It deserves to be remarked, perhaps, that it is the progressive state, while the society is advancing to the further acquisition, rather than when it has acquired its full complement of riches, that the condition of the labouring poor, of the great body of people, seems to be the happiest and the most comfortable. It is hard in the stationary, and miserable in the declining state. The progressive state is in reality the cheerful and the hearty state to all the different orders of society. The stationary state is dull, the declining melancholy.
Before we can feel much for others, we must in some measure be at ease ourselves. If our own misery pinches us very severely, we have no leisure to attend to that of our neighbour.
Akhter Hameed Khan was an inspiration to my generation. I had the privilege of learning from him when I was a young teacher of economics at Dhaka University in the early 1960s. His model of rural development was then making its impact in Comilla Thana and its headquarters in the Abhoy Ashram in Comilla had already became a place of pilgrimage for those at home and from abroad seeking inspiration for resolving the problems of poverty in an increasingly unequal society. What lent credibility to Akhter Hameed sahib’s endeavours was his own human personality and willingness to realign his career choices to conform to his beliefs. The simplicity of his manner, the austerity of his life style, the wry, self-deprecating humour with which he dealt with people of all classes, age groups and background served as a testament to his commitment and integrity as a human being.
I am deeply honoured by the invitation from Dr. Akhter Hammed Khan Resource Centre, Rural Support Program Network and Council of Social Science Pakistan to deliver Dr. Akhter Hameed Khan's Memorial lecture. Dr. Akhter Hameed khan lived his life for others. Those who live only for others, live for ever. Dr. Hameed khan who believed that caring and sharing is critical for the growth of any society is indeed immortal and he lives for ever. I accepted the invitation with abundance of delight and some trepidation. I am always delighted with any opportunity to visit Pakistan and meet friends. Trepidation, I suppose is natural, especially when one attempts to speak about a legendry person like Dr.Hameed Khan, who was guru to my guru Mr. Shoib Sultan Khan. What I attempt to share this morning is a very humble tribute to a great soul.
“Having accepted the invitation to deliver the lecture, I started wondering how am I going to do justice to a person of the stature of Akhter Hameed Khan. I had always looked upon him as my mentor and teacher. My relationship with him was truly of a sage and a disciple. His presence was overpowering and commanding a respect not out of fear but intellectual superiority of a level which belies any description. I feel like a pygmy trying to describe a giant. My relationship with Akhter Hameed Khan was more like Boswell's with Dr. Johnson. I can at best be a biographer or a historian recounting my association with the great man but to capture his innate qualities, his intellect, his vision, his depth of knowledge, his scholarship, his understanding of the religions of the world, his Sufi streak, his Buddhist way of life, his understanding of Islam and the Quran, his academic work, his poetic muse, his love for his family and above all his mission to help the suffering humanity and his passion to benefit his countrymen by his experience is beyond my capabilities. I have captured only a few facets of a personality which was so versatile and complete that in the words of Shakespeare “that nature might stand up and say to all the world: This was a man”. Akhter Hameed Khan was a complete human being. His motto was simple living and high thinking.