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Late Dr Salahuddin –writer, orator & social worker – all rolled into one

Peshawar

November 4, 2019

A part of mine dies when someone close to me lives no more. This perhaps describes the parting experience more appropriately as it is not only that a person ceases to exist, but in his departure he takes away a lot more – his loveable memories, his pleasant company, his friendly advice, his reassuring presence and more than anything else his being there whenever he is needed or required.

There are certain people that you may not see frequently but it is reassuring to realize whenever they will raise hands you will be in their prayers, whenever you will be in trouble they will always be there to lend a helping hand and whenever they will talk they will talk good about you. Dr Salahuddin was one such nice person who passed away recently. Dr Salahuddin was an accomplished writer and he is well-known as a regular columnist and authored many books. He contributed regularly to an Urdu-language newspaper under the title of ‘Sharah-Sadar’. He chose his topics very wisely and published well-researched articles on important social and medical topics. His latest column published on October 5 was on ‘Proud Officers of Police’ on the police day and two columns published before in the last month were on the current hot subject - Dengue fever – symptoms and how to prevent it. It was as if he had his finger on the pulse of people and would write on subjects of common interest.

He had a major role to play in my literary life and the world of cardiology. I wrote two books related to heart ailments titled as ‘Know thy heart and Heal thy heart’. He acceded to my request to translate them in Urdu for wider circulation and benefit of common people. He took more than a year to complete the assignment but the end product was wonderful. The Urdu book was titled as “Dil Ki Dunya” and it received wider acceptance. It proved very helpful to people who wanted to know about heart problems, how they are diagnosed, more importantly, lifestyle modification and general management of common diseases. This is like a ‘SadqaJaaria’ from him and his friend Hafiz Noor Hakim Jelani who helped him in the translation. In the preface he wrote, “Writing of this book is an attempt to excellence in the performance of duties as a physician and transfer of knowledge – this book is aimed at providing essential knowledge to literate people in a palatable form.”

“Sir you have to come to the Sham-e-Hamdard function,” this was his final verdict after my presenting ten excuses for why I could not attend that function on that particular day and at that particular time. Being a declared younger brother, he could take the liberty of actually ‘ordering’ while ‘requesting’. And who could beat him at ‘paronomasia’ – he was the undisputed master of words and innovative ideas came naturally to him. He always impressed me by his homework and on that particular day when he started introducing me, I sat there bedazzled as to what he was going to say next. He was a magician on stage as he knew very well how to absorb the audience. He was an active member of ‘Hamdard Foundation’ and served the body as the ‘Shoora-e-Hamdard’ speaker.

It was more three decades ago that we visited Kawai in 1988 along with our family. Kawai is a small town by Kaghan River on the way from Balakot to Kaghan. A landslide had hit a road a few miles from Balakot and all communication came to a halt.

The government moved clumsily in its typical bureaucratic way and we were stuck there for a week. At that time a young doctor was posted in BHU Kawai and became friends with our family. Being a ‘Maranjan Maranj”, he was friendly to my father. He found something of common interest with me and my brothers. He would frequently visit us and we enjoyed his company and generous hospitality. We remained friends since then.

I sneaked indiscreetly from a corner in the sprawling lawn of the Hindko Academy located on the Chinar Road. I was invited by my friend and younger brother Prof Dr Adnan Gul to join in the annual international conference. Salahuddin was, as usual, hosting the function in his usual flamboyant style. I occupied a chair in the back on a side when he spotted me. I waived him Salam and requested to let me stay in that spot. He looked to the opposite side and I heaved a sigh of relief. But he started narrating a seemingly unrelated story, which eventually spotlighted me and then I had to occupy a seat on the stage as he left me with no choice but to comply to his orders from the podium. Such was his love and respect that nobody could refuse to oblige him. He was Vice-Chairman of Gandhara Hindko Board and worked tirelessly to enrich its literary and cultural activities. He contributed maximally and was more than willing to help to further the cause of Hindko language at any forum and in any form.

Salahuddin was an unassuming, humble, courteous and smiling doctor. His best quality was that one always felt pleased meeting him. He was a physician par-excellence. He was a classic old-time physician, who would be fully involved with the family and would not confine himself to writing a prescription. He was a family physician who had ample time to look after his patients from all aspects. His doors were open to the rich and poor – mostly to the poor who considered him as their benefactor and all-time supporter. He was an active social worker and he would invest considerable time and effort in the uplift of unprivileged people.

Salahuddin was a great human being. He was an excellent doctor, accomplished writer, proficient orator and a generous host. He had a wonderful grip on Urdu prose and poetry and used it extensively in his writings and oration. He has left behind a huge vacuum, which is impossible to be filled. We put our hands together and pray to Allah to grant him the highest echelons in Jannat and bless his family and friends with the fortitude to bear the loss.

The writer is a former vice-chancellor of the Khyber Medical University, Peshawar.

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