Daya Varma and Shree Mulay


South Asia Research and Resource Center (CERAS) is a Montreal-based organization concerned with social, political and developmental issues in  South Asia; Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer was invited by CERAS on numerous occasions. Only on one occassion, in the wake of controversies around  Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses” his visit was sponsored by a McGill University student organization.

Whenever Dr. Engineer came to Montreal he stayed with us. We used to take the opportunity to invite friends to meet him socially. These evenings were always full of discussions and heated arguments and were wonderful encounters and learning experiences and the sessions went on late into the night.


On one occasion, he was accompanied by his wife Sakina, a warm charming person. Dr. Sahab used to get up a little late and we would leave for work  leaving Sakina in charge of making tea and breakfast for him. On one occasion, she forgot the frying pan on the stove and sure enough the fire detector started making a big noise. Inevitably the alarm company called and she did not know the password and they immediately sent the police and contacted me (Shree) at work that there was a break-in   and the police had been sent. When I called the house, I spoke to the police and they went away. Shortly, thereafter we went back to the house and I asked if she would like to make some more breakfast. She was stll shaking from the encounter with the police and said “arre baba mujhe chai-wai,  nashta -washta kuchh bhi nahi chahiye; yanha ke makan bade khatarnak hai” (heaven’s no, I don’t want tea or breakfast, the houses here are very dangerous). Later we had a very good laugh when she described her conversation with the police in Urdu and English mixed together. We felt very much at home with her and Dr. Sahab.


Every time Dr. Engineer came to Montreal he said something new. He never presented a scenario which cannot be materialized and despite his lofty ideals, he was a  man of practical politics attempting to achieve what could be achieved.


Dr. Engineer’s passion about communal harmony was inspiring and his arguments why it is essential for the progress of India logical and solid.


I (Daya) met Dr. Engineer only once in his office in Mumbai; it is then that I realized how his whole life  was dedicated to fighting for secularism and harmony and opposing all the Hindu and Muslim fanatics.


With his passing, we realize that there is no one who can fill his shoes and be a passionate ambassador for peace and harmony in India and around the globe.

Top - Home