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Published in the 1-15 Apr 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Celebrating excellence

Public figures line up to pay tribute to a "living legend" of our times

The Milli Gazette Online 

There is a widespread feeling among Indian Muslims that the community does not recognise, appreciate and promote talent. Here is a festschrift that refutes it by celebrating the achievements of an extraordinary person of our times, the educationist PA Inamdar.

PA Inamdar
Saiyid Hamid is first taken aback at the brusqueness of PA Inamdar, but somehow veers round to the conclusion that men in a tearing hurry to build institutions of abiding significance need not bother too much about old world courtesies and cultural flourishes. 

In fact the book celebrates the excellence of two Inamdars in their chosen field PA and his better half Abeda Inamdar. That Muslims are generous enough to shower fulsome praise on people who deserve it is evident from the list of contributors to this volume.

Those lining up to felicitate Inamdar (rather, the Inamdars) include both Muslims and non-Muslims, which goes on to show the catholicity of the Inamdars' spirit. The contributors are important public figures in their own right politicians, bureaucrats and assorted public figures. Among Muslims we have such stalwarts as Saiyid Hamid, Rafiq Zakaria, Fakhruddin Khorakiwala and Syed Shahid Mahdi.

After the compiler Mushtaque Madni's preface, we have Saiyid Hamid's foreword, which is the real beginning of the book. Over the years Saiyid Hamid has emerged as the community's sage, whose voice is heard with respect and in seriousness. Although his advice is equally important for most areas of life, people turn to him largely for education-related counsel. There are quite a few people who seem to ask him to write something by way of a foreword or introduction not only for the academic value it carries, but for barkah as well. It is an amusing thought, but it shows how seriously we have begun to take him.
As usual Saiyid Hamid makes certain remarks that make one sit up and take note. He is first taken aback at the brusqueness of PA Inamdar, but somehow veers round to the conclusion that men in a tearing hurry to build institutions of abiding significance need not bother too much about old world courtesies and cultural flourishes. This only shows Saiyid Hamid's generosity of spirit, because he himself has never been reported to be abrupt or impolite even during his prime as a bureaucrat running a district like a maharaja (that was the way the elite public service men were trained to act).

His adversaries from the days of his vice-chancellorship of AMU testify that even in the most difficult moments he was never brusque or abrasive, although beneath the velvet glove he concealed an iron fist. This is to the credit of PA Inamdar that an impeccable gentleman accepts that brusqueness is not only a necessary evil in certain cases but even a virtue.

There are some incisive remarks here that explain why Muslims from south and west India have generally done well compared to their counterparts from the north. Or, for that matter, why PA succeeded where many others would have failed. Of course, PA is endowed with a larger share of grit, gumption and the capability to work hard than most other mortals. However, what has helped him immensely is also his genuine concern for the well-being of others and his ability to rise above denominational divisions. This, according to Saiyid Hamid, is a model for other Muslim educationists. He reminds us that even Sir Syed sought (and got) help from Hindus, and that is how it should be.

After reading the festschrift one suddenly realises why the Muslim community is so enamoured of its bureaucrats (from petty to mid-level and senior, from retired to serving). Just imagine had PA not been a middle-level employee in land revenue department would he be able to achieve half of what he has done? The answer is a clear no. To be able to cope with the obstructionist strategies of India's burgeoning (and wasteful) bureaucracy, one must have been a bureaucrat ( of whatever description) at some stage in one's life. Even the other Inamdar, Abeda, is a former government employee. A determined duo of former government officials can achieve what the best of academics and other equally well-educated people can't even dream of achieving.

To give the Inamdars their due, not every former government official matures into a builder of institutions. Hopefully, they have years of work ahead of them as they are still youthful. Let us look forward to another festschrift in, say, 2005 when the Inamdars would be respectably older.

P.A. Inamdar - a living legend, compiled by Mushtaque Madni; 163 pages h/b; Price: Rs 400 / US$25; Publishers: Usool Publications, Shop No. 5, Anamay, 305 Somwar Peth, Pune 411 011

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