Memorable Musical Evening Marks AAANE’s Tenth Year Celebrations
By Tahir Ali
Pictures by Saqib Zulfiqar & Syed Ali Rizvi

Marlborough, MA: The Aligarh Alumni Association of New England (AAANE) celebrated its 10th anniversary on the 12th of January, 2013. The event drew almost all of the Aligarians in the area and many well-wishers. The celebrations became more jubilant with the special appearance of guest artists - Mrs. Monidipa Sharma and Dr Nishikant Sonwalkar.

Monidipa Sharma, a professional singer, completely mesmerized her audience when she rendered one classical Urdu ghazal after another of famous poets like Ghalib, Mir, Dagh, Faiz, just to name a few. She has a pleasant personality and one will find her more a down-to-earth person. She filled the hall with her sweet voice, melodious harmonium music and remained well synchronized with the beat of the tabla tirelessly played by Dr Nishikant Sonwalkar. He not only plays the tabla well, but excels in academia as well - an MIT graduate and now an MIT faculty. Monidipa Sharma, on the other hand, is a postgraduate gold medalist from Aligarh University. The two academia's, vocalist and musicians were in full control of the musical aspect of the enchanted evening. Perhaps the combined chemistry between the two artists was just right to introduce a new formula of success.

 The program: After enjoying the appetizers comprised of traditional Pakistani/Indian cuisine the mood was set to relax and enjoy the rest of the evening. The program started with the Qur’anic recitation and the translation presented by Amber Ali and Asra Rizvi respectively. Thereafter, Ms Maaria Alvi and Ms Maseeha Dawar introduced the program of the evening, while at the same time, amusing the audience with their comical anecdotes.

Dr Sadia Chaghtai, the president of AAANE, in her welcome remarks expressed her gratitude for the relentless support that she and her team had received from fellow Aligarians, supporting organizations, sponsors and well-wishers. That support has been transformed - by her own submission - into a lot of energy and has been serving as the guiding light and a source of encouragement that brings out the best in them. She categorically thanked each past executive committee for their advice and timely inputs. Dr Sadia did not forget to mention Dr Syed Shujaat Ali, her husband who has been at her side all along and had been supporting her efforts all the way. Even at the event Dr. Shujaat was seen busy with his camera, clicking away and capturing the highlights of the evening. Dr Sadia also acknowledged her team, namely, Vice President Dr Mohsin Alvi, Secretary Dr. Farhan Syed, Treasurer Mr Hasan Chowdhury and Executive member Dr. Suhaib Riaz, and dubbed the success of the event to good teamwork.

The Aligarians joined in with Mrs Homaira Naseem, ex-

AAANE president, to sing the Aligarh Tarana - Ye mera chaman hai mera chaman - Mein apne chaman ka bulbul hoon…

Marking AAANE’s 10th anniversary a cake was cut by the existing founding members and the AAANE team presented everyone in the audience with a specially designed tenth anniversary mug as a souvenir.

Homaira Naseem was full of compassion when she introduced Monidipa Sharma. She recalled her student days in Aligarh and the time she spent with her best friend, Monidipa. Homaira talked highly of her friend and her passion for Urdu ghazals since her early days at Aligarh. Trying to capture her contribution, Homaira said, “As Bollywood takes its strength from its songs, Urdu takes strength from its ghazals,” and she further added, “Monidipa Sharma takes pride singing these ghazals.” Homaira invited Monidipa to the stage in the company of Dr Nishikant Sonwalkar.

Earlier, Syed Ali Rizvi, ex-president of AAANE, had the audience laughing when he performed his signature parody ’Chai Garam’ routine.

Monidipa Sharma talked about how she was first introduced to the Northeastern community by late Omar Khalidi fifteen years ago. Monidipa paid homage to Omar, as she added, “I am delighted and deeply honored that his wife Mrs Nigar Khalidi and daughter Aliya accepted my invitation to be here today, taking time out of their busy life.” Aliya is an assistant DA.

Monidipa Sharma sang many beautiful Urdu ghazals. She delighted the audience with ghazals such as:

Dekhna Jazbe mohabbat ka asar aaj ki raat by Majaz

Shame firaq ab na pooch aayi aur aa ke tal gayi by Faiz

Dayam pada hua hun tere dar par nahin hoon main by Ghalib

Dil mat tapak nazar se ki paaya na jaayega by Sauda

Ai Mohabbat tere naam pe rona aaya by Shakil

Aaah ko chahiye ek umr asar hone tak by Ghalib

She also sang ghazals by Mir, Hasrat Mohani and Daagh.


AAANE's Who's Who: Professor Ashraf Khan, of UMASS Medical, who is one of the founding members and AAANE's first President, steered the audience down the memory lane with a show and tell power point presentation. Dr Ashraf Khan highlighted 10 years of AAANE - since its inception to the present time. He started by saying, "AAANE provides an ideal forum for people to build bridges and network for the pure enjoyment of literary, social and cultural activities in our community". Dr Khan added, "The concept of AAANE was laid down at Dr Saif Ansari 's home where few Aligarians were present: Drs Syed Masarrat Ali, Shabana Islam, Rabab Khan and Ashraf Khan. This was later expanded at a dinner that was joined by Mr Khalid and Mrs Homaira Naseem, Drs Rashid and Najma Bhatt, Mr and Mrs Mohammad Khalid and Bushra Khalid, Mr Shahid Hasan, Mr Rizwan Khan and Dr.Saroj Roy. Most of these people also formed the AAANE first executive."

AAANE’s first president was the founding member Dr Ashraf Khan, followed by Dr Syed Masarrat Ali in 2004 who introduced new programs under AAANE’s umbrella such as Sir Syed Excellence in Science Award (SSESA). He passed the reins to Mr Ali Rizvi in 2006 who ran the organization with lots of love and passion. Mrs Homaira Naseem became AAANE’s fourth President in 2008. It was under Homaira Naseem’s Presidency that the AAANE Youth Festival, a very popular event, was started.

Dr Sadia Chaghtai the current AAANE's president has been a key person in expanding AAANE’s membership. On the eve of its tenth anniversary, Sadia has also launched a scholarship program for meritorious high school and undergraduate students from the US that will be the expansion of the original SSESA scholarship of AAANE.

Dr. Ashraf Khan concluded by informing, "Over the past decade in addition to the annual youth festivals, mushairas, ghazal evenings and picnics, AAANE has also organized poetry events, plays, lectures at various universities in the Boston area."

There were acknowledgements to Maarij and Homaira Kirmani for helping AAANE in arranging mushairas. Mr Mahmud Jafri, Mr Farooq Ansari, Mr Khalid Naseem, and Dr Rabab Khan were given special mention for being AAANE’s sponsors since its inception. Dr Razzaque Ahmad and late Mr Omar Khalidi got a special mention for being ardent supporters.

 Concluding Remarks and Notable Quotes: "MoniDipa Sharma kept the listeners musically connected until almost 2:00 A.M. - that was a first," remarked a satisfied listener. Mr Saqib Zulfiqar: “Being a Diaspora living 8000 miles away from ones mother land, events like these are nothing short of a breath of fresh air. Not only was this a cultural event, it was a rare opportunity to listen to ‘ghazals’, which depict a high sense of poetic literature, coupled with sweet melodious singing. The choice of poetry was very impressive. It was a delight to listen to rare works of poets like Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Ameer Meenai, Asad Ullah Khan Ghalib and others.” Harish and Binita Dang of Sounds of India thought that the evening was well spent. Harish appeared to be enjoying every moment of the evening with Binita at his side. Mrs Ayesha Saqib reflected upon the sentiments of others as well, “On the social side, this event was a step toward social harmony, as Pakistanis and Indians of multiple faiths had gathered together; signifying culture events like these play an important role in not only fulfilling our intellectual and entertainment needs, but also to improve the bond of diversity. Out of all the things that stood out, the singer’s ability to deliver Urdu poetry with accurate pronunciation was impressive - especially since Urdu was not her first language."


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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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