Nahid Niazi: A Voice from
the Golden Era
By Ras Hafiz Siddiqui
Niazi and the late Moslehuddin in
Shhabuddin, Noshi Gilani and Nahid Niazi
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,
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
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.