History

The Coffee House of Lahore: A memoir 1942-1957

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I found this book in library last year, did not read it then but now I have.  I would recommend it to everyone. Here are few stories I have picked to share, I hope they motivate you enough to read this book.

K.K Aziz says about Coffee house. “I learnt how to behave with my age group, how to respect my seniors, how to make friends and keep relationship in good repair. The frequent discussion which I participated taught me the virtues of tolerance. They also taught me how to debate a point without losing temper, to sharpen my arguments rather raise my voice, to understand to understand other person’s point of view and give him right to express it and gain clarity in speech and lucidity in thinking.….There could not have be no better training in human dealings because human beings with whom I was interfacing were among themselves so different of outlooks…. I learnt to become flexible in what I said and what I listened to. Also I had to be patient with suffering fools, because in every society and group there are bores and people with stunted minds. I don’t know to which degree I learnt these virtues and I can’t be a judge of it. But I tried hard and I think I became fit for human company”

In its physical location the house was ideally placed. Within five minutes’ walk from it lay the University, the Mayo School of Arts (NCA later), the Punjab Public Library, the Lahore Museum, YMCA Hall, Law Collage, Oriental Collage and the Government Collage. Islamia Collage, Dyal Singh Collage and MAO Collage were within a 10-minute cycle ride. The House had been put right at the heart of the intellect of Lahore. The language of Coffee house was Punjabi and English purely, Punglish. Though written language was Urdu. It mostly was made up of Leftists but does not mean other were not present. What the Coffee house did have was tolerance.

This was the time period where population of Lahore was around 300,000 not more than 10 million.   

Now this book revolves around 100s of people, who all had one thing in common they loved to read and talk about what they read and drank coffee. The writer K.K. Aziz name which was given to him by Jamiluddin Hasan, who said “You know your first names are too long to encourage intimacy. It takes sustained breath to pronounce “Khursheed Kamal”. So right now, under the authority granted to me by our friendship, I hereby bestow upon you in a perpetuity the much smaller and melodious name of K.K to which I am sure you will get used you soon.”  

K.K entered Coffee house in age of 15 or 16 in 1942. But this book is more about a time period. A different time period a quieter time period. This book is littered with scenes and people most of us have not heard about. Some names are famous others not so much. There few scenes in this book that strike me as they are form another world “My friends and I had bought our tickets and were in a large crowd waiting on foyer for the matinee show to come to an end. When the show ended the audience began to come down the stairs to go home. At the corner of stairs appeared Champa in her white Sari. The chattering crowd in the foyer fell silent. There was a hush until she reached the end of the staircase, turned right and walked out of our sight. The elite was paying tribute to beauty. There was not a single wink, ogle, leer, even an audible breath. Those were civilized days.

Abdus salam a smart man not of science but also was interested in other contemporary subjects. K.K recalls his one meeting “We recalled our government Collage days; Salam Talked about what he had to endure at the hands of Sirajuddin and the officials of the education department. I asked him if all this was due to him being an Ahmadi. He doubted it and pointed out Qazi Aslam too was an Ahmadi and later become Principal of Collage.” A well-known scientist after the death of Abdus Salam commented whom K.K told him his sad tale of disappointed when nobody would sanction a scholarship in name of Salam. “You say the Ahmadis have not done anything to salute Salam. Yes, they haven’t. But aren’t they Pakistani’s too?”  So we are people who are jealous of other people who are better and brighter than us, this jealousy goes deeper, than any religious or cultural bonds what a tragedy.

I found this book in library last year, did not read it then but now I have.  I would recommend it to everyone. Here are few stories I have picked to share, I hope they motivate you enough to read this book.

K.K Aziz says about Coffee house. “I learnt how to behave with my age group, how to respect my seniors, how to make friends and keep relationship in good repair. The frequent discussion which I participated taught me the virtues of tolerance. They also taught me how to debate a point without losing temper, to sharpen my arguments rather raise my voice, to understand to understand other person’s point of view and give him right to express it and gain clarity in speech and lucidity in thinking.….There could not have be no better training in human dealings because human beings with whom I was interfacing were among themselves so different of outlooks…. I learnt to become flexible in what I said and what I listened to. Also I had to be patient with suffering fools, because in every society and group there are bores and people with stunted minds. I don’t know to which degree I learnt these virtues and I can’t be a judge of it. But I tried hard and I think I became fit for human company”

In its physical location the house was ideally placed. Within five minutes’ walk from it lay the University, the Mayo School of Arts (NCA later), the Punjab Public Library, the Lahore Museum, YMCA Hall, Law Collage, Oriental Collage and the Government Collage. Islamia Collage, Dyal Singh Collage and MAO Collage were within a 10-minute cycle ride. The House had been put right at the heart of the intellect of Lahore.

This was the time period where population of Lahore was around 300,000 not more than 10 million.   

Now this book revolves around 100s of people, who all had one thing in common they loved to read and talk about what they read and drank coffee. The writer K.K. Aziz name which was given to him by Jamiluddin Hasan, who said “You know your first names are too long to encourage intimacy. It takes sustained breath to pronounce “Khursheed Kamal”. So right now, under the authority granted to me by our friendship, I hereby bestow upon you in a perpetuity the much smaller and melodious name of K.K to which I am sure you will get used you soon.”  

K.K entered Coffee house in age of 15 or 16 in 1942. But this book is more about a time period. A different time period a quieter time period. This book is littered with scenes and people most of us have not heard about. Some names are famous others not so much. There few scenes in this book that strike me as they are form another world “My friends and I had bought our tickets and were in a large crowd waiting on foyer for the matinee show to come to an end. When the show ended the audience began to come down the stairs to go home. At the corner of stairs appeared Champa in her white Sari. The chattering crowd in the foyer fell silent. There was a hush until she reached the end of the staircase, turned right and walked out of our sight. The elite was paying tribute to beauty. There was not a single wink, ogle, leer, even an audible breath. Those were civilized days.

Abdus salam a smart man not of science but also was interested in other contemporary subjects. K.K recalls his one meeting “We recalled our government Collage days; Salam Talked about what he had to endure at the hands of Sirajuddin and the officials of the education department. I asked him if all this was due to him being an Ahmadi. He doubted it and pointed out Qazi Aslam too was an Ahmadi and later become Principal of Collage.” A well-known scientist after the death of Abdus Salam commented whom K.K told him his sad tale of disappointed when nobody would sanction a scholarship in name of Salam. “You say the Ahmadis have not done anything to salute Salam. Yes, they haven’t. But aren’t they Pakistani’s too?”  So we are people who are jealous of other people who are better and brighter than us, this jealousy goes deeper, than any religious or cultural bonds what a tragedy.

This book is filled with old Lahore and lives of writers, poets, artists, photographers, lawyers. People who with exception of few were poor but rich in culture. I would completely recommend this book. It is a very personal account of lives, might be one-sided in many cases. But this book is highly underrated and unknown. I mean a book about book lover 100s of them who got together on daily basis to have meaningful conversations. Is not that every book readers dream?

This book is filled with old Lahore and lives of writers, poets, artists, photographers, lawyers. People who with exception of few were poor but rich in culture. I would completely recommend this book. It is a very personal account of lives, might be one-sided in many cases. But this book is highly underrated and unknown. I mean a book about book lover 100s of them who got together on daily basis to have meaningful conversations. Is not that every book readers dream?

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Shahabnama By Qudrutullah Shuhab (my Review)

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I am going to give a short review of this book, because well its nearly 1300 pages and no way i can justify this masterpiece(bear with me, he is one of those people i wish i can get 20mins with) so here it goes.
The reasons this one of the best written book:
<b>1.</b>If you read this book you know what kind of man the writer is, his writing really reflects him no hold backs no cover ups you really know who you reading, that is; a person who is intelligent, a little proud, is honest, and really sees for the world it is, and is not afraid to talk his mind. And does not feel the need to justify himself. And of the time  he is right.
<b>2.</b>there are many excellent urdu writers way better then the Shahab. Shahab, who in sense of saying has not written much but he has something that makes him really unique it is his excellent sense of sarcasm. He has the sense of sarcasm, that well, to be honest not a lot of Urdu writers have. Best Urdu sarcasm ever.
<b>3.</b> then comes the details of historical events and opinions. There are a lot of unbiasedness and accuracy in those. He does not care that he might be hurting what are Pakistan studies books love to shove at us as “nationality”. he tells things for what they are which for most part in our History  are really screwed up.
<b>4.</b>its the account of Ayub khan tenure with whom he spend a lot of time he gives real picture of how royally army screwed us over and who innocently they were convinced they were doing us a favor. Ayub Khan was not a bad man he was just not cut to be leader. then there is the matter of war of 1964. i think there are very few other people other then Shahab who don’t treat that war as a strategic success. People fought that war our Jawaans and pilots and civilians, they were the braves who saved face, they bled valiantly. Our generals lost it.
<b>5.</b> Then comes the part of painful and highly controversial topic of separation of East Pakistan aka Bangladesh. Always have been told that it was Bhutto’s fault or Mujib ur Rehman or India’s or totally west Pakistan’s. It was all those things but it was lot more then that. It was fault of the Pakistani politicians (east and west alike) and the our prejudiced British-complex bureaucrats faults and it took 24 years and a lot of dirt money make it happen and propaganda. It wont be wrong to put that also in Ayub Khan’s list of incompetency’s as a leader.(my opinion)
<b>6.</b> Also there in these chapters which give quiet good review of Pakistan foreign polices but more so all the other world leaders of the period of 60s who were kind of game changers in their own sense.
<b>7.</b> The first 200 pages of this book are fun and happy because they were the youthful days of his life. His life in Kashmir, first crush, first achievement, days in Lahore, first love and its loss. The most painful part of this book was the chapter about famine in pre-partition Bengal. that made me squirm in repulsion and disgust at humanity. Shahab’s ability to get graphic is quiet commendable. He uses his this talent in another book (Ya Khauda) whose review i will give under that book .
<b>8.</b> Its obvious that he comes from practicing Muslmaan household or at least trying to be well practicing household. His religious opinions get a lot more visible as he matures and there is that issue of spiritualism which many people like to dub as fairytale which is odd. But quiet understandable. i am one of those people who can accept that reason has limits and believing simultaneously in science and spiritual world is quiet easy for me.
All and all this is one long book, its a journey of a life of a good man. A man who had his faults but he tried to be better. Who could not make much difference but he ended up making a lot of it by writing this book. I will read it again because i don’t think i have done justice to it yet.

Jinnah Of Pakistan

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 one of the history’s most tenacious enigmatic figures
Every Pakistani knows quiet a bit about Muslim League History and final 10 years before partition. We have to. But there are many things we never hear. Quaid started as Muslim-Hindu unity ambassador. Was young, intelligent and a great believer of the constitution. He spent 24 years of his life struggling for Hindu Muslim unity denying all those who thought otherwise. Every effort was repudiated by the Congress and its leadership. It took 24 years of endless arguments, debates, conferences, dialogues and destruction of his marriage and loss of woman he loved to convince him that his endeavors were in vain. While reading this book i realized exactly how much humiliation he faced. How many doors were slammed on his face and how many time he was discarded, along with his opinions. Even after all that he kept his head high, he knew how to keep his composure and never to lose an argument, even though those arguments fell on deaf ears and he lost most of his early fights.
Than comes the second phase of his life, in which he appears as proud, vain, whimsical man. who remained adamant on his “crazy” demands as dubbed by the British viceroys, secretarys and governors of late 30s and 40s. Most Britishers thought of him as self indulgent man, who wanted glory. He was unreasonable, never had a valid argument and was most uncooperative. By this time Quaid had figured out that wasting his strained breath on people who would never actually listen to him even when they claimed differently was useless. He had already spent too much of his life arguing with them and had been utterly fruitless. He in 40s isolated himself, hiding his deteriorating health. Also he had lost complete trust in Congress and had grown a bit paranoid even of his own party leadership. He was a man who had been betrayed one too many times and was not about to lose this time around. And he did not. He lost his health, and his only daughter but did not lose this final fight. Many thought that Pakistan was his obsession one last attempt to show his rivals who and humiliated him, his true worth.
But people have known to talk and they will always, had always, would always, one thing is for sure a country can not be built on a man’s vanity and whim. It takes determination, will and loyalty to a true cause. All of which he had. Quaid was nothing if he was not, strategic, persistent and intent.
Mountbatten, the reason of the bloodiest partition of Punjab. Termed Jinnah as psychopathic man, who wanted nothing more than to be Governor General himself, Odd thing for him to say as he had shown strong desire to be GG of not one but two subcontinental domains at the same time!! Never the less Jinnah made his point with Battens multiple times. In being photographed at Battens Jinnah insisted that Lady Mountbatten should stand between him and the lord but the Lord and Lady insisted that Jinnah must stand between them. Which Quaid termed as  a rose between two thorns  what i would not give to see the expression on the faces of those insolent people, when Quaid made that pun.
There are few things i had problem on in this book. Number one whenever it comes to loss of the life of Hindus the writer gave figures but when it came to the massacre of Muslims the writer took great pains to keep the figures and religion of the deceased fuzzy. Many Muslim unfortunately and shamefully acted as hooligans but the crime against Muslims were 3 fold worse and organized and that was just the year of 47. There is no accounting before that and not to mention the horribleness in Calcutta the year before. And district of Gurdaspur, a Muslim Majority area given on purpose to India where Muslims were killed so extensively that they were whipped out.
Also the presidential address of Quaid

 “You are free, you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to nay other place of worship in this sate of Pakistan…. you may belong to nay religion caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State, … we are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste creed or another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we all are citizens and equal citizens of the State …. all members of the Nation.”

The writer questions what was he thinking about, when he said this? was he pleading for united India? why would he talk about religious harmony equality and unity and freedom when millions were migrating towards a “Muslim” state. Well answer is this Pakistan was to be free place for Muslims a place where discrimination on the bases given above would not exist and be condemned. He was not pleading for united India he was pleading for the brutality taking place on the both sides of border to stop. He wanted a Muslim state that stood for everything which had been denied to Muslims in one way or another. A state which would not treat its minorities the way they had been treated before.
All and all it was good book. There is not much on Quaid’s personal life, he was a very private man. Also a man who worked from 14 to 18 hours and even went to office at 8:30 in morning at age of 71 with cancer in his body hard for him a have a personal life. He had many allies eve more followers and even greater number of admirers but he had very few friends. And one companion his sister. He is the least talked about leader, least studied and least admired leader. Never the less he was a single man who brought the most unlikely people to work together and made a weak party into the 2nd largest party of the India and placed Pakistan on the map. If that man was not one of the greatest leader of the modern world than i do not know who is.

Short History of World or short history of Europe!! confusing

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Now this book was a pure and complete disappointment.
As far a history books are concerned this did not even came close to a good read. Of course it was informative but it was more biased then informative. For someone who has some prior knowledge would be completely enraged like i was the reason i even finished this book was to see how far would the writer take this or would he try to d some justice he did not.
The book has 3 parts. This book starts from the theory of Darwinism. Understandable by the revolutionary point of view. the book describes what most geologists and biologists assume how continents came to separate and how the frozen seas began to melt. the rising of seas. The spreading of different clans across the plains. He describes the first people to be nomads hunters without permanent settlements also probably true. Than the rise of Greeks is and their gods, temples, sculptures comes. Than there is the age of thinkers and Romans. After that the Judaism comes, after that the advent of Christ. Of course then the discussion of spread of Christianity takes place. Of course the believers like myself and others would highly disagree. Then again the book can not be judged upon it negligence of believers’ belief. After that there is mention of Constantine who embraced Christianity and then the city of Constantinople. Of course there is mention of Asoka and rise of Buddhism which however did not take much roots in the region it was born; India. But in later years it spread eastwards quiet rapidly and surprisingly. Then comes the time of Islam. I would not discuss or judge in how the writer choose to describe the our Prophet(P.B.U.H) but then again he is not a Believer so the comments or descriptions could be understood.
But after the end o f the first part, the writer takes an unexpected leap and kind off fast forwards to late 1400s. He completely and utterly ignores the rise and fall of Islamic Civilization which penetrated Europe and east to the borders of sub-continent. In the prologue writer mentions that this book s more dependent upon scientific revolutions and wars. But he completely ignores all the great cities of Islamic empire, Cordoba, Baghdad the the most significant as far the universities and libraries were concerned. where Islamic world ended Chinese civilization starts which was also going through some major economic revolutions which the writer mentions he went as far to as describing the Chinese meals. However the writer does mention the rush of knowledge which took upon masses in in 19th century and role of England and its institutions. But he ignores the fever of knowledge which took place in middle ages, in which Hews, Christians and irreligious, traveled away from their homelands to acquire.
Then comes the 1400s the rise of Ottomans, and starting of Renaissance and end of Dark ages of Europe. This book could be better describes if we called it history of Europe. The writer at places pretends that Europeans were in long slumber after the fall of Roman empire, there was black death, and famine and everything was described but it was like they were in trance and all of the sudden the trance started to break and the ideas and knowledge came to them fro their own brilliance. He fails to mention that like knowledge was acquired by Muslims from Assyrians, Hellenistic Empire and the Greeks the same way Europeans borrowed from the Islamic Civilization next door to them. But the facts are not so important in this book if it concerns the Islamic Civilization.
Then there is discovery of Americas and a whole new world is opened up. Of course then comes the trades, the exploration of southern hemisphere, the colonization. The slave trade from Africa starts a booming business in Americas because of the abundance of land and Plantations colonies were nurturing to make material which was to be exports mainly back to Europe. In slave trade the writer chooses to mention the Muslims as the protagonists of slavery especially of women, a highly biased remark to make considering the number of slaves being exported from Africa was nearly 100000 per year during those centuries despite their gender and their occupation were not exactly defines only as farmers in the lands they were to be taken. Another very off remark is that in Americas the slaves had cabins to live in, which was a better condition then in other part of Europe. One might wonder does having cabin but no freedom makes slavery less cruel? Also very few plantations extended that luxury and who did was mainly because there was both abundance of space and wood in Americas.
Then comes the major revolutions over throw of colonies in north Americas, the revolution of France and over throw of the Louis, then comes the civil War in USA and end of official slavery in the part of the world.
Then comes the First World War and in its repercussions the Second World War. Like many historian the writer cars to mention the detail of Holocaust and but by giving the numbers of People who dies in China just like in Holocaust of Germany without distinction of age and gender and also four times the number and with same cruelty. But west tends to forget the what does not happens in west.
Two quotes from the book, maybe the most truthful things writer said
“Islam is often a puzzle. The west tends to clouds its origins in mystery.

And this one is how history flows:
“A history of Modern world could be so written that it was almost dominated by the wars between clans, tribes, nations and empires. Certainly, peace is more normal condition than war but war and peace are linked in their conditions. thus a memorable period of peace can depend on those outcomes of previous war and the enforcement of outcome.”

This books along with many nearly snide remarks clearly shows that education does not always means acceptance and ability to acknowledge those who do not have the same set of beliefs instead it can give you voice to transmit ones own racism and biasedness to those who may not have the knowledge and understanding of the world yet