Here is one of my best interviews. That Dr. Majid Kazi is a gem of a person is pretty evident from the quotes that he granted liberally in the following conversation with me. The interview first appeared in Arab News and then The Asian Age and Deccan Chronicle. It met with a huge applause from Saudi Arabia's expatriate community. Picture No. 1 shows the good doctor with the late King Fahd. In Picture No. 2, Indian President Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam honors him with the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award. — Siraj Wahab, May 1, 2007
Everybody Is Unique in His Own Way, Says Dr. Majid Kazi
By Siraj Wahab
JEDDAH, March 29, 2006 — Nov. 15, 1974, remains one of the most important days of Dr. Majid-Uddin Kazi’s life. For it was on that day he received a letter that would launch a brilliant and distinguished career for this noted Saudi royal cardiologist of Hyderabadi origin.
The letter came from Saudi Health Minister Dr. Abdul Aziz Khowaiter. “I am pleased to inform you that you have been selected as my personal adviser for the establishment of modern health facilities in Saudi Arabia for the prevention, detection and management of heart diseases,” the minister wrote to Dr. Kazi.
That letter came just five years after Dr. Kazi’s 1969 arrival in the Kingdom with his wife, Carol Ann Kazi, and a six-month-old son.
In 1977, he was appointed personal physician to the crown prince of Saudi Arabia and a decade later was promoted to the rank of a Cabinet minister when he became the personal physician to King Fahd. But that key post also meant that he had to keep a very low profile.
There is little disagreement that he is the highest-ranking person of Indian origin in Saudi Arabia. By virtue of being the royal cardiologist he was granted Saudi citizenship.
Now at 68, Dr. Kazi is still an adviser in the Royal Court having been reappointed last year to the ministerial-ranked position for four more years.
Dr. Kazi speaks with the precision of a surgeon, but he is extremely shy. At times one notes a little embarrassment in him when his public stature is discussed, perhaps because he thinks he owes everything to good fortune.
“Everybody is unique in his own way,” he says. “There is a hidden rainbow in each one of us. When a sunray goes through a droplet with the right tilt, and God’s help, a rainbow can be woven.”
The Saudi Arabia to which Dr. Kazi came in 1969 was a far different place than it is today. “At that time, Saudi Arabia was still an underdeveloped, sparsely populated, peaceful and charming place. There were sand dunes where now stands the modern, well-equipped King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Center.”
Dr. Kazi credits his wife for his successes. “She played and is still playing a vital role. She used to push me forward rather than pushing me around. I wished I were half as great a believer in the academic excellence of our children.”
Carol Ann Kazi is a certified art instructor who specializes in painting. Until a few years ago she used to run Riyadh’s Desert Designs, a popular arts-and-crafts shop. The couple is blessed with two daughters and two sons.
Dr. Kazi was thrilled earlier this year when he went to Hyderabad to receive the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award from President Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. “What an exciting moment it was for me to be able to see, hear and shake hands with the Indian president. I consider it an honor for my family and me. I was deeply touched by Dr. Abdul Kalam’s wisdom, articulation, knowledge and humility. I couldn’t agree with him more when he called on Indians and persons of Indian origin to have wings for ascent in every walk of life but never to lose ‘Indian-ness,’ which essentially comprises civility, nobility and humility.”
Dr. Kazi hails from Aurangabad in Maharashtra. His father Kazi Hameeduddin was a leading lawyer and a prominent Muslim leader of his times. Dr. Kazi’s brother, Qazi Saleem, was a successful Urdu poet and politician. He represented Aurangabad in Parliament during Indira Gandhi’s reign. When Qazi Saleem died recently, almost all the major Urdu publications came out with a special edition on him.
Dr. Kazi’s elder brother always was an inspiration to him. “During my childhood, Qazi Saleem was already a famous new groundbreaking poet. I was enchanted by his style, thoughts and imagination. With a view to imitating him I used to compose childish poems. Several of them were printed in children’s magazines in India, such as ‘Phulwari’ and ‘Khilona.’”
Those sweet early years have left Dr. Kazi with many wonderful memories. “At age 11, I got my first gold medal when my poem was selected in the provincial middle school competition, and it was published in a children’s magazine from Delhi. I used to be thrilled to take part in the children’s program of the newly-established Aurangabad Radio Station. I used to write for the children’s program at times and was paid ten rupees a couple of times. Back then, it was a joyous moment for your work to be selected and rewarded with 10 rupees.”
Dr. Kazi’s early childhood and primary education were in, what he calls, “my beloved city of Hyderabad.” He returned to Hyderabad as a medical student in 1956 to seek a degree in medicine at Osmania Medical College.
“Immediately after graduation, I worked as a tutor for a year at Gandhi Medical College where I had spent the first six months of my first year in medicine, being among the top 40 students of that college. We used to call ourselves the ‘40 Pillars’ of the institute. Later, I was transferred to Osmania Medical College where I spent my early youth tumultuously, studying and celebrating our annual college day function that used to last three days.”
In college, he continued to develop his writing skills, penning sarcastic comedies and taking active part in dramas. “I used to enjoy being on the college stage with the nickname of ‘Sher Khan.’ We used to mix hard work with pleasure. Early in the morning, I would walk to the public gardens and study for exams under tall trees and enjoy the soul-nourishing breeze. The culture, education, interactions and celebrations of the city of Hyderabad all played a vital role in my life.”
The good doctor is never one to boast, and he advises those looking for good role models to look inside themselves rather than look to him. “I strongly believe in teamwork rather than a one-man show. It is good to be mild — but not meek. At least when it is your turn, get up and speak. I am no role model, so please don’t copy me. I am less than a dust particle floating in space. By chance, the rays of the sun illuminated it for a while.”
For the tens of thousands of Saudis young and old who live healthier and longer lives because of the healthcare system he helped to create, it is a dust particle that is likely to shine brightly for many years to come.