By Shahnilla Fayaz
Today is birthday of Sindbad of Sindh Altaf Sheikh
Renowned travelogue writer Altaf Sheikh called Sindbad of Sindh, as he has written dozens of travelogue of different countries, cities and regions.
Basically he is also famous Marine Engineer, Professor. Altaf Sheikh was born on November 14, 1944 in Hala New, Sindh. His father Gul Muhammad Sheikh was Deputy Commissioner.
After graduating from high school, he studied until intermediate at the Cadet College, Petaro.
He was from the 2nd batch of Petaro Cadet College. In those day this college was in Mirpurkhas and later it was shifted to Petaro.
“Petaro’s initial two years education was in Shah Latif College Mirpurkhas and was shifted here in 1960.
Recalling his student life, he told in an interview that Rafiq Kachhelo known as King of Mangoes from Mirpurkhas and Makhdoom Khalid were his classmates. Then Director Education Allah Bux Nizamani wanted discipline in Sindh students and he appointed Col. Comb as principal of the Petrao College.
Altaf Shaikh says: “On the instructions of the principal, we used to colour the walls of rooms and were paid for this labour. Once Raees Abdul Hameed Jatoi visited college to take relief for his son from this labour work, but he was refused.”
Akhtar Abbasi, Shouakt Jumani, Dr Hadi Bux Jatoi, Liaquat Jatoi also studied in Petaro in those days.
“My father was Deputy Commissioner, he wanted to learn skill along with education, so during vacation he sent me to work in a garage.”
Mr Shaikh did Marine Engineering from Marine Academy Chittagong, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and did his post-graduation from World Maritime University, Sweden. He worked from junior engineer to chief engineer post.
He left his job at sea in 1982 and started teaching in Malaysia. Head of the Engineering Department of Pakistan Marine Academy Karachi.
Since then, Shaikh has been lecturing at marine institutions in various countries, as a Visiting Professor.
During his travels Altaf Sheikh visited every country of the world and observed the political, social, cultural and economic life of the country. The main feature of his writings is that he compares Sindhi society with other societies. He introduced the world cities and countries to Sindhi readers in an interesting manner.
He has keen observation of cultural, social, economic life of different societies and countries, which he reflected in his travelogues.
Altaf Shaikh was honoured with numerous awards over the decades, is recipient of Pakistan Presidential Award T.I (Tamgha-e-Imtiaz) and PJK (Pingat Jasa Kebaktian) a Malaysian Government Award. He received the Best Book of the Year award from Pakistan Writers Guild Lahore in 1969 and from the Pakistan Academy of Letters, Islamabad in 2010. I am proud to mention that he is the first Petarian to receive ‘The Life Time Achievement Award’ from our Petarian Association also. This is truly a great honour for him and for all the Petarians.
Altaf Shaikh and travel writing
Travelogue writing as defined by the critics encompasses outdoor literature, guide books, nature writing, and travel memoirs.
If we go back to the history we can find early examples of travel literature include Pausanias’ Description of Greece in the 2nd century, Safarnama (book of Travels) of Nasir Khusraw (1003-1077) the Journey Through Wales (1191) and Description of Wales (1194) by Gerald of Wales, and the travel journals of Ibn Jubayr (1145–1214) and Ibn Battuta (1304–1377), both of whom recorded their travels across the known world in detail.
Though Gulliver’s Travels and Sindhbad Travels are taken as fiction writing but they carry huge experience and tons of knowledge.
The Travels of Marco Polo, describing Marco Polo’s travels through Asia between 1271 and 1295 is a classic of travel literature.
Among the travelogues My sea my beach, Around the World, A Journey to Thailand, Flight to Iran, Japan is Japan, See India, Zanzibar Jhanggar, A Road to Medina, Bombay In My Embrace, Singapore Calls, From Makli to Malacca, Malir From Malmo, in the land of the White, we Black, from Brunei to Brazil, we did not come home, from the village of Jarwar to Japan, Malaysia in my mind, let’s go to Malaysia, with whom ‘ , My lover in the plane, Kuwait coast and many more.
The First Voyage around the World (1519-1522), By Antonio Pigafetta is an Account of Magellan’s Expedition.
Ajaeb Farang of Yousuf Kambal Posh is considered ad first Travelogue in Urdu. In modern Urdu literature Quratul Ain Haider’s Jahan Deegar and Mustansar Hussain Tararr around half a dozen books are available.
In Sindhi Badar Abro, Abdul Hai Palijo and some others contributed to this genre of writing.
Some collections of such stories are: Anamika, Lift to London, Suzie’s love, A beauty of Helsinki, Master Harryam going to Bangkok, Japan’s juice are his short stories.
By nature a friendly persons, still loves to meet and reach the people. He is currently residing in Karachi.