I grew up in Lucknow, India, where people of all faiths and cultures lived together in friendship, peace and harmony. We looked forward to each other's festivals and celebrated them together with equal enthusiasm. Even in 1947 when our country was torn apart, no animosity or violence was experienced in Lucknow.

After marriage, I moved to the Western world where my husband worked for the United Nations, we mixed with international community and shared each other's cultural programs and National Days.

After retirement, we wanted to live in a place where we could continue the life style we were used to. We decided to divide our time between Lucknow,  India, and Toronto and Ottawa, Canada. In four decades of our moving around, we found Canada to be the most civilized country in the Western world and Toronto was twice judged  to be the best metropolis to live in by the United Nations . An added attraction in Toronto was my youngest sister Reshma who is very helpful to us in our "Senior Moments". We did find Toronto a safe, peaceful and comfortable place to live in but we were disappointed to find that there was very little interaction in the international communities although the government provides facilities and encourages mixing of diverse groups through their Departments of Immigration and Multiculturalism. Coming from Lucknow, the most unexpected experience was to find that there was hardly any interaction between Hindus and Muslims  and the Muslim community itself was badly divided. We also encountered a new breed of Muslims who have added a "Sixth Rukn " to their version of Islam and which is: "Intolerance of everybody different" which is actually un-Islamic. Unfortunately, this new breed of Muslims is multiplying and spreading everywhere now. In this climate of irrationality and animosity, we started missing the composite culture of Lucknow and our cosmopolitan life-style of London, Geneva and Washington D.C., our previous abodes.

         As we expressed our disappointments aloud, we were consoled by the information that there existed an organization called "Family of the Heart" (FOTH) where we may find congenial company.  The words "Family"and "Heart", both felt comforting. The word family is associated with unconditional love, abiding care, mutual understanding and emotional security and the word heart is a metaphor for so many beautiful emotions such as : love, kindness, sincerity, generosity and compassion. The discovery of this group felt  like finding an oasis in the desert.

We learned that the founder of this group was Dr. Khalid Sohail a multi-faceted personality. He is a psychotherapist by profession and also a poet, writer, social worker and organizer of cultural, literary and other programs of common interest. He has two dozen books to his credit in English and Urdu and a Master's thesis on him written by an Indian student in Delhi. He calls himself a "Secular Humanist" and a " Dervesh" . In a nutshell, he is " L'enfent Terrible" of Pakistani community in Toronto - Much admired, much criticized.

Family of the Heart (FOTH) is a group of creative people like poets, writers, journalists, scientists, educationists, doctors, artists, musicians, and free thinkers from all walks of life . They regularly meet to share their creations as well as their knowledge in various disciplines and freely express their opinions , sometime contradictory, on a host of contemporary issues such as world peace, international politics, religion, environment, health, sexual orientation, education etc. " FOTH endeavors to foster a climate in which a healthy exchange of ideas can flourish to enhance our understanding of the world around us through an open forum and a genuine spirit of inquiry, dialogue and debate." In today's climate of fanaticism, intolerance and war-mongering, peace -loving, rational and thinking people need to express themselves freely and find congenial company to keep their sanity. Family of the Heart  provides them with this platform.

FOTH organizes monthly meetings to hold: Seminars and lecture series on contemporary issues Literary events on poetry, fiction and essays Music evenings  and: There is an annual picnic on a farm owned by a gracious member of FOTH, Mr. Zahid Lodi.

Last month, on September 8, FOTH organized a delightful literary evening to celebrate the 80th birthday of the renowned poet, Hamayat Ali "Shaer". On the same occasion, his talented son, a FOTH member, Dr. Baland Iqbal's latest book :" Meri Ikyavan Kahaniyan" was also released. Dr. Baland Iqbal is a Physician, writer, social worker and media journalist - another multi-faceted personality.

The coordinator of FOTH activities is Mr. Pervaiz Salahuddin, an energetic and efficient man who is a computer wizard. He is also a voluntary photographer for the group who works all night after the programs to have the photographs  ready for the members' viewing the very next morning.

Mr. and Mrs. Rafiq Sultan is also very dedicated hard working members of FOTH. 

At the last picnic, on September 14, FOTH released an anthology of the writings of some of its members which was published on the tenth anniversary of FOTH by GREENZONE PUBLISHING in Canada. It consists of 217 pages , has a good get up and costs CDN $20.00. The deep red colour and the design of the cover page which has the name of the book In a heart-shaped frame, are very appropriate and meaningful:

Everybody has a heart and the colour of everybody's blood is red! Mr. Shahid Shafiq is credited for this innovative creation. The binding of the book could be better though.

Page 1 of the book has a message from Professor Gopi Chand Narang, the recipient of Padam Shri and Padam Bhushan awards from the government of India and  " Sitara - e - Imtiaz "from the government of Pakistan, for his scholarship and outstanding service to Urdu language and literature. In his message, he said :  " Family of the Heart is a unique organization devoted to values of human brotherhood, secularism and social justice. Life is more adventurous than any adventure on earth one can imagine. It is the most beautiful gift of God, but there are people who are bent upon ruining this adventure. The present volume presents selected writings of some sane writers, artists and poets in this insane world. They are committed to the cause of freedom, love, tolerance and spirit of enquiry. The ideals of FOTH deserve to be commended by all."

The contents of the book are divided into three parts:

Part One. -  Poems

Part Two  -  Essays.

Part Three - Stories.

Altogether, there are 39 pieces of writing which cover a broad spectrum of topics such as : Language, literature, art, science, philosophy, religion, politics, social injustice, immigrant-experience and more.

Here is a small at random sample of some of the writings: Ms. Fakiha Baig in her essay : " Women and Education ", emphasizing the importance of education for women  says : " As a woman brought up in a Western culture I've got power that only education can give.

Power to speak ...hear...see...believe in...become ...what I wanted to. However this freedom would not have happened if I hadn't been brought up in this Western culture."  I fully agree with Ms. Fakiha Baig on the importance of education for women, however, I do not agree that only Western culture gives women the education and the powers she has talked about. She is talking from her personal experience and my personal experience is very different from her.  I grew up in a liberal Sufi family of freedom fighters in India where Western culture was despised until we attained freedom from the colonizers. But education for women was always valued and women, never exposed to western culture, achieved high levels of education and became university professors, doctors, lawyers and writers. They enjoyed all the freedoms which Ms Baig associates with the Western culture only.

The same is true of many other families I personally know.  Whereas in the Western world not every woman has higher education and all the freedoms. It is not too long ago that Western women were granted equal rights and freedoms. So it is a matter of time rather than culture.Let's take the right to vote, French women got it in 1944, Italians in 1945, Swiss in 1971, Pakistanis in 1947 and Indian women in 1950.There is no denying that, on the whole, Eastern women are less educated and free to choose but it is a complex issue. Centuries old colonization has caused so much damage that it will take long to repair.

"The Next Stage of Human Evolution" by Khalid Sohail is an extract from his book with the same name. Dr. Sohail, a supporter of the theory of Evolution, points to some differences between the humans and the less evolved species, animals and then suggests that among humans also, there are individuals, communities, cultures and countries which are less evolved than others. He professes that more evolved humans have three characteristics (the 3Cs) :

1. Critical Thinking,

2. Creative Imagination and

3. Compassionate Heart.

Thus, suggesting that humans continue to go through stages of evolution. Mr. Munir Pervez Sami's philosophical essay: "Verum, Ipsum, Factum"(

Truth itself is constructed - a principle first presented by an Italian philosopher, Giambatista Vico) is a review of Dr. Khalid Sohail's book: "The Next Stage of Human Evolution". The title of Mr. Sami's essay refers to the recurring principle in Dr. Sohail's writings - the discovery of "Truth" behind the evolution of the human mind. Mr. Saami's essay alludes to the theory of Creation thus reviving the age-old controversy "Creation" or " Evolution "?

"Language" is a very thought provoking article by Sain Sucha whose real name is Mushtaq Ahmad  and whose curriculum vita is as unusual as his pen name. In his essay, he points to a serious flaw in the Language Policy of Pakistan. He says : " Pakistan has one national, one official and one religious language: Urdu, English and Arabic. None of the three has anything to do with the indigenous people. For the 98% of the inhabitants' mother tongue is Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Balochi, Kashmiri, Gujrati or one of the other tongues but not Urdu, English or Arabic." He argues that: " the enforcement of these non-indigenous languages has created the greatest hindrance in the mental development of the nation." This allegation may sound too harsh and be unacceptable to many laymen  so a psycholinguist's expertise has been sought to explain that a child should be given the basic education in his/her mother-tongue-a language he/she hears and imitates from the infancy. If the language in school is different from the language spoken at home, it can cause confusion in the young minds, thus, affecting a child's mental growth as well as learning ability. in such cases, the proficiency in one of the two languages and sometime in both languages suffers. The solution to this problem could be that the other language, the national language should be introduced after a child has mastered his mother tongue and his/her mind has developed enough to keep the two languages apart without confusion.  Mr. sain Sucha's essay is fascinating and educating.

Ms. Farzana Hassan in her bold Essay: "Muslims, Quran and the 21st Century", points to certain teachings of the Qoran she does not find relevant to the modern world whereas, Mr. Feroz Karamali, in his essay: " Relevance of the Quran in the 21st Century" finds the Quran to be extremely relevant in the modern world.

Mr. Shahid Akhtar, an expert on conflict resolution, in his essay: " impact of conflict on our lives" presents a NEW approach to resolving conflicts and gives some tips to make the conflict resolution process a positive and productive experience which adds value to life rather than diminish it. Masud Sheikh in "Being blessed by Being Broken" talks of stages of spiritual development. He supports his thesis by giving the example of Maulana Rumi who attained spiritual growth following with each heartbreak.He wrote his monumental " Masnavi" after the deaths of two of his best friends: Shams and Salahuddin.


"Mohammad Iqbal and his Women" is Rafi Aamer's translation of Dr. Sohail's Urdu essay: " " Allama Iqbal Ek Mehbooba,teen Beewian, Chaar Shadian." Which is a psychoanalysis of the great poet's emotional life.

Shiraz Noor's provocative title: "Philosophy and Divine Law: Unhappy Marriage or Illicit Affair" is a hard reading discussing the twelfth-century Muslim philosopher Averroes'" Book of the Decisive Treatise, Determining the Relationship between the Law and Wisdom".

Abu al-Walid Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Ibn Rushd, commonly known as Ibn Rushd 's Latinized name was Averroes . He was a Moroccan Muslim born in Spain in 1126 and died in 1198. Ibn Rushd contended that the claims of many Muslim theologians that philosophers were outside the field of Islam had no base in the Scripture. His novel exegesis of seminal Quranic verses made the case for three "Valid paths" of arriving at religious truths and that' philosophy was one. Therefore, it's study should not be prohibited".

In his "Decisive Treatise", he examined the alleged tension between philosophy and religion and challenged the anti-philosophical sentiments within the Sunni tradition sparked by al Ghazali. This critique ignited a similar re-examination within the Christian tradition influencing a line of scholars who would come to be identified as the "Averroes's". He also came to be known as the founding father of secular thought in Western Europe.

There are other essays, each exploring a different field. Some stories in the end of the book have a close look and expose some ignored aspects of our lives.

Now a glimpse of some poems in the book:

Mr. Abrar Hassan, in his beautiful poem: " Nameless", asks a question: "Why must I be named?,     Ms. Zohra Zuberi in her poem: " Hyphenated Canadians" asks:  "Am I a Canadian-Pakistani or a Pakistani-Canadian?" And Mr. Satyapal Anand (of Washington D.C.), in his poem: "Limits of Acceptance" presents a dialogue between Buddha and his disciple, Bhiksu Anand, on the limits of acceptance in alms. "Accept whatever is given to you in alms" says Buddha. " And if a woman is offered in alms?" asks Anand.Find the answers to all the above questions in the book yourself. It would be more fun.