Today is the Chehlum of Ali Anwar, who suddenly left us at the young age of 33, on the 30th of August 2022, in Lahore. Ali was in the Aitchison College Debating team. Joining the Lahore College of Arts and Sciences, he became Head Boy and a star debator, as well as a reserve in the Pakistan Debating Team and head coach for the LACAS debating team. The team regained its stature on the circuit under his leadership, two of his students going on to be selected for the Pakistan Team, which he also coached in 2021.
In fact, Ali comes from a family of educators, artists, writers and mentors. His maternal grandmother is the beloved Sonnu Rehman, teacher of history to generations, mentor, founding teacher at LACAS. Her father, in turn, was Professor G. D. Sondhi, the first Indian principal at Government College and the founder of the Asian Games.
Ali’s paternal grandmother is Souriya Anwar, founder and president of SOS Children’s Villages, Pakistan. His paternal grandfather, with whom he had a special bond, was the pediatrician Dr Mohammad Anwar, who saw children for their physical ailments, but became the embodiment of the fun and empathetic father and grandfather-figure that a host of children from Lahore still remember fondly, well into their adult years. The well-known academician and writer Shaista Sirajuddin is an aunt, and all of literary Lahore remembers her lovely parents, educators Urmila Sirajuddin and Professor Sirajuddin.
The renowned artist Laila Rehman, who also teaches in the department of printmaking and digital media at the National College of Arts, is his maternal aunt, as is Sara Hoti, another educator. His mother Gullie has been teaching sociology at LACAS for decades and is now a director at the institution. Ali’s sister Iman works in the Special Projects Department at LACAS. Young Ali was also growing into the role of a brilliant educator when his life was so tragically cut short.
Ali's adored wife Rajiha was central to his life. They met as teenagers and remained committed to each other. Theirs is essentially a love story. Her quiet presence was the perfect counterpart to Ali's exuberance. Rajiha is a woman of great courage, enduring love and compassion. Her gentle and considerate nature is deserving only of love, not grief.
All of us at The Aleph Review send our best to his lovely parents, Gullie and Irfan Anwar. We can only hope that they find solace in the wake of one of the most unthinkable catastrophes to be ever visited upon a parent.
The following short piece is written by his cousin, Heer Sohni Yasmin Cheema.
- Mehvash Amin
My Dearest Ali,
I heard your voice today. It filtered through the house; you know the one with its surprising red nooks—red tucked into each corner—your home, which has through the years expanded, unfurling across the grounds, making more and more room for you as you've grown.
I expected to find it empty today, but I see you sitting there on the sofa, swinging your foot, drumming your fingers against your leg. Your shoulders shaking as a laugh bursts out of you, and staccatos on. Your eyes curious, engaged... sparking with ideas and good humour.
Someone is speaking to you, and you are nodding along, listening intently—always so careful to provide your full attention, to attend to every single word. Bean, with all her chocolate fur and anxious energy, swerves to avoid the strangers in the room, bumping straight into you, and you reach for her, petting her, calming her down.
You have always been so gentle and attentive, so moved by the humans and animals around you, and by the tragedies and struggles of this world. And so intent on making it a better, kinder place. It is this spirit that you inspire in all of us… your family, your friends, your students, even those who do not know you particularly well.
I see you get up and pet Bean one last time on your way out. I follow your footsteps, which echo in the footsteps of those that love you most, just as I see you in their faces and I hear you in their voices.
You stop and greet Aftab, Ahmadyar and Sabir Bhai in the driveway, laughing with them and exchanging the details of your day. You make your way to your car to restock the Sooper biscuits you always keep on hand, in case a hungry child should pass your window at a traffic light. Once done, you visit Marty and Pixie, who are wagging their tails, all excited to see you. They are so big now, barely recognizable as the strays you sheltered and saved.
But before I know it, you’re on the move again. You have students to speak to, people to tend to, tasks to complete. And in my hurry to follow you, I accidently take a wrong turn. I worry that I've lost you, but as I wander through the house, I find myself stopping outside that brown wooden door. And I am at once certain that I will find you on the other side, in your small, white haven.