کلاسک

    
 

Home Page > English Wichaar > History > North America 5: Pakistani community in Kingston

North America 5: Pakistani community in Kingston

Fayyaz Baqir

April 12th, 2017

 

 

Resistance against Zia regime in North America found political expression on a very limited scale. It mostly assumed the form of cultural resistance. It was easy to mobilise larger communities for cultural gatherings and cultural icons like poets, musicians, singers and writers had much greater acceptance in the community compared to politicians. Progressive Pakistanis used to organise music festivals, Qawwalis, poetry recitals and other similar events to vent their feelings. In small towns like Kingston, such events were not possible but small events were organised around visits by well-known progressives. Kingston had a small Pakistani community. It consisted of some professors, local businessmen, employees and students. They were mostly very conservative. Jamil Rasheed once said about a professor that “he lives in a Punjabi village; relishes eating cornbread and spinach cooked and served in Punjabi style; watches films like Mahi Munda on the CD player and comes early in the morning from his village to Queen’s and in the afternoon goes back to the village again”. This was confirmed when this professor took me out for lunch at a university cafeteria one day. He looked around and said to me, “Look at these girls; they are all wearing shorts; there is no sense of modesty”. I had very little interaction with this group although they were a courteous lot. There were only two progressive Pakistanis in Kingston, Professor Mohammad Qadeer and activist Jameel Rasheed.

Professor Qadeer hailed from Lahore. He was a very graceful and caring person; a great scholar and a true Lahori. He was respected among his colleagues for his scholarship and his significant contribution to social change in Pakistan and Canada. He was a close friend of Dr Feroz Ahmad. He was my mentor during my stay at Queen’s and was always very kind to me. His wife Suzan was a New Yorker and a very hospitable, warm and sensitive woman. She was a very caring person and at their home, I always felt at home. They had three lovely children Aamir, Ali and Nadra. Through them, I learnt about cross-cultural identity. Professor Qadeer said that his daughter Nadra introduce her family to a pen friend in these words, “My father is a Pakistani, my mother is an American and all three of us are Canadians”. In 1982 Dr Feroz paid a visit to Qadeer Sahib and we met at Qadeer Sahib’s house for a BBQ party. Dr Feroz remembered that I used to sell 30 copies of Pakistan Forum at Dera Ismail Khan. He also knew about my MKP connection. I told him that Bangash Sahib had contacted me after my arrival at Kingston. We had detailed discussion on the situation in Pakistan. Dr, Feroz like many other Pakistanis had decided to stay in exile and wait for an opportune moment to return. He intended to continue writing and raising his voice for democratic change in Pakistan through public forums. It was a very pleasant encounter and we agreed to keep in touch. Keeping in touch with like-minded people was the best form of politics in those days.

On one occasion Faiz Ahmad Faiz Sahib also came to Kingston. It was perhaps a little before my arrival. Faiz Sahib was very well received by the Pakistani community. I don’t know the details of the event but I know that two people invited him for an overnight stay at the end of the event; Professor Qadeer and Jamil Rasheed. Professor Qadeer was a very polite and understated man and when Jamil Rasheed insisted on taking Faiz Sahib home, he gave in. Faiz Sahib ended at Jamil Rashid’s place. Jamil lived a very kosher life, so after a bite and exchange of pleasantries Faiz Sahib told him to have some rest but bring him a book so that he could read a little bit before going to sleep. According to Jameel Faiz Sahib kept reading till four in the morning and then went to sleep. I asked him, “What book you brought Faiz Sahib to read”. He said, “Maut Ka Manzar Ma Marney Key Ba’ad Kia Hoga”- it meant “Sight of death including what will happen after the death”. What a clear evidence of Faiz Sahib’s patience.        

 The year passed very quickly and due to various considerations, I decided to move to Moscow, Idaho. I succeeded in getting acceptance and assistantship at Moscow. However, the university could not transfer my credit to Idaho without clearance of my pending dues. I went to Graduate Chair Frank Flatter to seek his help. Frank succeeded in getting the waiver from the relevant Committee. When I asked him how he succeeded in making a case for me, he said, “I told the committee, if Fayyaz succeeds in finishing his degree, he will land a good job on return. In that case, he will be able and willing to pay us back. If we don’t let it happen we don’t stand any chance of recovering the dues”. I was amazed at his kindness, brilliance and sensitivity. This was the strength of a humanist culture and humanist values. I could disagree with capitalist ideology but not with democratic culture. I made last minute effort to get American visa and despite a little hassle was able to leave Canada in time and land at Spokane airport in Washington State on 2nd September 1983.

 

More News

Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Subject:
Comments: