We Will Miss You, Hamida Apa
By Shaheer Khan, PhD
Foster City, CA
Eminent Urdu writer Hamida Salim passed away on Sunday, August 16 th at the age of 93 in Delhi. She was laid to rest in the Jamia Millia Islamia graveyard on Monday. She is survived by her husband Abu Salim, son Irfan Salim who lives in San Francisco Bay area, and daughter Sumbul Salim.
Born in 1922 in a Zamindar family of Rudauli in Barabanki district of Uttar Pradesh, she did her BA from I T College, Lucknow, and MA in Economics from the Aligarh Muslim University in 1947. She took her diploma and Master’s in Economics from the University of London. She taught both in the Women's College and Economics Department at the Aligarh Muslim University in the early 1960s before moving to Delhi where she taught at Jamia Millia Islamia.
My interactions with Hamid Apa began about 10 years ago during one of her annual summer visits to the Bay area to see her son, Irfan Salim. After our first meeting, she called me on her subsequent summer visit and left a message in her very sweet voice, “Shaheer Mian, Mai Bay Area May AaGai Hun. AapSay Aur Humaira Say Mulaqat Kub Hogi?” We tried to visit her couple of times at her son’s house, depending on her availability, on every visit. During our last meeting some three years ago she mentioned that she may not come back here due to old age and poor health (hers as well as Salim Sahab). She always appreciated that her son made sure that his parents travel in comfort by business class with a stopover in Europe for several days but still the long journey to San Francisco was too much for the couple at their age.
It’s hard to explain our feelings every time when we met her. An amazing human being, she was more than just Majaz's sister. Highly sophisticated, extremely hospitable and a very loving person. We enjoyed every minute of her company and always learned something new about Aligarh, Lucknow and of course, Rudauli (her home town and birth place) of her days. It was an honor to be with her. Our conversations would always include Asrarul Haq Majaz (renowned Urdu poet), Safia Akhtar (Urdu litterateur, wife of Jan Nisar Akhtar and Javed Akhtar’s mother) and Ansar Harvani (veteran freedom fighter, parliamentarian and Congressman).
She had an amazing memory. Her autobiography “Shorish-e-Dauran” (Turbulent Times) published in 1995 covers her Aligarh days. Her second book “Ham Saath The” (We were Together) consists of her write-ups about her siblings, and did not receive the attention it deserved as noted by Naved Masood Sahab. Several people whose opinion is respected in Urdu literary circles, feel that Hamida Apa’s article on Majaz titled “Jaggan Bhaia” is possibility the best tribute from a sister to her brother that they had seen. Majaz was known within the family as Jaggan because he would go to sleep very late. Her other two books, “Hardam Rawan Hai Zindagi” (Life is constantly on the move) and “Parchhaiyon Ke Ujale” (Lights of Shadows) are novels. I am privileged to have all four book signed by her. She gave us the latter two as a gift. According to published reports she was working on two other books ‘Ab aur Tab' (Now and Then, collection of short stories and a few articles) and ‘Beeti Huee Yaaden' (Remembrance of the Things Past, Memoir).
Over the years I convinced her to write articles for our Aligarh Magazine. Despite her old age and poor health she agreed to comply to my request. At the end she would say, “Shaheer Mian Aap Ki Zid Nay Majboor Kar Dia LikhNay Kay Liye”. I also requested her to read one of her articles on Majaz, that she wrote at my request, for video recording.
She was an accomplished author in her own right, had her own identity, and enjoyed her own place in Urdu literature but for us, the Aligarians, who are so passionate about ‘Tarana-e-Aligarh’ and our love for Majaz, she was our link to Majaz and source of firsthand information about his life and work. With her death, that link is broken and snapped forever. We will miss you, Hamida Apa.