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Sunday June 16, 2024

NUML celebrates life, works of late Masud Shaikh

By Our Correspondent
June 04, 2023

Islamabad : The Department of Turkish Studies at the National University of Modern Languages (NUML) hosted a beautiful ceremony here the other day to commemorate the life and works of late Col. (r) Masud Akhtar Shaikh—a soldier, a traveler, a writer, and a topnotch Turkish language interpreter. Col. Shaikh’s literary contributions towards cementing the hearts and minds of the people of Turkiye and Pakistan were shared with university students amidst hopes that NUML too would produce literary giants like him.

The event had ex-aviator and author of four books, Gen. (Retd.) Muhammad Azam, as the guest speaker. He was flanked by former chairman of the Federal Bureau of Revenue, Mumtaz Haider, Dean of the Faculty of Languages at NUML, Dr. Jamil Asghar Jami, Head of the Department of Turkish Studies, Dr. Sibel Bayram, and admirers and family members of Col. Shaikh. Students studying Turkish language at NUML also attended the event.

The event started with an introduction of Col. Shaikh and his publications, a pictorial presentation featuring glimpses from his life, and a video message from the former Cabinet secretary and minister, Ejaz Rahim, who termed Col. Shaikh as “a sensitive man, who has produced literate; who became a bridge between two cultures; and who emerged as a patriotic Pakistani and a patriotic Turk, with a concrete bouquet of books in his hand.” The event also featured a tour of the Department’s library, which now has a dedicated corner displaying hundreds of Col. Shaikh’s books donated by his family for the benefit of students of Turkish language.

Addressing the event, Gen. (r) Azam lauded Col. Shaikh’s extensive work, which he stumbled upon by chance during a visit to PAF Hospital, where copies of his 25 books—of which 21 are translations of Turkish prose and poetry into Urdu and English—have been placed for patients in waiting. “Translation is a very difficult task. It is not mathematical; the translator must convey the essence, the logic, and the environment as well, and I am amazed by the quality of the extensive work that Col. Shaikh has left behind,” Gen. Azam remarked. He invited the Dean’s attention to “Why, in the last 70 years, we have only one Col. Shaikh, who learned a language and then gave back by creating a literary bridge between Turkiye and Pakistan? He urged NUML to explore how it can encourage the 5,000 to 10,000 armed forces’ officers who learn various languages to pay back by following in the footsteps of literary icons like Col. Shaikh.

Gen. (r) Azam recommended that a hall in NUML be named after Col. Shaikh so that students are inspired by his work and the deep connection which he fostered between the two nations lives on. He also suggested that the university introduce a ‘Col. Masud Shaikh Excellence Award’ which should annually be presented to the top student of the Turkish language course as an eternal tribute to his memory.

The Dean, Dr. Jamil Asghar Jami, wondered how, in just one lifespan, Col. Shaikh could produce so many literary projects. He invoked Allama Iqbal’s verse ‘Jahan mein ehle eemaa surat-e-khurshid jeetay hein; Idhar doobay, udhar niklay, udhar doobay, idhar niklay’ as a tribute to Col. Shaikh’s impactful life. “Certain people, when they go, take a whole facet of civilization with them. Col. Shaikh’s departure is a loss of not just one individual, but a whole civilization,” he said. Dr. Jamil was very forthcoming to the recommendations made at the event. He promised to dedicate a corner for Col. Shaikh’s books in NUML’s Central Library as well, for which the family has agreed to donate more books. “By doing so, we will not just honour the author’s memory, but will also be honouring NUML itself,” he proudly remarked.

Mumtaz Haider voiced concerns about Pakistan’s current trajectory. “We, as a country, are treading a path which is taking us away from philosophy, heritage, and literature,” he lamented. Quoting one of Churchill's famous post-World War II remarks, “So many owed so much to so few,” he asserted that Pakistan owed a great debt to Col. Shaikh. Dr. Sibel said, “Writers find the best way to live forever. They leave our world, and yet remain with us through their literary works.”

The event also had a personal and emotional feel. Col. Shaikh’s son-in-law Makbul Shah spoke about how he benefitted from his father-in-law’s genius, writing skills, tactful handling of family affairs, relationships with friends, and his insights on current affairs. “To me, he was a mentor, a friend, a guide, and a father figure—all in one,” he recollected. The author’s granddaughter, Ramsha Mehmood described her grandfather as the “glue of our family for he was what brought us all together.” She remembered him as an incredible Nana who used to crack jokes, share hilarious anecdotes from his childhood, tend the garden, and type all his books using just two fingers!

The ceremony served as a testament to Col. Shaikh’s enduring legacy and was a call to future generations to follow in his footsteps.