did once again at this
gathering. Urdu poets from South Asia, the United States
and Canada were present at this event.
Khushbir Singh, Popular Meeruthi
and Manzar Bhopali represented India, Rehana Roohi and Jazib
Qureishi came from Pakistan, Parvin Shere came from Canada
and from right here in the United States, Abidullah Ghazi
(Chicago) and a talented California contingent consisting
of Mahnaz Naqvi, George F. Gohar, Abdul Qayyum (Mushaira
President), and Aifra Ahmed.
Urdu Mushairas are an intellectual feast to experience.
The language has an amazing treasure chest of verse, symbolism
and wordplay. Some say that Urdu has received this gift
from Arabic and Persian. But for any listener and viewer,
the involvement of the audience is an added plus. And that
was the experience that completed this event in Newark .
All the poetry presented was
moving. Some was just plain excellent. But Manzar Bhopali
stole the show by his tying together the current Muslim
experience. He wrote, “Meray Allah Meri Naslon ko
Zillat say Nikaal. Haath Phehlai Musalman Bura Lagta Hai.”
There was just too much material to put into one report
here. Rehana Roohi’s “Aurat Hoon,” will
have to be appreciated separately. But let us end here by
writing that the words of Manzar Bhopali above were the
reason Sir Syed Ahmad Khan gave a new direction to the Muslims
of South Asia and the world. The issue today is: “Are
we still listening?”