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Bhai Ram Singh

Letter to the Queen

By Asif Raja

HRM, The Queen 

Dear Madam, 

It has been a long time that I wrote to you last. Needless to say, I never bothered to post you those letters that I had written, or made any attempt to email you. I did go back on my promise to write to you regularly. If memory serves right it was to be a weekly affair but like any good Pakistani Muslim it never happened, for which I am guilty as charged.  

Anyway the keeper of the letters, none other than the great Dr Hazik, who also serves in your majesty’s NHS, reminded me of my subject’s duty and has promised also to archive this great work of prose (according to him) for future generations to ponder upon the days of kings and queens which seem numbered. But then madam who would know service like the lot of us, who fought for the Queen and the King, whether it was the Boer war, Afghanistan, Ypres , the amphitheatre of desert at Al-Alamein or the Normandy landings. I say down with these republicans. Down with them all.  

I think it was more to do with the fact that I never came into what the Australians call the “zone” when referring to their cricket team when they are playing well and that has happened quite a lot off late which you must be painfully aware off as the patron of all and sundry in this great country. 

Anyway it has nothing to do with the drubbing of your cricket team by all and sundry or the non-qualification of the football team. The matters I mostly write about are a bit more mundane or serious depending upon your point of  view.  

Today I got into ‘the zone’ about something, which has confused me for a good 13 years now ever since I met Sid. Forgive me I forgot to introduce this most amazing man to you. You may have thought he was an Englishman or, if being as your are, politically correct, a Briton. But he is anything but that. He is Siddhartha Mukerjee from Calcutta, now Kolkatta, once an administrative capital of the jewel in your great great grandmother’s crown! Surely at that time I was a born enemy of India but as fate would take me along its ebb and flow, we became flat mates and it was during those enlightening months I first realised who I was.  

Strange it may sound that 31 years old adult male married with one son should realise his reality so late in his life! I suddenly found out that my name began with Muhammad (may peace be upon him) the best of names and ended with Raja (very Indian). Surely it could not be right. What a dichotomy and that too when our fore fathers decided to form a country from within Mother India to make an all-Muslim country!  

Surely you remember that, as your late father HRH George the Sixth was the king. But its not about partition or Uncle Dick’s role. It is about the identity crisis and confusion that followed those terrible months in that fateful summer of 1947 when the vultures had become to heavy to fly with the excess of human flesh, on offer, and the dogs had become of afraid of humans and would stay well out of their way. 

What should we have done with our names on august 1947? It’s question that my mind has found no answer to. Proud Muslim that I am, I still can’t deny the fact that I had Hindu and Sikh ancestors and had inherited their traditions which my late maternal grandmother and after her, her daughters have carried with the greatest pride, along with being good Muslims as well.  

Should we have changed our names to all Arab ones? Should it have been made compulsory to do so? After all Pakistani people have had no say anyway in any thing that related to them so why not this? My name should have been Al-Salah or Asif-el-Makhtoum. Not a bad idea. We should have distanced ourselves immediately from our pagan neighbours who were not good enough to be lived with. What a missed opportunity. 

Anyway that is not the greatest ill that has happened to us. That has to be the fact that we conveniently forgot, were forced to forget, taught to forget and made to forget the pre 1947 history of our land. We never appreciated our non-Muslim heroes, their contribution, or even made an attempt to fathom the fact that they were people like us. History was thus thrust upon us unsuspecting and gullible Pakistanis. 

The preamble and reason for this letter is a gentleman by the name of Bhai Ram Singh a brilliant architect of his time in the then British India, a Lahori, who designed many a buildings including the old Punjab university campus, National College Of Arts, Queen’s Mary College For Girls, Aitchison College, Islamia College Peshawar to name a few. I have to admit seeing all those mentioned but never once wondered who was the architect. Surely if it were a Muslim his name would have been written in gold and chapters, books and volumes would have been dedicated to his abilities. He surely would have been a part and parcel of our history syllabus like Iqbal, Jinnah or Sir Syed. Surely Qudratullah Shahab would have seen to it!  

I understand his work was so much appreciated that your good great great grandmother got him to the Old Country, where he showed his brilliance in designing Osbourne Palace and by his work at Bagshot Park.  

Do I know him? The answer is no. When did I know about him first? As of today. My source a letter in the Daily Dawn, Pakistan, by a brave lady who has decided to cross the barriers, ills and afflictions that curse our wretched existence where we constantly live in a state of denial of the marvels that those wonderful people created, nurtured and left for us to ruin.  

Sorry for the emotional outburst, but I hope, you will understand what has happened to those people who were once a part of a great empire who always put the King and the Queen and the country before themselves. 

Its that lack of admission of our heritage, our great and glorious past, denying people like Ganga Ram their rightful and just place in the annals of the history of our land, that has caused all this confusion today; where people like Musharaf rule the roost, where freedom of speech is punishable, where boys of 12 end up in police stations for protesting, people go missing and a state of fear is always prevalent be it a civilian government like Bhutto, Benazir, Nawaz or military like Ayub, Zia or the last incumbent.  

Madam its not your fault that we are what we are, but you can certainly ask Brother Gordy to play his role as the head of Mother Of All Parliaments and democracy to try to get us on that road! Don’t support Musharraf or any of his fraudsters in civvies. Let your conscience come before duty for once. Tell the PM that you won't fete anybody be it a Nigerian or a Pakistani despot.  

Madam advocate freedom of speech for us, so that we can praise those who helped to get us where we are today, learn from our mistakes and let us come to terms with what we are, so that we also have a chance to show really what we can do!  

Yours truly,

Dr MAK Raja

Humble Servant For Generations

PS: hope to be more regular in future!

Dr Raja is a specialist in fertility treatment, currently working in the UK


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