Prof Dr Syed Wadal Shah as Perceived by me
By Sanaullah Bukhari
Every new child growing in mother’s womb gives us hope that, Creator still loves this world and people with exceptional qualities will born. Human beings are declared superior creation and are supposed to draw line between right and wrong and follow the path of righteous and rewarded persons. Some people follow the right path, and are admired, and remain in hearts of people even years after death. When wisdom and intellect blend with sincerity, devotion, sacrifice, passion, determination and tolerance an exceptional and admired person is born. Dr Wadal Shah was one of such exceptional persons who is still present in many hearts even after 38 years of his death. His commitment with profession, passion for science & research and determination to see University of Sindh as world leading institute is the deed which makes him alive.
Dr Shah was born in a small backward and unprivileged village Amin Lakho, situated near New Saeedabad, district Hyderabad Sindh in 1934. His poor Syed family was under financial hardships in his early age. His father died when he was just 5 years old and left family supporting male was his 15 years old elder brother Syed Muhammad Salih Shah (who later on completed doctorate in Sindhi and remained subject specialist in Sindh Text Book Board Jamshoro and authored various text books and literature in Sindhi). It was very difficult for the family even to eat three times a day. In his early age, one could have never imagined about little Wadal Shah, he would be a renowned professor and will be remembered by thousands of people. Family guardian and his uncle Syed Khan Muhammad was a pious and wise person. He was inspired by religious Rashidi family of nearby Pir Jhando village and had established close acquaintance. Syed Khan Muhammad Shah felt the importance of education and encouraged his nephews and other family youths for education. Syed Muhammad Salih Shah and Syed Lal Shah were the first to complete eight classes (than Final Pass) and were appointed as primary teachers. This was beginning of the new journey of Syed family of Amin Lakho. The goat shepherd child, Wadal Shah was admitted in primary school Amin Lakho, where Syed Lal Shah was his primary teacher.
If personality is upright, only a tiny spark can be a candle in the dark. Education was that tiny spark which lighted his inner self. Since his early age, Wadal Shah was determined to achieve the true objective of life. His objective was to value and recognize the importance of life gifted by God and pass it in such a way that it could be beneficial and productive for the society.
As a student, Syed Wadal Shah was intelligent and hardworking, never gave up nor tired and continued his objective struggle with meager financial and other supporting resources. With his attitude he earned respect among students and teachers in all levels of his education. His charismatic personality made other students his follower even during high school education. It is a matter of pride for a student if he is able to teach his fellow students. As a student, Syed Wadal Shah taught not only his classmates but also students of higher classes. His academic career is full with achievements and succeeded to hold gold and silver medals. He never used cot and pillow while reading books because, he thought this comfort would hamper his studies. Dr Muhammad Ismail Ursani, a famous educationist and author, writes in an article about Syed Wadal Shah: He was very intelligent student and during his university studies, one of his examiners wrote on his answer copy “student is more knowledgeable than examiner”.
Syed Wadal Shah started his professional career as junior lecturer in University of Sindh after graduation. This was the beginning of his professional career and University of Sindh provided him the platform to gather and use energies for higher education and paying it back in the form of quality teaching, research and progress of the University. He was selected for PhD scholarship at Imperial College, University of London and his dreams began to come true. His hard work and interest made it possible to complete PhD before scheduled time. During sixties, scholars and professionals on finger counting were available in Pakistan and particularly in Sindh. After completion of PhD, he was posted in Engineering College, University of Sindh. In those days, Engineering College was in its infancy and facing acute shortage of qualified teachers. His joining in College was blissful and supportive and with his visionary approach he established chemistry laboratory in college with the support of college administration. This greatly helped the students of engineering college to conduct experiments in chemistry. He decided to establish advanced laboratory for research in chemistry. To achieve this, it was necessary to gain more knowledge and working experience with world renowned professors in advanced research laboratories around the world. In this quest, he secured one year research scholarship from University of Tokyo, Japan in chemical engineering. Though, he was married a week before his departure to Japan but with the consent of newly married wife and other family members he left for Japan. This was his commitment with profession and desire to do something for University of Sindh. Also, he succeeded to seek one year post doctorate research funding from government of Norway.
Now it was the time to pay back to nation. With his untiring efforts he established organic chemistry laboratory in University of Sindh and enrolled 5 students for PhD research. First time in history of the University, 5 students completed their PhD research within 3 years stipulated time. He worked for days and nights in supervising research and thesis writing of students. He prepared research proposals and succeeded to seek funding from Pakistan Science Foundation and National Science foundation of America and enrolled 11 other students for PhD research. Simultaneously, he wrote and published six research papers, six books on science in Sindhi language, composed English to Sindhi scientific dictionary (unpublished), published various articles in magazines and newspapers, delivered radio talks on Radio Pakistan, organized international science conferences particularly Nawabshah conference, worked as editor of first Monthly Science Magazine in Sindhi and rendered services for Sindh University employees colony. Besides, he was obedient son, loving husband, caring father, reliable brother, ideal teacher, companion of friends and a social developer. It appears he lived for others.
Prof Dr Syed Wadal Shah was busy in supervising the research of 11 PhD students. At one stage, it was necessary to analyze the natural product samples in advanced laboratories. He requested the Norwegian university to provide the research facilities and was allowed. He worked for days and nights to complete his research and analysis of samples within 3 months time. He succeeded in completing research and was ready to return back but unluckily was found dead in his room lying on the floor on 16 December 1975. Alas, he lived a short life and his mission was incomplete. He was buried by thousands of mourning eyes in this native village Amin Lakho.
His friends and student regard him as legendary son of Sindh. In his short life, he did remarkable work. His mission was selfless service for progress of science in motherland and dreamed to see University of Sindh as internationally renowned centre for academic and advanced research. He never thought and worked for money, luxury and authority. The gap after his death is not yet filled. People like Prof Dr Syaed Wadal Shah born once in a while in history and shed long term impacts. It is our responsibility to value such people and set them example for generations to come.