Nadir Ali 1936-2020, RIP

My father, Colonel Nadir Ali, was born in Kohat (KPK) in 1936 to a Khatana Gujjar lawyer who was the first in his village to go to school, to college and then to Aligarh. The family soon moved back to Gujrat (district Gujrat, in Central Punjab) where he grew up in our village (Machiana) and the city of Gujrat. As a precocious 11 year old he helped his father to rescue some kidnapped Sikh and Hindu girls during the partition pogroms (because he was young enough to be allowed to go into the women’s quarters to talk to them). He attended Normal School Gujrat and Cadet College Hasanabdal before joining the Pakistani army in 1958. He got married to my mother in 1960 (what in Pakistan used to be called a “love marriage”) and for 61 years the two of them showed the world, through thick and thin, what true love could be like.

He served three tours in the SSG and was a much loved instructor at PMA when he volunteered to rejoin 3 commando battalion as it conducted “internal security” duties in East Pakistan in April 1971. He returned to West Pakistan in October having been, in his own words, driven mad by the experience (link to  a speech he delivered in Bangladesh about these events is attached at the end of this post and can be read for more details).

After a spell in psychiatric care he left the army and started a new life that eventually saw him become a Punjabi poet, an award winning short story writer, an active participant in Najam Hosain Syed’s Punjabi literary circle and the patriarch of a large and growing family. He always idealized his childhood in the village and refused to adapt to the pretensions and sterile isolation of modernity. He was also a fan of Marx (who he usually referred to as “nabi akhir uz zaman”, the last prophet of the age) but his well-developed bullshit detector saved him from falling blindly for any party or political movement. Above all else, he loved children. His own children, grandchildren and great grandchildren were endlessly indulged and unquestioningly and unstintingly loved and supported in everything they ever wanted to do, but his love was not limited to his own family. Every child was his child and every child felt this and responded to him with affection and joy.

It is impossible to put in words how much we will miss him.  And “we” are legion: his wife and kids and their spouses, kids and grandkids will never forget his affection, his jokes, his songs, his wisdom and his high spirits. But then, neither will his brothers Colonel Azam Ali and Sarwar Ali, his sisters Safia Choudhry and Razia Choudhry, his brother in law Justice Sajjad Sipra, his sisters in law Zohra and Shahida Sipra, his boon companion Altaf Malik, his best friend Brigadier Aslam Malik, his mentor and teacher Najm Hosain Syed, his cousin Major Akram, his countless other friends and admirers, the list goes on and on. And so many that have left us already; who knows, he may be up there right now singing and dancing with friends and family who left us before he did. I at least would like to believe this is indeed the case and he and Professor Haider Ali, Choudhry Sher Ali, Choudhry Hakim Ali, Imtiaz Sipra, Riaz Sipra, Iftikhar Sipra, Ayaz Sipra and so many others are right now looking down at us, drinking and singing old Indian film songs. And of course, he is with his father, Choudhry NIamat Ali, who came in his dreams recently, asking him to join him.

Details of his talk and interviews regarding 1971 can be found here.

Nadir Ali Reading one of his stories:

Ae sab sael bahar da hai ee.. (this is a voyage on a trackless ocean, without ship  or shore..

Banhan jinhan diyan pakRiye, sir deejay, banh na choriye..  (once we take someone’s hand, we should be willing to lose our head, but not let go of the hand)

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