It was in the city of Rampur that my father, Azhar Kidvai, was born. He lived to be 63 and died in Karachi after many illnesses, worries, problems and more. But he never gave up his sense of humour.
He was a Doctor, a profession he chose after almost
becoming a BA Literature at Aligarh University during which he was jailed for his political activities. He studied at Edinburgh's medical college.
My own memories - I was 40 years his junior - are of us always moving from one little spot to another, from one medical camp to the next, until the war ended and he was sent off to Baghdad, Haifa, and other mid-East places. I saw little of him in those days while I was in Calcutta with my mother and aunt. He visited us twice in a year, I think.
1947 rolled up with Pakistan, and we ended here, primarily hoping to go back to India once the riots and the killings were to stop. At least that's what members of the CP had said. As a Congress Party supporter, Abi
- that's what I called him - was not meant to be here. - but the riotous areas in India got worse and there was no home to get back to. Karolbagh in Dilli had been taken over. The little clinic he was going to set up was gone. Our home had been destroyed completely.
Very soon he gave up the military and decided to stay here and help the immigrants and the local poor people. Strange thought from someone who had little or no money himself. Life was terribly different, too. There were days of no food or some days with poorly cooked meals. Yet, it was something we could not talk about.
The people who emigrated to Pakistan always found a few days to stay with us, get fed, move on. Ummi
- my mother - was a beast of a cook! How she managed to save pennies for such times is impossible but I have seen the most wonderfully cooked meals emerge from somewhere.
A quirk of fate led him to become part of a Ramakrishna Mission Hospital that was being folded up here before the owners went to India. He promised to run it for free as long as he could use the medicine also for the immigrants. That lasted a year or so ... and, soon, he set up a small clinic that no one who'd pay really ever came to. But it stayed on. With the Hindu Temple Clinic work we did get a little flat for rent and that's where we lived for years until he died.
During his better days - and there were some - we collected books and listened to poetry of those who were his friends in India and here. He had been the Secretary General of the Anjumané Taraqqié Urdu so he knew them well.
Abi's stint in the UK, where he passed his exams and then practiced for a while until coming back home to be with his dying mother, was really worth listening to. His father, having sent him off to UK, decided to have nothing to do with him for years … and Abi worked really hard to be able to pay his fees and stay on there. Ultimately he had no real money and lived off in little restaurants, far from where his friends knew, using tomato ketchup and water to continue for both meals and a bit of tea otherwise. He always told his friends that he was out on a date and they believed he was having a great time. In fact one of them told me that he'd always found Abi's life to be wonderful … until they discovered that his kidney had failed (poor eating?) and he had to have one removed.
Around then, it was time for his final exam and 'a close friend', Dorothy, paid his fees. She was given the money back by Ummi, years later, very soon after my parents got married (Ummi sold all her jahez stuff to pay for it). I met Aunty Dorothy, and the two people Abi had stayed with, several years later when my ship went to their homeport in Scotland.
Abi had written a collection of essays and a play that were published in 1939 ("Naee Paod"). He was a regular poet but with very limited interest in public performances. I hope to bring out a new edition of his poetic ("Parvaaz") and prose works in the next 2 years.
For me his absence is an extremely strong one. He loved me as few I have seen ever love their children. We talked, we played, we fought over everything - often including his religion and my occasional absence of one - but I was never more tempted to know much, had it not been for him. His love of Urdu/English prose and poems, as well as his deeply embedded love of music (he sang well, too!) has been a great environment for me.
I miss him often - more than once a day on some days - and, had there been an afterlife, meeting him would have been wonderful again.