The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Gandhiji forgave Tipu Sultan
- Nuggets from a Pak-based doctor’s tale

Patna, Aug. 10: Tipu Sultan broke Gandhiji’s charkha in Patna a few weeks before Independence.

No, this isn’t one more howler from a school history textbook. It really happened.

Just as Sher Shah, Siraj-ud-Daulah and Chand Bibi went on to become fine doctors who still practise in Pakistan.

Tipu says so himself and he should know, because they are his siblings. Tipu hasn’t done badly either: he heads the anaesthesiology department at Dow Medical College, Karachi, and is dean of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Pakistan.

But this is about 2005; what happened in 1947'

Tipu, then a toddler of 2, was scolded by father Azad Bin Tahir, a follower of Gandhi, immediately after his act of mischief. But Bapu came to his rescue, saying children can do no wrong.

The Mahatma later repaired the charkha himself.

Tipu, now 60, today wound up his trip to Patna, his place of birth. He had been here as leader of a team of Pakistani doctors opposed to a nuclear world.

He told a story of an extraordinary family which ' with 28 doctors in its midst ' could soon make it to the Guinness World Records.

It all started with Tahir, Patna’s deputy mayor in 1945-46 and shunned by relatives and friends because of his Gandhian “politics” ' deciding to move to Pakistan.

“My mother Atia Zafar’s literacy was confined to reading Urdu and reciting the Quran when we left Patna in 1948 because the situation was slipping out of control,” Tipu recalled. “My father made the Lyari slums of Karachi his home and made a living as a letter-reader. He wanted my mother to begin studying.”

The remarkable woman started with the English alphabets, did her matriculation and joined a course to become a licentiate medical practitioner (LMP). She made it.

“In those days, you did not have the MBBS course,” the doctor said. “My father wanted all his children to become doctors. Today, his dream is fulfilled and ours is a family of 28 doctors ' our mother, myself, my seven brothers and sisters, all our spouses and 11 of her grandchildren. Some of our friends have recommended us to the Guinness committee.”

The entire family still lives under one roof in Karachi.

Tahir had set up a school for the refugees of the slum. It has now turned into the well-known Ghazi Mohammad Bin Qasim College with 2,300 students on its rolls and classes running in three shifts. It was taken over by the government several years ago.

The family’s story of determination and rise in a city biased against Mohajirs prompted PTV to make a 28-minute documentary ' Bano Ki Kahani ' on Atia Zafar. It was telecast across Pakistan.

“My father wanted to name all his children after freedom-fighters (those who fought the Mughals or the British) and so we had Sher Shah, Siraj-ud-Daulah and Chand Bibi in our family,” Tipu said.

“But he stopped at that and gave ordinary names to his other four children. Abba would say he did not find any other brave-hearts apart from these four. He believed that the Mughals were mere rulers.”

Tipu is worried about his country. “Pakistan is passing through a difficult phase,” he said. “The combination of politicians, clergy and army has done enough damage. Pervez Musharraf has made a U-turn and is now fighting them, but greater sanity must return and this is possible only with the restoration of democracy.”

The trip to Patna was “like coming home after ages. There are no differences in the conditions in the two countries. We have similar problems of poverty and injustice. But the feudal elements are much more powerful in Pakistan,” Tipu said.

“For similar problems, the solutions have to be common. We must together strive to improve the situation.”

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