Dr. Abdus Salam: The Coffee House of Lahore by K.K. Aziz

vudesk.com:    The Coffee House of Lahore By K K Aziz 


Among my contemporaries and colleagues in Government College, companions in the Coffee House of Lahore and friends at these places and Elsewhere there is only one genius, and that was Abdus Salam.
Salam was the son of Chaudhri Muhammad Husain, a schoolteacher of Jhang and Hajirah who belonged to Faizullah Chak near Batala Muhammad Husain was ajat and Hajirah a Kakkezai. Now I know that Faizullah Chak was an almost exclusively Kakkezai village because my mother’s mother belonged to, it and the family had lived there since time unknown. The Kakkezais were a close-knit, community, mixed well among themselves, and formed a close network of relationships within the tribe. The problem of working out or tracing a relationship in Muslim (and non-Muslim Indian) families is that the genealogical trees concern themselves with males alone. Therefore I presume with some justification and optimism that Hajirah was a member, however distantly placed, of my grandmother’s larger family. That makes Salam a cousin of mine; it doesn’t matter at how many removes.
Born in 1926 and educated at the Government School and Government Intermediate College, Jhang, Government College, Lahore, and St. John’s collegeCambridge, he made it a habit to excel in very examination he took. He stood first in 1940 in the matriculation examination of the Punjab University and again in 1942 in the F .Sc. examination. He joined the Government College, Lahore, in 1942 to study mathematics A and B and honours in English. He graduated in 1944 winning every laurel within sight: 300 out of 300 marks in Mathematics, 121 out of 150 in English honours, standing first in the University and breaking all records in the B.A. examination.
In 1946 he took his M.A. in Mathematics, scoring 573 marks out of 600, and topping the list. In September 1946 he left for Cambridge on a Punjab Peasant Welfare Fund Scholarship to study Mathematics at St. John’s College as an undergraduate.
If in India his academic career had been brilliant, in Cambridge it was dazzling. He got a first  both in his Preliminary in 1947 and Part II in1948, and then gave up Mathematics for the time being because on the higher level it could not be fully  mastered without a good knowledge of physics.
In an unprecedented performance he read Physics for one year and took its Part1 and II together in 1949; scoring a first and surprising even his teachers. His scholarship was extended for two years (it should have seen three years) to work for his Ph.D.
He came to Pakistan in the summer, married Ummatul Hafeez, And returned to Cambridge in 1949, deciding to tackle theoretical physics for his doctoral thesis.
The year 1951 was the time for him to harvest the fruits of his labour. He completed his thesis (though he could not get his Ph.D. till the following year because the University statutes required that
The candidate Spent nine terms before being eligible to
Receive his doctorate), won the Smith Prize, was elected Fellow of his College, and named Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Studies at
Princeton University. Pending the award of his degree he came to Lahore and was appointed Professor of Mathematics and Head of the
Department of Mathematics at both the Government College and the
Punjab University. In 1952 he went to Cambridge for his viva voce and to receive his doctorate. His problems began almost as Soon as he took up his job at the Government College. Instead of honouring him for his brilliant achievements, he was humiliated by the College and the education Department. He was not given an official residence, as was his right. Temporarily he stayed with Qazi Muhammad Aslam, the professor of philosophy at the College, and continued his efforts to get a house allotted to himself. Disappointed with the in different attitude of the officials he asked for an interview with the Minister of Education, Sardar Abdul Hameed Dasti. Salam told him that they had a family to accommodate and was entitled to a residence. As Salam told me, the Minister brought the interview to an end by refusing any help and declaring; “Pugdi e te  kam karo warna jao” (if it suits you, you may continue with your job; if not, you may go). Salam was so frustrated that he was considering a resignation; but soon a house was allotted for him and he stayed on.

1 reply

  1. I don’t know when the book was written but I would like correct the author regarding his view on Jamaat Ahmadiyya not honouring Dr Abdus Salam at Cambridge University in his last paragraph.

    In fact Majlis Khuddamul Ahmadiyyat has instituted an award in Dr Abdus Salam’s name at both Cambridge University and Imperial College London since 2007/08. This is not an endowment but a prize given to the best student. For more details please see below.


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