A Rose By Any Name: Shaheen (Gul) Amjad Malik

Our graceful and gorgeous cousin left us on Thursday. As aptly put by Haroon Zaman, ‘she was an institution.’

A Rose By Any Name: Shaheen (Gul) Amjad Malik

Born in the 1940s the middle daughter to Saeed and Saeeda Zaman, Gul grew up in the house built by her grandfather Mir Azizuddin in Model Town; the cool, green, and serene suburb of Lahore where Muslims, Hindus, and Christians walked the tree-lined streets in safety and amity.

An intrepid tomboy, her cousins Ayesha and Tariq Osman recall her ‘climbing higher than any of us’ the tall mango and other fruit and flowering trees planted profusely by her elders in the gardens of 43 A Block. She also played cricket enthusiastically with them and other cousins and family friends: Shahnaz, Quratulain, Ahsan Zaman, the Ziauddins, Kamil Muzaffar, Shahid Ikram and his sister Najma, her dear friend. She was the first in the group to learn to drive, taught by the family’s chauffeur Vilayat who remains a valued visitor still.

Too young to be part of this ‘magic circle’ I have my own memories of how she would greet me affectionately with sweets and treats galore whenever we arrived, exhausted by road or air travel, in Model Town on home leave from abroad: packets and packets of rainbow-hued meethi sonf, luscious toffees, and melt-in-your mouth chocolates. I’m sure she welcomed Saad Salman, who in turn arrived considerably later, with the same generosity.

At home she was doted upon by her soft-spoken elder sister Suraiya; and in turn doted on her younger sister, our family’s ‘Moghul miniature’, Shehla aka Nini.

In her college years Gul blossomed into a bewitching beauty, but was charmingly unaffected by it all. Hence she turned down quite a few offers of matrimony from young men in promising positions and situations to marry for love. She accepted the proposal of Amjad Malik, a handsome and upstanding young man from a business family, with a strong literary connection: his maternal grandfather was the noted author and intellectual Mian Abdul Majeed Salik. Her pureness of spirit rewarded her: as she described to me much later, ‘Amjad and I have an excellent understanding’. They went on to be Blessed with three sons; Umar, Ali, and Mohammad who with her daughters in law Nosheen, Saman, Serena and her grandchildren have kept her company, as has the devoted Kulsum, particularly after have kept her company, in Model Town, in Lahore, and on regular visits from abroad; as have her devoted nieces and nephews, particularly since Amjad’s untimely demise many years ago. Her youngest grandchild Abu Bakr has been by God’s Grace the icing on Gul’s cake.

In her parents’ home Gul lived in an ambience of literary and cultural appreciation - and activity. Her paternal grandmother was in residence as the family elder, and in deference to her Dadi’s love of learning Gul named her eldest grandchild, herself an award-winning scholar, ‘Fatima’ after her. Her father being a alumnus of Aligarh and then a faculty member of Osmania University, she was accustomed to interacting with his many classfellows and friends. Of her two paternal aunts, both highly literate, the younger was the Urdu writer, columnist, and diplomat’s wife Ruhafza Hyder. There were regular Qawalis - Manzur and humnawa being his favourites (and vice versa!) - in the garden: enchanted evenings of devotional music, fairy lights, and captivating conversation, with Lahore’s literati and notables - such as Malik Ghulam Jilani inter alia - in rapt attendance. The presence in Lahore of the near-sacred site of Data Ganj Baksh’s darbar was felt strongly in this household. Gul’s mother’s table was likewise known in the family and friends’ circle for its marvellous fusion of Kashmiri (she hailed from Amritsar) and Hyderabadi cuisine.

My occasional abode in Lahore being betwixt Gul’s and our cousin Lalarukh’s, with our niece Fariha one door away and our dear friend Sadiqa Shahid and family opposite, I shall much miss Gul’s calling out cheerfully from across the wall, ‘Kya tu aa gayi hae?’ She would press refreshments on us, as when I took my kids Alp Arslan and Diana Patricia to call on her, and several times with my parents arranged play sessions for him and Fatima when children. Quite recently, despite being unwell for some time, she responded to a cousin’s saying he would call her regularly by retorting with her customary wit and sparkle, ‘Karo ge to dekhen ge!’

Our Chachi Neelam, shocked at the news, said she would much miss her ‘relative and contemporary’ Gul. Hers was ‘a real love story’ exclaimed our cousin Sabiha; while from abroad Seemie, Janice, Mehreen and Maliha registered their regret at her passing. A myriad of family and friends here remember her with love likewise such as Humaira, Talat, Lubna, Farzana and Farukh.

Her cousin in law Amena fondly reminisced about spending an afternoon with her whilst visiting Lahore: ‘I cherish that memory’.

For many of us, Lahore in general and Model Town in particular, shall not be the same without her.