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Saturday, June 15, 2024

A treat for many

 My Dadi was Mahlaqa Begum

Who had a younger brother, Manzoor Mahmood

Some of you may know him through his son

The Payback Singer, Talat Mahmood,
aka The King of Ghazals.

(I called him Chacha Jania)

In 1937 when Jinnah Sahab went to Lucknow for a conference, as soon as the Welcome address was over the Administrators asked Manzoor Sahab (Dada Abbu to me) to recite Iqbal ka Tarana in his wonderful voice.

The recording was done on a Wire-Recorder and it was given, much later, to Chacha Jania in Bombay. He had EMI transfer it into a Double-78RPM record. Both were full of hisses, noise, crackles, and more. But that's the way it was, anyway.

When CJ came to Karachi 1961 he brought the 78RPM recording and asked Rashid Latif Ansari of EMI to record it for his brothers, including my father. Rashid Bhai was a great fan of CJ and occasionally sang his songs, too. He made the best he could of the recording with whatever noise reduction software they had and we were all give this version.

CJ's grand niece, Sahar Zaman, has done a beautiful job in Talat Mahmood - A Definitive Biography and her interviews about it can be seen on numerous TV shows in Delhi. She is a Newscaster and an Artist, too. Her book has a chapter that deals with CJ's young life with her Phupi (Mahlaqa) and her teaching him how to sing ghazals.

Last week she asked if anyone had digitized the 78RPM. No one had. So I decided to Digitize it and sent it to Sahar. Between her new software and my own here we managed to produce a better version of the Tarana - though it still has enough noise etc, on it.

The Audio will be sent out to family and friends
(and to anyone else interested and asks for it).

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Wednesday, October 18, 2023


This has been one of the few books that I open and look through, often. Eugene & Aileen have done an absolutely astounding work. For those who don't know about the Minamata Disease, I suggest they read this.

For those who really want to see the Photos and Words that the Smiths have done, look for the book and get it if you can.

My book has been signed by both

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Friday, September 22, 2023

Kirmanis (3)

Azeemuddin Sahab’s last wife was the daughter of Hafiz Hameed. I don’t have her name. If someone does, please inform me so I can add it here.

She was mother of ZiaUddin Kirmani.

I called him Mamoon Abbu (MA)

He also had a sister, Ishtiaqun Nisa, He lived with her for a while. No details about her life can be found. He left her home after he got married to Warisun Nisa Suhrawardy who had been widowed earlier. But then she died very soon after her marriage to MA..

MA went to live with Shahabddin Mamooñ who was his half-brother. They lived together for a very long time and he was treated as a real-brother, always.

MA's 2nd wife was Sultana Ansari whom he met when he was teaching Arabic at a college and she was teaching there too. 

Sultana Ansari


His book: “A Lasting Messenger with a Lasting Message” had parts that General Zia said he should remove and he’d get the Prize Money that was offered each year. MA said he’d researched for years and was not going to remove anything. The book was never officially sold (except by a couple of small stalls). Shia booksellers did not want to keep it because they felt that his pieces on Hazrat Ali were not to their liking. The book had quotes in Arabic, too, whenever the book mentioned a piece in it's English or Urdu version. 

I was in UK and saw the books on sale outside a mosque. I wrote MA about this and he asked the publishers who (falsely) said to MA that they had no idea how it got there. 

I helped read and edited the script while I was in the Merchant Navy.

Here is the copy I was sent. 

Original Typewritten Script is with me

The English Version
was done again byTariq
as the old English Version
was fairly poorly done.

MA writes that this is An Unconventional Study

"To those who seek the truth
and are prepared to face it." 

Among the first pages of the book is this

"We make no distinction introspect of any one of His Apostles"
Quran: Baqr 285

The Urdu Edition

This was given to me by MA

Here we get more details of MA

Book Insert

His son is Tariq Kirmani (ex-Head of PIA and PSO). He is married to Sabiha. They have 2 daughters and 2 grandchildren 









For those who haven't read
The Lasting Messenger With A Lasting Message
Please contact me.

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Sunday, September 17, 2023

Kirmanis (2)

Shahabuddin Kirmani’s mother was a second cousin to my Nana, Syed Iftikhar Husain, who ensured that Shahabuddin had a good job at his niece’s (Inam Habibullah) house. Shahabuddin worked at her place and was in charge of accounts and many things. 

Shahabuddin was Achchay Mamooñ (AM) for me.

AM had 2 sons: Nishat Bhai, who married Sofia Bhabi … and the entire family loved her. She was an absolute gem. She died of cancer some time ago.

The 2 had several children. Tauqeer was the eldest. His wife died of cancer at a young age. They have 4 daughters. Tauqeer died recently after falling down in the bathroom. Nishat Bhai and Sofia Bhabi have other sons: Zameer, Shakeel. Naveed. 


AMs second son was Aqeel Bhai (aka Sabahuddin) who died of cancer many years ago as a well-known military officer. His wife, Shamim Fatima Alavi (we called her Putti Bhabi), and three children are here. Sabihuddin is in the Air Force. Saif was a Captain in the Merchant Navy. Aisha is married and lives in Karachi. 

After AM’s wife, Sayyedun Nisa, passed away he was married to Mursilunnisa, my mother’s cousin. They adopted a daughter, Jannat, who lives in Lucknow. 

AM also took under his care his younger half-brother, Ziauddin Kirmani and treated him always as a real brother. More about ZK in the next blog: Kirmani (3)

AM loved humour. He was a poet and I have his handwritten deevān. As part of his humour, a section of the book is named Chirkeenyāt. It was to honour Chirkeen who always wrote about our excrement. Here are two pieces of his writing:


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Thursday, September 14, 2023

Kirmanis (1)

The Kirmanis came to India from Iran. There are two stories of their coming here and are contradictory to each other. 

1/ Some people say they came at the time of Shujauddin in 16th Century. Most settled in UP while some shifted to Bengal for trading. Later on they, too, migrated to UP. 

2/ Probably the most accurate one is that they came at the time of Shuja-us-Daula in the middle of 17th Century and settled in UP. 


Here is their Shajrah that I have from Furhan, Zameer, and Ishtiaq. They are my nephews from different families. 

This blog leads to the 2 Kirmanis I knew. 


Mahboob Ali


Zulfiqar Ali


Sarfaraz Ali




Moeenuddin Kirmani


Syed Azimuddin Kirmani

Azimuddin married 6 times.

1/ Tauqeerunnisa d/o Jamaluddin Abbasi. Her son was Shahabuddin Kirmani

2/ One wife (name unknown) was the d/o Maulvi Azizuddin. Son was Shafiuddin Kirmani. No trace available. 

3/ One wife (name unknown) was the d/o Munshi Sultan Husain. Children unknown.

4/ One wife was from Khairabad. No info. 

5/ One more wife from Azeempur. No info. 

6/ One wife was d/o Hafiz Hameeduddin. Son was Ziauddin Kirmani. He was the younger half-brother of Shahabuddin and lived with Shahabuddin Mamoon afterwards and was always treatrd like a real brother.  (Ziauddin’s older sister was Ishtiaqun Nisa.)


The next two blogs will have details about Shahabuddin and Ziauddin Mamoons and their families

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Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Azhar Kidvai (6)

1948 - Karachi

I sent this letter to my daughter, in 2008

45 years after Abi's death.

My dearest Ragni

It was on the 18th of September 1963 when my ship docked in Karachi just before 9AM. I was the 2nd Officer and - although it was usual for the 3rd Officer to stay on duty for the first night - I was asked to go home immediately and be back at 4PM for the night shift  because our 3rd Officer was unwell and wanted to go home and rest. Though not upset at this switch, my mind was a mix of feelings, mainly fear, as the ropes were cast out to the quay and sailors exchanged greetings with those who had gathered to receive them. Why fear? Let me backtrack.

It was a small, slow ship (9.5 knots - that's 9.5 nautical miles per hour - was what it clocked at best!). We had left the last port almost 2 weeks ago. That was the port where, in the days before electronic communications and instant phone calls, we had received our last packages of mail - a full 3 weeks after the bunch before that which had almost driven me mad, as there had been none in that mailbag for me. That was really unusual.

In my last port I now excitedly opened my rubber-banded packet and was surprised to find only two letters from Abi among the 20+ that had arrived. My father usually wrote me twice a week (!) so I was used to getting bunches of 6-8 each time the mail bundles were distributed. Tearing the envelopes apart I was horrified to find that he'd had two heart attacks over the past month and been in hospital for weeks. A letter from a friend that I opened next was, chronologically, the latest. It said - and I recall the sentence even today - "Uncle keeps saying he wishes you'd be back in time!"

In time? For what!??? - Of course I understood as I fought back tears. I ran up and pleaded with the Captain to let me go ashore and make a phone call home and get an update. It took the Chief Engineer's pressure and support of my plea to get the Captain to agree. I was taken to the Port Phone Office and 'booked' a call to Karachi and was told that the 'waiting time to Pakistan was 4-5 hours." -  The ship was in the harbor for a little over 6 hours and, although I waited and waited until I just had to return, I did not get through.

From the time I left that little crowded room, leaving many others waiting just as anxiously, I was trembling. I had no idea if my father was ill or well, even alive or dead. Of course, I feared the worst. All through the the two week trip, in both my 'watches' - particularly the one that was from Midnight to 4 AM each day - almost alone on the ship's bridge, in the pitch dark, on an empty sea for as far as one could look,I drank coffee, smoked my pipe, fought crazy scenarios that fear produced, and tried to stay sane. I even prayed in my mind.

As an only child who had run away from home to sea, I had missed out a lot of the companionship of a father who doted upon me and, for whom, my being away  long periods was a source of great pain. We had been separated when I was between 5 and 7, when the aftermath of WW2 had kept him away. And then I had been away again, for the period I was in Lahore. And, finally, I had left home at 18 .... 5 years before the time I am now writing about. So. he and i had really spent only 9 years of our lives together (not counting the vacations from the ship every year). That seems so strange - even to me - given the influence he had in shaping many of my thoughts, given all that he taught me, all that he did for me. But I digress.

So ... it was the fear of not knowing if I'd find my father alive or not that made me tremble as I informed the Chief Officer as soon as we were berthed in Karachi that I was rushing off and would be back for my duty at 4PM. The 20-minute taxi ride home was a clichéd eternity. I ran up the stairs, rang the bell and banged at the door. A smiling Abi opened it. We hugged. We kissed. I could not believe it. He told me that he'd recovered entirely just a week or so earlier and was now resting at home. He was going to start returning to his work bit by bit, starting the next week. Except for the first signs of gray hair - his beard had grayed earlier but his hair was glistening jet-black and no one believed he didn't dye it - he looked just as I'd left him a few months ago. I was crazy with happiness. We talked. I promised that the next evening, my evening off, we'd listen to the new records I'd bought. I showed him a card trick I'd learnt. He recited a ghazal he'd written while in hospital. Ummi and I hugged, laughed, thrilled to see Abi being his normal self again. 

Around 8PM I was told that the night cargo shift had been cancelled and there'd be no work. I dozed off ... relaxed after days of tension. At 10PM I got up again and walked down the quay to phone home. No answer. Several rings. Nothing. Karachi's phones are bad even now but were infinitely worse then. I decided - late though it was - to call the people who lived in the flat next door. The gentleman asked me when I had returned, how the trip was, and a host of other things. I answered all that and said I was not being able to get through to my house. He said, casually, "Oh they must be at the hospital."

I learnt that two hours after I left home Abi had had another heart attack. I was dumbfounded. Why had no one from among my cousins or other relatives sent me word? I went hurrying back to the captain. He was adamant: Work or no work, I could not leave the ship. I went down again and phoned up the 3rd Officer who, despite his high fever, promised to come back and let me go. In less than 30 minutes, his dad had driven him to the ship and offered to take me to the hospital. We spoke to the captain who said that he would allow no such thing because we had taken the liberty of this decision without first asking him. The 3rd Officer's father said that it was, after all, his son's duty evening and I had done a favour. Now, the situation had changed and his son was willing to stay on board. No go. Captain Wallace - how can I ever forget that man? I had served as a cadet under him during his Chief Officer days; He'd known me for 3 years! He'd been treated by my father when he had had a bout of food poisoning - was absolutely unbudgeable. In fact he now forbade me to leave the ship to even go down and phone and ordered the 3rd officer's dad off the ship.

I went back to my cabin, heartbroken at not being at Abi's side - and specially Ummi's, during another trying moment for her. Just before 7 AM, Pudlo (Kamal Abbasi) arrived to say that Abi was in a critical condition and I should go with him. He said he had already spoken with the captain who was fine with the idea. Guess he had to be. Pudlo's father, Izhar Bhai, was the Chairman of the Karachi Port Trust and had called up the ship-owner who had already sent the captain instructions at 6AM, I learnt later! 

Off we went. When on Bunder Road, instead of turning left for the hospital, Pudlo continued driving I said "You've missed the turn..." and he said, "Sorry, I forgot the hospital road" ... it seemed a genuine mistake. When we reached the hospital I found my old khaloo sitting on the footsteps outside and rushed past him asking "which room?' and he said "Azhar's gone home", I was overjoyed. Just a passing bad heart attack again. He'd be back on his feet soon. The uncle got into the car and I kept screaming (I must admit that I realize I was rude when I re-enact the scene in my mind, as I often do). Why had no one called me? Everyone else who couldn't have mattered as much as I  had been there at night, I learnt, as I was being told about the details of what had happened. Nuzhat's family, Farrukh Chacha's family, Nihal Bhai, even two neighbours! Everyone but me. Still, I swore I'd look after him today onwards. I prepared in my mind the draft of the letter I would send to the bloody S V Wallace, resigning from that ship and company and giving both a piece of my mind

The car swerved and parked at my house. Nihal Bhai was in the balcony , shouting "Zaheer - Jaldee oopar aao. Chachchee kay paas." ... I jumped out of the car and bounded up the stairs, taking two steps at a time and, suddenly, stopped midway. My mind was just beginning to make sense of the fleeting image I had seen with my peripheral vision on my dash up to the house and stairs from the car. I reeled, turned, and staggered down and walked slowly towards my father's body as it lay on a bed outside the empty apartment below while the room was being prepared to move it in and give him his last bath.

He'd passed away early morning, on the 19th of the month that he always laughed and called Sitamgar - instead of September. He'd had a stroke at 7PM the night before and a brain hemorrhage at 3 AM that left him partially paralyzed and incoherent. At the time of his death he'd just asked Ummi to make him his morning tea and folded his hands to pray while lying down - once an atheist, he was now meticulous about all his prayers and recited them 8 times a day: the 5 obligatory ones, plus Tahajjüd, Chaasht, and Ishraaq. An end to a life that - despite the tragic and difficult last decade and a half - he lived with humour and honesty (the first needed, perhaps, to deal with the repercussions of the second!)

As I write this for, you, Ragni, it's 40 years ago almost to the hour that I bathed my father and planted the last kiss on his forehead. And I'd give anything - ANYTHING - to be able to hold him again.

Much love


13:45 / 19.09.2008


Abi: On 14th August 1961

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