|The Cornerstone of Petaro Mukhtar Siddiqui (A humble eulogy)
By Sohail Malik, 83140/Qasim
The 2nd page of ‘Ramz-e-Sukhan’ is inscribed with a sentence “dedicated to my students”. Mukhtar Sahib not only dedicated this book but also his life to the same students he honors in his book. He gave every iota of his being, committed himself to what he considered his divine duty to inspire and mold his students to realize their true potential. Today the Petarian family has suffered an immeasurable loss. Our beloved teacher, an institution in his own right and the one you touched many left us on his final journey.
Donon sirhon pay shama jale aur kitni dair
Mukhtar kiya batayen andhaira hai kis liye
I have in my possession two books penned by Mukhtar Sahib. Both inscribed in ink with a special message for me. Gifts I would cherish my entire life. More profound are the memories of being his student and the lasting and poignant discussions I had with him as a mentor. It would be an understatement to say he has played an instrumental role in molding my personality and who I am as an individual today.
I was young, curious, rebellious, inquisitive and most certainly lost in trying to find my own identity. Mukhtar sahib did not simply give me the answers. He wanted me to discover my own path, a journey he later said is best if traveled under one’s own volition. He would guide by imparting his wisdom when needed and became the source of reformation and challenge as my thoughts evolved over the years. Reading – he advocated – is one addiction one must acquire. He recommended topics and areas of interest and handed me books from his collection. He introduced me to Russell and Keats, to Renaissance and Greek philosophy. He explained Nietzsche in language a young student would understand. He inspired the love for knowledge and emphasized the importance of proficiency in expression. He stoked the fire of inquisitiveness. His parting message was “be the best you can be and pursue your passion”. In my last meeting he asked me how I viewed myself. I thought for a while and replied “ I am content”. He smiled and said you finally have become the best you can be.
It was winter of 2012 when Farhan Rana and I arrived at his house. Wrapped in a shawl he was waiting for us in his living room, a book at his side and the walls adorned with art he cherished. We spent a few hours in contemplative discourse. Two academic giants engrossed in discussion about faith, education, life, morality, passions, love, Petaro, teachers, poetry, history and a host of other topics. He asked Farhan if he remembered the verse he had written for him. Farhan replied the one in 9th grade or the one after finishing Petaro to which he just smiled. To give you a glimpse on how he reached out and inspired here is the first one written for Farhan when he was just one of the ordinary cadets “Yak lahza ghafil gushtam wa sad saalah raahum door shud” (meaning “I was not paying attention for one moment and my journey became a hundred years longer”). Later when Farhan had set all sorts of records in HSc and was planning his career pursuits in US universities we went to see him and he handed him a paper with this couplet. It still sits framed on Farhan’s desk.
Yeh bazam-e-mai hai, yahan kotaah-dasti mein hai mahroomi
Jo barh kar khud uthaale haath mein, meena usi ka hai
I sat there as witness, nudged the discussions into deeper realms, and tried to absorb the wisdom that poured in that room. It was one gathering I wish I had recorded so that I could relive the experience. In it were life lessons and an unfiltered glimpse into a brilliant mind. This reaffirmed my belief that individuals like him are born once in a century.
Mukhtar Sahib’s methods were considered iniquitous for the environment in Petaro. He was not accepted by all his peers. He was considered toxic by the religious inclined professors who viewed his beliefs and methods of teachings to be morally detestable. In the politics at Petaro he was considered an outcast. There was concern perhaps out of envy how young minds gravitated towards him and the risk of young impressionable minds adopting his unconventional views. This judgment is undeserving for an individual of his caliber, for Mukhtar sahib only tried to inspire individuals to form their own views and opinion. That’s what made him great and that’s the reason why students gravitated towards him.
I am deeply saddened that he is no longer with us. He lived a great life and hopefully is in peace. Mukhtar Sahib’s legacy shall remain alive in his students and his children. May you forever be blessed…..
Har ek khaar meri ungliyon ne chooma hai
Hare ek Phool se mera khoon ka rishta hai
With a sad heart