‘A Life Unveiled: My Encounters Across Countries and Cultures.’ by Dr. Razi Azmi holds true to its title and unveils different layers of Dr. Azmi’s extremely rich and varied life.
Born to Indian parents in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in 1950, he chronicles his early childhood, peppering it with humourous events and giving us a view of what life was like for an ordinary citizen of Dhaka in the 1950s. His father was the station master, a ‘baddo sahab’, and that eased Dr. Azmi’s and his family’s lives in Bangladesh as they shuttled around.
Dr. Azmi, along with his elder brother, Sami, gets involved in the freedom struggle for Bangladesh, which, at that point, fell under Pakistani territory. His extra-curricular efforts even land him in jail! Finally, he shifts to Islamabad with his mother and younger siblings when the environment in Bangladesh is too fraught with danger.
He applies for and is granted the opportunity to study for his Ph.D. in the Soviet Union in the 1970s and this is the part I enjoyed the most. The longest chapter in the 188-page book turned out to be delightful. Always one interested in the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the US, Dr. Razi has described how life was for an ordinary citizen or resident in the Soviet during those times. Dr. Azmi gives us an insight into his naïve outlook as he gets (unknowingly) trapped in a honeytrap spun by the KGB and its repercussions.
Dr. Azmi also visits the United States, where he, is awarded his Ph.D. in Ohio and Dr. Azmi talks about returning to Pakistan after his stint in America. When in Pakistan, two outstanding incidents bring to the fore the instability the region is experiencing and he draws parallels to the collapse of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia in the 1990s and applies for a skilled migrant visa in Australia. He explains how as a father to young sons – aged 6 and 3 – his decision is rooted in giving his family a stable and safe environment. No two ways about that, Dr. Azmi!
However, before he is granted the visa, he is given an opportunity to teach in a Moroccan (yes, Morocco!) University, and he describes how life was in that beautiful country.
Finally, Dr. Azmi wraps the book (to my dismay) when he finally moves to Australia where he moves into the federal government sector and actually joins the emigration department!
Reading about Dr. Azmi’s exciting life –full of ups and downs–is very satisfying because there is a lot we can learn from the way he handles the problems he faces – with grace and class. His humour shines through the book and there are places where one bursts out in laughter. But whether sad, hilarious, or poignant, one never loses interest in his story.
What I didn’t like: It ended too soon. I needed more Soviet stories!
For a man who was travelled to 96 countries, please do pick up his book, ‘A Life Unveiled’ and its predecessor, ‘A World Unveiled: Joys and Jitters of Many Journeys.’ where he talks about his travels to a gazillion countries. Also, he has a third book coming up soon, ‘A Nation Unveiled: Pakistan at 75.’
I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Razi Azmi online, and I was blown away by his wisdom, humility, and general bonhomie. He is a treasure chest of knowledge, and we should read his books to learn from him! Check out the interview @ https://www.facebook.com/706641500/videos/5261874250608633/
Last words: Pick it up now!