by S. R. Mehboob
Another 21st April passed-with not even a stir about Iqbal
In late seventies and early eighties, Iqbal was the central theme in Govt High School Chauburji. The main entrance of school was bedecked in Iqbal’s couplets (Sabaq phir parh, Adalat ka, Shujaat ka, Ammant ka). Morning Assembly would begin with his “Lab pae aati hai Dua”. English Period tortures included cramming the essays including “Thirsty Crow”, ‘A Morning Walk” and “My Leader-Sir Iqbal”. Every teacher insisted upon students behaving as disciples a la “Iqbal and Maulvi Mir Hassan”. When School Chowkidar (dubbed as Chacha Chalen Aap) stopped late-comers from climbing school walls, typical response was what Iqbal reportedly gave to his teacher in Sialkot , “Iqbal hamesha der sae aata hai”. Year after year, senior students were supposed to despise Master Rafique Ahmad Khan (Brilliant Urdu teacher otherwise) as he had reportedly replied in a failed Public Service Commission Interview that Ghalib was artistically a better poet than Iqbal. All this was part of school’s revered indoctrination to which all and sundry subscribed religiously- adoring Iqbal ad infinitum.
And then there was 21st April- the most colorful day in otherwise drab life of School’s teenage students. Kept clinically apart from opposite sex, 21st April was the only day of year when students of Chauburji School got the opportunity of sitting under one roof of school auditorium with girl students and teachers from nearby areas for ‘Iqbal Day Debate Contest”. While Chauburji students were always famous for producing excellent debaters, 21st April debate prizes would almost always be notched by girls as debaters from Chauburji School would ascend and descend the stage aghast-perspiring, blushing, stammering and stumbling at the close proximity of girls. To their and Iqbal’s mutual credit (and girls’ utter peril), even these loosing boys would make sure to recite that fateful couplet form Iqbal in a near wailing voice “Wajood-i-Zan sae hai Tasveer-i-Kainaat me Rang”. The colorful memoirs and remorses of this “Co-Education Iqbal Day Event”-that was how our Head Master liked to put it”- would sizzle the senior classes during ensuing hot and humid summer months of that stifling, black Zia Era.
This 21st April, as I passed in front of Chauburji School, there were no remnants of Iqbal though I saw a group of young students on school gate with T-shirts showing Shoaib and Sania Mirza in dazzling colours. At least, Sialkot lives.