Published: 05:45 PM, 10 October 2022
|| Dr M A Lais ||
Innā lillāhi wa innā ilayhī rājiʿūn. Surely we belong to Allah and to him shall we return. In writing the memories of the late Mr Abdul Khalique-my maternal uncle from a little remote relation, I first want to remember the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) that for the deceased, we should mention what is good and refrain from speaking about their evil.
Ibn Umar reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “” Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhī 1019
We know nobody is perfect and everybody has strengths and weaknesses and weakness leads us to evildoing. The Islamic teachings will guide me through the writing Insha Allah. “Every son of Adam commits sin, and the best of those who commit sin are those who repent.” ―Prophet Muhammad ﷺ ( Sunan Ibn Majah).
The Late Mr Abdul Khalique was born towards the end of 1930s in a rich family in Pach Ghor, in the village of Durlavpur, Moulvibazar. For many people predominantly from greater Sylhet, when the name of the village is mentioned, the name of a great author Syed Mujtoba Ali and his family is remembered as the villagers believe the family is connected with the village either by birth or living in the village. (Authentication is required). However, I am very lucky to have been born in the same village. Late Mr Abdul Khalique (Uncle), was so close to me, my father late Mr Abdus Sattar and uncle late Mr Abdun Nur, as close as our houses in Bangladesh are attached, being situated in the eastern and western side! I will focus more on our London related life stories later.
Mr Abdul Khalique received his basic Islamic education from the Maktob, in the village Mosque and primary education from Kanakpur Primary school- half a mile away from his home. He completed his matriculation examination from Moulvibazar Government School, which is situated at about two and half miles distance but he had a bicycle to ride for schooling. Then he had received a college education from Brindabon College, Habigonj.
According to one of his well respected cousins from Pach Ghor, Mr Altab Uddin, known as Altab Qari, Mr Khalique, for going to the UK, bought a visa for only ‘Eight Ana’, ( £.004 approximately) half of one rupee in in 1962 (?), then East Pakistan. At that time Eight Anna was quite a good amount of money that some families used to maintain a day or two of living costs with this amount and did not feel encouraged to spend such an amount for buying a visa. However, at that time, the bad economic circumstances (though still exists) pushed the people out of the country and there was a huge demand in the UK for foreign labour. Many people were pushed out of the country for economic reasons and they were pulled to the UK to fulfil the labour shortages. In the early 1960’s, the immigration to the UK (known amongst Bangladeshi community as Queen’s visa) was easy, leading to the huge Bangladeshi migration to the UK. According to an American Scholar Everett Lee, this is known as ‘Push-pull’ theory of migration.
Although Uncle Mr Khalique lived in a village, his way of life was different; his self-grooming suggested he came from an urban and affluent background. He was different than the average village people. My earliest memory about him is vague but I remember him to be a lovely but cautionary adviser in regards to education. Later on, I discovered him as an innovator, creative, modernizer, inspirer, ambitious etc. I furnish here a couple of examples:
During the mid-sixties, when nobody thought of electric or gas supplies in the village or even had dreams to have a fridge to protect food, he hit upon a plan for a short fishery in his home yard by digging two large tanks and bought live cat fishes (Shingi & magurs) which live longer than other fishes. We the village children and even the older people used to visit during the water change in the tanks-what a fun experience that was!
Another memory is about his modernisation. His family had spare land to the northern side of our house where we the village boys used to play with hand-made footballs with rugs or even grapefruit (Jambura). In that land, he dug a pond for catering for the people’s daily needs such as fresh water for drinking and bathing. Having dug the pond, there was no water raised as expected. Then he hired a pump to bring water from the river Manu which was adjacent to our village, and between which the Dhaka-Sylhet road passes. This initiative was very innovative and still today many senior villagers remember this. According to Theodore Levitt, a German-born American economist and a professor of Harvard Business School, ‘Creativity’ is thinking up new things and ‘Innovation’ is doing new things. We found him possessing both creative and innovative skills and qualities.
I found him as someone who always tried to be accurate in almost everything. Once, I missed a ten o’clock bus for going to Sylhet-at a distance of 34 miles from our village. Oh my Allah, where there is a fear of tiger, night falls there! I did not notice that uncle was following me. He caught me red handed and asked me pointing towards my wrist watch, what was this; I replied with a shameful smiling face because I knew it was a show-cause notice for me. He questioned me saying “Why did you miss the bus then?” I don’t know whether I was led by this experience or not but since that moment, I never missed any transport nor was I ever late in attending my office even by a minute during my career of four decades in London.
During the late 1960s, he visited Bangladesh from London and looked for a suitable bride for himself. However, having not been successful, he expressed his anger to my father who was about 15-20 years older. I overheard him saying that ‘Baisab,(my father) you people are not helping me to find a suitable bride so I am going back to London’. My father replied “Wait a couple of more days and I will arrange something for you Insha Allah.” In a week or so, arrangements were made for his marriage. Even in London my father had much respect from the Uncle’s family. He was always called in to share the family’s happiness, sadness, disputes etc.
In London, he had a sophisticated and posh life. Before buying a Bangladeshi restaurant Tandoor Mahal at 61 Warren St London W1 in 1967, he worked in different restaurants as a waiter. Having owned the restaurant, he decorated it in a fancy manner. It had two entrances- one from Euston Rd and the other from Warren St, with a capacity of 125. This was one of the busiest and beautiful restaurants at that time. The restaurant used to be hired for wedding parties, conferences, meetings and also groupings. During the Bangladesh liberation war, the Bangladesh independent movement group used to use it as a base for their conferences. Mr Abdul Khaliq’s close friend, highly esteemed Sohail ibn Aziz made a similar remark. His interpersonal skills were of high magnitude, not only in London but also in Bangladesh. He had close connections with top level personalities including army officers, ministers, secretaries, professors, etc. Personalities like the great author Syed Mustafa Ali, finance minister Saifur Rahman, banker Shofik Khan and Abdul Aziz, journalist Aminur Rashid, Dr AT Abu Taher Jamil, Dr Abdul Bari, Dr Mullah, Dr Kazi Abdul Mannan, accountant Mr Abdul Quadir and others used to visit the restaurant very often.
Situated in central London, the restaurant was like an information centre. Many visitors, students, his relatives, friends from back home used to come to the restaurant initially for receiving information, guidance from him and other close friends associated with him about education, benefits, employment, immigration etc. Among the visitors were villagers too who benefited from visiting the restaurant. Many of them found employment in the restaurant as a waiter, cook, chef etc and in later life, they became prominent businessmen. Examples include his close and remote relatives such as his cousin Anfor Miah (another maternal uncle), Sheikh Moinuddin, Mr Shamsuzzaman etc. Once I expressed my feeling in 1990 to him that “Tandoor Mahal means Durlavpur and Durlavpur means Tandoor Mahal”. He agreed with this. Having learnt from another source on the similar theme about the Uncle’s restaurant, I was excited, honoured and felt privileged that, once our great author of our village, Syed Mujtoba Ali had a similar feeling who wrote an unpublished memoir “Amar gayer Tandoor Mahal”.
He had the nature to promote, encourage, motivate and inspire everyone around him to achieve more financially, in education or in any other capacity. Some good words in this text could include: “Greatness is inspiring others to be their best.” “Always be there for others. Always inspire them with your dreams and hopes, vision and mission, attitude and aptitude.” “When you do some good work and if it inspires others, then you have just created the ripple effect.” Many others and I found Uncle Abdul Khalique like this. He was very supportive, collaborative and inspirational for my education and social life. He always used to inspire me saying to do something in order to benefit the community. I was not sure at that time that once I will write a PhD thesis which will be a breakthrough in the life of many community children in the UK. Out of fun, he used to say “Slowly slowly, catch the monkey, otherwise the monkey will run away”. I found a resemblance between this and a quote by Andrew Henderson of Scotland which appears in a book of 1832, Scottish Proverbs: “Slowly slowly catchy the monkey, otherwise the monkey will run away”. This old English proverb means that if you do not rush or if you avoid being too hasty, then eventually you will achieve your goal. In other words, be patient. The Qur’an teaches us in over a hundred places to have patience in all aspects of life.
I remember some of his actions, though scary, would instil discipline in us. Back in Bangladesh, he used to say some scary words to the children such as ‘I will eat your heads” (Kholla khawa). Now, I found this had a good impact in the lives of many children including myself. Many children stopped being truant from school and would not play during study time or go to bed later than their usual time because of the fear of his ‘Kholla khawa’. That includes myself and my brothers as well. Cultures all around the world have vast traditions of telling creepy stories. In fact, many cultures have told different scary folktales to scare kids throughout history. However, though the real life is scary, experts say that experiencing “safe fear” can help children learn to manage their emotions—and boost their self-confidence. According to paediatric neuropsychologist , Professor of Utah University, USA, fear can increase adrenaline, which intensifies feelings of alertness, energy, and strength. The right kind of fright can actually be mentally good for children as well. I asked him just before the pandemic period, if he still eats kollas. He laughed and said ‘Sometimes’.
I have a good number of memories from different people about him. I inserted only a couple:
The former Mayor of LB of Camden, Accountant Abdul Quadir said,
I have known Khalique Bhai since my school days in Bangladesh (East Pakistan then) but more closely since my arrival in the UK in the mid-nineteen sixties. He was like a brother and close friend. We used to respect each other’s views, sometimes argued but never fell out. Until the closure of his restaurant we used to meet very regularly, at least once a week. We worked closely during the Independent movement of Bangladesh. He was a straight talker and a very reasonable man. I know he has given generous charity to needy people in Bangladesh.
Councillor Nasim Ali OBE, Mayor of Camden expressed in a similar manner:
“As Mayor of Camden I am saddened to hear of the death of Mr Abdul Khalique who was an inspirational person for the British Bangladeshi community. He was always helping people in need. May Allah grant him Jannatul Ferdous. My condolences to the family”.
Mr Suhail Ibne Aziz, a highly qualified, experienced and well informed personality was a very close friend of uncle and maintained that, “… he was a close friend. We worked together during the Sangram and had meetings in his big restaurant. He was a very pleasant person”.
Mr M S Zaman, a successful businessman from North London, who once worked in Tandoor Mahal claimed that,
… he was very fond of his business where he would sit and give advice to people from time to time. He was very ambitious and always thought about what else he could do”.
My cousin Mr Abdul Aziz (Belal, Scotland) highly praised the Uncle for his generosity. He approached the uncle for a donation for the construction of Eidgah. Having feared that Uncle Abdul Khalique would be discouraged after hearing of the large budget required for the Eidgah, he (Abdul Aziz) quoted a lower amount, which uncle Abdul Khalique granted right away. Then, Bilal regretted not initially asking him for the full amount. This was testament to his kind-heartedness and generosity. Former USA President Ronald Reagan said: “Wherever a beautiful soul has been there is a trail of beautiful memories”.
Mr Abdul Khalique died on 6th August, 2022 in the University College Hospital, London. Like him many of our villagers have left us. But as long as we bear them in our minds, they will survive with us and will not die. George Eliot (1819) an English novelist, poet and journalist said that until we keep our dead in our minds, they are not dead.
Ya Allah, we always found the Uncle to have wished something higher for others in this life. Ya Allah grant him the highest station in the Jannatual Ferdous. Ameen.
Dr MA Lais, London, 19th September, 2022.