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College Days, by Waseem Altaf

College Days
Waseem Altaf
I did BA from Government College, Asghar Mall Rawalpindi. In 1904, this institution was set up as Sanatan Dharam High School. The present building was constructed in 1913 and the school was raised to the status of a college on October 19, 1948. Presently, it is the largest college of Rawalpindi and offers postgraduate courses in English, Urdu, Economics, Mathematics and Geography.

The Lecture
Professor Waseeq Ahmad was from UP. Bulky, dark-skinned, unshaven and untidy, he always wore a white shirt and black trousers. He would abruptly enter the staff room pick a chair and briskly walk across the college ground where he would take the class in the open. He was professor of Political Science but everything was discussed in his class except Political Science. Initially I thought that he was a very knowledgeable person but I soon found out that all he had was information gathered from popular magazines and lots of (unconfirmed) spicy anecdotes. Perhaps in the evening he would read “Urdu Digest” or weekly “Takbeer” and “Hurmat” and deliver the same in the classroom the following day. In the class, he would lecture at the top of his voice as if shouting or addressing a political congregation. There were also symptoms of paranoia as he would frequently assert that a screen was enacted in the white house connected to satellites which were keeping an eye on his movements as he was a great threat to “US hegemonic designs.”
Professor Waseeq retired and a few months later went to Murree, a nearby hill station in connection with his GP fund At night, he stayed at one of my friend’s place who later told me that at around midnight he heard professor Waseeq shouting in the toilet located at the rooftop. Perturbed, he went upstairs and asked if everything was alright. The professor came out and informed that he had not taken a class for the past six months while the addiction to give a lecture was so strong that he could not control it sitting in the toilet and began delivering a lecture (to an imaginary class.)

The Encounter
Professor Saeed-ul-Hasan used to teach us English poetry. He was an excellent teacher and had earned a gold-medal from Aligarh University in 1949. (Someone from Aligarh can still visit and verify his name written on an honor board in the English department.) One of Professor Saeed’s favorite actresses was Renuka Devi. Since films were first released in Delhi and later came to Aligarh, he used to go to Delhi all the way to watch films of Renuka Devi. Renuka Devi was born Khurshed Jehan to a liberal Muslim family of Aligarh. Mostly associated with Bombay Talkies, she acted in few of their films including Bhakti (1939), Badi Didi (1939), Jeevan Prabhat (1937), Bhabhi (1938) and Naya Sansar (194.) She moved to Lahore film industry and played leading roles in box-office hits Sahara (1943), Ghulami (1945) and Samrat ChandraGupta (1945). Besides acting, she also used to sing for her films. She announced her retirement from the Indian film industry in February 1944.
On Partition, Renuka Devi moved to Pakistan. Professor Saeed-ul-Hasan also migrated to Pakistan in 1950, joined the education department and was later posted to Quetta. Renuka Devi, now Begum Khurshid Mirza whose husband was in the police department, was also transferred to Quetta in mid-fifties. MA English classes began in Government College Quetta around the same period where Professor Saeed was a faculty member. It so happened, that Begum Khurshid Mirza joined MA English classes.
Professor Saeed told me that one fine morning as he entered the class, he saw “Renuka Devi” sitting in front of him in the first row. It was unbelievable! But soon the disbelief turned into exhilaration. Later, they developed family relations and “Renuka” told him that she never knew that her favorite teacher also happened to be her ardent fan.

The Pen
Professor Khalid Lateef taught us English prose. He had a beautiful Parker pen with which he would take the roll call. Once, when I told him that he had such a nice pen he narrated the story how he got that. He said that he was a clerk at General Headquarters where he developed friendship with another colleague when both decided to appear for the MA English exam. They began preparation, but after sometime the other person got an opportunity to go to England. On departure, Professor Khalid’s friend took out the pen from his pocket and gave it to him saying that since he would not need that as he would mostly be doing manual labor. But since he (Prof Khalid) was most likely to be into teaching and writing, he would require that so he should keep it. It would also be a memento from a friend.
I left the Government College and after twenty years, while passing by a private college I recalled that somebody had told me that after retirement Professor Khalid was serving there as principal. I pulled my car and went straight to his office. He was delighted to meet me after such a long time and we shared a lot from the college days. Suddenly, I remembered the pen. “Sir where is the Parker pen” I asked. “Oh, I returned it” he told in a melancholic tone.

And then he narrated the whole story:
“It so happened that after five years my friend returned from abroad and we met. He had also shifted his family to England and was well settled. He also proposed my daughter for his son. We agreed and the marriage took place after a few months. My daughter left for England and all was going well when we came to know that our son-in-law was very violent and would often resort to wife-battering. My daughter did not initially inform the family but when things went out of hand, she took her mother into confidence. Though we tried our best to resolve the issue but failed. To cut the long story short a divorce was sought. By then my friend had expired. A month later my son-in-law came to our house alongwith his uncle to sign the divorce papers. As he was leaving I told him to wait for a minute as I had to hand him over something. I went inside, picked up the pen and came back.
“Your father gave me this pen, please take it back!” I told him and handed it over to him” Professor Khalid recounted with teary eyes.

(Today, 19th October,2017 is the 69 birth anniversary of Government College Asghar Mall, Rawalpindi)

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