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Memories of home from US ringside

- Bihar doc in Michigan bout

Patna, Nov. 6: From the dusty grounds of PMCH to the gruelling electoral battlefields of the United States of America, Syed Sabahuddin Taj has come a long way.

Taj (67), a doctor by profession, is a Democrat from Michigan running for the US Congress.

Though he hasn’t visited India for the past six years, the doctor keeps himself informed of the developments in his native state.

“I am extremely appreciative of the fact that the Nitish Kumar government has achieved phenomenal success in security and development issues,” Taj told The Telegraph over phone at 6am (US time) while leaving his Michigan home to oversee polling.

The younger brother of former diplomat and parliamentarian Syed Shahabuddin, Taj graduated from PMCH (Patna Medical College and Hospital) in 1968 and has reasons to stay interested in his homeland even though he is a US citizen now.

“My niece Parveen Amanullah (the daughter of Shahabuddin) is a minister in the Nitish government. Several of my family members live in India,” Taj said. “I am not a man uprooted from my roots. I am very much rooted to the ground.”

He, however, admitted that he had not visited India for the past six years owing to his “excessive engagement” with the profession and politics in his adopted country. The death of his mother six years ago was another reason for staying away.

“But I have plans to come to Patna in February next year to attend the old alumni meet on the campus which has made me what I am today,” the doctor said.

Asked if he would come back to settle down in India, the physician spoke with the diplomatic precision of a politician. “See, I am contesting from Michigan’s 11th congressional district as a Democrat, the election for which is about to start in a few hours. The outcome will decide my fate and future plans,” he said.

Taj said it was natural progression for him to move into politics. “Doing social service is in our blood. In India too, I was involved in serving the society as a physician. Here in Canton (his sub-divisional hometown) I worked with my medical colleagues against the rising cost of water. I was the first Democrat to be elected to the Canton Board of Trustees way back in 2008,” he said.

Taj was born and brought up in Gaya and remembers with fondness his formative days in Bihar.

“I entered PMCH as a student in 1963 and graduated from the great institution in 1968. Thereafter, I practised medicine in Gaya and subsequently joined the Anugrah Narayan Magadh Medical College Hospital, Gaya, as admission in-charge.”

Taj also recalled how he derived “immense satisfaction” while serving the people as the medical officer at the Government Hospital, Manpur, on Gaya’s outskirts and also in Patna till 1974. In 1969, he got married to Sufia Anjum of Sultanpur in Bhagalpur. The baraat (wedding party) had gone from his Patna home to Sultanpur then, Taj reminisced.

In 1974, Taj migrated to England from where he went to the US to carry on with the profession and politics.

Taj loves his homeland as much as his family members love him.

“I am ill and unable to move out for quite some time,” elder brother Shahabuddin told The Telegraph from his New Delhi residence. “Had I been in proper health I would have gone to campaign for my younger brother in the US.”

“My younger brothers were quite diligent at studies and honest with their work,” added the 77-year-old former diplomat.

While Taj is a physician, his youngest brother Salauddin, a graduate of IIT Delhi, is a professor at IIT-Mumbai. Another brother Gyasuddin is a leading builder based in Bangalore.

Shahabuddin himself was a professor of physics in Patna University before joining the IFS. He quit the service to join politics and thrice represented Kishanganj in the Lok Sabha.

Parveen Amanullah, the social welfare minister in the Nitish cabinet, has fond memories of “uncle Taj”. “He is very homely and caring. Like my father, uncle always inspired us to do well in studies and serve the society,” she said.