CAM DIARY: ‘Kamal da teacher’
Such is KK’s love for his teacher that he has single-handedly set up the Bokhari English Prize at Cambridge University, awarded annually to the best student of English at Emmanuel College
“Eureka!” exclaimed the retired professor researching in the reference section of Cambridge city library. His excitement knew no bounds. Hunting through the Cambridgeshire Collection for days, he had now managed to unearth a rare photograph for a biography he was working on. No earth-shattering event for us ordinary mortals, but for this old researcher it was the find of the century.
So happy was he on discovering the photo — a simple black and white portrait of a Cambridge undergraduate — that he hugged the poor librarian! “You don’t know what this means to me!” he said emotionally. The librarian was puzzled and managed a sympathetic smile. “He was my teacher, you see,” explained the researcher. Other people in the library looked up from their desks to see what on earth the commotion was about? The librarian looked embarrassed, turned red, as the English do on such occasions, but he at least sensed the old man’s emotional attachment with his subject matter.
That was in November 1998, when Professor KK Aziz was in Cambridge collecting material on his teacher: Professor Ahmad Shah “Patras” Bokhari (1898-1958). The last biography that KK will probably write will be Bokhari’s, the renowned man of letters and diplomat. This means that KK will have the rare distinction of writing on two Emmanuel College men: Rahmat Ali and Bokhari. Bokhari was at Cambridge from 1925 to 1927 (the photo he found was taken during this period). Rahmat Ali arrived three years later, probably influenced by Bokhari, who was also at Lahore. Bokhari was KK’s English teacher at Government College, Lahore and later, when KK himself joined the staff of the College, Bokhari was the principal, from 1947 to 1951.
When we visited Azim Husain, Sir Fazl-i-Husain’s son, in London three years ago, KK asked him about his impression of Bokhari. Azim had seen and been in touch with Bokhari in two different capacities. When Azim was a child, Bokhari was his English tutor. He used to go to Bokhari’s flat in Lahore twice a week. There were no children in the house and he rarely saw Mrs Bokhari. Bokhari was a “kamal da teacher,” and was unmatched. He was accurate, with very proper pronunciations, and didn’t get angry.
Later in life, when Azim went as an Indian delegate to the United Nations in New York, he met Bokhari again. Bokhari was the rival Pakistani delegate. Azim found Bokhari to be very “competent” who “ran around” and did his job properly. Despite the bitter Indo-Pak conflict, Azim admired Bokhari’s fairness and his gentlemanly behaviour. He didn’t swear and get involved in “gali-galoch”. This, Azim observed, was “a very ghair-Pakistani harkat”! Or Indian for that matter, I may hasten to add!
Khalid Hasan, who in the bad old days used to write for Dawn before shifting over to Daily Times, has written in Dawn, April 30, 2001: “Bokhari was a highbrow. As the United Nation’s head of information, he returned a poem by Robert Frost to the poet because he did not think it was up to par. The poem had been sent for a UN campaign. When I.A. Richards, the eminent literary critic, who was a close friend of Bokhari, sent him his new book, Bokhari wrote back, “I have received a copy of your posthumous book” which meant that Richards had already published his best work.”
Zafar Aftab has also commented in Dawn, January 25, 2002 that “During his [Bokhari’s] service in the UN, he was very jolly and cheerful, but inwardly he was very sad.” Dr. Anwar Dil has provided an excellent source on Bokhari at the UN — “On This Earth Together: Ahmed S. Bokhari at UN”, which deserves a separate piece. Gilani Kamran has said that “Bokhari’s early articles in the Ravi had a sprinkling of what can be regarded as pure humour, which was something new in the writings of the Subcontinent.” (Nation, January 13, 2000).
In his book “Diary of a Diplomat” (1986), Afzal Iqbal gives an example of Bokhari the prankster. During a trip with friends Bokhari was “obliged to slow down and stop his car on the Grand Trunk Road, near Shahdara, a suburb of Lahore. The road was being obstructed by a long caravan of bullock carts carrying fodder for the market. Lanterns were dangling below the carts, bells round the necks of bullocks were tingling and the drivers were fast asleep in their seats. Bokhari, annoyed, at this obstruction, stopped the car, got out, took the leading bull by the rein and turned him in the opposite direction. The caravan, instead of proceeding to Lahore, started moving towards Gujranwala. ‘The bastards’, exclaimed Bokhari, ‘they will learn their lesson in the morning when the wake up in Gujranwala!’”
Finally, such is KK’s love for his teacher that he has single-handedly set up the Bokhari English Prize at Cambridge University, awarded annually to the best student of English at Emmanuel College. Makes one wonder about student-teacher relations in this day and age, doesn’t it?
—Sir Cam Cambridge, England