Jumbo Editorial Team
It was in the fitness of things that the Alumni Association of the NED University of Engineering & Technology, Karachi, played its role in the promotion of Engr Aquila Ismail’s latest book ‘Of Martyrs and Marigolds’ by dedicating its June Seminar programme to one of the former Associate Professors of the Electrical Engineering department.
Engr Aquila, who graduated as an electrical engineer in 1975 before taking up the profession of teaching at her own Alma Mater, has also been a prolific writer and a published author.
She has written extensively in Pakistani newspapers and magazines on women's issues and about the development concerns of Karachi. Her published non-fiction works include articles on Orangi Pilot Project (OPP), Urban Resource Center (URC) and the Micro Credit Program of the Orangi Charitable Trust.
June’s NEDAA Seminar was entirely devoted to promoting her book ‘Of Martyrs and Marigolds’ which is a fictional tale that vividly narrates the travails and travesties experienced by the Urdu Speaking population of East Pakistan during the 1971 Civil War and after the subsequent creation of Bangladesh. During her talk Aquila deplored the plight of the many Urdu speaking former East Pakistanis who are still living the life of homeless and country-less people in the many refugee camps of Bangladesh and their status remains unchanged from 1971 with very little being done to either compensate their losses or improve their welfare.
Many of the attendees who had also formerly lived in East Pakistan were readily able to relate with the story of the book and enriched the discussion with their lively input about their own experiences during this sad and dark time in the history of Pakistan.
They were deeply impressed by Aquila's sincere commitment to disseminate the story of the plight of the disenfranchised Urdu speaking refugees of Bangladesh. In spite of the sinister and sanguine nature of the subject matter the story does have a thinly veiled romance that wafts thru the book like the sweet aroma of raat ki rani flower, ever so gently touching our senses, as it drifts in the darkness of the surreal night. Rumi, a fellow student at Dacca University becomes friends with Suri, who is the narrator of the events in the book. Suri is soon charmed by his gentleness and dreamy eyes and before their love could fully blossom the Civil War erupts.
Rumi plays a key role in protecting her family from harm during the War and helps them succeed in getting out of the country to safety.
Though the book does not have a romantic ending Aquila's own story does. After the dust of war settled, Rumi returned as Masood, to Karachi to marry his college love. A marriage of an Urdu speaking East Pakistani and a Bengali from the country that drove her family out.
The Philadelphia-based Dr Shahid Ahmed, who was one year junior to Aquila Ismail at the NED besides being her neighbour in East Pakistan, has been passionately promoting the book, having taken upon the responsibility to sell its 3000 copies.
‘Of Martyrs and Marigolds’ is available from Amazon.com for $10.99 but those living in the NY,NJ and PA areas could to get it directly from Dr Shahid Ahmed.