Location: Queens, NY
Rahela Hussain-Sachedina, a nurse practitioner who practices in New York City, was born in India. Her parents immigrated from their home in Hyderbad in Southcentral India to Canada when Rahela was still a baby. She grew up there, joined by a younger brother who was born three and a half years after they arrived, and then studied nursing in Toronto. Rahela moved to New York to get her Masters in Nursing at Columbia University and is now raising her three children, aged six, nine and twelve, in Queens. With her parents now living in California and her brother still in Canada, family gatherings do not take place as often as she’d like. Sometimes her kids hear about their friends getting together with large extended families and lament the fact that theirs is so small. “You come from a large family too,” Rahela tells them. “We’re just more spread out.”
This summer she was able to prove it. Rahela and her husband and kids traveled to Maryland for a family reunion that blows all other family reunions out of the water. Three years in the making, Rahela joined over 500 relatives at North Bay Adventure Camp in North East, Maryland for a gathering of most of the living descendants of her great grandfather, Dr. Abdul Husain. Abdul served as the primary physician for The Nizam of Hyderbad, Asaf Jah VI Mir Mehboob Ali Khan, who was one of the richest and most powerful men in the world at the time. The Nizam bestowed the title of “Nawab Arastu Yar Jung” on Abdul, which translates to Aristotle of our Times. Abdul had twelve children from two different wives, nine with one and then three more with a second wife after his first wife died. Rahela’s grandmother was the youngest of his children and it was she who hatched the idea of an Arastu Yar Jung reunion several years ago.
Rahela’s parents are bothrelated to her great grandfather because they are cousins descended from each of his two wives. Arastu Yar Jung is Rahela’s mother’s grandfather and he is great grandfather to both Rahela and her father. For anyone who has trouble following that family lineage, an enormous family tree was made to plot out all of the genealogy. Measuring twenty feet by five feet, the tree has a branch for each of Arastu’s twelve children, and documents everyone’s descendants, spouses and offspring,
A handful of Rahela’s cousins planned the reunion, a monumental task that Rahela says they did superbly. “They thought of everything,” she says. They first had to notify all of Arastu’s descendants all around the world. Over five hundred made their way to Maryland for the reunion ranging in age from just a few months old to over 100 years old and traveling from India, Pakistan, Europe, the Middle East, Canada and all over North America.
Each attendee was assigned to a cabin housing roughly twelve people, and efforts were made by the organizers to ensure that each person knew one or two others in the cabin with them but that the sleeping arrangements would also provide an opportunity to meet and mingle with new relatives. “I met a lot of people for the first time,” Rahela says of the family reunion. The main guest house that was not quite as rustic as the cabins was reserved for the elderly participants and those who were pregnant or had special needs. Meals were all sit-down affairs that were served at appointed times, and there were plenty of ice breaker activities to make sure everyone was getting to know each other (with some done virtually in anticipation of the reunion). An array of activities were offered each day, with entertainment for everyone. There were soccer matches, cricket tournaments, musical chairs, performances, skits (including one that was planned in advance about Arastu Yar Jung’s life and legacy), a talent show (“Arastu’s Got Talent”), ziplining and swimming. There was also a beach photo session followed by a beach bonfire party. And throughout the weekend there were open discussion sessions geared to various ages and interests on how to carry forth Arastu Yar Jung’s legacy.
The swimming was offered at specific times to each gender to make sure that everyone was comfortable, since some of those in attendance – all Muslims – practiced a stricter form of Islam. Similar efforts were made in the dining hall, with only halal meat being used and dahl (a vegetarian lentil dish served with rice) available at every meal as an alternative to the Western fare that was being served. There was also a special brunch on the Sunday they were all together that feel over the Eid weekend to commemorate the Haj. “We all prayed together,” Rahela says. “It was beautiful.”
Another highlight for Rahela was the vocational fair that the reunion organizers put together, where family members with established professions were able to mentor those just starting out. “We had everything from lawyers and architects to geneticists, handicraft entrepreneurs, to IT startups,” Rahela says. “And a lot of physicians.” The family counted over 150 physicians following in Arastu’s footsteps. “But there was no way to tell what someone did in conversation with them,” Rahela says. “Everyone was very humble and the sense was that we are all one family.”
That theme was prevalent throughout the weekend, as were the pillars of Arastu’s legacy. “He was all about serving humanity and being a good person,” Rahela says. And now there are over 500 of his descendants honoring his legacy and trying to live up to it.
More information about Nawab Arastu Yar Jung can be found at:
Arastu Yar Jung Bahadur: A Biography https://www.amazon.com/dp/0983751730/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_8YAHDbR6SQD4F