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Friday, May 22, 2009

In Search of Rashid Minhas (2)

In September 1985 (I think!) PTV aired a play about Rashid Minhas. Great effort, and very well-done, but it didn’t touch upon the things which had been intriguing me about him. Then a younger friend of mine, Ahmar Kazmi, found the street address of Rashid’s family and we paid a visit.

Rashid had four sisters who were all married by now, so they lived elsewhere. Two younger brothers, who were twins, were about twelve years older than me so they were in their late twenties at that time. One of them, Rahat, became a very good friend (and one of the most encouraging people for me at that time) after I showed him some of my writings. Soon, I was planning to write a complete biography.

Rahat showed me the collection of Rashid’s books. Apparently, Rashid was one of the most voracious readers in his generation. He was mostly interested in biography but the lives spread over such diverse range from Churchill to Hitler and Gandhi to Douglas McArthur. In fiction his favorite genre was war stories: there were scores of paperbacks about WWII and almost the entire set of Neville Shute. Rahat was kind enough to let me borrow these books, one or two at a time, so I could read all of them and take notes: I wanted to familiarize myself with everything which Rashid had read, so that I may try to get into his mindset.

Then there were diaries. He wasn’t regular in writing them, but like most teenagers he liked to keep them and used them for all purposes. There were two or three from 1966 onwards, I think.

There were loads of letters which he wrote back home from the air force academy. Given his unusual passion for reading, it was only natural that he should take such pleasure in writing. His default mode of expression was English but for the sake of his grandmother and mother he started writing in Urdu as well, which wasn’t easy for him and his handwriting in that language never looked like that of a grown-up.

The family was still living in the house where Rashid had spent many of his years when they were in Karachi. It was built in the early 1950’s and as I began to frequent it – sometimes every day for an entire week – it began to feel like traveling back in time. Sometimes Rahat would play the same music for me that used to fill the house when Rashid was home: Jim Reeves, Kishore Kumar, Ahmad Rushdi. Then it would feel, really, as if Rashid was in the other room and we were just waiting for him.
Next - Iqbal in the diary of Rashid Minhas

7 comments:

  1. Akhtar Wasim DarMay 22, 2009 at 1:25 PM

    Getting intresting more and more! Please tell the whole story at once! If possible.

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  2. I am getting goosebumps reading this... Especially the link to Iqbal's Gulshan-e Raz Jadeed...

    Can't wait to read the complete "story"... Actually this would be perfect for a biographical play on Rashid Minhas. Any such plans?

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  3. As Akhtar Wasim Dar said yesterday, I am very curiously waiting for the next blog. And as he said so well, "Your writings potent message and an imagery akin to poetry and a painting" (and now other senses & immediacy involved as well - very alive indeed.

    Yet, take what time you need to cover this topic well. Relaying your personal experiences - your reading - writing - the music that was played - works to draw me.

    And as Ahmad Safi said today, I am getting goosebumps...

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  4. Nice!!! Will read the biography now. Kept it for so many years :)

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  5. Wasim, Ahmad Bhai, Connie and Bushra, thanks. Wasim, I cannot tell the whole story at once becaue I don't know it myself: I am being guided by the feedback but I think I am now beginning to have a better idea of where this story is going to end. I have tried to address the sentiments of Ahmad Bhai and Connie first, by posting those lines from Iqbal in the very next episode. Bushra, being my wife, has of course the advantage of being able to read the Urdu manuscript of the biography which I wrote 23 years ago :)

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  6. Yes, the TV media should present shows based on historical figures with a lot more accurate information.
    This whole incident gives out very intense mixed feelings of pride and sadness. Emotionally and psychologically, yes he was prepared to make supreme sacrifice. I am also happy to know that his family, teachers and friends supported his life-long dream. Yes, Pakistan is very fortunate to have soldiers like him defending our nation at all times. But, the difference between Rashid Minhas Shaheed NH and other NH recipients is that others were more experienced and ready to fight in combat. They knew ahead of time what to expect. But he was just a student (flying under training); I mean he was not a full-pledged pilot yet. The part which saddens me the most is that during his last moments, he thought that he was obeying his superior so just like an obedient student, he trusted him and he did whatever his instructor told me to do. He became such an easy target like this!
    The things he did, decisions he made, the whole plan he laid out by himself during last 10 minutes of his flight are just very captivating, charismatic and unbelievably incredible. I always heard of Rashid Minhas Shaheed NH when I was growing up and but I never felt this way before. I’ve never got to think deeply about his final moments. I bet, no other country in this world has a pilot like him.

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