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Remembering Prof. Sirajuddin

Posted on February 13, 2010
Filed Under >Naveed Riaz, Education, People
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Naveed Riaz

The library at the English Department, Punjab University New Campus, Lahore, was recently named the Professor Sirajuddin Library in honour of Lahore’s legendary teacher of English literature whose distinguished career spanning nearly fifty years included a long tenure as head of this Department.

Prof. Sirajuddin started as a lecturer at the elite Government College, rising to professor, and, eventually, principal, before being appointed Education Secretary in the government of West Pakistan for a period. At Vice Chancellor Justice Sharif’s request he then set up and headed the English Department at Punjab University. He later became Vice Chancellor himself, a post he resigned from in a principled protest over policy issues.

True to his maverick spirit and deep love for teaching he then took a decision that surprised many: to lecture at MAO College until the end of his teaching days.

He died in August 1986. In his bank account that day were 220 Rupees only, but his book collection totaled nearly 30,000 volumes lovingly acquired over a lifetime. “He taught us Shakespeare” an old student remarked, “But actually he taught us much more, for, he opened our minds to Life – the true mark of a great teacher.”

Doing him and herself proud, his daughter Professor Shaista Sirajuddin is head of department now. For dedicating the library in his name she decided to fly in the face of ‘VIP Culture’ by not inviting your customary dignitary for such occasions (appreciating the spirit the Vice Chancellor graciously attended as a guest). Instead, she decided to ask two of Professor Sirajuddin’s old students to unveil the commemorative tablet in a simple ceremony.

I was priveleged to have studied for my Master’s under Professor Sirajuddin at the English Department, 1967-69. Retired now after a distinguished career in the civil service, Parvez Masud was Professor Sirajuddin’s student at Government College. Professor Shaista did the honour of nominating us to jointly carry out the dedication. Starting the proceedings, students and faculty from the English Department read pieces from poetry, prose and drama, an eclectic mix of Shakespeare, Iqbal, Seamus Heaney, Faiz, Pinter, Bulleh Shah, Shujhata Bhatt and Sweeney.

Students reading Shujhata Bhatt’s unusual poem in three languages, English, Gurjati and Bengali.

The readings took me back to 42 very nostalgic years ago, to the English Department of my day and the decision to start proceedings by giving readings during the farewell party for our outgoing seniors of the MA 6th year class. I was prompted to rifle through piles of old photographs to locate the three photographs below. We are all in our greyed 60′s now; mainly retired; some sadly no longer of this world.

1968 farewell party: Humorous Punjabi poem being read by 6th year student the late Dildar Parvez Bhatti in the small English Department library at the Old Campus. He became lecturer of English literature at MAO College, later growing very famous both as a Punjabi talk show host on PTV and a much in demand emcee. Seated from left, Shaukat Ali Bhatti, Ghiasuddin Ahmed, Toheed Ahmed (our studious idol, he expectedly topped the MA exam with a rare first division with distinction) and Suleman Ghani; all have retired as senior civil servants. Standing, Naveed Riaz, and, partly visible, the late Amjad Rashid, who also joined the civil service. (We enthusiastically invited Zahid Sajjad, the singer seated with his harmonium, not really because of the quality of his singing but for performing free!).

1968 farewell party: From left, Raheela Ghafur, Ghiasuddin Ahmed and I read from Chekhov’s play The Bear which we had earlier performed in an English Department production (see picture below) directed by Professor Navid Shehzad.

Professor Shaista observed, “This is a scholarly event needing a scholarly feel, not the conventional, ceremonial quality that a VIP chief guest would impart.” She explained: “A library is the heart of an academic institution. It is meant for students – and will be used by them in perpetuity. Teaching was Professor Sirajuddin’s passion. What better than to have this library dedicated in his name by his strongest legacy: his students. Parvez Masud and Naveed Riaz representing the thousands he taught, went their diverse ways after completing their studies. One rose to eminence as a civil servant, the other became a successful businessman. Yet, on this day the two have returned here as common students to remember their teacher”.

(This article first appeared in The Friday Times on Feburary 6, 2010. Naveed Sahib has been kind enough to also share it now with All Things Pakistan).

19 Comments on “Remembering Prof. Sirajuddin”

  1. Jabbar says:
    February 13th, 2010 12:21 pm

    Thank you ATP for highlighting education and specially for honoring teachers as you have regularly been doing

  2. Humaira says:
    February 13th, 2010 12:24 pm

    Love the pictures. Specially of Dildar Pervaiz Bhatti.

    Nice memories.

  3. cubano says:
    February 13th, 2010 12:42 pm

    OT: I wanted to recommend a topic but the comment form doesn’t seem to work. A Pakistani skier recently became the first man in Pakistan’s history to qualify for the winter Olympics. I thought that would make a good post. here’s a link: http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/sport/08-pakistani-skier-qualifies-for-vancouver-2010-ts-01

  4. Ghiasuddin says:
    February 13th, 2010 1:01 pm

    Nice to see that the Punjab University is honoring its teachers. Although I suspect this was only because Prof. Sirajuddin’s daughter is now there and made it happen. But in general we should really be honoring our teachers and I agree that ATP is doing great job in setting this culture.

    By the way, is this the same Naveed Riaz who also came on TV occasionally reciting poetry and sometime as actor? Can someone confirm please.

  5. Waheed says:
    February 13th, 2010 1:47 pm

    Yes, he is the same Naveed Riaz (in the top picture on left). I think he is Zia Mohiuddin’s brother and has a very similar command of the Urdu language.

  6. Watan Aziz says:
    February 13th, 2010 2:05 pm

    Let us face it; English is not my mother tongue.

    It is an effort to write proper grammar. I review and revise, but always come up short. And I am ever appreciative of better writers than myself. And, do fall into the trap of agony (read: annoying habit) and correct grammar where possible.

    So here is my rendition for the opening paragraph of this post:
    The library at the English Department, Punjab University New Campus, Lahore, was recently named as the “Professor Sirajuddin Library”. This was to honour Lahore’s legendary teacher of English Literature, Professor Sirajuddin. His distinguished career, spanning nearly fifty years, included a long tenure as head of this department.

    As a Ravian, who did not know this eminent scholar, this is my tribute to him. After all, what better way to honor an English teacher but by writing English, good.

    P. S. This post is mostly about the author and his world rather than the Professor sahib himself. I hardly learned anything about him.

    P. P. S. I know this opens me up for troubles, but hey, lets all get better at expressing ourselves.

  7. Fawad says:
    February 13th, 2010 2:16 pm

    Lovely post. Brings back a lot of memories as my family in so many ways has been connected to the great teaching contributions of Prof. Siraj’s family. My father, now a retired Punjab University professor, studied with Prof. Siraj at Government College, Lahore. My mother was the academic colleague (albeit much junior) of Mrs. Siraj at Lahore College for Women and my younger sister studied with Prof. Shaista Sonoo (Sirajuddin) when she got her MA in English from PU. Glad to see some real social contributions recognized in Pakistan!

  8. Rahman says:
    February 13th, 2010 2:43 pm

    A teacher can hope for no better tribute than one coming from his students. Specially students as talented as Naveed Riaz. Prof. Siraj would be mighty proud to see this.

  9. PAKISTANI says:
    February 13th, 2010 2:44 pm

    @Watan Aziz.
    You are right. English is not your mother tongue. Obviously.

  10. Farooq says:
    February 13th, 2010 3:03 pm

    I did not know Prof. Sirajuddin, but I am moved by any teacher who will have such devoted students so long after they studied with him. That says volumes.

    I am also fascinated by the pictures of what “student life” looked like ages ago. How different it is from what you will see at colleges and universities today – politics, guns, extremism!

  11. Aliya says:
    February 13th, 2010 5:33 pm

    A teacher whose students remain inspired by him after so many years must have been truly inspiring.

  12. S.A.F. says:
    February 13th, 2010 6:57 pm

    Nice memories and memorable photographs.

    Great to see someone like Naveed Riaz also contributing to ATP. He is himself deserving of a post.

  13. Akram Piracha says:
    February 14th, 2010 3:29 am

    Thanks for a great Post that brought back nostalgic memories, spread
    over years 1953 through 1960. During 1959-60 I was honoured to be a
    lecturer in my great Alma Mater.
    Prof. Siraj represented a rare combination of Scholarship and
    Administrative Acumen. His instruction that no one in any kind of
    Uniform, even a parent, would be allowed to visit the College
    established independence of Academia from any other influence.
    There are myriad of things we can attribute to the great Professor. I
    hope others can also contribute here, their memories of events from his
    times.

  14. February 14th, 2010 2:55 pm

    Please note that some additions to the post (a paragraph and a new photograph) have just been made.

  15. ISMAIL says:
    February 14th, 2010 3:07 pm

    Thank you for a heartfelt tribute to your teacher.

    I did not know Prof. Siraj but I do know Naveed Riaz, one of the most sophisticated and articulate people you have ever seen on PTV. Interviewing, acting, reciting. He came rarely but was always a pleasure to see.

  16. Sameena says:
    February 16th, 2010 5:37 pm

    Very nice article.

    I think it makes us all remember how much our teachers have done for us.

    ATP is doing a great service by highlighting the real heroes of Pakistan and celebrating their achievements.

    Also good to see intellectuals of the caliber of Naveed Riaz Sahib writing for this blog. That is excellent.

  17. Bushra says:
    February 17th, 2010 4:32 pm

    I enjoyed reading this. I think we have some great teachers today also and I hope they will get the due respect from their students also

  18. Zaheer Gillani says:
    February 18th, 2010 10:57 am

    Nice memories. My college days were in Karachi but these reminded me of my days. Good post. Thank you.

  19. October 4th, 2010 1:57 pm

    interesting vintage pictures.

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