In a tribute to Qamar Azad Hashmi, who passed away here on February 1, Planning Commission Member Syeda Hameed recalled the enduring spirit of the 87-year-old by quoting words from her book, Paanchwa Chiraag (The Fifth Flame), “ Khol aankh, zameen dekh, fiza dekh, mashrik se ubharte hue suraj ko zara dekh [Open your eyes, look at the earth, the surroundings, at the sun that rises from the East].”
The book is a biography of her son, revolutionary playwright Safdar, who was murdered in broad daylight years ago. At his death, she did not shed a single tear and dissuaded others from doing so.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat recalled Qamar Azad saying at the time, “…We will not mourn Safdar. We will remember him in celebration”.
Remembering her as a doer who deeply believed in change, Ms. Karat said: “Whenever she came for our AIDWA [All-India Democratic Women’s Association] meetings, she would pull out of her bag toys made from recycled material for the children of women participants who used to be so few in those days. They were thrilled.”
A creative teacher and a revolutionary, Qamar Azad, fondly known as Ammaji , threw away her burqa at the age of nine, carried her father’s Persian poetry manuscripts from one relief camp to the other during Partition, wrote her first book at age 69 and completed her Masters at 70.
She spent years under extreme poverty by selling waste wood, broken glass, nails and rusted balls of iron, salvaged from her husband Haneef Hashmi’s furniture business after Partition, walked several miles every day to save a few paisas to buy some fruit for her children. Through ups and downs, and her husband’s demise due to blood cancer, she raised five children.
Farida Khan of Nizamuddin remembered how Qamar Azad went from door to door to convince parents of burqa- clad Muslim girls to get them education. “Most of us completed the study of 10 years in two years and gave the exams. It was possible because of the strength we got from Ammaji and her unyielding pursuit,” she said.
Meena Swaminathan, a contemporary, remembered how she was a storehouse of stories and had the unique quality of loving everyone and yet never giving up the fight towards upholding her uncompromising beliefs.