Nahid Niazi: A Voice from the Golden Era
By Ras Hafiz Siddiqui

Nahid Niazi and the late Moslehuddin in
Hawaii
Ali Shhabuddin, Noshi Gilani and Nahid Niazi
Nahid Niazi with her son Feisal Mosleh and his wife Kim

It was difficult to predict what Nahid Niazi would look like after all these years. But one thing was for sure: she herself wanted to come out and interact with the Pakistani and South Asian community here after a long time in relative seclusion following the death of her husband, the music conductor/composer Moslehuddin in the year 2003.
And it just happens to be our luck that her son Feisal Mosleh (a musician in his own right) is a resident of the San Francisco Bay area. And since they volunteered to assist the local group of Silicon Valley Pakistani-Americans who held a fundraiser on March 23rd 2007 to assist The Citizens Foundation, we interacted and agreed to meet with her at a celebration that was being held at the Chandni Restaurant the following day in Newark, California.
Coincidentally, this event was being put together with the help of Ms. Raana Faiz of the Hamrahi Radio Program and incorporated many individual celebrations within the community including the retirement of local Pakistani-American, Mirza Tarkash. In the hands of Raana, this gathering became much bigger than anticipated and we ended up with a gala evening of fine food and entertainment during which local singer Anisha Bakshi, poetess Noshi Gilani and music composer Ali Shahabuddin amongst others excelled in their talents. The coincidence was that Raana Faiz is also a childhood friend of the Niazi sisters, and this was quite a trip down memory lane for them. Another interesting development was that some relatives had often appeared in a children’s program conducted by Moslehuddin on Pakistan television during the late 1960’s. So this was not exactly a meeting of strangers.
Since you do not ask a lady her age, and one does not need to estimate that here, but when my wife and I saw Nahid sitting with her son Feisal and his wife Kim, one could easily mistake them all for being local Californians and of a much younger set. She has the good looks of the Niazi clan of which the cricket great Imran Khan is the most famous example. But beyond the looks there is her gentle demeanor and charm that oozes a sense of confidence. Through the measured words one can gather that she has adapted to her life in the United Kingdom but she misses her home in Pakistan. She visits her son Feisal in California once in a while and enjoys her grandchildren both here and in the UK where her daughter Nermin lives. But one can almost feel that the loss of her husband Mosleh was and still is sometimes overpowering.
Nahid is the daughter of the late Sajjad Sarwar Niazi, a former Deputy Director General at Radio Pakistan. A Pakistani from the Niazi clan, married to Moslehuddin, a Bengali, the two had to face the traumatic year of 1971 together. The creation of Bangladesh was the second partition of the sub-continent, and many couples had to make painful decisions. There were break-ups of families; West Pakistanis who had married Bengalis were concerned about their future and there were rumors that Bengali husbands were leaving their West Pakistani wives. According to Nahid, many such rumors about her own marriage were spreading in Pakistan at that time and that had her family worried.
But Moslehuddin and Nahid conquered the new division and settled in the UK permanently. They made a big impact in their newly adopted country because as rumor has it Moslehuddin, the accomplished music composer, helped to invent a new food dish that the British just cannot let go of called “Chicken Tikka Masala.” “It is true,” said Nahid. And speaking of food, Nahid revealed her love for shrimp and prawns in all forms and considers them her favorite food. “But I can’t eat crab,” she said. “Even though Mosleh loved it,” she added.
On her own all-time favorite song she mentioned that out of many, her father’s composition “Ek Baar Phir Kaho Zara” previously sung by Shamshad Begum was her choice. Her favorite female singers are Noor Jehan and Lata Mangeshkar. Amongst male voices those of Mohd. Rafi and Mehdi Hassan along with Ahmed Rushdie have a special appeal for her. She added that Rushdie, whom she had sung duets with, would use several takes to perfect his songs while she herself would try to finish her recordings in as few takes as possible.
On another note she said that she is learning Bengali these days and can now read some of the script. She said that what inspired her was the need to understand more of what her husband wrote, because he loved the language and wrote in it. She said that her relationship with her late mother-in-law was also very inspiring. Nahid said that Moslehuddin was buried in Islamabad as the family wished. On her future plans she had this to say; “I was sorting out my life after Mosleh’s death.” And since her children are now well settled, “I am all set to come back,” she added. One can be sure that Pakistan, and possibly even Bangladesh, will hear from her soon.
To conclude, it almost seems fair to write that the Golden Age of Pakistani arts has somehow just got to be preserved. Online this effort has been attempted by Mazhar in Denmark and by Anis Shakur in New York . Our Washington-based Pakistani journalist Khalid Hasan has been amongst the best historians of this age when Pakistanis could boast of a vibrant film, arts, and entertainment industry.
Mohtarma Nahid Niazi is one voice from that era. She spoke candidly about her contemporaries and about being inspired by the greats of the time like poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz. One can only hope that more people out there will attempt to properly archive this past for the benefit of our future generations and in the process utilize Nahid Niazi as an important resource.

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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