Remembering Captain Mustafa Anwar | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 25, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:20 AM, July 25, 2017

Lest we Forget

Remembering Captain Mustafa Anwar

This year July 24 marked the birth centenary of Captain Mustafa Anwar, who was a pioneer Bengali Muslim pilot in the Indian subcontinent. Born in Jessore in 1917, he was the eldest of the poet Golam Mostafa's six children. With the passing of his mother, Jamila Khatun, at an early age, he assumed responsibility for his five siblings. His two brothers, the late Mustafa Aziz and Mustafa Monwar, both went on to become renowned artists.

Throughout his childhood, Captain Anwar had a passion for flying that kept him driven and motivated. His early education was at the Hare School in Kolkata. In 1935, he was admitted as a cadet to Dufferin, a prestigious British merchant marine training ship. Despite his humble background and the competitive programme, his hard work and determination earned him a good reputation as a cadet. He was awarded the Sawyer Prize for the most efficient senior cadet captain and also obtained an “Extra First Class” certificate.

After Dufferin, he joined the B.I.S.N Company as a ship's cadet. After two years of sailing, due to acute seasickness, he changed his profession. In September 1940, he took up flying and joined the Civil Air Reserved Corps as a cadet. In 1941, after further training as a pilot, he received his pilot's “A License” from the Bihar Flying Club. He then completed a flying instruction course to become an instructor. In 1945, he received his “Pilot B Commercial License.” At the dawn of Indian commercial aviation in 1946, Captain Anwar joined Mistry Airways as a commercial pilot. 

In April 1946, Captain Anwar met and married Susmita Roy. After the separation of India and Pakistan in 1947, Captain Anwar joined Indian Airlines as a commercial pilot and when the airline was nationalised, he became their VIP pilot. When Zhou Enlai (the first premier of the People's Republic of China) was invited by Jawaharlal Nehru to visit India, Captain Anwar was commissioned to fly him to and from Kunming. Captain Anwar is also the author of the book Civil Aviation in India which was published in 1955. Upon joining Pakistan International Airlines in 1959, he migrated to West Pakistan with his wife and their two children, Prodip and Babli. At the time, he was the most senior pilot in Pakistan, inclusive of both civil aviation and the air force, with 14,500 flying hours. 

Captain Anwar's flourishing career came to an untimely end, on August 14, 1959, when he died in a plane crash while observing a training flight of a junior pilot and an American instructor, on his day off. The entire flying community was devastated by such a great loss. At the time of his death, he was 41 years old. Captain Anwar was laid to rest at the Azimpur graveyard in Dhaka. His death was reported not only locally, but also in newspapers such as The Guardian and The New York Times.

Captain Anwar is survived by his wife, Susmita (90), his daughter, Monisha Anwar Huq (Babli), four granddaughters and three great-grandchildren.

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