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‘First couplet read out by Indian astronaut in space was Allama Iqbal’s’

‘First couplet read out by Indian astronaut in space was Allama Iqbal’s’

KARACHI: When the first Indian astronaut went into space, the then prime minister of India asked him about how India looked from up there. The astronaut replied, ‘Saare jahan se achha Hindustan hamara’. So the first piece of poetry read out in space was Allama Iqbal’s.

This was said by Indian actor Raza Murad while speaking to journalists at an event organised by the Pakistan Film and TV Journalists Association in his honour at the Karachi Press Club on Monday.

Mr Murad said he was “dumbfounded” and “overwhelmed” by the welcome he had received in Pakistan, especially in Karachi. He said Karachi was the city of labourers, industrialists and of spirited (dill waalay) people. He said he had just been to a TV show hosted by Dr Aamir Liquat Husain and was pleasantly surprised to know that the host knew more about his life and career than his wife did. He said on another television programme, he took part in a segment where replying correctly to each question put to him would increase the dowry that was being collected for a bride-to-be. He called it khidmat-i-khalq (serving humanity).

Mr Murad said when the first Indian astronaut Rakesh Sharma went into space then prime minister of India Indira Gandhi asked him that how India looked from up there, to which the astronaut said, ‘Saare jahan se achha Hindustan hamara’. He remarked that the first piece of poetry read out in space was of Iqbal’s.

He himself recited quite a few poems on the occasion to express his gratitude, beginning with a Sahir Ludhyanvi poem ‘Main to kuchh bhi nahin hun’.

Mr Murad said he would like to congratulate Prime Minister Narendra Modi for visiting Lahore for two hours like someone visited his family (khandan). He said the PM knew that he would be criticised for his trip but still went on with it and as per Indian tradition touched the feet of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s mother. He was also all praise for another Indian prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, for coming to Lahore by bus. He said Mr Vajpayee was a poet as well and recited his poem ‘Jang na honay deingey’.

Mr Murad said the people of India and Pakistan wanted the relations between both counties to improve. He said in one of the recently held Asia Cup T20 matches, Indian batsman Virat Kohli appreciated the way Mohammad Aamir bowled at him, although Aamir was trying to bowl him out. He said people [in Karachi] had been asking him as to what his views were on the match that’s going to be played between India and Pakistan on March 19. He said we should take it only as a cricket match and not as a war. He said he had good wishes for both teams.

Replying to a question after the event on his fellow Indian actor Anupam Kher’s stance on the award returnees in India, Mr Murad said in a democracy everyone had the right to say what they felt. Anupam Kher was entitled to his opinion as much as the award returnees were to theirs.

On the question of which of his family members were now going to be seen acting in movies, he said his father Murad began his film career in 1942. He himself started to work in films in 1971 and his cousin Zeenat Aman was a known film star in India. He said his niece Sonam (of Tridev fame) was also a renowned actress. He said his son Ali Murad’s first film would be launched this year.

Answering another question, Mr Murad said despite differences diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan were not disrupted. He said Modi’s intentions were good (niyyat achhi hai). He said there were 85 per cent Hindus in India, and yet Shahrukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Salman Khan were the most popular actors in the country.

Earlier, Mr Murad’s daughter Ayesha addressed journalists. She said her father had been to Pakistan before, but this time round he had come because of her. She said she used to tell him that she would like to see Pakistan, and now that she’s here she was of the opinion that if there was an Olympic medal for hospitality, Pakistanis should get it.

Fazil Jamili, A. H. Khanzada, Ather Javed Sufi, Rashid Noor, Anwar Iqbal, Pervez Mazhar, Rashid Alam, Hasan Soomro, M. Ifrahim and Aftab Alam also spoke. Wasi Qureshi conducted the programme.

Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2016

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