The newly-registered association’s Protem Working Committee opened its doors to their family members and friends, too. Today, the association has much to boast of, achieved in a span of just 14 months
Syed Khalid Husain | Clarion India
SINGAPORE – AS the alumni of India’s prestigious Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) spread all over the world celebrate 100 years of the establishment of their alma mater, how can the Old Boys–and Girls–of this premier institution of higher learning in Singapore be left behind?
Hence the newly-set-up, 60-member Aligarh Muslim University Alumni Association Singapore (AMUAAS) combined the university’s centenary with its own second Sir Syed Day celebrations in November–virtually.
Sir Syed Day is celebrated by the AMU and its alumni, commonly called Aligarians, in memory of the university’s founder, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan.
Syed Ahmad bin Muttaqi Khan, commonly known as Sir Syed, was an Islamic reformist and philosopher of the 19th –century British India. He is also counted among the makers of Modern India.
The university’s chronology traces its origin to Madrasatul Uloom, which was established on May 24, 1875. In 1877, this Islamic seminary was rechristened Muhammadan Anglo Oriental (MAO) College, which was patterned by Sir Syed after Oxford and Cambridge universities that he had visited on a trip to England. MAO College evolved into AMU on Dec 1, 1920, following the enactment of the Aligarh Muslim University Act on September 9, 1920, by the British imperial legislation. It was eventually inaugurated on December 17, 1920.
Soon after AMUAAS was registered with Singapore’s Registry of Societies in September 2019, Aligarians here started joining it, “to help further the legacy of AMU”, giving a feeling of, as a poet said, “Lo shama’a hui raushan, aaney lagey parwaney…”
In view of the small number of Aligarians in Singapore, a Red Dot on the world map, the newly-registered association’s Protem Working Committee opened its doors to their family members and friends, too. Today, the association has much to boast of, achieved in a span of just 14 months.
The initiative to set up AMUAAS was taken by two young Aligarians from India, Mariam Shaheen and Hina Haris, two years after the former relocated with her husband to Singapore from the United States in 2014. “Woh akele hi chaley thay janib-e-manzil magar, log saath aatey gaye aur carvan barhta gaya.”
The driving force behind AMUAAS consists of Farah Zia as president, Hina Haris as secretary and Rabiual Awwal Hossain as treasurer, all members of its Executive Committee, as well as Zia Haider. The association has also formed a Working Committee to help organise its activities.
In keeping with the current restrictions due to the convid-19 pandemic, the 8 November event was conducted on Zoom, a cloud-based, peer-to-peer software platform. “Covid should not dampen the spirits of our members,” quipped Zia Haider as he kicked off the programme.
The 90-minute event, hosted by Mariam, drew dozens of members and their spouses online. It consisted of various segments of chats, games, quizzes and other fun activities, and updated members on AMUAAS’s social, educational and charity activities in the past year.
The participants were divided into four randomly-selected teams spread across the length and breadth of Singapore, displayed on an interactive map prepared by tech expert Usama Ghufran.
Fusion of past and present
A segment titled “Aligarh Ki Yaaden” (Memories of Aligarh) featured videos of several Old Boys and Girls from the 1960s through 1980s. They provided a peek into the past as they related anecdotes, and reminisced their experiences at the university, whose international mix of sherwani-clad students are known for their quick wit and humour and love for food.
The event culminated with a beautiful rendition of the university’s evergreen musical tarana (anthem), “Ye mera chaman hai mera chaman, main apne chaman ka bulbul huṅ”.
As no Sir Syed Day celebration is complete without an elaborate feast, the participants were feted to north Indian food delivered at the participants’ homes, courtesy of Mehfil Mughlai Food Point.
AMUAAS had organised its first Sir Syed Day on 26 October 2019, at the Civil Service Club in the west of Singapore. On that occasion, it had also held its first election. That event began with the recitation of the Holy Quran and featured quizzes and a fabulous buffet lunch and culminated with the university’s tarana sung by a group of participants.
Since its formation in September 2019, AMUAAS has achieved more than it had expected. Besides the two Sir Syed Day events, the association last May teamed up with local charity Itsrainingraincoats to support efforts to help foreign workers in Singapore affected by the covid-19 pandemic. Thanks to members’ generous contributions, the association managed to raise Sing $3,400 (some US$2,500), crossing its target of Sing $3,000, and contributed Sing $400 from its own kitty to provide meals for these workers.
The association is also working on putting together a volunteer team to help with various charity organisations in Singapore, said Mariam. “The team would consist of members who are able and willing and have the time to donate to various volunteer activities,” she added.
In line with its objective to promote educational excellence, the association is in talks with the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore (NUS) to establish a Sir Syed Ahmed Khan Memorial Medal to mark AMU’s centenary.
The medal is meant to be awarded to an outstanding student of the University Scholars Programme, covering students from all over NUS. “We are in talks with NUS to finalise details,” said Mariam. AMUAAS has appealed to its members to contribute financially to the fund required to set up the medal, she added.
In June, AMUAAS asked its members to register for the World Alumni Directory of AMU being compiled by their alma mater’s Alumni Affairs Committee. It also held its first Annual General Meeting virtually in September and an online Extraordinary General Meeting convened earlier by its Executive Committee.
A seven-member Constitution Review Committee (CRC) was formed to review and approve the proposed amendments to AMUAAS’s Constitution, provisionally nominate honorary internal auditors and announce its new Working Committee nominated by the elected office-bearers to help them manage the working of the society. The CRC consisted of Farah Zia, Rabiul Awwal Hossain, Hina Haris, Zia Haider, Shariq Barmaky, Haris Farooqi and Mariam.
Asked about the plans of the association, Mariam said: “The larger plan is to make meaningful contributions towards education initiatives both in Singapore and hopefully back in India.”