Roznamcha

Translated by: Asiya Alam

Nazr Sajjad Haidar

Sialkot, Punjab
1892-1967

EXTRACT ONE

26 May 1912: Today was the most important day of life. When I woke up in the morning to offer my prayers, I saw a different atmosphere in the house. My elder female relatives were busy in arrangements for hosting someone. Everyone in the house including its younger as well as elder members along with the servants seemed extremely happy. But the master of the house was very melancholic and sad.[1] Witnessing the entire delightful ambience made my heart heavy in memory of someone. The one who would have been happiest and most enthusiastic in all the preparations was not present in the world today. I sat alone in the corner and wept in memory of her.

Around nine, news reached that guests had arrived from the station. They were only three. One was the respectable guest, another was his friend and the third was a servant. They stayed at some other place. The day was spent in hosting and festivities of merriment.

That moment arrived at six in the evening when I was forever entrusted to someone else. It was a strange time for the memory of mother was haunting me already, and now I caught a glimpse of the imminent separation from father, brother and sister. The one to whom I was to be related did not share an acquaintance with me. The heart aroused a strange feeling that evening. The extremely hot night of 26th May and a crowd of worries swarmed on the sad heart. He was called to the house but I had no courage to meet him. Women of other families met him. He stayed at our house for two days and then left. There were reasons due to which I couldn’t accompany him but heard the news that he was returning very soon.

 

17 June: My heart was racing when I opened my eyes today. The heat was intense and he was also coming today to take me.

I was now a guest here only for one more evening. He reached by nine and was called inside for dinner at eleven. I then met him for the first time. My sister and I were made to sit on a sofa in extremely ornate attire. Sitting close to us on chairs were other women. He entered the room with my young brother. Greeting everyone, he sat down. My face was not veiled and I had hidden my face only with a handkerchief. Forget about the gaze, the eyes were automatically downcast out of shame. He talked continuously with my sister. I was silent. After some time, there were demands made that he should eat dinner with guests from outside. He left.

Arrangements were now started for my rukhsati.[2] The week seared with scorching heat. Half of June had passed and there was no sight of rain anywhere. Hot winds blew throughout the day and the night. I always hated this weather. Life became a punishment. One could delight neither in dressing nor in eating. There was no rest at daytime and no sleep at night. A scorching earth and the sky charred like copper. A strong sunny day from dawn to dusk. The heart craves but there is no sight of even a scrap of cloud in the sky. A perpetual blue sky for months at end accompanied by an incandescent, blazing sun. For God’s sake, one feels like traveling to another world in this weather. To bear the intense suffering of heat along with the separation from loved ones especially the worry over the loneliness of my broken-hearted father and his desolate home. That day went badly. Finally the hour of separation arrived. Everyone said adieu to me with teary eyes.

 

20 June: When I opened my eyes today in the train at four in the morning, I encountered a strange scene. The train twirled like a snake to climb higher along the edge of the mountains. Verdant hills on both sides. A light rain. Since the windows were open for air, sprinkles of water reached inside. The weather was crisp and extremely pleasant. There was such attractive greenery. The refreshing morning hour was extremely intoxicating.

An informal and agreeable friendship had developed after living with him for two days during the journey. Time was passing well but the thought of leaving loved ones was still making me anxious.

 

EXTRACT TWO

4 November: I have been living and traveling to and fro from this place for two and half years. After spending the summer in the hills, we returned according to the norm in mid-October to the plains. During this period I had developed friendships with Muslim women here. The educated women of some households were very progressive but usually there wasn’t enough conversation about women’s education within the Muslims of this status group. There were several schools for Hindu girls and education was common amongst them but Muslim girls were completely deprived. There were some high standard English-medium and missionary schools but sharif Muslims who followed purdah did not like to educate their girls there.[3] I thought that some arrangement ought to be made for the education of Muslim girls here. Therefore I invited some like-minded progressive women and sought their suggestions and found them ready to assist me.

That was it, this gave me courage and we established a women’s Anjuman Hami-e Talim-e Niswan (Association for the Support of Women’s Education). A preparatory committee was then stipulated. A wife of a wealthy businessman was named the President and another distinguished woman was named Vice-President. A young newly wed educated woman from Lahore, who was residing here with her in-laws, was made the Assistant Secretary.  On the third day, the first gathering of our association was held at my house. Invitations cards were published and distributed throughout the city. The first meeting had strength of approximately fifty women. Several women made speeches on the necessity for the establishment of this association and school. The monthly fee for the membership was set at four annas so that the poorest could also pay.[4] Otherwise whoever could afford to happily donate more would pay higher for the membership. Therefore the President agreed to pay two rupees every month and another paid one rupee while someone else paid eight annas. In the first meeting itself, the donations from membership fee amounted to thirty rupees for the month.  On the eighth day after the meeting, the next gathering of the association was held at the house of another member respectively.  Around eighty women from the city had gathered for that meeting. There was an increase in the monthly donations. Within a few days, consciousness for women’s education swept with such enthusiasm that members invited the association for every meeting to their own homes. Then we started to hold meetings in every neighborhood. Every meeting saw an addition of ten to twenty women members. In a month I had collected enough money to start a school immediately.

I requested the preparatory committee that I did not want to spend these monthly donations on small things of school. It was incumbent on us that we give school materials that did not cost much ourselves. Everyone gladly accepted this proposal. Someone bought boards whereas another bought pens, ink and copies, and sent them all to me.

Another arranged for mats and water storage pots. Then I, along with President and Vice-President, approached a prosperous member of our Anjuman who owned 2-3 bungalows and requested her to kindly bestow the smallest bungalow without rent for the purposes of school. She agreed to this too. Now we appointed a Muslim ustani for 10 rupees a month to teach Quran and Urdu and a sharif Christian woman, who had passed entrance examinations, for 20 rupees a month to teach English and mathematics.[5] Because all girls were interested in studying English and their mothers were interested in them being taught English, we gathered 25 girls on the first day of admission. After assigning an opportune day and date, the Muslim Girls School was started.

 

Source

These extracts are translated from Guzashta Barson ki Baraf, ed. Qurratulain Hyder (Delhi: Educational Publishing House, 2007), pp. 36-8, pp. 44-46.  Extract one was originally published as: Nazr S. Hyder, ‘Roz-Namcha’, Tahzib-e Niswan, Vol. 45, No. 32 (8 August 1942): 514-18.  Extract two was originally published as: Nazr S. Hyder, ‘Roz-Namcha’, Tahzib-e Niswan Vol. 45, No. 42 (17 October 1942): 672-75.

Extracts reproduced in translation by the kind permission of the Qurratulain Hyder Charitable Trust.

[1] The reference ‘master of the house’ here is to Nazr’s father, Nazr-ul Baqar.

[2] Rukhsati refers to the departure of the bride from the parents’ house after her marriage.

[3] Sharif literally means ‘respectable’, but in the colonial period refers to the community of Muslims who were influenced by Sayyid Ahmed Khan and took an active role in social reform within the community.  Purdah is the practice of gender segregation.

[4] anna is a formerly used currency in India whose value equaled 1/16 rupee.

[5] Ustani is a female teacher.