My Grand Kids Zoya, Zara, Mariam and MaishaWith the onset of summer vacation and the pressure put upon me by my grand kids to visit India where we would meet relatives and visit the family mango orchard in Kithore Meerut, I began the arduous process of applying for visas to visit India. I applied for visas for a total of eleven family members including my wife Zohra Iqbal, daughters Dr. Kiran A. Rehman and Erum Imran, their kids Habib Ur Rehman, Mariam A. Rehman and Zoya and Zara Imran, and my sister-in-law Mrs. Shabana A. Hameed and her kids Umair A. Hameed and Yasir A. Hameed. Requirements for getting visas to India as Pakistanis are substantial and at the time we would only be permitted to visit a few cities. We chose to visit Delhi and Meerut.
Delhi ZooThere are several ways to get to India from Pakistan. We could go by train, bus, air or foot. As the kids had never ridden on an airplane, I decided they should have the exhilarating experience of traveling by plane. We flew by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) from Karachi to Delhi on June 17, 2013. We stayed one week in Delhi, visiting many places. The kids especially enjoyed the Delhi Zoo where we welcomed a nice shower of rain.
Family ReunionFollowing our stay in Delhi we went to Meerut, my birth place and home to my in-laws. We have many relatives in Meerut. There were family functions hosted from one family house to the next. Each function was a reunion where all the kids were introduced to their relatives. It was very enjoyable for everyone to meet and spend time together.
Iqbal Khan enjoying the fresh mangoes with his cousin Nadeem KhanAfter a few days in Meerut, we arranged a trip to the family mango orchard which is situated about 25 km outside of Meerut City in a town called Kithore. Here another reunion of close relatives was hosted. There has been quite an electrical power problem in Pakistan and we learned that the same was true in India. However we were fortunate that on this day the power to the orchard was working and we ran the electric tube well that powered the water pool. The kids really had fun at the mango orchard. We all enjoyed fresh, cold mangoes followed by lunch before heading back to Meerut.
Mr. Shahid Hussain, Engr. Iqal Ahemd Khan and Shiri Pervez HalimDuring my stay in Meerut, I had the pleasure of visiting several historical national monuments. I am grateful to my Saudi Aramco Ex-Employee and my friend, Mr. Shahid Hussain, and my cousin brother, Engr. Reyaz Ahmed, who devoted their time to transporting me and sharing the history of the city of Meerut.
A Hindu Temple in State Bank Colony Meerut CityThe Historical City of Meerut The town of Meerut has about five thousand years of long ancient history, where Hindus' religious wars were fought. The town of Meerut is situated north of India, about 72 kms from New Delhi, the capital of India. After the advent of Islam and Muslim emperor rule of Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan about one thousand years ago, the Muslim population surged in India as well as in the town of Meerut. Now Meerut has a population of over two million with a population ratio of 45% Muslim and 55% Hindu, Sikh and Christian. In Meerut City there are several types of industries. A quickly growing industry in the last decade is the sports industry with sporting goods being exported around the world. In Meerut City there are two main Muslim Monuments which I will describe below.
Jama Masjid (Mosque)Jama Masjid (Mosque) The Jama Mosque of town Meerut was built by a Muslim King of India, Sultan Nasir Uddin Mehmood, son of King Altamash, in the year Hijri 647, corresponding to 1249 C.E./A.D. Sultan Nasir Uddin Mehmood was a noble and pious Muslim King. He used to earn his livelihood by sewing and knitting caps. He never took the money for himself from the Royal coffers. Jama Mosque is built on a tiny hillock which is still the highest place in Meerut. It has a huge courtyard and a big dome with two tall minarets. Jama Mosque has the most unique Muslim architecture of anywhere in the world. To reach the top of the minarets there are circling stairs inside the structure itself. There is a fine view of Meerut City from the top of the minarets. The old walled Meerut City was encircled by seven huge gates, namely: Delhi Gate, Budhana Gate, Baghpat Gate, Kamboh Gate, Khair Nagar Gate, Shorab Gate and Shah Peer Gate. Now there remains only four gates. The other three were demolished over time. Just 200 years ago, there was a tradition to shut the door each night only to open it again the next morning. During this time nobody was allowed to enter the city for safety reasons.
Deoband MosqueDeoband Speaking of mosques, it is only fair that I write a few lines about Deoband, a city not far from Meerut. As I could not visit the place due to visa problems, I must share with you the details that were provided to me by Mr. Shahid Hussain's son-in-law Mr. Kamal Ahmed Siddiqui who is a resident of Deoband. Deoband, a sub district Saharanpur, Uttar Perdesh (UP) India, has its ancient Hindu history dating back a few thousand years. After the advent of Islam in India, the Muslims also settled at Deoband. The town Deoband has a population ratio of around 40% Muslim and 60% Hindu. Within the town of Deoband there is a famous Islamic University called Darul-Uloom Deoband, which is ranked second after Al-Azhar University of Cairo, Egypt. In the town of Deoband there are numerous descendants of the first and third Caliphs of Islam, Hazrat Abu Bakar Siddiq RAA and Hazrat Usman Ghani RAA. Consecutively the father-in-law and the son-in-law of the last Messenger of Islam, Hazrat Mohammad, SAWA, peace be upon him. In town Deoband the huge, spacious and splendid Rasheediyah Mosque was built a decade ago. The mosque has fine Muslim architecture. The front gate is tall and beautiful.
Tomb of Shah PeerTomb of Shah Peer Shah Peer Sahib’s tomb was constructed by the Moghul Empress Noor Jehan, the favorite wife of Moghul Emperor Jahangir, son of Emperor Akbar. The tomb was built in honor of Shah Peer Sahib, a local Muslim Saint. He is called by the people as Shah Peer, it means Peer (Saint) of Kings. The tomb has no roof and its building is constructed by red stone embellished with fine paintings and masonry work. Moghul emperors especially used to construct the royal buildings and monuments with red stones which give them their own unique style and beauty very difficult to describe in words. Other examples of red stone construction are Jama Mosque of Delhi, Red Fort of Delhi, Red Fort of Agra, a famous city of UP India where the Taj Mahal is located, and the famous Shahi Mosque of Lahore, Pakistan. The tomb of Shah Peer is listed as a National Heritage Monument by Archaeological Survey of India. Moghul Empress Noor Jehan's real name was Mehur-un-Nisa. She was born in 1597 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Her father, Etmad-Ud-Daulah, was a prominent Minister in the Royal Court of Moghul Emperors. His mausoleum is in Lahore, Pakistan.
Inside Gurudwara where Sikhs Come to PrayVisit to a Gurudwara in Meerut While in Meerut, I had the opportunity to make my first visit to the religious place for the Sikhs. Guru Nanak was a Hindu and he established a new religion. Sikhs believe in oneness of God. There are five essential items a Sikh must keep: Kara - bracelet, Kesh - hair, they do not cut their hair or beards, Kangha - comb, Kachcha -underwear/shorts, and Kirpan - dagger. The culture of Sikhs is the same as Hindus. Their religious place is called Gurudwara, where they sing the teachings of Guru Nanak with light music accompaniment. When we reached the Gurudwara in Shastri Nagar of Meerut City, my cousin Engr. Reyaz Ahmed went to ask permission of the one in charge if we could visit Gurudwara. The one in charge was delighted to learn that I was visiting from Pakistan. The Holy places for Sikhs in Pakistan are visited every year and the Pakistan Government offers a variety of facilities. I was given a warm welcome and a tour of the Gurudwara. Later I was granted my request and was allowed to take a picture with the one in charge.
Shahid Hussain and Engr. Iqbal KhanIftar Dinner at Shahid Husain's Place The Holy Month of Ramadan began while I was in Meerut. My old friend and Saudi Aramco Ex-Employee Shahid Hussain who lives in Meerut invited me and my cousin Shiri Pervez Halim on an Iftar Dinner. It was nice seeing Shahid Hussain again after seven months. We last met in Karachi in December 2012 when Shahid Hussain was visiting his relatives in Pakistan. During the month of Ramadan there are some delicious dishes which you will never enjoy during any other time of the year. Mrs. Shahid Hussain prepared very delicious dishes for us and we both enjoyed it very much. We congratulated Shahid Hussain for becoming a grand-father of Master Saalif Siddiqui, the son of his only daughter Bushra who was married to Kamal Ahmed Siddiqui who lived in Deoband. View more photos of A Family Visit to India - Family Reunion. View more photos of A Family Visit to India - Mango Orchard. View more photos of A Family Visit to India - National Historic Monuments.