Beyond the Full Circle – An extract from the novel

Extract from the novel: Beyond the Full Circle by Narendra Luther

In Karachi Nawab Hafeez Yar Jung was given a temporary accommodation in Nazimabad, a township set up to accommodate refugees from India. He was offered a rank in Government, one place lower than the one he had in Hyderabad. Only the refugees from India spoke Urdu. The local inhabitants spoke Sindhi and they were generally resentful of the people coming from India. ‘Muhajirs’ – Urdu for immigrant – they were called. The term has some historical significance, because the Prophet of Islam had himself been one, when during the period of his persecution, he left his ancestral town Mecca and migrated to Madina. The Muslim calendar is based on that. Muhajirs were the people, who had left their homes and hearths behind and sacrificed all that they had, to come to the new promised land – the land of believers, a pure land, as the name of the new country implied.

Even at the secretariat Nawab Hafeez Yar Jung was referred to by everyone as ‘that muhajir’ from ‘Hyderabad Deccan’, not their Hyderabad, for there was one city with that name in Sindh too. The muhajirs also had categories amongst them. Those from Uttar Pradesh and East Punjab considered themselves the real ones – the genuine martyrs – one cut above the rest. Not many had yet come from Hyderabad Deccan. So they were isolated and made fun of, largely because of their accent. At the very first meeting with his boss, Manzoor Qadir, Hafeez was asked about his title.
“What were you Nawab of ?”

Hafeez looked puzzled as his hand played with the button of his sherwani.
“You must be having some jagir. Where was it ?” Manzoor Qadir tried to help him.
“No, Sir. This is a title. I was not given any jagir as such, although we had an ancestral jagir.”
“So you are a Nawab of No Land – Lord Lackland as they would say in England,” Manzoor Qadir chuckled good-humouredly.
“You can say that.” Then he quoted a stanza from Mir Taqi Mir, which the 18th century poet had recited when on his migration from Delhi to Lucknow, he was asked where he hailed from. It was an enchanting melancholy poem full of self pity and memories of lost grandeur.

“Well put,” said Manzoor Qadir. “I never saw Hyderabad. Heard a lot about the Nizam and that most beautiful woman – Niloufer. His daughter-in-law, I think.”

“Indeed,” responded Hafeez somewhat coldly. He was taken aback by such casual reference to his “Ala Hazrat”. Hafeez wondered, now that he was no longer the ruler, how the Nizam was referred to in Hyderabad.
The local people in Karachi resented the intruders – all the muhajirs as well as people from the Pakistan part of Punjab and East Pakistan, who had landed there in large numbers. The Punjabis dominated the civil and armed services. Some of them had intruded into the traditional preserve of the Sindhis – business and trade – in which they excelled. But a businessman had to kow-tow before the bureaucrats and the latter were predominantly ‘outsiders’. Nobody gave any credit to the muhajirs for their sacrifices. Some people bluntly asked them why they had come to Pakistan. It didn’t take long for Hafeez to start feeling that he hadn’t been wise in leaving Hyderabad. Though the leaders of Majlis and ministers had been arrested, others like him had remained largely undisturbed. He too could have stayed on instead of coming to a place where nobody gave him credit for his sacrifice. Back in Hyderabad, perhaps he would have been transferred to another job, put down, demoted by a rank for his over – zealousness. But he had lost a rank here too. He also missed the glorious nights and weather of Hyderabad, in particular, the monsoon. And Banjara Hills. There was no place like that. Karachi was a muggy port town, now bursting at its seams with people, who did not belong to it – or relate to each other.

But more and more people were coming from Hyderabad. People, who had acquired a taint for extremism and feared reprisals. People, who believed that a homeland had come into existence at last and it was their duty and their glory to live in it, to serve it.

Soon ghettoes developed in Nazimabad. Even in Karachi. Communal, sectarian settlements came into existence. ‘Punjabi Enclave’, ‘Bhaiya Basti’ for migrants from UP and Bihar, and ‘Gosha-e-Deccan’ for people from Hyderabad. They set up separate cultural and literary associations, but except for the very few, who were able to manage to sell off their properties in India, or to get prized Government jobs, they lived on the margin. Wheels within hierarchical wheels came into existence in the cosmopolitan society of Karachi.

Hafeez Ahmed – nobody called him Nawab Saheb there – had become plain ‘Mister’. He soon began to perceive a flaw in the political creed that he had developed under the tutelage of the Majlis. Religion alone didn’t unite; language alone couldn’t hold. If that were so, why were all the brothers-in-faith in Pakistan bickering with each other? Why were there muted protests against the imposition of Urdu as the national language of Pakistan? It is not our language said the Sindhis, nor ours said the Pushtos and Baluchis. Even Punjabis, who had always accepted the subservience of their mother tongue to Urdu, were suddenly possessed by unusual jingoism. But the most strident opposition came from East Pakistan. Their language was the mellifluous Bengali – the lyrical language of Tagore and Nazrul Islam, which had roused them against the British and given them the vision of an El Dorado – ‘Sonar Bangla’- which they shared with their brethren in West Bengal more than the ‘aliens’ of Western Pakistan. Having overthrown the English, were they to accept the neo-imperialism of the Urdu-wallahs? They were in majority in Pakistan and so if there had to be one national language, it had to be Bengali. They didn’t mind Urdu also to be given an official status as the language of West Pakistan. Hafeez had to come to Pakistan to learn the simple fact that Urdu was not the language of all Muslims. They spoke many other tongues and were willing to fight for them – even to shed blood for them.

As Hafeez discovered how his political education had been ill-conceived, he began to withdraw more and more into his shell. He felt cosy there, as he found that he had indeed grown up as a frog in a well.

He also found that in any society there would always be enough factors to divide people. Human beings discovered ingenious ways of establishing separate identities. People had enough of religion, enough of language, enough of economic interests to divide them, but not enough to unite them. He had, by his own convictions, landed in a false heaven. Indeed all heavens were false, mirages to tantalize the believers. That’s why they always lay in the future, which no one had yet peered into or come back from – to testify to their existence.

It was at these moments that the memory of Sakina tormented him. How much she knew ! How wise she was in her judgements!

“Stay on, Hafeez,” she had once implored him, when he glanced at his watch which was always a prelude to his getting up and saying : “I must go.” How she dreaded that moment. And still it came every time they met. Hafeez would then say : “How would we savour reunion unless we part?” “Good logic”, she would say, and would then yield. Did she have a choice? She always entreated him not to go; not yet; ten more minutes, all right five, okay, just one minute. She begged from him crumbs of time. That was the daily routine. But one particular evening had frozen in his memory. Then she had said in her deep husky voice : “Heaven is here and now. It lasts so long as we are together. There is no heaven hereafter.”

One day a subordinate of his presented an invitation to him for an evening of ghazals by Munni Begum. She was the up-and-coming singer of Pakistan and she too had what is now commonly called a sexy voice. She sang that ghazal:
‘Aaj jane ki zid na karo’ “Don’t insist on going today.”

Hafeez Ahmed was entranced. He was transported. He felt he had gone back to Hyderabad and suddenly it was Sakina singing, as if by magic. Word for word, it was what Sakina had said, though Sakina couldn’t sing.
He had sat through the whole evening and returned home late at night, refreshed and exhilarated. Munni Begum was Sakina. Sakina was Munni Begum. And the image of Sakina had brought the image of Seema to his mind. Seema, his daughter was a souvenir of Sakina. Not born of her but hers nevertheless, because she had given her a name. Seema had now started going to a prep school. He went to the children’s bedroom and kissed her forehead. …….

Beyond the Full Circle by Narendra Luther

Published by Creative Point, Hyderabad
Price Rs. 150

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A larger selection of the articles can also be viewed at narendralutherarchives.blogspot.in