Messages and Memories

From: "Noelle Gray" in Connecticut

Grief stricken in CT

Jahanara Akhlaq was my friend. I just now found out that she and her father are no longer alive. I am beside myself with grief.

I am grateful to have found your email so I could say this to someone.

Her family came to the US because her father received a teaching job at Yale University. He and Shaharazad enrolled Jahanara at the Educational Center for the Arts in the dance program. This is where we met. She was 14. I was 17. The instant I met her I loved her. I used to watch her practice Khatak for hours. She was working on a piece given to her by her instructor, who she was to meet in London after she'd worked on the piece for a full year. I asked her about one of the hand movements of her dance... and she told me it meant "tiger". She taught me how to say "tiger" with my hands. She taught me how to dance with joy. I still dance. In fact, I teach internationally. I've often wondered about her, remembering the time she told me about Lahore, how beautiful the city was, how sometimes she could wear shorts on the street and other times she would have to cover herself completely. She expressed her frustration for it. I expressed my worry for her.

Her family invited my family over for dinner. Zahoor and Sheherezade were so gracious and lovely. They invited me to visit them in Pakistan if ever I found myself in the country. Her father told me that when I came to visit I would be assigned an escort. He explained that it was necessary. I remember Jehanara describing her house in Lahore... tall walls surrounding it.. more like a fortress than anything we have here in the US. I used to dream about seeing her again.... having the joy of her showing me her country, her I'd shown her my country, my New Haven.

After I graduated high school, Jahanara went to London (or so I thought).... I lost touch with her... I asked our mutual dance teacher, whom I ran into about a year later, to please let Jahanara know that I missed her and hoped she was well. That was my last word of her... she was healthy, alive, vibrant.

For my graduation her family gave me a Kurta Pyjama. I wore it when I walked across the stage to accept and academic scholarship. It was my most treasured article of clothing.

I remember her telling me that Khatak was forbidden by her religion. I remember her telling me about how he had to practice in secret. I remember thinking to myself how brave she was... and how difficult it was for me to understand why anyone would stand in the way of such an incredible dance form!

I feel such deep grief right now... denial.... anger..... could someone so wonderful be torn away so violently???

She taught me how to say A Salaam alaikum. She also taught me some not so nice words... but I can't seem to recall any of them.

She was so beautiful.. she used to joke about having Africa in her eye from the scar left behind from the knife wound... that's how I've always remembered her: the girl with Africa in her eye.

I'll stop now. Thank you for having an email address for me to write to....

Where was she buried/laid to rest? How can I contact her sister and mother? Are they okay???

Please write back.

Sincerest Regards,
Noelle Gray

Just browsing through Internet, I happen to visit, by chance, a site about Zahoor ul Akhlaq. I remember meeting him for the first time in 1962 while working in an ad agency studio with Jamil Naqsh. The shock of his death still lingers. I live in Canada since 1965. Our paths never crossed after that. Still I remember him as a serious quiet young man. While going through whatever material I could find, there was no mention of his wife. Surprising! Since your e-mail address was there, I thought I should just drop in a line, for old time sake.
Ahmad Humayun

I did receive other messages but lost them all in a system crash. If anyone cares to send again I will post them. TS

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