The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Winning, with whistle and wave
- Ammiji speaks from the heart

Aligarh, March 18: Zarin Musharraf was settling down to speak at an impromptu media interaction when a concerned Bilal whispered to her: 'What are you going to say'

'I don't know. Whatever comes from my heart,' she mumbled.

The grandson sat back, relaxed. He knew she would be fine. The heart, after all, was what this trip to India was all about. A short while later, he was whistling.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's mother had first opened her heart to Bilal last year and asked him if he would accompany her on one of her last trips to India to relive old memories.

'I had promised her I would,' said Musharraf's Boston-based son.

Aligarh Muslim University ' a three-hour drive from Delhi ' was the third halt in this journey that took them to Indraprastha College, where Zarin studied, and Neharvali Haveli, where she lived after marriage till Partition, in Delhi yesterday. Lucknow ' where Zarin did her post-graduation ' will be their next stop.

Apart from Bilal, Zarin is accompanied by son Javed, Pervez's elder brother.

The trio spent a little over three hours at the university where her husband and sisters had studied in the 1930s, visiting hostels where they had lived and paying floral tributes at the mazar of Sir Syed Ahmed, the founder.

'It was an unforgettable visit,' a moved Zarin said, and spoke of the 'love and affection' she had received.

At a lunch hosted by the university vice-chancellor Nazeem Ahmed ' he affectionately called her Ammiji (mother) ' she told university officials she had made a quiet visit in 1982. At that time, son Pervez was still climbing the ranks of the Pakistan Army and was a long way from becoming President.

'I have been really touched by the response of the people' It brings tears to my eyes.'

At the Mac Donnell hostel of Aftab Hall, where Zarin's husband had spent several years, Inmallah had not slept last night in anticipation of the Musharrafs' visit. The undergraduate student of English literature was waiting for his guests since early morning, dressed in a sherwani.

Two years ago, he was allotted room number 14 of the hostel.

Early this week, university officials rummaging through records found this was the room allotted to the senior Musharraf, who graduated in 1935 but stayed on at Aligarh Muslim University till 1938, possibly pursuing a second degree.

If Zarin was trying to relive her memories ' she also went on a drive around the campus ' Bilal wasn't far behind.

He had heard a lot of stories about the university from dada that he was trying to relate to.

Surrounded by a big group of students at the boys' Mac Donnell hostel, the actuarial analyst was also revisiting his own hostel days. One of the students asked if he could whistle. Of course he could.

'Then show us,' the student persisted. Smiling, Bilal stuck the index and middle fingers of both hands into his mouth and whistled, becoming one of them.

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