Education, Development, and Change
Email Dr. Shahid Siddiqui

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sudden Death of Salma Khan

Salma Khan
Shocked to hear about the sudden death of Salma Khan, a young lecturer of English at UMT, in a car accident. She was an enthusiastic learner, a passionate teacher, and a lively human being. Salma was pursuing her PhD in linguistics and was in the last stages of writing up her PhD thesis. She called me on Thursday, two days before her death, to share with me that how close was she to her thesis submission. 
She had dreams in life which she tried hard to realise.
She called after long period of silence and spoke for about fifteen minutes. I didn't realise that it was the last time I was listening to her vibrant voice and that I would never ever get to meet her again. She had dreams in life which she tried hard to realise. Getting a PhD was one such dream for which she worked really hard. She came so close to realize this dream but then suddenly went so far away to the unknown paths, never to return again. It will take time believe that she is no more with us. May Allah rest her soul in peace and grant courage to her family, friends, colleagues, teachers, and students to bear this loss with the same courage that was hallmark of her personality. Salma, you will always be missed!


  1. she was a very lively human being and it is shocking to hear that. I cannot believe she is gone.

    ان شاء الله به خیر

  2. I first heard Salma Khan on the top floor of Converse Hall in Amherst College where I have my office. Salma was teaching Urdu to students with enthusiasm and passion and seemed unaware that her enthusiasm was precluding me from work. I went out and shut the door so that I could continue my work in peace. She apologized and later came to my office. I asked her if she was from Pakistan because she had used “masla” while teaching. She confirmed that she was from Lahore and was pursuing her PhD in English. She had been given a prestigious scholarship to study at UMass-Amherst for a year and add value to her dissertation. In my first meeting, she came across as a bright, independent, extrovert who was always willing to lend a smile. I saw a spark in her eyes. The spark of ambition, curiosity and humour. We met on 2 more occasions. Once, I took her to Valentine Hall for lunch, where she described how she and Nishpriha (a student from India who was also visiting UMass for a year and teaching Hindi at Amherst) were living it up here. They were participating in and organizing dance classes. She was also foodie and Nishpriha was a good cook so they were very close friends and were staying in the same place. She spoke about how it was so different from Pakistan but she liked the opportunity to meet such diverse set of people here. Salma also told me that some of her best friends were Sikh and she came from a secular family. I also shared that some of my best friends were Muslim.
    In our final meeting, she described how her family was looking for a suitable groom for her. It was difficult because she was something of an over-achiever. She invited me to come for dinner at their apartment. I said that I could not but she could always come over for tea to my apartment. She was also going to participate in a conference and was writing a paper on how Americans can learn Urdu. We exchanged a few ideas on what she could talk about in her paper and she was quite excited to be participating in the conference. As her student had not turned up for the class, I suggested if she wanted to have tea. She immediately agreed and I accompanied her to my apartment. We watched some short videos of Jaspal Bhatti and her laughter was uncontrollable and contagious. She took a cup of tea with two bags and milk because she liked it both strong and light. As it was getting dark and cold outside, I offered to drop her back to the bus-stop. She said she will be able to manage. I gave her an old jacket of mine that she could wear on her way back.
    As fate would have it, we did not meet again in Spring and she returned to Pakistan. Today, I received a mail from Nishpriha:
    “I feel terribly sad and devastated to tell you that Salma passed away in a car accident in Pakistan.”
    Shaken and shocked, it makes me wonder: How could a flower be plucked right when it is about to open its petals and release its fragrance in the world? A bird who was about to fly towards freedom and knowledge? Indeed, what is the meaning of life?

  3. Thanks Parkash for sharing your sentiments. The loss is common. She was a wonderful soul and we'll miss her. Pl stay in touch.

  4. I don't even have words to express my shock.
    إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ
    Surely we belong to God and to Him shall we return.

    I am one of her friends in America from Pakistan. I helped her with her Urdu tutoring. I would like to call her family. Can someone please email me their contact details at JazakAllah khayr.

  5. UMT lost two legends in this accident RIP