Amir Hamid Jafri, 983/Qasim

Dr. Amir Hamid Jafri - 2008

By Kazi Zulkader Siddiqui, 671/Latif

Amir Hamid Jafri, kit no. 983/Qasim House joined Cadet College Petaro in 1967 in 11th Class and left the college in 1969 after completing his Intermediate.

He was born on 20 October 1951, and got married to Dr. Valerie on 25 March 1982. The marriage did not work out, but they still remain best of friends. They have one daughter - Nantaara.

Jafri was an excellent cricketer, and was a member of the College Cricket team. He also played on behalf of CCP during the ICCST games of 1968, and thus became a member of the Famous Forties that year.

Right after Petaro, Jafri joined UET Lahore and graduated as a Mechanical Engineer in 1975. He moved to the USA in 1981 and completed his MBA from University of Central Oklahoma in 1983.

He then moved to NY City and studied theater at H.B. Studios there. During that period, he worked as a cab driver on the dangerous roads of NY to make his two ends meet.

Jafri kept up with his studies throughout. Later on, he also acquired an M.A. degree in Speech Communications from the University of Texas, Pan Am in 1996. Subsequently, he got his Ph.D. in Communications from University of Oklahoma at Norman in 2003.

Soon after completing his Ph.D. in 2003, he joined Davis & Elkins College in West Virginia as Assistant Professor of Communication.

In 2007, Jafri's book titled "Honour Killing - Dilemma, Ritual, Understanding" was published by the Oxford University Press. The OUP website describes the contents of the book briefly in the following words: "This book explores the various contexts in which men commit honor killing in Pakistan, and analyzes the discourses that deal with it. It undertakes the task of understanding the possible cultural, religious, historical and, increasingly, political reasons that create the dilemma, the exigency for men to kill a female member of their own family." Columnist Khalid Hasan wrote a detailed review of the book which can be read online at http://www.kashmirtimes.com/archive/0808/080823/opinion.htm.

Jafri moved back to Pakistan in 2009 to be closer to his family. He worked briefly at the Karakorum International University in Gilgit. He then moved to Karachi as Professor at Hamdard Institute of Management Sciences in 2010 and worked there until October 2012.


Cadet Amir H. Jafri - 1968

 


Epiphanies in the classroom - A meeting with Prof. A.A. Faruqui

By Amir H. Jafri, 983/Qasim

A couple of weeks ago, as I was enjoying a break between jobs and spending long hours strolling the seafront in Karachi, I finally managed to carve out an hour of an old teacher’s time with a couple of classmates from that long lost time. The enigma whether time is ever lost or not did come up in our conversation but that for another, well, time.

A legendary teacher at Cadet College, Petaro, for about half a century, Faruqui Saahab was known around school for his freely-dispensed sarcasm and anecdotes, refined literary acumen, and his eye for individual talents; at close to 90 years of age, Faruqui Saahab retains good health and his elegant ways of yore. These days he spends most of his time with his family and books, and teaching at his neighborhood mosque. To our delight, he is still of a vigorous mind and is brimming with intellectual curiosity; his acerbic wit and impish smile is still there to behold.  His raking youthful looks have been now camouflaged with a flowing white beard, but behind that flowing pilose facade I could still detect the wry impatience as his smile crinkled north on his right cheek whenever his antennae detected hogwash. 

About a couple of decades ago, I took to teaching. It happened entirely by accident.  As a floundering lost soul, both in a faraway exile and in a deep existential funk, I was bereft of any monetary resources and was trying to rush through an MFA degree in Theatre Arts at the University of Texas. Almost at the end of the graduate program, I was required to take a class in Rhetoric with, George McLemore, professor of Rhetoric and Communication, a polymath of sorts and a master teacher. I had never heard of Rhetoric  before but quickly found myself deeply stimulated in his class and outside by the content of the fundamental texts—Plato’s Dialogues, Aristotle’s Poetics and Nichomachean Ethics, Isocrates, Cicero, Augustine, Erasmus, on and on—to which I was exposed.   

Seeing my interest in the subject matter and, probably taking pity on my financial plight, McLemore offered me a teaching assistantship, a paid apprenticeship to become a “real” teacher.  The caveat, meaningless in my impecunious circumstances at the time but consequential in the long run, was that I would have had to start afresh on a master’s program in, yes, Rhetoric. I was at once relieved, amused, flattered, humbled, and frightened, but mostly frightened: I had never taught in my life; I had never formally studied rhetoric or its concomitant humanities and literature; a career lay-about, I could never imagine carrying myself with the gravitas of a teacher.

But, I had by that time spent almost twenty years in school accumulating degrees in Business and Engineering. Those, for me, were degrees without a soul, mere paper with Latinesque print, because I, somehow, never got infused with the spirit and beauty of Mathematics or Physics, much less Accounting and Finance. I spent several sleepless nights mulling over the indignities about to descend on my hapless being; nightmares of being “found out” punctuated those dark nights. But “I know you can do it; I know it,” was all that came from McLemore by way of assurance, and was all I could comfort myself with during that forbidding time. Taking up the offer, the challenge, turned out to be a seminal moment in my life. My vertiginous ride in the systematic exploration of ideas and meaning continues. 

As I embarked on the dizzying adventure on both sides of the classroom lectern, I realized how the seeds of intellectual curiosity and etymological inquiry that were thrown at my teenage mind by Faruqui Saahab, a quarter century earlier, had been lying around in my subconscious waiting to be nurtured and nudged, stimulated and sprouted, fostered and fomented during all those years. Vague ideas and complex notions lying around dormant started to do a delirious and dippy synaptic dance in my head as the readings and discussions mounted. I started to get a handle on the Einsteinean notion that education is that which remains when we have forgotten what we learnt at school.

The word “epiphany” has a Christian  theological provenance, but denotes a sudden realization of a fundamental truth or reality, an unlocking of a henceforth mysterious realm, a magical unraveling of a tangled intellectual skein, a piercing insight into what was henceforth inaccessible, remote, or elusive, a complexity made lucid, a dark intimidating space enlightened and befriended by a flash of insight, an intuitive grasp, a divine leap. In informal usage, some call it the “aha” moment. I like that expression, too.

During my recent vigorous colloquial with Faruqui Saahab, I made a point of reminding him (of course, he didn’t remember, but he did smile—without that northbound sarcasm, I must add) how during a class in March 1968, forty-four years ago, he recited a sher, a distich, which, sort of, woke me up in a way that I actually looked around at my classmates to see if they had been similarly affected by the expression. I am still not sure about them, but for me it was—I was still to discover the word—an epiphany. 

Faruqui Saahab had recited a famous sher of Urdu language but, of course, I had never heard of it. Bred in Western style schools, indeed, I had not heard many ashaar at that time. In order to comprehend the salience of its place in my life, I think it is important that I introduce it:

Zindagi kiya hai, anaasir kaa zahoor-e-tarteeb

Maut kiya hai, in hee ajzaa kaa pareeshaaN hona

First, the poet, he intoned, was Pundit Burj Narayan Chakbast. The name was a jolt in itself. A Hindu, an alien, I thought, writing Urdu poetry, or even familiar with my language, was strange. Deal with it, I thought. Accept it—after all, Faruqui Saahab says so— even if he is a Pundit (that was a pre-TV time when pundits belonged to the sacral spaces of the temple, before swarms of them colonized and profaned our televisions.)

Second, he told us that “pareeshaan” denotes a state of mind which is “scattered;” only the connotations are those of being “worried.” The essentially symbolic nature of words, that words really don’t have any meaning in of themselves, that words are arbitrary and abstract, suddenly dawned on me. Years later, during my immersion in semiotics, semantics, and rhetoric the “pareeshaani” accompanied me. When I first read I. A. Richards asserting that meanings are in people, not in words, I instantly grasped the idea. 

Third—and this was a more philosophical aspect—the idea in the particular distich: I suddenly realized the essential similarity of all organic life, that all life, whether bacteria or buffalos, flowers or fossils, hippos or humans, start from a primal miasmic chaos to be later defined and categorized by the way their elemental constituents, microns, genes, are organized, only to be on their way to another chaos. This cycle is endless. To this day, I remember, I seemed feverish with a strange fire under me at that instant realization.  

At the end of the evening, with mixed emotions, I presented to Faruqui Saahab a book I had written a couple of years ago. I sought his permission before inscribing it to him, and then, shaking with emotion, I quoted Nazir Akbarabadi:

Youn to hum kuch na thay, par misl-e-anaar-o-mahtaab

Jub humaiN aag lagaa’ee to tamaasha nikla 

In my dedication, I had written “Faruqui Saahab kayliyay,” conjoining  “kay” and “liyay” as I have seen generally written. Ever nitpicky and punctilious, he quickly scanned my words and told me to write the “kay” and “liyay” separately as they are different words.

I know from now on I will. He is my teacher. I had an epiphany in his class.

Dr. Amir H. Jafri served as the dean of Hamdard Institute of Management Sciences until Oct 2012. His last book Honour Killing: Dilemma; Ritual; Understanding was published by Oxford University Press.