HAVING spent my childhood years in the village and later growing up in a town, both located in the closer vicinity of Malerkotla, the only princely state in the East Punjab ruled for centuries by the Muslim Nawabs, I had started wondering and pondering since long over the harmonies and divides between the Hindus and Muslims. The small state of Malerkotla had remained comparatively immune from the mindless violence during the Partition of the country. I have a vivid memory of an inscription, intact in 1951 but decimated soon after, of the name of Nawab Iftikhar Ali Khan on the front wall of the Gurdwara in Ahmedgarh for his donation of Rs. 500.00 – it must have been a princely sum in those days ! I had instinctively developed a faith in the mutual accommodation among faiths long before I was destined to be an Indian diplomat in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Maldives!!
This is a prologue to my tribute to late Ali Jawad Zaidi (1916-2004) who embodied for me the highest virtues of all the faiths of mankind. It was during the period of my posting to Iran in 1975-78 that I had opportunities of extended interaction with Shri S.A.J. Zaidi who had been posted as a Special Correspondent of All India Radio based in Tehran, covering other countries of the Gulf also. ...
It was a solemn Function on 15th July, 2008 at his residence when 'Islami Taraqqui Pasandi' i.e., 'Progressivism in Islam' by late Shri A.J. Zaidi was released by the Vice President of India, Shri M. Hamid Ansari.
While enjoying the wonderful company of many friends and admirers of late Zaidi Sahib during the tea following the Function, I was lost in the myriad memories of Shri Zaidi who became a kind of Murshid or a Guru as well as the most admired elderly friend for me. I quote the lines from his poem, 'Ajeeb Tanhaee', penned during his Sojourn in Iran:
Raasta Naapne Wale To Bahut Hain, Lakin
Inmein, Dekhein To Zara, Aabla Paa Kitnein Hain!
The surveyors of path are many
Look, how many of them have blisters under their feet!
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