Dhani Bux Shah
The Aga Khan University, Institute for Educational Development
"One of the most significant and excellent novels I have ever read in my entire life"
In April 2010, I went to a Book Store of Karachi to purchase the books of Nursery class for my son. I handed over the list of the books to the Salesperson and in the meantime looked through the Store; I found two shelves having books on fiction. As I had time, so I started browsing the books. In fact I was looking for Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist”; I had heard much about this book but had not yet got a chance to read it. As I was browsing I saw Aadhe Adhore Khawab of Dr Shahid Siddiqui in the shelf. In the meantime, however, I found, The Alchemist, purchased it and left the Book Store.
Couple of days later I got an e-mail from the Chair Alumni of my university, containing the link of Dr Shahid’s Blog. The blog contained Dr Shahid’s articles including the review of his book Aadhe Adhore Khawa, written by one of my most favourite professors of the university. Either what he has written in the review of the book or his influence cherished a desire in my heart to read this book. So, I got it issued from the library along with another book, Sophie’s World, and came to my flat.
At night, I started reading Sophie’s World. After reading for half an hour I put that book aside and took Aadhe Adhore Khawab. I found the introduction very catchy and kept on thinking during reading that it is certainly written by someone very experienced literary person. On the last page of Introduction I found that it was written by Asif Farrukhy; but could not recognize him, either because of my poor reading habits which have led me to be exposed to just some books or due to quite limited reading of Urdu literature.
I started reading the book, beginning with Gulzar’s beautiful lines. As I was reading, a feeling came to me that I was being caught in a strange type of interest and engagement with the text and it was increasing as I am turning the pages. I found that slowly the reading was catching me intensely. As a result, I asked myself; why am I feeling that I am being caught? The answer came, “might be because you do not read fiction and fiction is always catchy”, but in the second thought my mind sent me the titles of some fiction books which I had read but they were unable to put me in a situation, I was experiencing this time. Consequently, the first answer was rejected by the mind at once. I stopped analysis and started reading again. But the same thing happened again I felt that as I was turning the pages, I was becoming more engaged to the text. I continued, till the moment came when I reached on Page # 29 and was unable to continue the reading. I put the book aside, stood and left my flat, went to that Book Store where first I had seen this book, reached there, purchased the book, returned to flat and again start reading. But why I did so, could I not continue the reading from the library book? The answer is simple, I could not, because I have a habit of highlighting and taking the notes on the pages of the book; that I found very interesting, engaging, relevant and heart capturing and certainly, I could not do this to the library book. The more I was reading the text the more I was feeling that actually it is my own story, rather than Imtisal Agha’s.
Note: The forthcoming text of this paper is distributed in two categories;
Category one contains all those names of the books, poets, authors which were new to me and I came to know their names through this book.
Category two contains excerpts from the book which I found relevant to my own life, followed by analysis.
The paper flows as follows:
Page # 16 writes “The Celestine Prophecy” name of a new book and I wrote it in the list of books to be read.
On page # 22 when Prof Roy describes his childhood in village and his experience of running behind a rainbow after the rain, for some time my heart sank and I went back to my village, childhood and rain.
Page # 24, writes that how Imtisal Agha left her village and came to a big city for getting higher education. I found it very close to me. The book reads:
Then one day I had to leave those mountains, flowers and valleys and came to a city for higher education, where there were no any mountain, valleys, charming breeze, melodious sound of waterfalls and a clean sky studded with stars.
In my case the same scenario is a bit different because my beautiful village is in a plain land rather than mountains. I situate myself in place of Imtisal and visualize the day when I left my beautiful village:
Then one day I had to leave those fertile lands. I clearly remember that it was the month of August. Routinely, August remains very hot in our area, but that day it was raining. When I was leaving my home; leaving behind, my grandma, mother, father, brothers, sisters, wife and a two years old son. Oh my God, what a difficult situation that was! Even writing now about that after four years, my heart is sinking and trembling: That day, that weather, that local bus of my village (which took me till my taluka city from where I had to travel to the Big City. At that time I wanted to cry, cry with screams but I did not, because I wanted to show my family members that my decision of leaving them all for higher education was right. I was surely pretending to be bold.
Page # 24 contains, that it was a good thing about college that it offers job opportunities to some of its competent students after their graduation, not as faculty members but their status was higher than normal students.
So true in my case, after completing my degree I was also offered a job opportunity at my Institute, not as a faculty member, but as a Professional Development Teacher (PDT), I accepted it and am still playing my role here.
Page # 26, refers to the long hairs (Shano(n) tak latke sayah ball) of Professor Royt hat touched my heart so deeply that it once again gave a life to one of my desires of having long hairs, which I could not realize so far; either because of the type of my hairs or because of some other reasons, yet I have still resolution inside me.
Page # 27, writes about devotion and about the relationship of Peer-o-Murshid, very easy for me to connect to the notion. As, I belong to a family who has also many disciples and I have observed the devotion and its influence from my childhood. Moreover, my personal diversion and devotion towards Sufism makes it easy to capture the essence of the very notion of Peer-o-Murshid. The page further writes about Postman’s article “Politics of Reading” and I listed it to read.
When page # 29 writes, Professor Rai was “not just a teacher but an inspirer” and a strong believer of the power of Love. I remembered my favourite professor, who has influenced me so much that I found a real transformation in me (here the word transformation is used keeping in mind its broad meaning)
On Page # 33 Prof. Roy narrates, “I brought cigarettes and books from the room and again came to balcony” My soul once again becomes restless, who has been in a constant attempt to find out the correlation of books, loneliness and cigarettes and so far I have not been able to find out. One of very competent students and friend of mine who is pursuing a higher degree is also indulged in smoking. Once trying to prevent my friend from smoking I told him, “Dear, you know one cigarette minus 11 minutes of one’s life, I have found this written at Sports Center of our university”. He replied with following lines of John Elia:
Zindage itne bhe ghaneemat to nahe, jis ke liye,
Ehd-e-Kamzarf ki, har cheez gawara kar loon
As, I could not understood the response so I did not discuss with him.
On Page # 37 there is a mention of Emile Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights”, which is a new book for me and I added it in the list of books to read.
On page # 41 Tassawar, Prof Roy’s student, compares Prof Ro and discuscuss the commonly present transmission model of teaching in our education system. I just remembered my days of studentship; how as students we were terrorized by those teachers who used physical and psychological punishments with transmission model of teaching.
Page # 42 to 45 there is a discussion about the attributes of a good teacher and I enthusiastically highlighted the text, made notes and summarized the text as under:
3 Attitude and
These are the essential qualities of a good teacher.
Page # 48 mentions the name of Paulo Freire and I remembered his book “The politics of Education: culture, power and liberation”, which I have issued a month back from library but still not able to read more than a few pages, either due to its difficult text or perhaps above my level. Same page # 48 further contains the golden words about Education as it writes, education can either increase the social and economic differences of a society or decrease them. I then analyzed our Education System and found how it is designed to produce different classes in our society; for every class a different Education system. Alas!
On Page # 53, thee is a mention of College Van and its time 08:30am to reach at Hostel, which makes me remember my institute’s Hostel and the Shuttle timing, which was followed by me for two years.
On Page # 64, there are references to writes such as Italian scholar Gramsci, Foucault and French Sociologist Bourdieu, the names or new to me so I included them in my library list.
Page # 66, writes about Professor Rai’s belief about Education; as to him it can be used to bring social revolution. I then thought of our education system, its problems, complexities, insincerity, dishonesty, corruption, lack of commitment, lack of dedication, lack of sincerity and so on. As result, it is a prime source of creating different classes, standards and breeds; occupying them with degrees after degrees, making them literate, but not educated. The difference between literacy and education is magnificently described in J. C. Aggarwal’s book, “Theory and principals of education: Philosophical and sociological bases of education” in which he quotes Gandhiji explaining that literacy is just a skill, it is not education it is not mere the start of education.
Page # 74 writes, Byron poetic lines,
They know not I know thee
Who knew thee too well
The lines are heartening indeed! I included the name of Byron in my library list.
On Page # 83, writes about Nasim Taleb’s book Black Swan and I included the book in the list of my library books.
Page # 85 writes about Professor Rai’s comment in a conference which reads as, “Ladies and Gentlemen! Unless we do not develop a relationship of education with society, we cannot make claims about success. The comment led me to the journey of getting my education and remembered that how we were given piles after piles of articles and readings emerged from western and other developed world contexts, without even encouraging us to read about Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, Sachal Sarmast, Qalandar Lal Shehbaz, Sultan Haq Baho, Data Ganj Bux, Baba Bulley Shah and many others, making us analyze their work, find similarities about teaching, leadership and management and embed them too in our assignments along with the literary work of developed world scholars. The question here arises that when even indigenous knowledge and wisdom are also not acknowledged how we would be able to develop a relationship between education and society!
One is not against the approach of citing contemporary intellectuals in any way, but the point is this that, on one hand the work of these exceptional developed world writers is acknowledged, while on the other hand indigenous wisdom is suppressed. My argument is very clear and the point which I would like to make here reads in this way; if we really want to improve our education system then we should use an approach of amalgamating the indigenous knowledge and wisdom with the current developed world latest knowledge and put it in the practice at our institutions. This type of approach will really touch the hearts and minds of the all the stakeholders and they can be motivated to a large extent in order to bring about a positive change.
Page # 94, writes about Bhagat Singh the great freedom fighter and I tried to remember Indian movie which portrays Bhagat Singh and the freedom movement.
Page # 98, writes about the power of picture and I remember a Chinese proverb which says, “one picture speaks more than 2000 words” This remembrance drag me to past and got me remember the Maulvi Sahab of our village who used to say “do not take the picture, let the picture be taken and also do not hang the picture of any living being at your homes, if it will be hanged in your home, the Angles of Blessing will not enter in your home”. Then I remembered the comments of one of the renowned religious scholars of our country on Geo TV’s Aalim Online programme, in which he says that there is no harm in taking the picture of any living being, let it be taken or hanged at home. Great contradiction! who is right, Allah, the Almighty knows better.
Page # 99 writes about Shakespeare’s play, King Lear, and I included it in my library list. Further the page reads as, “why the moonlight of a full moon makes the soul restless?” which remembered me of my village again, where I enjoyed moonlight so much that when I was sharing my amusement to one of my friends he said, “Shah be careful, I fear you would lose your conscience on one such night”
On Page # 101, Beenish, a well wisher of Prof Roy calls Prof Roy and tells him about the college in which she was studying, “Sir there is no relationship of college with the real world. The discussions about critical thinking and social change are just bookish. The teachers at college even do not want to discuss country’s situation or the restoration of Judiciary” I remembered here one of my colleague (at that time he was pursuing a post graduate degree in one of the universities of our country) who told me that when Emergency was announced by former Dictator Musharraf on November 03, 2007, one of the professors and some of the students of his university wrote an email against the Emergency and sent it to everyone at the campus. Consequently, at once an email was sent to everyone by the higher management containing “not to do so” message and especially warning students to maintain a focus on studies rather than diverting themselves to the issues of outer world. What a pity!
On page # 106 the picture of Imtisal’s village’s school is sketched and when I was reading that I was feeling that someone has written about my village school; the pathetic situation of building, untidy students of underprivileged families and unavailability of basic needs at school. A very real picture of my school; the school where I got the education and then got a chance to teach there, but left that for higher education and arrived in a big city.
Page # 107, contains professor Rai’s advice to Imtisal where he suggest to her her that after getting degree she should go back to her village and try to lit the candle of education there; where there is talent, but not the money to pursue higher education. I remembered my village and my villagers intensely; where there is talent but lack of access, lack of information, extreme poverty, social inequality, no chance of polishing that talent, and using that talent, Frankly speaking the reading of page # 107 shook me, it put me in an apologetic situation. I asked myself “Where are you needed? Either, in this metropolitan, (where already there is much light, many people like you having the same or even higher degrees than you) or in your own, small, beautiful, blessed village, where there is no one who has a degree from a good university. I intensely remembered my father’s comment who once said to me in a sad mood, “We have felt now that you will not return to the village”. I remembered one of my own comments which I shared with my employers who asked me about my future plan after completing the degree. I replied, “sir my moral duty is to go back to my village and spread the light there, the light of education, which I have got during my stay in a prestigious university”.
But what happened then, even after two years of completion of my degree, I am unable to return to my village, I am unable to join my school, I am unable to go there and meet my all friends of childhood, I am unable to…and yes if I am able to do something concrete after completing my degree is the decision of staying at the same city, renting a flat here, shifting my family here, enrolling my child in a reputed private school and visiting my village after months for some days.
Today, at this very moment when I am writing these lines I found myself caught in a very complex situation, a situation in which I am unable to make any decision; Should I continue my stay here or should I go back to my village. I am in a situation, for which perhaps Shah Abdul Latif says,
Kucha ta Kafir, chup raha ta mushrik (in Sindhi) and the translation is,
“If I say something, I will be counted as unthankful
and if I will remain silent, I will be counted as infidel”
As a result, I have stopped thinking about my future, I have almost completely handed over myself to the hands of the time, let the time decide, let the fate decide. As a result, no planning, no preparation for future endeavors and just trying to live in present happily; though I know that even if I will be successful to get happiness that will also be a strange type.
Page # 110, writes about Amertya Sen’s book “Development as freedom” and I have included the name of the book in my library list.
On Page # 112 Imtisal writes to Prof Roy the account of her visit back home, “Sir, how every time my mother knows earlier that I am coming” A similar sentence is uttered by Shah Rukh Khan to her mother in a movie called, “Kabhe Khushi Kabhe Gham”.
Mother, oh my God! What a soul on earth God has blessed to living beings; for protection, for prayers, for being relaxed, for hiding under that kind umbrella from the scorching sun of world’s affairs.
I remembered my mother extremely, how her tears floated when she hugged me to say good-bye when I was leaving for the city with my family.
Page # 115 writes the name of Paulo Coelho.
First time the name of Paulo Coelho was introduced to me by one of the professors of my university. My reading of his work revealed that he is a very strong writer, who is really making differences in the lives of human beings.
Page # 121, writes about, “faida” and “afada”, terming them very basic notions of economics. It further reads that it is not necessary that there should be any benefit from afada, however it is a source of satisfaction. Further, Professor Roy maintains that though there is no benefit of smoking but as it provides satisfaction so it is linked to afada.
Frankly, I could not understand the essence of above written lines, so unable to do any analysis.
Page # 124, writes about Erich Segal’s novel “Love Story” and I included the name of the novel in the list of books to be purchased.
Further, page # 124, 125, 126 contain much about “Love”, though I have highlighted the text at certain places, but could not understand the essence in deep, possibly the reason may be yet I have been am unable to test the very flavor of love.
On Page # 127 Proy Roy shares with Imtisal, “Many people remain unaware that they are being loved. Likewise, many people remain unaware that they are in love. They only realize it when it’s too late.”. These lines made me think again that should I revisit my feeling of “not testing the very flavor of love”. I thought for a while as could not find any satisfactory answer, so returned to the text to read more.
This page further writes about the folk poets and sufis as Bulley Shah, Shah Hussain, Mian Muhammad Bux, Waris Shah, Sultan Baho, Sachal Sarmast, Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, Rehman Baba and so on. I related strongly as I read these great poets and sufis and used to listen their great message, sung by brilliant Abida Parveen.
Page # 135, writes about the exploitation policy which is adopted by many private schools. When I was reading this I was remembering my experience of working in a private school, where I was required to teach eight periods daily and even in breaks we teachers were bound to check the copies of students. And when it came to salary, oh my God! Very nominal; most of our colleagues triple their salaries falsely when they were asked by their friends. However, as it was not my compulsion, so after serving for just one month and twenty days, I resigned from there. This practice of exploitation is prevailing in most of the private schools and there is no one to ask from them. I personally see this type of activity as, academic terrorism, people are tortured psychologically, by those whom schooling is just a good mean of earning money and they see it as a flourishing business.
Page # 141, writes about the importance of remembering the names of the students which made me remember that how I try my best to remember the names of my course participants (CPs). Doing this, I adopt a strategy to connect their names to the names of some popular people. As, if someone’s name is Abida I connect her name to Abida Parveen. In this way, by practicing this strategy of connecting names, I remember the names.
On Page # 146, Imtisal inform her mother about Prof Roy’s imprisonment and torture in jail. She tells her mother, “Mom! he was not a mechanical professor, he was a thinking professor” This sharing led me to remember many of those mechanic professors whom I have interacted so far. They taught me, I passed their courses in good numbers, but not so impressed. No doubt their number is huge as compared to thinking professors, but they are not so successful in impacting the hearts and minds of the students, in comparison to thinking professors.
And at last Page # 147 made me cry, the way it describes the situation of Professor Ray, his habit of keeping the promise and sending the book of Baba Bulley Shah to Imtishal. I could no more control my tears; the tears which I have been trying hard to control.
Page # 150, contains the title of Kiran Desai’s book “The inheritance of loss” and I listed it in the list of my books to be purchased.
Reading Page # 154, 155 and 156 I felt my heart is tearing apart, tears were rolling down my face, forcing me to cry with screams.
Page # 162 and 163 again captured my heart and I was feeling very sad.
Page # 164 writes that Imtisal got an offer of employment in an institute of United Nations in its office located at Islamabad. Further, page # 165 reads that Imtisal did not accept the offer, because she has decided to go to her village and teach there in school.
Till page # 164, I could relate my life story to the text. However, the reading of page # 165 made me realize that the novel has reached at that stage where I am unable to relate to it. I felt losing my contact to the text. Now, the more I was reading, the more I was feeling a strange type of complex situation. Many questions came to my mind putting me in an embarrassing situation, because I was not bold enough like Imtisal to say no to the offer of working at university, go back to my village and serve there in the school; which still I believe that I should do, but I know or possibly do not know that I could not do so or may be do so. Succinctly, I am not clear, I am very much confused and I feel that I am caught in a situation which is beyond my capabilities to deal with.
Page # 167 and 168 are the climax pages, where the the readers come to know that Professor Rai died. Imtisal’s feeling on Prof Roy’s death are depicted in such a way that again I could not succeed this time to control my tears.
Page # 175 (the second last page of the book), again talks about about Imtisal’s feelings after Prof Roy’s death and again I could not control my tears and thus crying reached on page # 176 which brought an end to one of the most significant and excellent novels I have ever read in my entire life so far.
I completed reading the book on the evening of Wednesday April 21, 2010 at 05:25pm; put the book on side, closed my eyes and a deep sleep took me out of this world.
After about about three or four hours I woke up (at about 08:30 or 9:00pm). It was dark in the room, I was feeling a bit low, sad, scared and many scenes of the novel were floating in my mind. There were mixed feelings; some normal which can be written are told but some very strange, making themselves difficult for writing are to be told. I again took the book, read the date when I had started reading it and wrote a note on it, which flows like this:
This is the second book after Alchemist, which I have completed reading in so short period (just less than two days, in spite of completing my other routine official and personal assignments). The former I have finished reading in four days. Reading both books is a unique experience of my life so far!
D b Jillan
April 21, 2010
Post Script: After writing the note I read it, as I was reading I was also asking myself that what was the difference between both books, Alchemist and Aadhe Adhore Khawab; (I am only comparing these two books because I have read them one after the other) former impressed me, encouraged me and I enjoyed reading that book, but however it did not inspire me to write anything. On the contrary, Aadhe Adhore Kahwab not only impressed me a lot, but I related to it so much that only after reading its some pages, a thought emerged in back of my mind that I should write in response to this book, I was feeling that it is my own story. Time and again I was feeling that these are not the words or feelings of Imtisal but my own; very own. Then, this is the first book ever in my life so far which drove me to write and I wrote from the core of my heart voluntarily, without even knowing much that why I was writing? And was it a suitable in which I am writing? Despite all these inhibitions and hesitations I wrote and wrote from the core of my heart.