Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Living with one of those Alam brothers

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Guest Post by Mrs Subuha Khan

Ejaz Alam
It has been said before, and it needs be repeated: the famous Alam Khan brothers of the defense services were a very special breed of men. Nine of them, all in the forces and all of them with brilliant careers as soldiers. There is one thing about these good men that one needs to stand back and regard – and not without a degree of awe: there is no one, absolutely no one anywhere in the world, who can bad-mouth any of the Alam Khan brothers. There is only admiration and respect for this merry bunch.

And a merry bunch they were too! They were all gifted with a great sense of humour and with that unique facility of delivering a witticism deadpan. More often than otherwise, the joke was on the hearer because it came so seriously one was hard put to grasp if it was a joke or a serious statement. For that, one had to know these good people.

Brig Zahir Alam Khan
Yesterday I received a phone call from Tumble, Lt Gen (Retd) Javed Alam Khan. He said one of his Bhabis, herself a writer of repute, having read my short piece titled ‘Cheers’ was moved to write something about the men she knows from being married to one of them, the late Squadron Leader Shuaib Alam Khan (Sitara e Jurat).

Among other things, Mrs Subuha Khan writes that whenever her late husband was asked how he got his SJ, he always said, he just happened to be standing in the right line. That, people, is the mark of the true hero, a man who made no big thing of the outstanding work he had done. That was one self-assured, self-effacing person with great wit to boot.

Having read this moving Urdu tribute, I was thinking what Tumble would say if one were to ask him why he never got an SJ. I can bet my last few rupees he would go, ‘I got caught up in the traffic and missed the investiture ceremony.’ Incidentally, as far as I know, all the Alam Khan brothers were decorated for gallantry in action. All, save the eldest, Brigadier Zahir Alam Khan and the youngest, Lt Gen Javed Alam Khan. But that does not take anything from these people.

PS. Tumble said he hoped my Urdu was better than his and I responded, ‘In Urdu, Sir, you are illiterate compared to me. I can read and understand Nun Meem Rashid!’ Tumble did not have anything to say to that!

Related: Cheers!

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 08:00,


At 29 November 2013 at 11:11, Anonymous Saima Ashraf said...

Aj mangal hai aur main mangal ko muafi nhi mangta....lolz
Great narration written by heart, not with pen. Touching!
Hail to thee my great souls who gave me the message of life by sacrificing their leisure, peace, and time.

At 29 November 2013 at 12:35, Anonymous Kausar Bilal said...

Hmmm...great! A wonderful and touching story. I have seen such military officers this way as I also have a military family background. Wish we had these heroic characters everywhere in our society regardless of their professions..
An excellent post! Thanks for sharing it.

At 29 November 2013 at 12:40, Anonymous Naila Hafeez said...

When a wife says some thing as touching as this and waits for 'him' to come back each 'sawan,' it is a big tribute. Great story with an insight.

At 29 November 2013 at 13:01, Anonymous Hassan Shah said...

Have been associated with four brothers. Brig ZA and I served in the same Armoured div HQ. Gen Smamim Alam was my Bde Comd. Maj Ejaz Alam my instructor and friend in the gunnery group in the Armour School. Lastly Gen Javaid, my very dear friend. In short u could not find better soldiers, gentlemen and human beings than this family. Matter of pride to have been associated with each one of them.

At 30 November 2013 at 13:15, Anonymous Zuha Saeed said...

Sirs, I have been Gen Shamim Alam's G-3 at d CGS sectt, and later I tagged along on his promotion as his ADC at d CJCSC sectt. I know d brothers but d hidden hand was their MOTHER, d real groomer.. 9 brothers, all in armed forces, 2 shaheeds one in PAF one in 13L, all war decorated,5 SJs, one CJCSC, ONE Vice chief of naval staff,one corps comd, ALL have an army/navy/air force STANDING one way or d other.. and ALL HAVE ALWAYS BEEN ON THE LEFT OF THEIR IMMEDIATE SENIOR n still made it to d top n in d history books of d 3 services..ha ha..

At 30 November 2013 at 13:16, Anonymous Tariq Ali Khan said...

I have had a close association with Javed Alam and also known some of the others. their deeds of valour and sacrifice are part of recorded history, their dead pan humour is also known to all their friends. i can only describe the common characteristic i found with the word "genuine". hard to find people in this time and age so completely without a trace of guile or malice and so true and simple almost bordering on "naivete".

At 30 November 2013 at 13:19, Anonymous Saeed Malik said...

It is good to praise those whom one feels like. However no human in this world is perfect except those few who are specially blessed by Allah to be His messengers. Every one of us do have some weaker sides as well.

At 30 November 2013 at 13:20, Anonymous Hassan Shah said...

So, Who ever defined is ones perception on a comparative basis.

At 30 November 2013 at 13:42, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Tariq Ali Khan, Genuine is what tugs at the heart strings where these brothers are concerned.

At 30 November 2013 at 17:12, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We miss the point here. It is not about serving with those soldiers. It is insight on a wife about her husband and how did she find him? What kind of a man he was. Coming from a wife, it is great in itself. You are lucky Mrs Subuha Khan. You are having such nice memories. I can imagine what kind of a person your husband might have been (and also his brothers).

At 30 November 2013 at 19:57, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No man is a hero to his wife. Of all the family, I didn't know him or any of his sibling who did not join AC. He must b v/good to win such accolades from his spouse.
When I went to 1Armd Div after commissioning, ZA had a larger than life reputation in Multan. I soon became acquainted with Gen Shamim Alam when he was BM in one of the Bdes.Our paths kept crossing till he left Bwp as a four star Gen.He always smoked Red & White cigs and heavily too.Ejaz had been martyred in 65 but remembered fondly by many a friend.
It is a nice experience to read memoirs of people by their dear ones, one knew, in the evening of one's life.

At 4 December 2013 at 13:41, Anonymous Javaid Hasan said...

Overewhelming Sabuha Khan.....Beautiful Sangam of music, literature, Romance and Biography...Extend the article. Shuaib bhai indeed was gem of a person!

At 4 December 2013 at 13:44, Anonymous Javaid Hasan said...

Overwhelming article Sabuha Khan...Extend it....what a beautiful mix of music, literature and memories. Shuaib bhai indeed was a gem.He desreves much more lines.

At 5 December 2013 at 22:04, Anonymous Anonymous said...

baja kehtay ho sach kehtay ho phir kahiyo keh...


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Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand

Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

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