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S. Wajid Ali

S. Wajid Ali

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S. Wajed Ali was a Bengali writer and nationalist.

Early life


Wajid Ali was born on 4 September 1890 in the village of Bara Tajpur
Tajpur
Tajpur is a town in Samastipur district of Bihar, IndiaTajpur is located in Purba Medinipur, West Bengal, India on the shore of Bay of Bengal .-Location:National Highway 28 passes through Tajpur. Nearest airport is Patna Airport....

 of Hooghly
Hooghly District
Hooghly district is one of the districts of the state of West Bengal in India. It can alternatively be spelt Hoogli or Hugli. The district is named after the Hooghly River.The headquarters of the district are at Chinsura...

 district. S. Wajed Ali's maternal grandmother hailed from the Nawabpur village in Chanditola of Hooghly
Hooghly District
Hooghly district is one of the districts of the state of West Bengal in India. It can alternatively be spelt Hoogli or Hugli. The district is named after the Hooghly River.The headquarters of the district are at Chinsura...

 district. Her father, who came from Mungaer, had settled in Nawabpur with a 'Jaigir' and married into the local Bengali community. Wajed Ali's three maternal uncles were 'Hafiz' in Koran and his grandfather's home atmosphere was one of religious conservatism. However, the natural beauty of Nawabpur touched him deeply as expressed in his memoirs. Wajed Ali's education began in the village 'Madrasa' or school. At this stage, in 1897 he had his first marriage, at the early age of seven, with his six month old cousin Ayesha (the daughter of his paternal uncle Sheikh Golam Rahman). In 1898, at the age of eight, Wajed Ali came to Shillong and started education under the tutelage of his father, S. Belayet Ali. Later, he was admitted to the English medium Mokhar School in Shillong, from where he graduated in his 'Entrance Exams' with a gold medal. This phase of his life in Shillong, Meghalaya had a lasting impression upon him.

He went to Aligarh MAYO college
Aligarh Muslim University
Aligarh Muslim University ,is a residential academic university, established in 1875 by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan as Mohammedan Angelo-Oriental College and later granted the status of Central University by an Act of the Indian Parliament in 1920...

, where he was recognized as a meritorious student. He subsequently passed his I.A. and B.A. exams from Allahabad
Allahabad
Allahabad , or Settled by God in Persian, is a major city of India and is one of the main holy cities of Hinduism. It was renamed by the Mughals from the ancient name of Prayaga , and is by some accounts the second-oldest city in India. It is located in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh,...

 University in 1908 and 1910 respectively. After his graduation from Allahabad
Allahabad
Allahabad , or Settled by God in Persian, is a major city of India and is one of the main holy cities of Hinduism. It was renamed by the Mughals from the ancient name of Prayaga , and is by some accounts the second-oldest city in India. It is located in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh,...

, he returned to his village of Baratajpur and spent a happy family life amidst the rural idyllic surroundings. His first child, Lutfunnissa, was born at this time. He was trying hard to convince his family to allow him to go to England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 for further education. Finally, with the enthusiasm and recommendations of his second uncle, he succeeded in getting their permission and left for London just a couple of years before the start of World War I. Wajed Ali joined the Law school of the University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

, from where he attained his B.A. and Barrister-at-Law degrees.

The beginnings


While in Cambridge
Cambridge
The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the...

, he had fallen seriously ill and Miss Eleanor Saxby of Bristol
Bristol
Bristol is a city, unitary authority area and ceremonial county in South West England, with an estimated population of 433,100 for the unitary authority in 2009, and a surrounding Larger Urban Zone with an estimated 1,070,000 residents in 2007...

 had come forward to take care of him, and enable his subsequent recovery. From this episode started a relationship between them which culminated in his second marriage and divorce from Ayesha Begum, at the obvious displeasure of his family members back home. The year was 1915 - World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 was raging in Europe. It was at this time that S.Wajed Ali started the practice of Law in Calcutta High Court
Calcutta High Court
The Calcutta High Court is the oldest High Court in India. It was established as the High Court of Judicature at Fort William on 1 July 1862 under the High Courts Act, 1861. It has jurisdiction over the state of West Bengal and the Union Territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The High Court...

 and continued till 1922. All this while, he lived with Eleanor in Mott Lane, Ripon Lane, Ripon Street etc. in Calcutta. Ill fortune struck when various factors of the failure of the family business , failing health, extravagant lifestyle - all combined together to drive him to bankruptcy. He immersed himself in deep studies about the contemporary society and involved himself in the elite literary world of the time. At the advice of his friend, Pramatha Chowdhury (editor of weekly Shobuj Potro), he started writing in Bengali and began an extraordinary literary career.

1923 - 1928


In 1923, he was appointed the third presidency magistrate of Calcutta and a few days later he started living with his family in #1 Canal Road in Calcutta. At this period he devoted himself to his literary pursuits. He expressed himself with supreme creative excellence in the fields of prose, symbolism, story-writing, translation, travelogues, etc. His troubled marriage with Mrs. Eleanor Saxby (Nellie) came to an end in 1928, when the mother of his two sons, Ahmed and Abdullah and daughter Zeb-un-Nissa
Zaib-un-Nissa Hamidullah
Zaib-un-Nissa Hamidullah was a pioneer of Pakistani literature and journalism in English, and also a pioneer of feminism in Pakistan, West Pakistan till 1971. She was Pakistan's first female columnist , editor, publisher and political commentator...

 separated from him and married his younger brother S. Shamsher Ali. This turn of events drove him into a family crisis and utter loneliness. The dramatic family complications made him hurt susceptible and psychologically isolated. In the face of all these adversities, he maintained his literary stability and creativity in matters of philosophical and nationalistic pursuits. He always maintained his clarity of vision and focus in all these matters, which were close to his heart.

1929 - 1944


Having been cast into loneliness and isolation in his family life , S. Wajed Ali , amidst his otherwise busy life with the duties of his job, literary pursuits, chairmanships of various societies and organizations etc., was like a prisoner of pain on a lonely island. At this time he met a learned Burmese
Bamar
The Bamar are the dominant ethnic group of Burma , constituting approximately two-thirds of the population. The Bamar live primarily in the Irrawaddy basin, and speak the Burmese language, which is also the official language of Burma. Bamar customs and identity are closely intertwined with general...

 lady, who subsequently became his wife and life-partner, Mrs. Badrunnessa Ali. Descended from the line of Chengiz Khan, her father was the head of a Burmese royal family. When the British forces attacked Burma, most of the royal family men folk were killed in the anti-British struggle. Along with her mother and aunt, the Burmese princess was brought to Calcutta as a royal war-prisoner. Badrunnessa was this very princess. Unfortunately, a grave tragedy befell Mr. S. Wajed Ali's life only two years after his marriage, when on 26 October 1931, Mrs. Badrunnessa Ali died a day after the birth of her only child. Her body was buried in the 'Gobra graveyard'. An English nurse was appointed to take care of his new-born child, Sheikh Badruddin Ali (Zaib-un-Nissa was also quite young at the time).

The founding of the magazine 'Gulistan' in December 1932 was an active and busy chapter of S. Wajed Ali's life. He built up around this magazine a cultural and literary circle embracing the cream of contemporary Bengali society. Its cover bore the vision behind its creation 'the pioneer of Hindu-Muslim unity'. The writer's list of 'Gulistan' bears evidence of the nobility, width of scope and seriousness of the magazine: Kazi Nazrul Islam, Dr. Mohammed Shahidullah, Kazi Abdul Wadud, Kedārnāth Chattopādhyāy, Tārāśankar Bandyopādhyāy, Pramathanāth Bishi, Buddhadeb Basu, Sajanikānta Dās (of Śanibārer Cithi fame), Kaviśekhar Kālidās Rāy, Bārindranāth Ghosh, Pabitra Gangopādhyāy, Poet Kader Nawaz, Poet Nirmal Dās, Anurupā Devī, Prabhābatī Devī Sarasvatī, Indirā Devīcaudhurāni, Manilāl Bannerjee, A. K. Jainal Abedin (Navayug), Humayun Kabir, Comrade Abdul Aziz, Phanindranāth Mukhopādhyāy, Dhīrāj Bhattacārya, Saurīndramohan Mukhopadhyāy, Abbasuddin Ahmed etc. At these heady times, S. Wajed Ali's residence at 48, Jhowtalla Road, was the usual venue for the Gulistan-centred literary evening gatherings. The contemporary elite of the intellectual, literary and art world of Calcutta were often present in those sessions. Besides being the founder of the 'Gulistan' magazine, S. Wajed Ali was also the publisher and editor of the English language magazine: 'Bulletin of the Indian Rationalistic Society'.

Retirement


On 31 October 1945, S. Wajed Ali retired from the position of third presidency magistrate and restarted his independent legal profession. At this time he still resided at his residence at 48, Jhowtolla Road.

S. Wajed Ali was a soft-spoken person with a reserved and contemplative nature. He was a unique and distinctive personality of his time with his aristocratic bearing, wide grasp of knowledge and intellectual pursuits. Regarding his personality Syed Ali Ahsan has justifiably commented: "S. Wajed Ali possessed an exceptionally generous nature. With such a magnanimous, righteous, broad-minded and pleasing personality, he was well loved by all he came into contact with…' 'He had an extraordinary depth of perception'. While never loud nor offensive, he was amusing and extremely well informed in his discussions. He loved talking to children and often listened to their stories, keeping them amused with his special simple magical simplicity and charm. He had some unique pursuits: he loved to walk the streets and parks in Calcutta so much so that he is quoted as having said that ' I am ready to deny myself many things in my life, but I am not ready to give up my pleasure of walking….. I usually like to walk in the Maidan.'. Towards the middle of 1949, S. Wajed Ali was affected with 'cerebral thrombosis', which rendered one side of his body paralyzed. He was treated by the German doctor Mr. Troy and cared for by nurses. In these difficult days, his sons looked after him regularly. His younger brother Mr. S. Shamsher Ali visited him every day. His first wife Ayesha Khatun often visited him. Finally, at 9 o' clock of Sunday ,10 June 1951, he died at his 48, Jhowtolla residence. He was buried beside the grave of his last wife Mrs. Badrunnessa Ali at Gobra graveyard in Calcutta, where he had bought the place for himself when she died in 1931, 20 years earlier. Bounded by marble railings, his tombstone bears dates of his birth and death. He is honoured every year in a festival at his birthplace of Tajpur.

Famous descendants


Zaib-un-Nissa Hamidullah
Zaib-un-Nissa Hamidullah
Zaib-un-Nissa Hamidullah was a pioneer of Pakistani literature and journalism in English, and also a pioneer of feminism in Pakistan, West Pakistan till 1971. She was Pakistan's first female columnist , editor, publisher and political commentator...

, his daughter.

Nafisa Ali, his granddaughter.