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The impact of both was somehow profound in this country although for quite different reasons.

From KHALID BUTT, Lahore
Nov 21 - 27, 2005

Two outstanding personalities belonging to the world of art, literature, journalism and diplomacy passed away recently.

One in Delhi the other in Dhaka, both places relate closely to our heart in recent or distant past. The impact of both was somehow profound in this country although for quite different reasons. Here I would like to pen down my own impressions about both who somehow relate to me in strangely different ways.

First Amrita Pritam (1919-2005), a doyen of Punjabi literature whose works now form part of classics especially pertaining to the heart rending tales of partition and her own life had been full of struggle and disappointments making her writings ever so poignant and expressive of her inner feelings. During her lifetime, she published more than 75 books, including 24 novels, 15 collections of short stories, 23 volumes of poetry, two biographies and a number of works of prose. She received the highest civilian awards in India, including Padma Shiri, Padma Vibushan, Shitya Academy Award, Bhartiya Jhanpith Award, as well as honorary doctorate degrees from five universities.

For a girl who was born in the obscurity of a backyard of Gujranwala, in a deeply religious Sikh household all this fame and name was a far cry when she breathed her last in Hauz Qazi, New Delhi on October 31. However, thoughts on her place of origin - Gujranwala - had been constantly on her mind, as she often enquired about her ancestral city from various Pakistani visitors who met her. One is not sure whether she was able to revisit her birthplace ever. As someone hailing from the city I had often wondered about her roots and the exact location in that city of Sikh stranglehold, Maharaja Ranjeet Singh and dozen Misels (Qilas), as I knew the city well like the palm of my hand.

Then the penny dropped, as in one of her recent conversations Amrita had said she was born in Basti Arian, a locality where I grew up. Located in between Tootianwala Mohalla, just beyond Ghanta Ghar (Clock Tower) and in between the sprawling and affluent Guru Nanak Pura, was Basti Arian or known as Arianah Di Gali, a run down area with mixed population of Muslim urban peasants (Arians) and Sikhs, mostly consisting of poor families. The area was renamed as "Mallick Street" back in the 30's after my maternal grandfather late Hatim Ali Mallick, built a haveli and a mosque on the top roadside. A few other havelis all by Mallicks (Kasmiris) gave it a new identity. The only other well-known resident of that Arian Basti, with a shimmering white haveli built in the middle of katchi abadi was by Ustad Jhande Khan, the famous Music Director of Bombay Talkies, who composed such masterpiece music for epic films like "Pukar" and "Chitarleka" and had returned home after partition to live his last days there in his ancestral city.

Just to update readers, those once enviable Havelis of Mallicks are now mostly in ruins and those non-descript and kacha houses of the gali (street) have been replaced with modern multi-storey buildings as most local residents have made riches in UK and Gulf where they emigrated in strength over the years. This news may surely have uplifted the spirits of Amrita had she known it or seen with the own eyes before her death about the transformation of the neighborhood where her roots belonged.

Passing away of a "dear friend"

Another recent loss of an eminent personality in Dhaka was of Enayatullah Khan, founder and editor of Holiday, an influential political weekly of Bangladesh and one of the driving forces behind SAFMA.

Tall and ever-smiling and friendly Enayatullah was known as "Minto" to close friends, and I happened to be one of them. It was way back in 1961, I had met a young tall and lanky reporter of Pakistan Observer, who was to become a life long friend and with whom I had the privilege to work closely for many years in the newly launched weekly Holiday. Scion of a distinguished family, son of former National Assembly Speaker Abdul Jabbar Khan, he was one of eleven siblings who made their own identity. One elder brother became a top senior civil servant and a younger brother Rashid Menon, headed NAP (Menon Group) with his radical policies. Enayatullah had been one of few Bengali journalists whom late ZAB befriended but the honeymoon could not last long.

After army action in East Pakistan, Enayatullah, as like other Bengali intellectuals, were up in arms especially after the reported "mass killing" of intellectuals. But Enayatullah soon found himself disillusioned even with "Bangla Bandhu" who promptly jailed him for his highly critical views about his policies. It was only after late General Ziaur Rehman came to power that Enayat got liberty to first become the powerful Chief Editor of newly launched Bangladesh Times and then a Cabinet Minister. Minto, who kept his "Holiday" paper going throughout was soon to become the new country's Ambassador - first to neighboring Burma (Myanmar) and then to Peoples Republic of China. Even after his return he remained in limelight as a voice of reason and sanity in the country often in the midst of political chaos and turmoil between leading rival parties. Enayatullah was a regular visitor to Pakistan and never lost touch with his old friends. He had found a fitting role to support and help SAFMA become a force to reckon with.

In his departure one has lost a dear and affectionate friend and someone who was one of fast diminishing links with what was known as "East Pakistan". God Bless you my friend and my deep condolence to his family.


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