Indian in Saudi Arabia talks about poetry, expatriates

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Kazi Hasan Arabi, a longtime Indian expatriate in Saudi Arabia, talks about his experience of the country, its development and what led him to find a home in the kingdom.

“My education started late, because in our family, in those times, we were not allowed to go to school, rather, teachers used to come home and teach us.

“But I had the chance to go to school and for higher education to Aligarh Muslim University. During my sojourn at AMU I saw four different vice chancellors and the activities of the students were influenced by all these vice chancellors and hence there was turmoil during the period I was there.

“In order to contain the discontent, a group of students started a fortnightly newsletter/tabloid called ‘Domain’ as it was very popular. I was one of the founders of this journal.

“A section of the students thought that this was a mouthpiece of the administration, and hence, there was also a resistance to it.

“However this journal helped in inculcating creative thinking among students. I was also a very active participant in various academic, cultural and social fields and tried my best to promote these in the capacity of secretary, president and vice president for societies in the university,” said Hasan Arabi, a longtime resident of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Kazi Hasan Arabi was born on November 8, 1942 in Sheikhupur, District Budaun, U.P. (Uttar Pradesh), India to an educated family.

His father Qazi Ahmad Arabi was a famous advocate with a feudal background. Hasan Arabi was sent to Sherwood College, Nainital, for his college education. He completed his graduation and then studies history at the post-graduate level in from Aligarh Muslim University.

His mentors included Professor Muhammad Mujeeb, a famous name in history, philosophy and psychology, Professor Khaleeq Ahmad Nizami, an expert of Islamic history and Professor Syed Noorul Hasan.

Arabi began his professional career with India Carbon Ltd. Calcutta. Later, he joined Assam Carbon Products Ltd. and was transferred to Bombay as the manager of the Western Region.

He joined Ali Zaid Al-Quraishi and Brothers in Saudi Arabia as an administration manager in 1978. Presently, he is the administration manger in Suido Kiko Middle East Water Treatment Company, a Japanese joint venture.

“When I arrived in Saudi Arabia progress had already began with full force. Due to the emergence of Saudi Arabia as a great economy among Gulf countries, this progress was quite evident in each sector.

“There was an encounter between many cultures in Saudi Arabia. Being the cradle of Islam, a center of the Two Holy Mosques and the biggest petroleum-exporting nation of the region Saudi Arabia attracted all.

“Saudi leadership recognized its responsibilities. It believed in peaceful co-existence. This vision paved the way for the cosmopolitan Jeddah, Riyadh, Makkah and Madinah and many other big cities where expatriates along with Saudi nationals flourished, not [only] economically but also culturally with their costumes, languages, traditions and religions.

“Saudis being the host of the pilgrims from the world’s different countries never wondered or bothered on petty things. Saudi Arabia’s trust in its expatriate population made the people of different countries able to serve Saudi Arabia wholeheartedly,” Arabi said.

He added: “Expatriate community was running the show: Koreans, Americans, Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and expatriates from different Arab and Asian nations were here.

“The boom in construction those days was never seen before. Only the 21st century’s progress in Saudi Arabia can match that boom. The progress in education, the construction of new universities and medical cities has changed Saudi Arabia and its big cities totally.

“But the Saudi Arabia hasn’t lost its cultural identity. Usually the fast-paced developments in any country not only dents its culture but sometimes create a cultural crisis also but Saudi Arabia hasn’t lost its face. Its traditions, culture and religion are intact.

“Even the Saudi economy has shown its toughness by standing unscathed from the harmful effects of the global recession,” he said.
An interest in the arts

Arabi’s father had a keen interest in Indian classical music and Arabi too inherited this passion.

It’s interesting to note that he learned “pakka ragas” (a form of music) in SitaPur from Ustad Amir Khan of Indore.
“I have learned much from my father. In our home’s music gatherings classical music maestros Ustad Fayyaz Khan and Ustad Amir Khan used to participate.

“Due to this environment during my stay in Bombay I had good relations with one of the most famous music gurus like Naushad Saheb and famous playback singer Talat Mahmood.

“I had met Ravindra Jain and Madan Mohan also. Kundan L al Sehgal and S.D. Burman were among the friends of my father. My father was very fond of poetry too. The most famous poets of those days Josh Malihabadi, Jigar Moradabadi and Anand Narayan Mulla, Majaz Lucknawi and Safdar Hussain Aah Sita Puri used to grace with their presence in private poetry sessions in our home.

“My father had a craze for roses and was among the five members of the Royal Rose Society. Among my dearest friends at Sherwood College were Rajeev Dhavan, a prominent Supreme Court lawyer and Ajitabh Bachchan (Amitabh Bachchan’s brother) and at the university the late Najmul Hasan a.k.a ‘Sunny,’ a much sought-after journalist with the Reuters,” said Arabi.

“Since I came from an Urdu-speaking family, I can still remember the people and families who were serving the cause of Urdu those days.

“Among them Mustafa Kidwai, Fareed Al-Waheedi and Rashid Siddiqui will be remembered forever for their services.

“Their homes were cradle of Urdu language, literature and poetry. These generous Indian expatriates organized literary sittings and Mushairahs. They had kept their doors open for poets and the Mushairah-loving people. Not only during the seasons of Umrah and Hajj but also whole year round poetry and literary activities flourished in their homes,” said Arabi.