Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Message of Communal Harmony and a Muslim's Search for his Jewish Mother







Soz Malihabadi, a devout Muslim, with his Jewish aunts, Katty alias Khatoon (left) and Ghazala (right) in 1995

From the left in the front row: Maqbool Ahmad Khan, Mahfooz Ahmad Khan 'Soz Malihabadi', Rehana (nee Rahama), Manzoor Ahmad Khan (Soz's elder brother), Katty alias Khatoon and Ghazala


On Friday, 17th April, 2009, Open Space organised a poetry session dedicated to communal harmony, particulary peace between Jews and Muslims, with the Urdu poet Soz Malihabadi , who has been in search of his Jewish mother for fifteen years, at the Academy of Mass Communication, Lucknow. At the session Soz Malihabadi recited his poems and narrated the story of his unceasing search for his Jewish mother, a story that connects three continents (Asia, Europe and North America), five countries (India, Israel, Canada, the United Kingdom and Pakistan) and the two communities that are sadly seen as natural adversaries today, viz., Jews and Muslims.

Urdu poet and Hafiz-e-Qur'an (one who has memorised the entire Qur'an), Mahfooz Ahmad Khan 'Soz Malihabadi' was absolutely ignorant of his Jewish maternal side until he received a letter from his London-based Jewish aunt one day at his modest dwelling in Kakori in Lucknow district. Soz had grown up hearing that his mother passed away when he was very small. The next letter from his aunt proved to be the catalyst that set him on the the search for his mother, Rehana (nee Rahmah), about whom he discovered from the letter that she was still alive and lived in the neighbouring country Pakistan.

Born in a Baghdadi Jewish family resident in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), Rehana (nee Rahmah) married a young handsome Pathan, Maqbool Ahmad Khan, in 1947. In 1950, their second child, Mahfooz Ahmad Khan, who later came to be known as Soz Malihabadi, was born to the couple. Soon Maqbool's thriving business failed, reducing him to penny pinching and souring his relations with his wife, who aspired to be a film actor. In 1955 they got divorced and Rehana married a Pakistani Airforce officer and moved to Pakistan, leaving behind her two little sons and two orphan young sisters in her former husband Maqbool's custody. In 1956 Soz Malihabadi's young orphan aunts, Khatoon and Ghazala reached Israel under the Zionist programme of Youth Aliyah (emigration to Israel aimed at the ingathering of Jewish exiles from around the world), while Soz with his father moved to his ancestral village, midway betwen Malihabad and Kakori in Lucknow district.

When Soz met his aunts in Mumbai after an epoch of forty years, he enquired about his mother's whereabouts, but strangely enough they refused to divulge it to him. Not losing hope, Soz made a trip to Karachi, Pakistan, in search of his mother, but to no avail. The posture taken by his aunts absolutely disillusioned him, and he severed all ties with them. The Muslim son is still in search of his Jewish mother.

1 comment:

The Verbaliser said...

Very interesting and yet, also very sad. Insha'allah Mr. M will find his mum soon...his tenacity is exemplary and deserves justice. Godspeed to him.