Noon Meem Rashid: the universalist

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Intizar Husain

The organisers of Urdu’s literary seminars don’t care in general to preserve in some form the papers read there. This is left at the mercy of the writers of those papers: if any of them think that their paper deserves to be preserved they may do so by getting it published in any journal. However, the Oriental College of Lahore occasionally publishes a collection of papers read in the seminar held under the auspices of this institution. In recent months I have received two such collections compiled by Dr Fakharuddin Noori.

In his introduction he has mentioned that after he took charge as the head of the Urdu department, the first seminar held under his care was the seminar on the poet Noon Meem Rashid. After its conclusion he took care to compile those papers and publish a volume under the title Bayad-i-Rashid. This book was also published as an edition in English titled Rashid in Vivo. In these pages the poet’s sons and daughters talk about their father. Ignoring the controversial statements made by the esteemed professor in his key address, I will skip over to the writings of the poet’s children as they tell us much more about the poet.

We know very little about Rashid’s relationship with the anti-colonial movement, the Khaksar Movement. His daughter Nasreen has simply chosen to tell us that during midnight hours he was seen reading the Quran. “My aunt wondered at this kind of deep involvement in the Quran, that he does not go to sleep and remains engaged in the study of the Quran”. Her mother, she says, explained to her that Rashid was duty-bound to go to the early morning gatherings of the Khaksars and deliver a lecture there. Here I am reminded of a statement made by his son Sheheryar that “Rashid was non-ideological,” but hastily adds, “or more precisely, became so in later years. His early disappointment with the intensely committed Khaksar Movement must have altered his views on the very need for ideological commitment. His wartime travels as a captain in the British Imperial Army must have brought home the futility of ideological confrontation”. And he adds, “His experience at the United Nations and expanding exposure to internationalism must have rid him of all notions of ideology. Indeed, Rashid was a universalist”.

Rashid, as Sheheryar tells us, was very fond of chess and spent many hours teaching him the game. And he has something interesting to tell us in this respect. He says, “I also recall the long sessions of chess that he used to have with his father, who was a mathematician. Perched on charpoys on the roof of my grandfather’s house in old Lahore, with a hookah for himself, and a bucket full of oranges for my father, the two would spend hours and days over a single game, ignoring the pleas of the females”. And he adds, “I cannot forget that precise moment when my mother died of thrombosis caused by a wrongfully administered intra-muscular injection. My father was playing chess with the [late] poet and short story writer Ghulam Abbas was in our drawing room when the crisis occurred”.

The daughters have much to say about their father, his excessive love and care for them, so much so that in the case of his second marriage they say, “our father kept on assuring us there would be no change in our relationship”. Yasmeen, the poet’s daughter tells us that after retirement Rashid wanted to live in Islamabad, but Sheila, his second wife, did not want to live in Pakistan. “I think,” she says, “my father was not happy living in an English town where he had no literary company or audience. He died of a heart attack on Oct 9, 1975. I was getting ready to leave for his funeral in London, but when Sheila told me that she wanted to cremate my father, I was shocked. I refused to go to London”.

Yasmeen wondered, “My father had shared everything with us that had gone on in his life. Why, then, did he not share his most important decision [with us]?” And she adds, “After a few years I asked Sheila if there was any written will of my father’s about his cremation, and she said no, there wasn’t. I told Sheila that I regret to this day her decision to cremate my father. She had not listened to any of the elders in the family, who all wanted him properly buried. Her decision cost our father dearly; in the literary world, where his reputation was important, he suffered at least 20 years of disapproval and critical neglect”.

Here I am reminded of a statement made by his son Sheheryar that “Rashid was non-ideological,” but hastily adds, “or more precisely, became so in later years. His early disappointment with the intensely committed Khaksar Movement must have altered his views on the very need for ideological commitment. His wartime travels as a captain in the British Imperial Army must have brought home the futility of ideological confrontation”.

Citation
Intizar Husain, “Noon Meem Rashid: the universalist,” in Dawn, April 19, 2015. Accessed on April 19, 2015, at: http://www.dawn.com/news/1176750/column-noon-meem-rashid-the-universalist

Disclaimer
The item above written by Intizar Husain and published in Dawn on April 19, 2015, is catalogued here in full by Faiz-e-Zabaan for non-profit educational purpose only. Faiz-e-Zabaan neither claims the ownership nor the authorship of this item. The link to the original source accessed on April 19, 2015, is available here. Faiz-e-Zabaan is not responsible for the content of the external websites.

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